Lionel Messi’s fourth successive FIFA Ballon d’Or dominated the headlines this morning, but the results of the FIFA/FIFPro World XI is far more of a talking point. All eleven players selected ply their trade in La Liga, with 10 representing either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
while the majority of them are worthy of their place in the team, some players have been scandalously omitted.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas is an understandable choice in goal given the fact he has won both the La Liga title with Real Madrid and Euro 2012 with Spain. He remains the most consistent, respected goalkeeper in world football and the one others aspire to match.
Gianluigi Buffon and Joe Hart also enjoyed excellent years, with domestic success for both. If Italy had defeated Spain in the Euro 2012 final Buffon may have had the edge over Casillas.
Full Backs: Dani Alves & Marcelo
While it is hard to argue against Dani Alves being voted the best right back in the world, the choice of Marcelo at left back seems questionable.
While the Brazilian may have won La Liga, Ashley Cole is a more deserving choice considering his magnificent displays in Chelsea’s march to Champions League glory. His performances in the semi-final against Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the final, in particular, were as resolute and impressive as any by a full-back over the last few years.
For a player widely seen as the best in the world in his position, it seems a travesty that he didn’t make the side.
Centre Back: Sergio Ramos & Gerard Pique
At centre-back Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were again an obvious choices given their success for Spain, but the exclusion of Vincent Kompany seems harsh. While Kompany was an almost ever-present in Manchester City’s memorable Premier League triumph, Pique played just 22 times for Barcelona and didn’t perform to his usual high standards.
Kompany was a colossus all season and, as captain, was the inspiration and symbol of the entire football club.
With all due respect to Pique, who is a wonderful player, he did far less in 2012 than a number of defenders, not just Kompany. John Terry won the Champions League, Giorgio Chellini was inspirational for Juventus and Italy and Pepe was outstanding alongside Ramos for Madrid.
On his day the Barcelona man is the best in the world in his position, but this has not been his greatest year.
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Xavi & Andres Iniesta
While there is no doubting the remarkable ability and achievements of the trio of Spaniards in midfield – Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta – it seems an absolute travesty that Andrea Pirlo failed to make the cut.
The 33 year old Italian playmaker won both the Serie A title and Player of the Year award with Juventus, before lighting up Euro 2012 with a string of sublime displays, culminating in Italy reaching the final.
While the three Spaniards, Iniesta in particular, were terrific in the tournament, Pirlo carried his team at times and was playing with far inferior players. Had he been playing for Spain he would’ve walked into this years World XI.
Yaya Toure deserves a mention for his magnificent efforts for Manchester City while Bastian Schweinsteiger was a major influence in both Bayern Munich and Germany reaching the Champions League and Euro 2012 finals, respectively.
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo & Radamel Falcao
In attack, the inclusion of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are so unsurprising and deserved it’s not even worth mentioning, but does Radamel Falcao deserve the nod ahead of Robin Van Persie?
While the Colombian’s goalscoring exploits over the past 12 months have made him the most sought-after number nine on the planet, Van Persie has been better. He almost single handedly got Arsenal into this seasons Champions League, winning the PFA Player of the Year award in the process, and his form since his arrival at Old Trafford has been equally phenomenal.
When someone’s performances are leading to Manchester United being dubbed a ‘one man team’ you know he must be a special player. Van Persie is just that.
It could even be argued that the likes of Sergio Aguero, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain should be ahead of Falcao in the pecking order, given their goals and league success.
Ultimately, this team has been voted for by 50,000 fellow professionals so there can be no talk of any FIFA bias against the Premier League, but the pure theatre and drama that Barcelona and Real Madrid conjure up both on and off the pitch does seem to cloud many players judgements.
While there is no doubting that these eleven players are all world-class talents, there are others more deserving of it away from the glitz and glamour of La Liga.
Who would you have in your World XI for 2012?
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