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World Cup 2018 Ultimate XI: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo lead; David De Gea in goal

Welcome to the ESPN FC 2018 World Cup Ultimate XI. Debating the best players and managers in the world is a timeless exercise that always sparks conversation, but how do you fit them all into one team?

With the help of more than 30 ESPN editors spanning regions around the world (who voted to bring each position down to the top six), and a fan poll with over half a million combined votes in English, Spanish and Portuguese for the final result, we have completed 4-1-2-3 formation of the best players that Russia has to offer.

Here is our XI.

Our Ultimate XI is quite an impressive team.
ESPN FC's 2018 World Cup Ultimate XI.

Position: Goalkeeper
Country/club: Spain/Manchester United
Percentage of the fan vote: 60%
ESPN No. 1 votes: 20
International appearances: 27
World Cup appearances: 0

At the age of 27, David De Gea is set to appear in his first World Cup. He was on the bench for the disaster of 2014, when defending champions Spain were knocked out in the group stages, as Iker Casillas played twice and Pep Reina once. This time around, De Gea is the undisputed No. 1 in world football with a string of personal awards behind him. Quite simply, nobody is better: Manuel Neuer (Germany) was second with 21 percent but didn't come close in the fan vote.

Position: Right-back
Country/club: Germany/Bayern Munich
Percentage of the fan vote: 43%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 4
International appearances:
World Cup appearances: 0

No World Cup appearances, but Kimmich has never done anything other than win in his 10 World Cup qualifying games. The 23-year-old may not have landed the spot here but for an injury to Brazil's Dani Alves, but he was pushed all the way by Dani Carvajal of Spain, who has also struggled with injury before the tournament and got more Spanish-language votes than the German but finished with 37 percent. If this were a real XI, Kimmich's versatility might well come in handy.

Position: Centre-back
Country/club: Germany/Bayern Munich
Percentage of the fan vote: 17%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 8
International appearances: 63
World Cup appearances: 6 (W5, D1, L0)

Having made his international debut in 2010, Hummels has only played at one World Cup in 2014. But it was a good one and he can claim an undefeated record at the tournament to date. The Bayern Munich centre-back was something of a surprise choice in this XI, but he finished behind Sergio Ramos in second place, a few percent ahead of Gerard Pique. Now he seems to have overcome his injury issues, Germany are reaping the rewards.

Position: Centre-back
Country/club: Spain/Real Madrid
Percentage of the fan vote: 45%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 16
International appearances: 151
World Cup appearances: 13 (W9, D0, L4)

Ramos may not be everyone's cup of tea but his aggression and passion to win every tackle makes him one of the best in the business. His hot streak has seen him land 24 red cards in his club career, but he has never been sent off in a FIFA competition. His Spain defensive partner Gerard Pique didn't make the cut for this XI, while Hummels was the next best. But Ramos came out on top.

Position: Left-back
Country/club: Brazil/Real Madrid
Percentage of the fan vote: 72%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 16
International appearances: 52
World Cup appearances: 6 (W3, D2, L1)

Nobody came close to matching the Brazilian left-back/winger -- in fact, he got 98 percent of the ESPN Brasil fan vote. His trademark runs down the flank make him just as tough an opponent in attack as they do in defence, but his nearest competitor, Spain's Jordi Alba was a long way behind in the fan vote too at 16 percent. Marcelo has only played in one World Cup (which ended rather badly after a 7-1 defeat to Germany) so will be well motivated to improve his record in Russia.

Position: Defensive midfielder
Country/club: France/Chelsea
Percentage of the fan vote: 42%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 14
International appearances: 23
World Cup appearances: 0

Just three years ago, few people had ever heard of Kante when he signed for Leicester from Caen for a measly £5.6m -- certainly not France coach Didier Deschamps. However, after winning the Premier League back-to-back with the Foxes and Chelsea, collecting multiple personal awards, he made his national debut in 2016. Now one of the finest defensive midfielders in world football, his stamina sets him apart from the rest and the fan vote certainly agreed as Casemiro (21 percent boosted by winning the ESPN Brasil vote) and Sergio Busquets (16 percent) were left in his wake.

