For those of us who are consumed by football every year brings new thrills and disappointments, a million what ifs and if onlys and ultimately a feeling of elation, satisfaction or despair, depending on where our unfailing loyalties lie. We laugh and cry, argue and debate, get over-emotional and sometimes regret what we say but what the hell! We’re all in it for the emotional roller-coaster ride in the first place, aren’t we?
If you support Chelsea you’ll be full of what ifs but optimistic. Manchester United supporters will be ecstatic but anxious. Liverpool: forever hopeful but maybe more so than usual. Arsenal and Spurs: WTF! Stoke and Hull: what a ride! Leeds: ‘I swear I didn’t run over a black cat’. Newcastle: isn’t it called the black-country? Manchester City: harem scarem.
And abroad…..Barcelona: on the brink. Real Madrid: 2 in a row, now for Europe! Inter: the Jose factor. Juve: past glories beckon. Milan: rebuild, and fast! Roma:WTF! Lyon: tiresome without CL success. Bayern: back and biting! Celtic: home thoughts, never from abroad.
Most of us judge each year’s success on where the trophies end up and, by extension, the player awards tend to be dominated by those that play for the year’s ‘winners’. God (insert Allah, Buddha, Ganesh, or whatever your personal choice is, if any) forbid we would all ever come close to agreeing on what the team of the year is but, unfortunately, I have been given the hospital pass this year and now must expose myself to ridicule, deserved or otherwise.
In order to establish some sort of a framework rough guidelines for the exercise are appropriate. And here they are. The ‘rules’ are set by me so don’t bother disputing them!
- Players are judged on performance and contribution at both club and international level. 2008 having been a EUFA Championship and Olympic year, this obviously has some bearing (Spain+, England-).
- Players already established as outstanding may not be chosen on the basis of a relatively ordinary year or having missed long periods through injury.
- Players who win the big awards nationally and internationally are very likely to be in with a chance, unless I decide otherwise!
- Players with the best stats for their position should obviously be in the frame but there are clearly other factors.
- There can NEVER be a perfect list so all contributions are welcome and, indeed, this is the whole point of the article.
- Bias should be kept to a minimum when voicing your opinions…….sorry! I’m now facing into a strong wind and pissing hard!
So here goes. My team of 2008 is:
Petr Cech (Chelsea): Excellent keeper but ultimately won nothing in 2008 and just fails to get across the line. (no pun intended)
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus): Read Cech.
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid): La Liga and Euro 2008 winner. Three clean sheets in the knock-out stages of the Euros, including 2 decisive penalty saves against Italy in the QF.
Edwin Van Der Sar (Manchester United): PL and CL double and probably his last great season. Excellent!
Pepe Reina (Liverpool): Winner of the Golden Gloves Award but staying fit helps win the GGs and still 2nd choice to Casillas for Spain. But a quality keeper.
Winner: It has to be Iker Casillas this year. No dispute!
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United): PL and CL winner and probably at his peak in a team that had an excellent defensive record.
Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United): PL and CL winner. Ruthlessly efficient.
Patrice Evra (Manchester United): Attacking excellence combined with quality defence and top honours.
John Terry (Chelsea): A hairs breath away from both PL and CL. Penalty miss deducts no points at all.
Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea): As for Terry. Unfortunately injury prone, but excellent.
Gael Clichy (Arsenal): Outstanding in 2007/8 season. The odd blip in 2008/9 so far.
Bacary Sagna (Arsenal): Brilliant young player in his position. His injury cost Arsenal dearly.
Jose Boswinga (Chelsea): Sought by many following his performances for Porto and Portugal and ended up at Chelsea. Great player, especially going forward. Lots more to come.
Daniel Alves (Barcelona): On all the lists last year. Can’t be ignored.
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich): Solid and excellent going forward. Can play left or right. In the UEFA list of players of the tournament Euro 2008.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid): Outstanding season with Real Madrid and seems to be most peoples favourite choice at RB. Noticeably absent from the Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament
Carles Puyol (Barcelona): Aging, but vital to Barca last season, Euro 2008 winner with Spain and on EUFA’s best player list.
Winners: Boswinga, Ferdinand, Puyol, Evra
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool): Despite no honours you can’t leave him out. Still the driving force at Anfield.
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool): Established himself as one of the best DMs in the business and won Olympic Gold with Argentina.
Michael Essien (Chelsea): Outstanding in Chelsea’s close call. Unfortunately injured for most of the current season.
Michael Ballack (Chelsea): Read Essien. Possibly Chelsea’s most influential player in the run in last season and in the UEFA squad of the tournament at Euro 2008.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea): Defines Chelsea. Reliable, consistent and a midfield goal machine. Weathered personal tragedy to drive his team so close last season. Has also held it together while so many have been injured this season.
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal): Keeps getting better and the jewel in the crown amongst Arsenal’s wealth of young talent. Outstanding!
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United): PL and CL winner and just about every player award available. 42 goals, what more can you say?
Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan): Quality player but out of the winners circle for club and country this year.
Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid): A surprise when he went to Hamburg but talent can’t hide and there is much more to come at Real. Exciting wide player with some spectacular goals.
Ricardo Quaresma (Inter Milan): Constantly the subject of transfer speculation before finally leaving Porto for Inter. Has excelled in a free roaming role.
Frank Ribery (Bayern Munich): Best left winger around at present and has started the season brilliantly with Bayern. German Player of the Year award. Much coveted.
Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid): Can be beauty and the beast in the same game. Influential, quality and a real force at Euro 2008.
Marcos Senna (Villarreal): Brazilian/Spanish talent who has been excellent for club and country this year.
Xavier Hernández Creus (Xavi) (Barcelona): Outstanding defensive midfielder who was in the EUFA team of the tournament for Euro 2008.
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona): Versatile attacking midfielder. Another of the Spanish class of 2008 included in the UEFA squad of the tournament.
Winners: Ronaldo, Sneijder, Lampard, Ribery
Fernando Torres (Liverpool): Prodigious talent with 32 goals last season. Injury prone in the current campaign but sure to impress. Winner Euro 2008 and in EUFA best team of the tournament.
Karim Benzema (Olympique Lyonnais): Too good to last much longer at Lyon. French Player of the Year. Could be one of the greats.
David Villa (Valentia): Refuses to leave Valentia for now but 80 goals in 143 appearances says it all. Another in the UEFA list of Euro 2008’s best and the tournaments top scorer.
Francesco Totti (Roma): Dogged by injury but his absence as much as his presence for Roma says everything about how influential he is. Great talent!
Didier Drogba (Chelsea): Good first half to the year but has blotted his copybook of late and has been too injury prone to be a genuine contender.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan): Somewhat enigmatic striker with 44 goals in 85 games for Inter. Intuitive and spectacular on his day.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona): Led Argentina to Olympic glory. Potential to be one of the ‘greats’ of the game. Stands out by a mile even at a club like Barcelona.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (Kaka) (AC Milan): Quieter year than in 2007 but remains a great talent, the envy of many.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid): Excellent goal scoring record for Real and a decent contribution at Euro 2008. Still a force.
Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich): Prominent star in the rising Bayern team and key striker for Germany. 44 goals in 87 appearances for his country.
Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St. Petersburg): Talk of the town at Euro 2008 and a key figure in Zenit’s UEFA Cup win this year. Coveted by many but yet to move. Has he been a flash in the pan?
Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid): New talent who has impregnated Maradona’s daughter (that’s not why he’s on the list but at least it shows he knows how to find the target!) Olympic winner and a growing influence at Atletico Madrid.
Winners: Messi, Torres
So there it is! Undoubtedly the best 11 players from 2008! It’s a very fine line that separates many of the choices. While the exercise is aimed at selecting the best individual players this year it is also interesting to reflect on how they would combine as a team.
So we have two of the best attacking full-backs around, both of whom can also defend well. Two centre backs with bundles of experience and contrasting but complimentary styles. A top keeper. Two outstanding wingers who can both take on players at pace, come inside and score goals. Two central midfielders with a good balance between grit and finesse. Both can score goals and defend well.
And finally, the mouth watering prospect of Lionel Messi feeding Torres down the channels and inside the defenders where Torres excels at ‘coming off the shoulder’. Or how about the two double teaming in the box as Ribery or Ronaldo wreak havoc out wide and provide the ammunition? Enough to give any defence nightmares!
Yes, all in all I believe the selected 11 would make an outstanding side.
So I’m now off to a dark corner to continue the argument with myself (surely Rooney was worth a mention? No he wasn’t…Yes he was! etc.) and await the inevitable Rio v Terry and Gerrard v Lampard fiasco.
The 2008 Soccerlens All-Star XI
GK: Iker Casillas
RB: Jose Bosingwa
CB: Rio Ferdinand
CB: Carlos Puyol
LB: Patrice Evra
RM: Cristiano Ronaldo
CM: Wesley Sneijder
CM: Frank Lampard
LM: Frank Ribery
ST: Lionel Messi
ST: Fernando Torres
Do you disagree with this list? What are you picks for the Best XI of 2008?