In the world of soccer sponsorhip, there are two big boys. Adidas and Nike. Adidas sponsors footballers like Leo Messi and Ricky Kaká, Nike sponsors footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Ibrahimović. Neither are particularly shy when it comes to telling us about this. In fact, after spending millions on getting the players endorsement, they spend millions more making sure we the public know.

Not long ago I asked Chris: Who has assembled the better squad of talent? Which brand could field the best team of professional footballers? The three stripes or the swoosh?

A bit of searching turned up two lists on Wikipedia: A list of all Adidas sponsored players, and a list of all Nike sponsored players. We quickly realized that the only way to decide this was to assemble two starting elevens and send them out to play each other. Hypothetically of course.

So Chris took Adidas, I took Nike, and the results (and lengthy explanations) are below.

All adidas (said properly) XI: (as selected by Chris)
In the tried and true Barca 4-3-3 (4-1-2-3), what with the team being centered around that Xavi guy anyhow:
Edwin van der Sar
Jamie Carragher, Kolo Toure, Alessandro Nesta, Philipp Lahm
Daniele De RossiSteven Gerrard, Xavi
Lionel Messi, David Villa, Kaka

Bench: Julio Cesar, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Alvaro Arbeloa, Walter Samuel, Nigel de Jong, Juan Roman Riquelme.
Sidelines: Carlo Ancelotti.

Petr Cech is in the stands simply because that helmet has zapped all his powers. Why EvdS over JC? Who knows – call it a hunch.

The back line, much like Barcelona, is clearly the weak spot. Apparently Nike, anticipating one of these little fixtures down the line, attacked the defensive side of the ball with plans to stopping the Xavi/Leo/Kaka/David machine. Lahm was really the only ‘gimme’, and even he’s not inspiring a great deal of big game confidence after Fernando Torres smoked him like a nice ham last summer. Alessandro Nesta is still an injury risk in a hypothetical game, but on his day he’s among the top 1-2 in the world. Since this is technically not a club fixture, Kolo is still getting his Citeh paycheck so he’s playing happy and well. And…oh dear, is that Jamie Carragher at rightback? Why yes it is. Lahm has license to get forward on that left flank as Kaka does his darting in, so I’d like to keep three strong in the back with everybody else joining the much ballohooed adidas attack. Call it a 3-whatever-whatever, if you so choose.

In the midfield, it’s all about protecting and working off Xavi, as my spies have told me there will be a bounty on his head. Daniele De Rossi, slightly insane in the head, will serve as gladiatorial custodian in charge of slide tackles and worryingly disturbing facial contortions. Steven Gerrard will enjoy some off the ball darting runs and license to fire early and often, as will DDR, at whatever scarecrow Nike has put in net, with the hopes that David Villa will gobble up at least 7 goals off rebounds.

Up top, it’s the South American dream team of Lionel and Ricky flanking the man, the myth, the assassin, David Villa. Just as would’ve been the case in real life, I expect him to score double digits being fed by the likes of Xavi and Leo.

The bench was far and away the toughest, and Steven Gerrard so nearly landed here in favor of Luis Suarez. Ridiculous, right? Not so much. Luis’ 21goals in 15games this year are nice, but it was his passing, vision and ability to maintain possession that nearly put him on the left and Kaka hanging in the midfield. In fact, leave that one open ’til the lineup cards are written. Diego Forlan makes it two Uruguayans on the bench for his goalpoachability (official word), though he may not be needed with Villa running rampant. Alvaro Arbeloa solves two problems by his lonesome fairly easily, and Walter Samuel joins based on a lack of in-form options. A smart no-nonsense boss is needed for the midfield late on, and Nigel de Jong’s form would fit the bill quite perfectly.

And, simply because I don’t have to deal with such things as repercussions, there’s a wild card in the house: Juan Roman Riquelme, who will be immediately subbed in the first time there is a free kick 35 yards and in.

Carletto loves him some big games, making it a no-brainer over The Not Quite Special One.
And yes, that’s Lampard, Berbatov, Ballack, Cambiasso, Xabi Alonso, Diego Milito, David Silva, etc, etc, etc, off without a job. What does this say about picking teams? Picking a team isn’t quite the same as picking an XI.

