Here at The Student Footballer we’re all suckers for great stash – take a look at our love-letter to it, if you don’t believe me. Everyone knows that a brand’s image is one of the most important factors towards its success. The big brands tip millions into their advertising and marketing campaigns, trying to make sure they associate themselves with what’s ‘cool’, and with the most successful athletes. They fork out huge sums to get the top names on their books: Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, rakes in more than £14 million a year from Nike!
Sure Puma can count on players like Aguero, Fabregas and Reus among their ranks, but let’s face it – almost all the best players are at two major brands: Nike and Adidas. These powerhouses insist on launching all their new products on the feet of the most talented and popular sports stars they can find. We could sit around for hours debating their merits, deciding which brand we prefer (and, frankly, we’d love to). But, I reckon a better question is: ‘who’d win?’. If someone managed to organise a football match with teams put together from players sponsored by the two rival brands – with most of the best in the world on show – who would come out on top?
As this is a student blog let’s take the game out of the big stadiums and into your local sports hall; we’ll play it how we love it: 5-a-side. Because both ‘clubs’ have so many top players on their books we’ll have to be pretty selective and drop a couple of big names. Let’s say four outfield players, a ‘keeper and one sub each, who would you pick?
The first thing to note is the overwhelming abundance of attacking options. I’ve managed to ruthlessly whittle our outfield down to a choice of Bale, Diego Costa, Di Maria, Messi, Robben and Suarez. It’s still a head scratcher. Messi has to be in the team; his playmaking ability is arguably the best in the world and he scores as much as any of the others. Unfortunately that means dropping Di Maria – it’s a shame, but I’d rather have his compatriot and I don’t think there’s room for both of them in the side. We haven’t seen much of Suarez since his most recent ban but he was the most predatory striker in the Prem last year (31 goals for a team that didn’t win the league!) Someone with that sort of ability is just what you need to keep the scoreboard in your favour in 5-a-side, and it looks like he’ll Cost-a Diego his place.
Two more spaces in the starting line-up for Robben and Bale then – perfect, right? You’d think so, I certainly can’t say who I’d prefer to have. But I think that leaves the team a little too offensive – better to have someone in there to do a defensive job. Maybe someone who works hard and wins the ball, but has the skill to slip into the midfield as well? Why not someone who captained his country to World Cup Victory, too? Phillip Lahm’s height is his only weakness in defence and the ball usually stays on the ground in short-sided football so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Fortunately the goalkeeper picks himself: Manuel Neuer, no competition. A pretty formidable side, and one that should score plenty of goals, but who would they be lining up against?
Chelsea’s 23 game unbeaten run might have just come to an end, but their Belgian goalie, Thibaut Courtois can claim to have had a pretty big hand in it while it lasted. He’s managed an impressive 5 clean sheets in only 16 games since coming back from loan: Nike could do worse that putting the 6ft6 youngster between the sticks. Again it’s worth bringing a defender – I’d love to suggest Real Madrid’s Rafael Varane, but I’m afraid I can’t look past Thiago Silva; as a centre-half, he’s got it all, positioning, pace, tackling, work-rate, and the rest… He’s not the only Brazilian, though, that I’d put in my Nike side. Neymar’s skills on the smaller 5-a-side pitch would be a delight to watch – especially against an attack heavy Adidas team – and he merits marking at all times. There’s absolutely no way I’d leave Ronaldo out, either, and I’d love to see him playing alongside Eden Hazard – they’d be unstoppable! That makes up a starting team, easy, bring Luka Modric on the bench – he’s a class act and gets everywhere on the park. You could bring him on for Silva when you need a goal, or for any of the others if you need to defend a lead!
Of course this is pure fantasy – but just imagine Ronaldo playing a one-two with Neymar before feeding Hazard past Lahm – he shoots! Saved by Neuer who launches it to Messi, linking up nicely with Bale… I could go on… Let’s spare a moment, though, for the players I’ve left out; Iniesta, Rooney, Marcelo, RVP and Ibrahimovic (amongst countless other talents) all failed to make it into my teams – seems harsh, really. And do we reckon Puma (or any other brand, actually) would have a chance against either of them?
But back to the question: ‘who’d win?’! Well we won’t know until we can persuade these sportswear behemoths to put the fixture on, but as a man partial to a spot of gambling, my money’s on Nike – only just though. What do you think?