If Euro 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that England and Italy are going to shape the future of international football in Europe.
Gareth Southgate and Roberto Mancini, the pair of suave motherf******s that they are, have put together a pair of sides who could well dominate the scene in the years ahead.
But we can’t go into the first ever major tournament final between these two sides without also taking a look back at the past.
Obviously, it’s been Italy in control, winning five major tournaments and making four more finals, while England will be making only their second final appearance ever this weekend – last time they were this far in one of the big ones, they won the World Cup in ’66.
But that’s not to say they haven’t had some brilliant players over the years. Here is your England vs Italy all-time combined XI.
International caps: 176
Dino Zoff and Gordon Banks may well have something to say about it, but Buffon is Italy’s most capped players of all-time by a mile, and one of the most decorated players at any level of football ever.
He’s now into his 40s, so won’t be on the pitch when Italy go on the hunt for their second European Championship, but there can be no denying he’s one of the great goalkeepers of all time.
International caps: 81
Despite the two sides having produced a cavalcade of world class players in nearly every position, we’re not exactly blessed with options at right-back here.
But that shouldn’t detract from the credentials of Bergomi, who won six major trophies in his 20-year career with Inter, and enjoyed the peak of his career when Italy won the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
International caps: 108
The England captain who won the World Cup in ’66 and described by Pele as “the best defender I ever played against”.
What more do you need?
International caps: 81
Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta are both desperately unlucky to miss out here. Rio Ferdinand? Not so much.
But let’s face it, Baresi is one of the best centre backs to have ever lived. Possibly even the best. He was in the squad that won the World Cup in 1982, and though that remains his only international trophy, it wasn’t for the want of trying, as the Italy teams he commanded twice made it to the semi-finals.
Baresi came in at 16th on 90min’s 50 Greatest Footballers of all time, and only two defenders rank above him. One of which being…
International caps: 126
Being able to play with the ball at your feet is a prerequisite of a modern day defender, but even though they’re trained for it from an early age nowadays, none of them can do it quite like Maldini did.
This guy was perhaps the perfect footballer. You could stick him anywhere across the back line, or at centre-mid, and if he only delivered a 9/10 performance, he’d be disappointed with himself.
He’s also possibly the coolest man to ever lived, which is a nice accolade to add to the seven Serie A titles he picked up with AC Milan.
International caps: 106
Lampard’s international career will probably be best remembered for the goal he didn’t score against Germany at the 2010 World Cup, but his 15 years playing under Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson had plenty of highlights.
The Chelsea legend was voted England’s player of the year in 2004 and 2005 and represented his country at five major tournaments. Not bad going, that.
International caps: 113
Every now and again, if you’re feeling sad or anxious, you should take a minute to stop, take a breath, and look at a picture of Andrea Pirlo.
Then after his glorious hair and beard combo fills you with a few seconds of peace, you should start feeling sad again, because you will never be as cool as Andrea Pirlo.
International caps: 114
The Liverpool legend and current Rangers boss never had the subtlety and deftness of touch as some of the other great midfielders of his generation, but then again he didn’t have to, did he?
He scored exactly two types of goals: 25 yard thunderbolts into the bottom corner, and penalties.
And he scored a lot of each of them.
International caps: 56
Forget Bend It Like Beckham, if the movie was historically accurate, it would have been called Bend It Like Baggio.
Italy’s little magician was a master at curling the ball round the wall and into the back of the net, and scored five times in 1994 on Italy’s way to the final.
With nine, he’s Italy’s joint top scorer in World Cup history, and he is also owner of one of the all-time great football nicknames: Il Divin Codino, or The Divine Ponytail.
International caps: 53
We’re going back a bit here, but this team would be a bit of a mockery without at least some representation from the great Italy side who won successive World Cups back in the 1930s.
Up until Pele happened, Il Genio was widely considered the greatest player of all time, and his 33 goals in 53 caps for his country don’t argue with that.
He netted 346 goals in 564 appearances for club in country, and this was at a time long before Messi and Ronaldo, when a goal every three games was a genuinely world class return.
International caps: 106
Manchester United’s greatest ever player, England’s greatest ever player, and one of the greatest players in World Cup history.
Charlton netted 49 times in 106 appearances for England, and while his meeting with Franz Beckenbauer in the 1966 final against West Germany is best remembered for Beckenbauer marking him out of the game, it was Charlton who famously lifted the trophy at the end of 120 minutes.