Sunday May 25 2014
Paul Heaton’s Perfect Serie A XI

With Italy coming to Craven Cottage at the end of this month, Liam Curry caught up with Paul Heaton, formerly of the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, to talk about his perfect Serie A XI.

1. Gianluigi Buffon (goalkeeper)

“His command of the penalty area is second to none. Being a top class ‘keeper is about total domination of anything that comes into the box and he achieves that. That he achieves that with a smile on his face and a great level of sporting behaviour makes him even harder to fault.”

2. Antonio Benarrivo (defender)

“Only 23 caps but just shaded Zambrotta for right-back spot. If it was for engine alone Zambrotta would have strolled it, but Benarrivo had style and class and speed in such abundance that he couldn't be ignored. I also love the fact that he stayed with Parma despite pressure to sign for bigger clubs.”

3. Fabio Cannavaro (defender)

“Without doubt the greatest ever performance I've witnessed from a defender was his at the Amsterdam Arena against Holland in Euro 2000. Not only were Maldini, Nesta and Cannavaro down to three defenders after Zambrotta's 34th minute sending off but they were also up against the Holland of Overmars, Bergkamp and Kluivert. Instead of substituting an attacker or midfielder, Zoff simply put trust in his three colossal defenders. With each thundering tackle Cannavaro would pick himself up and puff out that peacock chest ready for the next assault.”

4. Franco Baresi (defender)

“What many remember Baresi for was his positional sense, calm nerves and timely interceptions. What I recall from watching him live was his blistering pace, particularly his acceleration over the first 10 yards. His era was without doubt the most testing, with him being pitched against Careca, Maradona, Baggio, Batistuta, Klinsmann, Vialli to name just a few but frequently he made household names look like Sunday pub players. On top of this, his display against Brazil in the 1994 World Cup Final made many a grown man cry and turned the tournament's stars, Bebeto and Romario, into a pair of wimpering babies.”

5. Paolo Maldini (defender)

“Unluckiest person in football? Any brilliant Italian left-back who was unfortunate to have been born around 1968, that's who. No matter how brilliant they were they could wave goodbye to their international career.

“Adept with both feet, fantastic aerially and equally useful at centre-back, Maldini was a colossus. I saw at first hand the likes of Roberto Carlos, Andreas Brehme, Frank de Boer and Philipp Lahm and Maldini towered above them. Watching him in a stadium, relatively close up you were struck by something that you perhaps didn't realise from television coverage, and that was he had the simple ability to take the ball off the opposition and he did it time and time again.

“Whether it be with an interception, a tenacious tackle or his favourite - bullying and shepherding the opposing player into a pointless corner - his greatest talent was quite simply to remove the ball from the opposition and return it to his own, often without the other player quite realising how he'd done it.”

6. Giuseppe Giannini (midfielder)

“To witness Giannini in the flesh was to witness more than a football performance. On his day he could wave his left or right foot like a magician's wand. He ran like he wasn't quite touching the ground, he played like he wasn't quite touching the ball. That magical movement was spellbinding for fans and opposing players alike.”

7. Diego Maradona (attacking midfielder)

“I met Maradona twice. Once before the 1990 World Cup and once during it I had the privilege of staying in the same hotel as the great man. He was as dignified and calm off the pitch, as he was brash and colourful on it. He was the one player in Serie A who had the ability to run defenders ragged and he did so to Riccardo Ferri the night of that semi-final in Napoli. Ferri, who was an incredibly talented man-to-man marker, was fighting cramp in extra time whilst Maradona attacked the Italians relentlessly.”

Image: Paul Heaton pictured with 'Perfect 10' Diego Maradona

8. Lothar Matthaus (midfielder)

“All German cliches applied to Lothar the Motor. His engine was ruthless, his temperament impeccable and he was an out and out winner. His joining Inter totally turned the team around. His vision, mixed with a Bobby Charlton like swagger when the ball was at his feet, spelt danger for every Serie A midfield and defence. The only player I ever saw who was able to stem the tide of his power was strangely Giancarlo Marocchi of Juventus.”