Position: Midfielder
Country/club: Belgium/Manchester City
Percentage of the fan vote: 44%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 16
International appearances: 60
World Cup appearances: 4 (W3, D0, L1)

It has been quite a few years since De Bruyne was deemed not good enough by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and sent on loan to the Bundesliga. After Man City snapped him up for £55m in 2015, he has become one of the world's best attacking midfielders and his vision, passing and eye for goal mark him out against his peers. An overwhelming 44 percent of the fan vote. The only question is whether he can replicate his City form for Belgium.

Position: Midfielder
Country/club: Germany/Real Madrid
Percentage of the fan vote: 14%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 5
International appearances: 82
World Cup appearances: 11 (W9, D1, L1)

A quick look at a few things that Kroos has won over the past few years should be enough to satisfy anyone with doubts over his place in this XI. Three Bundesliga titles, one La Liga, four Champions Leagues in six years and, of course, the 2014 World Cup. The midfielder oozes class. It's incredible to think that Bayern only sold him to Real Madrid for €30m as his contract was running down. His place in the XI was a close run thing with club teammate Luka Modric (11 percent) and a Spanish-language led charge for Andres Iniesta (9 percent) not quite doing enough.

Position: Right Forward
Country/club: Portugal/Real Madrid
Percentage of the fan vote: 24%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 4
International appearances: 149
World Cup appearances: 13 (W5, D4, L4)

Three goals in 13 matches at a World Cup doesn't do the No. 7 justice and he will be looking to right that wrong in Russia. He helped Portugal to a famous Euro 2016 win, but has tended to struggle in the biggest event of all since making his tournament debut in 2006. Neymar (8 percent) and Mohamed Salah (7 percent) were closest to upsetting the natural order of things and claiming a place in the XI, but it was never a realistic possibility.

Position: Left Forward
Country/club: Argentina/Barcelona
Percentage of the fan vote: 45%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 18
International appearances: 124
World Cup appearances: 15 (W11, D2, L2)

The undisputed No. 1, and it was only really ever going to be a battle between him and Ronaldo for the forward spots. The pain of 2014's final will still haunt the Argentine genius. Messi has five goals in his 15 matches at a World Cup, dating back to 2006, but has never lifted the trophy. In the shadow of the legendary Diego Maradona, he will be looking to add the missing piece of the puzzle to his trophy cabinet.

Position: Striker
Country/club: Poland/Bayern Munich
Percentage of the fan vote: 21%

ESPN No. 1 votes: 7
International appearances: 93
World Cup appearances: 0

Both Harry Kane and Luis Suarez got more No. 1 votes from our ESPN regions, but they missed out on the fan vote by only a few thousand. In total, this was the closest of all the positions as Lewandowski finished with 21 percent of the vote, Kane with 20 percent (just 400 odd votes behind), Suarez on 19 percent and Greizmann on 18 percent. Lewandowski has never played in a World Cup before, but if he wants to quit Bayern Munich then he will have the biggest stage on which to perform.

Position: Manager
Team: Germany
Percentage of the fan vote: 59%
ESPN No. 1 votes: 18
International games: 160
World Cup games: 14 (W11, D1, L2)

Only two defeats at World Cups (both in the 2010 tournament: a group stage defeat to Serbia and semifinal loss to eventual winners Spain) mark Low out as one of the best coaches around, beating Brazil's Tite (13 percent) to top spot here by quite a margin. Low is the defending champion, having lifted his side to success at Brazil 2014, and has the best win percentage of any Germany manager in history at 66.25 percent. A curiously low-key club career may be boosted after the World Cup as he may look for a first domestic job since 2004.

Disagree with some of our selections? Have your say in the comments section below.

Jon is a senior editor of ESPN FC, based in London.

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