Portsmouth XI If They Had Kept Their Best Players

 
 
Portsmouth's Lassana Diarra celebrates scoring their first goal wiith team mates Jermain Defoe (L) and Peter Crouch (R)

This all-star Pompey XI features players now playing for the likes of Chelsea, Marseille, Rangers and Newcastle.

Portsmouth are now in their fourth season in League Two and their seventh season outside the Premier League. Yet in the last decade alone, Pompey won the FA Cup, finished as runners-up in the FA Cup, finished in the top half of the Premier League, played host to AC Milan and travelled to Wolfsburg in the UEFA Cup.

It's been a sudden and harsh fall from grace for the south coast side, but one which now sees them in a good place. As clubs like Hull City, Swansea City and Leeds United face battles with their boards and owners, resulting in divisions among supporters, Portsmouth are now owned by the Pompey Supporters Trust, debt free, and feeling a great close knit bond throughout.

Despite this, the strength of Pompey's playing squad is obviously a long way off what it was during their Premier League era. Many players who left the club during their downturn, prior to that or even since have gone to have very good careers. We take a look at what Pompey's starting XI could look like now if they had retained their best players:

Portsmouth's Lassana Diarra celebrates scoring their first goal wiith team mates Jermain Defoe (L) and Peter Crouch (R)Jermain Defoe, Lassana Diarra and Peter Crouch at Portsmouth

Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic

Bosnia's number one Asmir Begovic spent 5 years at Fratton Park between the ages of 18 and 23, although he made only 17 appearances for the club in that time, being loaned out 6 times. From Portsmouth he joined Stoke City, for a fee of £3.25 million, and went on to establish himself among the best shot stoppers in the Premier League, before an £8 million move to Chelsea in 2015.

Right-Back: Glen Johnson

Heavily linked with a bizarre move to Barcelona today, a transfer which has been endorsed by Luis Suarez no less, Glen Johnson has revived his career at Stoke City. It is the second revival of the England internationals career, with the first having come at Portsmouth. The right-back joined Pompey after 4 years and little football at Chelsea, making 100 appearances at Fratton Park before moving to Liverpool. 

Centre-Back: Joel Ward

A versatile player, Joel Ward started out as a centre-back at Pompey, before being moved to central midfield, left-back and more recently he has established himself as right-back at Crystal Palace. A product of the Portsmouth academy, Ward played 96 games for the club before making a move to Palace for just £400,000. He has impressed for the Eagles, making more than 150 apps in 4 years.

Centre-Back: Sylvain Distin

Bournemouth's Sylvain Distin in action with Portsmouth's Marc McNultySylvain Distin in action for Bournemouth against Portsmouth

Highly experienced, Sylvain Distin is 38 now, but the uncapped Frenchman was still playing Premier League football for Bournemouth last season and we think he could still hold his own in this XI. Portsmouth were Distin's third English club, and he joined after 5 years at Manchester City. He went on to captain Pompey, making 95 appearances in a little over 2 seasons, before being snapped up by Everton for £5 million. 

Left-Back: Marc Wilson

Much like Joel Ward, Marc Wilson is also a very versatile defence minded player who has played right across the backline during his career. The strength of the aforementioned trio means left-back is where he slots in for us. The 29-year-old Irish international played just 49 games in 4 years at Pompey, but he has gone on to have a successful top flight career firstly with Stoke and now with Bournemouth.

Holding Midfield: Lassana Diarra

Arguably the single most talented man in this XI, Lassana Diarra is a top class footballer when he wants to be. Accused of being a mercenary and various other things during certain stages of his career, Diarra joined Portsmouth after brief stints at Arsenal and Chelsea, and left Pompey to join Spanish giants Real Madrid. 

After winning 3 trophies in 4 seasons at the Bernabeu, Diarra headed to Russia, where things turned sour. He served a 15 month suspension from football between 2014 and 2015, but came back in a big way with Marseille last season, and was only ruled out of France's Euro 2016 squad through injury.

Right Wing: Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie of Newcastle United celebrates scoring his teams third goalMatt Ritchie now plays for high-flying Newcastle United

Current Newcastle winger Matt Ritchie is only not playing Premier League football due to his own decision to leave Bournemouth in the summer. A product of Portsmouth's academy, he played just 10 games for the club before being sold to Swindon Town for £400,000 in 2011. Back to being one of the Championship's star players at Newcastle now, Portsmouth would love to have him back.

Attacking Midfield: Kevin-Prince Boateng

Former Ghana international Kevin-Prince Boateng is a mercurial talent who perhaps hasn't quite reached the heights he could have during his career to date. Despite his inconsistencies, Boateng has still played for the likes of Tottenham, AC Milan and Schalke, as well as winning 15 caps for Ghana. Although he spent just a single season at Fratton Park, Boateng had some memorable highs and lows, and now plays for La Liga side Las Palmas. 

Left-Wing: Niko Kranjcar

Whenever Harry Redknapp joins a club, Niko Kranjcar tends to be not far behind him. With the former Spurs boss now out of work though, Kranjcar finds himself starring in the SPL for Rangers.A former Croatian international, Kranjcar was excellent for Portsmouth, playing predominantly as an attacking midfielder and scoring 12 goals in 98 games.

The 32-year-old left Pompey for £2.5 million, and has since played for Tottenham, Dynamo Kyiv, Queens Park Rangers, New York Cosmos and his current club Rangers.  

Centre-Forward: Jermain Defoe

Sunderland's Jermain Defoe looks dejectedJermain Defoe looks dejected at Sunderland

Jermain Defoe has scored goals for whichever team he's ever played for, and Portsmouth were no exception to that. Signed from Tottenham in 2008 and sold back to Tottenham in 2009, for almost a £10 million profit in just 12 months, Defoe was good business for Pompey. He scored 17 goals in 36 games at Fratton Park, and the 34-year-old is still burying them for Sunderland. 

Centre-Forward: Peter Crouch

Like Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch also spent a single season at Fratton Park in 2008/09, and in the 30+ games the duo played together, they formed a perfect little and large partnership up top. Unlike Defoe though, that wasn't Crouch's first spell at Pompey.

The foot 7 inch centre-forward spent another season at Portsmouth 7 years earlier, where he earned himself a move to Aston Villa. Crouch scored 19 goals in 39 games during his first spell at the club and 16 goals in 49 games in his second. The ex-England international now plays for Stoke.

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