Ashley Williams names his top five players to wear number five

Ashley Williams has named his top five players to have worn the number five shirt in football as part of Virgin Bet’s ‘Five of the Best Number Fives’ series.

The former Wales captain wore the number five when he was at Everton. But who does he rate the highest of his fellow number fives?

Let’s take a look at who he picked:

Zinedine Zidane

The first number five pick of Ashley Williams is none other than Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane’s career spanned 17 years and he won 15 trophies at professional level. He won Euro 2000 and the 1998 World Cup with France. For Williams, there is one goal in particular that stands out.

He explained: “One of the best players ever to play football. The reason I choose him is just because he’s one of my favourite players.

“That goal against Bayer Leverkusen, in the 2002 [Champions League] final. Left foot volley, came from such a height. It’s such an iconic goal.

“It’s one that I always think back to, and he had the number five on at that moment.”

Sergio Busquets

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Williams’s second choice is legendary Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets. Known for his passing, vision and ability to read the play, the Spaniard is one of the best midfielders of his generation.

Busquets contributed hugely to the success of Barca under Pep Guardiola, forming an unstoppable midfield trio alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Williams said: “I think his ball retention is the best, one of the best I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t get enough credit for me.

“All of the success that the individuals at Barcelona, and as a team, have had over the years, they couldn’t have got that without him behind, always doing the cleanup job. He’s just a great foil for those attacking players.”

Rio Ferdinand

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The third number five pick of Ashley Williams is one of the top ball-playing defenders in the history of English football – Rio Ferdinand.

Ferdinand was integral to the success of Manchester United in the latter half of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. He scooped up 14 trophies at the club, including the 2008 Champions League.

“I think he was one of the first centre backs in the British game to be able to use the ball how he did,” Williams explained.

“But he could also defend as well, which people forget. He was such an elegant football player. He was someone that I looked up to when I was applying my trade and learning how to defend.

“It was more just how comfortable he was with the ball. He understood the fact that he was not only defending, but he was starting attacks for his team.”

Fabio Cannavaro

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Williams’s fourth pick is Juventus and Italy legend Fabio Cannavaro. The centre-back’s crowning year came in 2006, when he won the World Cup as Italy captain before lifting that year’s Ballon d’Or trophy.

Standing at 5ft 9in, Cannavaro was relatively small compared to the average centre-back. But the size difference was not to his detriment.

Williams explained: “Possibly my favourite player ever, being a defender myself. He was undersized, a bit like myself. He was so comfortable and a real warrior.

“A great captain as well. He led his Italy teams. He was someone that I tried to look up to and, as I say, very similar in height and not always the biggest, but the way he commanded his defence was exceptional.”

Carles Puyol

The fifth and final number five pick made by Ashley Williams is Barcelona defender Carles Puyol. The Spaniard captained Barca throughout their most successful period of the 21st century.

He won 18 domestic trophies, including two Champions League titles, and captained Spain to the 2010 World Cup trophy.

Williams revealed: “He was just the epitome of a defender – gritty, determined. He didn’t really care, I don’t think, about doing too much with the ball. He just wanted to stop his opponent. I have so much respect for that.

“The iconic hair. He was just always throwing his body around in the right place, blocking shots.

“He was just a defender, and I think that credit needs to be given to him. And he won everything. Every team needs someone that’s going to put their body on the line and stop shots.”

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