This weekend, Joe Hart kept his 14th clean sheet of the season, bagging the Premier League’s Golden Glove (yes, this award actually exists) in the process. The weekend before, he pulled off arguably the save of the season when denying Swansea’s Federico Fernandez with a hefty leap and Jedi-like reflexes.
So, for a man with very high standards himself, there's no surprise that he demands the same of those around him. Which is why we thought we’d ask him about his Ultimate XI, made up of those high performers he's played against, not with (otherwise, gentleman that he is, he would probably select all his team-mates). He is keen for us to stress that much.
Without further ado, here’s the Man City and England goalie's ideal dream team.
Joe Hart relies on the UK’s no.1 shampoo Head & Shoulders to feel prepared and confident for the game ahead. Headandshoulders.co.uk
On current form he gets the nod ahead of [Iker] Casillas and [Manuel] Neuer. The guy’s won pretty much everything - aside from when he finished runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 2006. An endless number of caps for Italy make him an inspiration for other international keepers too. I’ve played against him a couple of times now and he’s always been talkative and kind with me. I’ve always looked up to him, so it was nice to know that not only is he a fantastic keeper but a cool guy as well.
What Roberto Carlos did at Real Madrid almost changed the position of left wing-back forever. Oh, and he’d be on free kick duty. No matter what team I’m playing, I’ll know which players pose a threat from set pieces but nothing can prepare you for players like Roberto Carlos who can score from pretty much anywhere.
I like the way he plays the game. Barcelona and Spain are very attack-minded teams so there’s a lot of importance to play the ball from the back, to keep the ball moving, and he does it better than most. Some teams try to counter this by being aggressive and loading up on corners, and he handles that responsibility well too. I’ve lost count of the titles he’s won. [ShortList: he’s also married to Shakira] yeah, he’s done alright for himself [laughs].
If he hasn’t achieved the title quite yet, in future years he’ll be one of the best defenders out there. Positional awareness is key to make it at the top as a defender but he looks like he can hold his own with the flair players at Real Madrid. He’s ticking all the boxes for me at the moment. A star in the making.
Ronaldo plays everywhere doesn’t he? So we’ll stick him on either wing here. He’s an awesome player, an athlete who works hard and creates goals from deep lying positions. You can’t ask for much more from an attacking player. He once scored past me when Real beat us in the Champions League [a deflected winner in a 3-2 victory at the Bernabau] but I can’t remember any other goals, so that’s a nice record.
Centre midfield duo
Xavi & Iniesta
These two are an ultra special, mega-talented pair. They’ve been at the heart of everything good for their club and country over the years, so I’d need to play both of them. I bet they'd be good in the dressing room as well; speaking to players like David Silva at our place, I’m often told they’re exceptionally nice guys away from the pitch too.
He didn’t end up finishing on the wing, but he started there for Monaco, so I’ll go with Henry, a pretty special player who’s done amazing things in England, Spain and, lastly, the USA. Of course most people will remember his time at Arsenal, running through pretty much entire teams before scoring for fun. My standout moment of his came when he cut through the entire Tottenham team to score. Bursts from deep like that are why he starts on the flank.
Messi isn't just one of the greatest footballers playing the game right now, he might just be one of the greatest full stop. I played against him twice this season and actually managed a few good saves against him, including one from a penalty. You can’t plan to face him as a goalkeeper as he adapts so well because he’s super talented. On his day he’s unplayable. So when it came to saving his penalty – I just did as I normally do and convinced myself I knew what was going to happen and that I'd save it. Lucky for me it worked.
Big, powerful, a scorer of amazing goals, Drogba is the final part of my team. He's a guy who gives teams a real battle but he can also do a lot with the ball in tight areas and possesses real skill. I’ve been pretty lucky enough to play with talented defenders who can handle him at times. Even so, for 90 minutes he's a constant danger.