Football's jockey XI: And they're off!
What would happen if Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol & David Silva saddled up for a special footballer's horse race?
We put our Jockey XI team through their paces and see if they can last the distance.
Shay Given | Aston Villa
In the green, white and orange jersey is Aston Villa’s second-choice goalkeeper Shay Given, who has always had a reputation for being small despite actually standing at 6'1". Still diminutive for a goalkeeper, the Irishman makes our team.
‘Steady Eddie’ Given draws on his Irish heritage and years of experience to put in a good, solid performance.
Rafael | Manchester United
Donning the yellow of his native Brazil, Rafael may only stand at 5'8" but he isn’t one to back down from a fight. With his "Scrappy Doo" like approach, the feisty Brazilian definitely has a case of little-man syndrome.
An enthusiastic start, fades but with an eye for the spectacular, pulls out one final overlap to finish strong.
Carles Puyol | Barcelona
Doubtful due to the difficulty in finding a helmet that will fit over his perm, Barcelona’s captain is a mini-colossus standing at 5'10". Wearing Spain’s red and gold, Puyol has more than 500 appearances for the Catalan giants and enough medals to sink an armada Puyol proves that size isn’t everything.
Slow and steady wins the race; just not this one. The Spaniard’s unruly hair gets in his eyes causing him to spin out uncontrollably. Finishes first, but only in the Shetland Pony Grand National taking place in the nearby kiddies' play area.
Javier Mascherano | Barcelona
Completing our Barcelona pairing at the back, adorned in blue and white stripes is Javier Mascherano. The 5'9" Argentine has converted to centre-back since moving to the Spanish club and will be hoping that Stoke don’t qualify for the Champions League any time soon.
As per usual more interested in kicking others than focusing on the task in hand, keeps up with the pack simply due to chasing down arch-rival Brazilian Rafael but one last flail lands short and ultimately falls back.
Philipp Lahm | Bayern Munich
The Bayern Munich and Germany captain only stands at 5'7" but makes up for it with plenty of tenacity and work-rate alongside natural ability. Wearing the white and black of Germany, Lahm has nearly 100 caps to his name for his country.
Steely focus and ruthless efficiency keep the German in the hunt right to the last.
David Silva | Manchester City
"Spanish Dave" as he’s known to the Manchester City supporters is a tiny ball of technical excellence. Wearing his laser blue with champion’s badges on, Silva relies on a low centre of gravity to compensate for his 5'7" frame.
Graceful over the ground Silva sets off well, drifting in and out of the field, but an inability to move in a straight line ultimately costs the Spaniard dear.
Leon Britton | Swansea City
Swansea’s answer to the question: ‘who’s the shortest player you’ve got?’ No not Nathan Dyer, it's Leon Britton. At 5'6" Britton has battled his way up through the leagues with Swansea and wears the all-white of the Swans.
Full of industry and not afraid to mix it, Britton lasts the course well but ultimately quality shows and he falls away at the last.
Aaron Lennon | Tottenham Hotspur
Similar to Shaun Wright-Phillips in style and stature, 5'5" Lennon is another winger hoping not to come up against any imposing full-backs anytime soon. Capped by England 21 times, Lennon wears the Spurs third strip of black and grey halves.
Pace aplenty for Lennon, who speeds out of the traps but is let down by some wide bends as he refuses to budge from the far right side of the course.
Andrey Arshavin | Arsenal
Arsenal's forgotten man will stand out from the crowd as he puts his spare time and fashion degree to good use to turn up in a lovely line number complete with sequins and a fascinator. At 5'8" the little Russian is a little fish in any pond, never mind at the Emirates where he’s got as much chance of playing as Ali Dia.
Ultimately out of practice, starts late due to taking up a place on a nearby bench by sheer force of habit rather than starting the race. Finishes 10 minute after the pack after having a sulk half-way round.
Lionel Messi | Barcelona
Argentina’s answer to Gareth Bale, there are rumours going round that this kid could be quite good one day, but who can tell? Forget dancing on the ceiling, this Lionel can’t even reach it standing at just 5'7" thanks to a lifetime of growth hormones. Takes the yellow jersey, Tour de France style, just because he can.
The perfect blend of style and substance, the Argentine shows his class by bamboozling the rest of the field and finishing with aplomb.
Jermain Defoe | Tottenham Hotspur
At 5'5" Jermain Defoe is the quintessential fox-in-the-box poacher relying on quick movement and sharp finishing to elude his opponents. Defoe opts for the traditional white of England emblazoned with the Three Lions.
Coasts through the start of the race, a bit unsure about what happens at this end of the course, comes good when it matters with an explosive finish when it counts.
So there you have it, Lionel Messi takes the sugar lumps in the ultimate footballer's horse race, proving there is literally nothing he can’t do. Carles Puyol, meanwhile, has a ‘mare.
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