Nike XI: (as selected by Daryl)
A good old fashioned 4-4-2, with a hardworking but technically sounds central midfield, two very attacking wingers and a strong man/fast man partnership up front.

Victor Valdes
Dani Alves, Fabio Cannavaro, Carles Puyol, Patrice Evra
C. Ronaldo, Michael Essien, Andrés Iniesta, Franck Ribery
Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres

Bench: Ricardo, Rio Ferdinand, Yaya Toure, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Andrei Arshavin, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sidelines: Guus Hiddink

First thing’s first: There was no right answer when picking this team. Whoever you choose, you’re leaving someone out. For the longest time I had Nike FC lined up 3-4-3 with an attacking trio of Torres, Drogba and Zlatan: Speed, strength and skills. Sounds nice, but really there’s no way that works. All three like to play centrally, so one of them had to go. Much as I love me some Zlatan, I figured Didier Drogba and Nando Torres made for the better partnership. Pace and power, plus both have pretty, almost feminine features. Which I’m hoping will confuse Chris’ defenders. If not then either Zlatan or Arshavin can come on and mix things up a bit. Also the three at the back plan vs an Adidas team that I knew would feature Messi up front (I have my spies too) sounded like suicide.

On the other hand I didn’t need any inside information to know that Adidas United would struggle for defenders, especially fullbacks, so hit on the idea of going all out with wingers and my own attacking fullbacks. C-Ron might think he’s a striker these days, but when he plays for me he does what he’s told plays wide right, bombing into the opposition area to wreak havoc and make chances for Drogs and Torres. Behind him there’s Dani Alves coming in as a second wave danger, if not good looks. On the other flank we have King Franck cutting in from the left, with French teammate Patrice Evra either overlapping or filling in when Franck drifts infield. Plus he’ll take care of any groundsman that need the racism punched out of them. If either C-Ron or Franck aren’t cutting it, then Chilean dribbly-boots Alexis Sanchez will get a go.
In central midfield it’s the twin engines of Michael Essien and Andrés Iniesta. Both are complete players, with all the skills necessary to make a midfield tick, plus a workrate to match and the discipline to give us some shape while C-Ron, Franck and the fullbacks are going forward. I’m also hoping Iniesta will know the secret to stopping Xavi. And if that secret involves breaking the man’s legs then the Bison is the man to do it. Yaya Toure and Cesc Fabregas wait patiently on the bench.

In central defence I was tempted to start Rio Ferdinand. But this isn’t 2008 anymore, and the guy currently wearing #5 for Man Utd is not the guy I need. Rio still makes the bench just in case the pod people return him. So my starting central D of Carles Puyol and Fabio Cannavaro is all about experience, leadership and quality. Plus a nice balance of long hair and short hair, which I feel is important.

In goal, I very nearly had Hope Solo and Jens Lehmann battling it our for the jersey. Just to see what would happen. In the end I settled on the underrated Victor Valdes, with Portugal’s Ricardo ready to sub in should this game go to penalty kicks.

The players left out could form a whole other team that could still beat the best Puma has to offer (and don’t get me started on Reebok, they barely have a five a side team since the Adidas buyout). The Nike sponsored players I had to leave behind include the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Wayne Rooney, Alexandre Pato, Abby Wambach (100 goals in 129 international games), Ronaldinho, Sergio Ramos, the heavenly right foot of Darijo Srna, Luka Modric, Jesus Navas, Theo Walcott (always injured at the moment) and Lassana Diarra. And some others.

The array of coaching talent I had to choose from was embarrassing. Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola. But it had to be Guus Hiddink, because I’m assuming this is a one off game and there’s no one better at coming in and immediately getting the best out of a team.

So here are those teams again, lined up against each other:

Edwin van der SarJamie Carragher, Kolo Toure, Alessandro Nesta, Philipp LahmDaniele De RossiSteven Gerrard, XaviLionel Messi, David Villa, Kaka

Fernando Torres, Didier DrogbaFranck Ribery, Andrés Iniesta, Michael Essien, C. RonaldoPatrice Evra, Favio Cannavaro, Carles Puyol, Dani AlvesVictor Valdes