This week, new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly made a bold, and some would say ill-advised, proposal for the Premier League to introduce a North vs. South all-star game similar to those seen in various sports in the United States States.
It didn’t go down well given the ongoing debate about match congestion and raises many questions, even prompting Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to mock him when asked about the idea after the club’s Champions League win over Ajax last night of Tuesday.
Boehly, who also co-owns the Major League Baseball team Los Angeles Dodgers, suggested that a North vs. South match could be used to financially benefit all levels of soccer in England, using MLB as an example as it “made $200 million from Monday and Tuesday”.
But Klopp hit back, saying: “He forgets that in the major sports in America these players have four months off. It’s completely different in football. What can I say? He wants to bring the Harlem Globetrotters [an American exhibition basketball team] also let them play against a football team?’
Some fans will hate the idea. Some might think it could replace the Community Shield before the season. In all likelihood, it will never happen. But, based on current form, which players would participate if an All-Star Game were announced right now? Mark Ogden and James Olley pick their North and South XIs, with no limit on the number of players per club.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (US)
Premier League North (by Mark Ogden)
GK, Alisson (Liverpool): Alisson has been a rare bright spot for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season. While many of his team-mates are suffering from a loss of form, the goalkeeper has been outstanding and has overtaken Manchester City rivals and Brazil international Andersson for the No.1 spot.
RB, Kieran Trippier (Newcastle): With Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form faltering at Liverpool, the right-back position is between Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and Newcastle’s Trippier. I’ve been going for Trippier, but it’s a close option. Trippier’s ability to set up tests swings in his favour.
CB, Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United): This spot would normally have gone to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, but he was out, so I’ve gone for Martinez. The 24-year-old had a nightmare start at Manchester United following a €57.37 million summer move from Ajax, but has overcome that and is excellent alongside Raphael Varane in the heart of defence.
CB, Ruben Dias (Manchester City): The best centre-back in the Premier League at the moment and a real leader in defense for City. Underrated, but totally reliable.
LB, Joao Cancelo (Manchester City): With Andy Robertson struggling for form at Liverpool and Luke Shaw out of the squad at Manchester United, Cancelo has no rival for this position. But even if they were all in top form, the Portugal international would get the pick.
MID, Rodri (Manchester City): Every top club wants a world-class defensive midfielder, but City have the best in the Premier League in Rodry. Put him in the Liverpool or Manchester United squads and they would be instantly stronger with the Spain international shielding the back four.
MID, Christian Eriksen (Manchester United): Eriksen has been one of the standout players of the season so far. His vision and composure on the ball led to comparisons with Paul Scholes at Old Trafford, and his performances were all the more remarkable considering the battle he had to endure to play again after suffering a heart attack at Euro 2020.
MID, Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City): The Belgian midfielder is an obvious choice. When it comes to the best midfielders of the Premier League era, De Bruyne has earned his place alongside Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
FW, Phil Foden (Manchester City): Foden can play anywhere in midfield or attack, but his pace, movement and eye for goal make him an obvious choice in an attacking role. And the 22-year-old is only getting better.
FW, Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): Salah is still in his best form this season, but if any player proves the axiom that form is temporary but class is permanent, it’s the Liverpool striker. Even out of form, he can win a game out of nothing.
ST, Erling Haaland (Manchester City): Who else could play in the center forward role? Haaland already has 10 Premier League goals and is set to break all sorts of records. He would get into a World XI, never mind a Northern XI.
There is so much depth among the teams in the north that I looked beyond the Manchester and Liverpool clubs to add Leeds winger Jack Harrison and Everton’s Anthony Gordon after their impressive start to the season. But there is no place for Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He hasn’t done enough this season.
GC, Anderson (Manchester City)
DEF, Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
DEF, Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
MID, Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
MID, Jack Harrison (Leeds United)
FW, Anthony Gordon (Everton)
ST, Darwin Nunez (Liverpool)
Premier League South (by James Olley)
This is much more difficult for the southpaw given the importance of form. I’ve also essentially gone for a 4-2-4 formation with Kane dropping deeper into the No.10 role for the 4-2-3-1 because this team will surely lose anyway, so they might as well struggle.
GK, Hugo Lloris (Tottenham): Edward Mendy has struggled in recent years at Chelsea, while Aaron Ramsdale has looked uncertain at Arsenal, so Lloris gets the nod for a reliable if unspectacular start to the season.
RB, Reece James (Chelsea): This is a bit of a stretch in form due to his injury problems, but James is the standout right/right back in the area.
CB, Cristian Romero (Tottenham): The backbone of defensive strength that manager Antonio Conte is trying to introduce to Tottenham.
CB, William Saliba (Arsenal): The 21-year-old would have been nowhere near this team six weeks ago, but a promising start to the season at Arsenal gives him the nod here. He essentially takes the place of Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva solely for this reason.
LB, Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal): The less heralded arrival from Manchester City to Arsenal (compared to Gabriel Jesus), but one who has given the Gunners much more control of matches, moving into midfield from the left side in a similar style to Cancelo.
MID, Declan Rice (West Ham): The best defensive midfielder the south has to offer. West Ham have had an uncertain start to the season, but there is no other player more effective at bringing balance to a team.
MID, N’Golo Kante (Chelsea): By the end, former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel lamented Kante not being fit more often. The Blues’ best performance of the season — a 2-2 draw against Tottenham when they really should have won — coincided with another masterclass from the World Cup winner.
FW, Bukayo Saka (Arsenal): It was tempting to play Gabriel Jesus out, given he had a similar role at City, but the Brazilian operated exclusively as a centre-forward for Arsenal with Saka coming in from the right. Saka remains always reliable, almost always dangerous.
FW, Raheem Sterling (Chelsea): Sterling began to find his feet at the end of the Tuchel era at Chelsea. His pedigree and understanding with Harry Kane in the England squad give him more reason to succeed, although Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unfortunate to miss out as a result.
ST, Harry Kane (Tottenham): August hasn’t always been his month, but the England captain has started the season well and is now third in the Premier League’s all-time top scorers list. Obvious choice.
ST, Aleksander Mitrovic (Fulham): Tottenham star Son Heung-Min would have been an automatic choice at almost any other time, but his struggles this season have been in stark contrast to Mitrovic, who has six goals in seven games, doubling his account since its last premiere. Championship campaign.
Many of these contenders would be starting off past peak performance and reputation, but if this fabled game were tomorrow, the southpaws have several of their top stars with form issues to sort out.
GK, Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
DEF, Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
MID, Pascal Gross (Brighton)
MID, Mason Mount (Chelsea)
FW, Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
FW, Son Heung-Min (Tottenham)
ST, Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal)