In a playing career that spanned almost two decades, Damien Duff shared a pitch with some of the best players in the world.
The Dubliner was an important part of Chelsea’s most successful period in recent history, as well as enjoying stints at Blackburn, Newcastle and Fulham, before moving to Melbourne for a season and ultimately finishing his career in the League of Ireland with Shamrock Rovers, with whom he now works as manager of the under-15s.
For Sky Sports’ Fantasy Football show, the former Ireland international was asked to select a starting lineup made up of his former teammates, and suffice to say it is a very strong eleven.
That said, there are one or two surprise choices. In goals, for example, he shunned the opportunity to select either Petr Cech or Shay Given, and instead opted for former Fulham teammate Mark Schwarzer. Duff justified the Australian’s inclusion as follows:
“Later in on in my career Schwarzer always jumps out at me. Probably the softest pair of hands I’ve ever seen on a goalkeeper.”
The defence, interestingly, is made up mostly of former Ireland teammates. It is interesting primarily as Chelsea’s defence under Mourinho was generally rock solid, conceding just fifteen goals in that first title-winning season in 2005, and yet Duff has only named John Terry in his eleven, with Denis Irwin, Ian Harte and Richard Dunne filling the remaining defensive spots.
In a three-man midfield, Duff was always going to select Frank Lampard and Roy Keane. Lampard is one of the greatest players Chelsea have ever had on their books, while Keane’s inclusion is down, as Duff himself puts it, as being the best he’s ever seen at knowing sometimes the best past is the easiest pass.
The third name on Duff’s midfield goes to Mousa Dembélé. The Belgian has received the respect and admiration he deserves after years of being underrated, and his strength and technique are two aspects of his game that really stand out for the ex-winger:
“You think you’ll get the ball off him but he just gets his leg across – or his arm – with amazing technique on the ball.
On the other side, if you try and take him on he will just swat you aside. He’s a top pro and a great player.”
Up front, Duff selects another fantastic trio, from three differing parts of his career. On the right, Arjen Robben. Duff and the Dutchman were two parts of a devasting attacking unit for Chelsea in those two title wins, and though it was ultimately disrupted by Robben’s move to Real Madrid, the pair are still celebrated as a wonderful double act.
On the left, David Villa. The Spanish international played for Melbourne City briefly in a 2014 loan spell, but that was still enough to convince Duff of his quality up close.
In the centre, it could only be Robbie Keane. In Duff’s own words, and considering Didier Drogba was his competition:
“Just so clever around the box and he never lost that. A fearlessness and care-free attitude, which wasn’t coached into him, he learnt that on the street – he taught himself.
“Not the quickest, not the strongest, doesn’t leap the highest. But a hell of a footballing brain. A lot of teams go for athletes but give me Robbie any day.”
On the latest episode of the Mixer Irish Football Podcast, we chat to Cork City’s Conor McCormack as well as the usual review of all of the latest League of Ireland action.
Read More About: arjen robben, Chelsea, damien duff, David Villa, denis irwin, frank lampard, fulham, ian harte, Ireland, john terry, Mark Schwarzer, mousa dembele, Newcastle, richard dunne, robbie keane, roy keane