9. Andrea Pirlo (midfielder)

“He's such a clever player that danger can often lurk within his quietest moments. Just when you think he's had a dormant five or 10 minutes, he'll open up the opposition defence with one seemingly effortless passage of play. And unfortunately for the other nations in Group D, he seems to be getting cleverer with age. We have to enjoy great players like Pirlo now, because I believe as the game gets quicker and quicker, it will become harder to hone a player as individually brilliant as him.”

10. Alessandro Altobelli (striker)

“After only really watching English football live, one of the most striking things about Italian football was the grace of a player like Altobelli. To watch him was like watching a wily old fox homing in on a farm full of chickens. He would wait, poise himself, then attack but all within a split second.

“I've never really understood what makes a great attacker. A goal like the one he scored against Germany in 1982 seemed so randomly placed, it was difficult to tell exactly what made it special but watching him in the flesh it was apparent that every passing body movement was quite deliberately engineered towards the scoring of a goal. I realised that there was nothing random about any part of his game - it was all natural grace and determination that only a true goalscorer, a true great has.”

11. Marco Van Basten (striker)

“Van Basten was at the forefront of the one of the greatest teams of the last century. He could have easily flopped. Many Dutch players haven't been successful in Italy but what he had that none of the players I've mentioned thus far had, was an athleticism that was actually above and beyond most of the Serie A players at the time. Altobelli had a fine strike rate but Van Basten's 90 goals in 147 matches says it all. He was absolutely unstoppable and lethal from practically every distance, with every usable part of his body. When I saw him first in 1988, Lecce put two defenders on him and that still wasn't enough. As with all of these players, he was a pleasure and a privilege to watch.”

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott play the London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on May 27.

What Have We Become is the new album from Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, released May 19

Italy vs. Republic of Ireland

On Saturday May 31, 7.45pm, Italy take on a Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane led Republic of Ireland.

In a match that will certainly be of interest to England fans, with the Azzurri being Roy Hodgson’s first opponents in Brazil, Cesare Prandelli can select from big-names, including Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano.

Tickets are on sale now, priced from £25 adults and £10 juniors, and can be purchased here.

Alternatively, you can be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to the game. Just visit Football Italia’s official Facebook page for details on how to enter our competition.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...

cafu nasta cannavaro maldini

conti pirlo devids

nedved z. zidane
on the 4th June, 2014 at 9:59pm
What about Scria, Bergomi and Batistuta...too many world class players to make a list like this.
on the 29th May, 2014 at 4:57pm
Personal fave of mine but Il Genio Savicevic would have to be on this list. Milan rarely lost a game when he was playing.
on the 28th May, 2014 at 3:19am
No Totti??? You have no clue Paul Heaton!! No clue
on the 27th May, 2014 at 12:03am
Hey people relax and be nice to Paul Heaton. That's his take, respect it.
Fest from Italy here.
My take is:


Cafù - Baresi - Nesta (Cannavaro) - Maldini

B. Conti - Rivera - Gullit

D. A. Maradona

Totti - R. Baggio (Van Basten)
on the 26th May, 2014 at 11:05pm
Big fan of your music Paul but not of this list. Not an easy task but you have to realise Baggio is our Maradona and to neglect The Divine Ponytail is like slagging off an Itaian mother's cooking. You're just not going to get away with it.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 8:53pm
Only players since my birth in 1970 are considered.

Italians - 3-4-1-2:

Foreigners - 4-2-3-1:
Van der Sar
Van Basten
on the 26th May, 2014 at 4:14pm
No Zizou? Baffling.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 3:08pm
Platini? Totti/Baggio?
on the 26th May, 2014 at 2:05pm
Nesta, Ibrahimovic, Baggio , Nedved, Zidane, Cafú, Sheva hmmmmmmm
on the 26th May, 2014 at 1:34pm
No Totti, No Life!
on the 26th May, 2014 at 10:45am
The players mentioned by Paul Heaton as well as the likes of Del Piero, Baggio, Totti, Nesta, Batistuta, Weah, Gullit, Zambrotta, Savicevic, Ronaldo9, Vieri, were all better than anyone playing in the EPL at present.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 9:40am
That is a fantastic, personal, list. Thanks Paul Heaton - you big legend you.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 9:35am
Buffon-Cafu-Baresi-Nesta-Maldini-Zanetti-Pirlo-Matthaus-Maradona-Baggio-Van basten.
Of course as an Inter fan I will fit in Zanetti any position I can. He might not be the most spectacular player but when even Juve or Milan fans respect him then he must have done something right.
Also special mentions to Del Piero, Totti, Signori (despite his alleged match fixing) and Di Natale.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 6:35am
Buffon-Cafu-Baresi-Nesta-Maldini-Zanetti-Pirlo-Matthaus-Maradona-Baggio-Van basten.
Of course as an Inter fan I will fit in Zanetti any position I can. He might not be the most spectacular player but when even Juve or Milan fans respect him then he must have done something right.
Also special mentions to Del Piero, Totti, Signori (despite his alleged match fixing) and Di Natale.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 6:32am
no Baggio, no Party
on the 26th May, 2014 at 3:38am
Baggio was great in Serie A, but he didn't really find a groove with a team during his prime like Van Bastan, Battistuta, Altobelli, Weah, Del Piero, etc did. I otherwise like the lineup. I get the Benarrivo selection but ehh... at any players best i thought zambrotta was the best RB ever in his prime; anyhow how about CAFU for RB?? surely bigger than Benarrivo. Great lineup nonetheless.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 1:48am
Del Piero?
on the 26th May, 2014 at 12:25am
My word, what an absolute joke. No ROBERTO BAGGIO????? Your credibility has just gone out the window. The greatest Italian player ever to grace the football pitch, if not the greatest player of all time. This is far from negligent, it is gross misconduct on your behalf. Please refrain from ever again producing another piece of Italian football journalism.
on the 26th May, 2014 at 12:18am
Ibrahim Ba?
on the 25th May, 2014 at 10:31pm
Apparently the way to make a perfect "Serie A" side is to play "pin the tail on the donkey" when plastered, only difference is the tail of the donkey is the name of players you include in the side....

No Scirea, who is the greatest defender of all times
No Baggio, arguably the greatest forward Italy has ever produced
No Platini, even though he won 3 consecutive Ballon d'Or trophies

Yes, the person who made this list sure has an IQ equal to his age (-_-)
on the 25th May, 2014 at 9:51pm
I'm sure you left out Roberto Baggio to rile readers. If not then you shouldn't be given the opportunity to express your opinion on football matters. Surely you know very little if Baggio is not the 1st player that comes to mind when compiling such a list.
on the 25th May, 2014 at 9:34pm
Everyone to their own, mine is, Buffon, Zanetti, Cannavaro, Baresi, Maldini, Matthaus, Totti, Baggio, Maradona, Van Basten, Ronaldo subs Batistuta, Zidane, Nesta, Pirlo, Zoff, Facchetti, Del Piero
on the 25th May, 2014 at 7:37pm
it is only fair to comment on what you have seen in 1 lifetime you look at the stats of nordahl or piola no one is ever going to touch that. In terms of players anyway baggio cafu zidane ronaldo are massive miss outs on this list. I would prefer a 1/2 club top 11 so with that in mind for me buffon costacurta maldini baresi bergomi conte zanetti de rossi totti 3 club men nesta del piero because i am stuck to think of anyway who had less than 2 clubs in the the last 20 years.
on the 25th May, 2014 at 6:26pm
Roberto Baggio was Italy's greatest player of the modern era. How is it possible he doesn't make the team ?
on the 25th May, 2014 at 5:55pm
how do you make a list like this and not have BAGGIO on it!! ridiculous!!
on the 25th May, 2014 at 5:13pm
Scirea - best defender ever instead of some Bennarivo, who could wear towels behind Scirea. Baggio - best attacker ever. Altobelli? Really? Not Baggio?
on the 25th May, 2014 at 4:46pm
No Baggio? get real
on the 25th May, 2014 at 4:46pm
for the past 20 years, no player surpassed Totti in the ratings.
sorry dude but can't imagine an XI in the last two decades without Totti.
on the 25th May, 2014 at 3:27pm
Injuries aside, Ronaldo was one of the best to ever play in Serie A. On his day, there is no doubt he was miles ahead of any striker that ever played in Serie A. You just can't have an XI without Il Fenomeno.
on the 25th May, 2014 at 3:23pm

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