Identifying Football's Best Players in Each Passing Category in 2012
2012 was the year of the pass master. Domestic football followed the international standard set by Spain, opting to fill the midfield with bodies and maintain control over the game.
The result was several players coming right to the fore thanks to their excellent skills on the deck, but who topped the charts when it came to pass completion, and who's the most accurate long-ball expert?
Read on for the winners.
Was there going to be anyone else?
Barcelona's Xavi is a bona fide pass master, acting as the metronome in a tiki-taka midfield to die for.
His pass-and-move skills are the best in the world and his growth under Pep Guardiola and now Tito Vilanova has been well documented.
In Euro 2012, he broke an international record, completing 127 passes against the Republic of Ireland. His pass completion percentage for this season currently stands at 95.3.
Other notable short pass masters: Leon Britton, Mikel Arteta, Sergio Busquets
Accurate Long Ball
Pirlo is a wizard.
When he wraps his foot around the ball and hits it into the distance, it's guaranteed to land at the target's feet.
Through Serie A this year, the Italian maestro has averaged 10.3 accurate long balls per game and was second only to Stipe Pletikosa (goalkeeper) in Euro 2012.
If rumours of Fernando Llorente joining Juventus are true, expect this figure to rise further—the Spaniard is a magnet for these.
The beard helps keep balance and poise when launching it.
Other notable long-ball specialists: Riccardo Montolivo, Xabi Alonso, Dante
Not many will have had Farfan down as a prolific crosser before 2012, but he's become one of the world's finest in delivering the ball from wide areas.
The art of crossing is in jeopardy as the traditional mould of winger dies out, but this Peruvian wide man is on a mission to deliver the ball to teammate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on a regular basis.
One in every three of his crosses finds a teammate, averaging 3.1 per game this season and a Bundesliga-high 2.3 last season.
Other notable crossers: Nicky Shorey, Leighton Baines, Yohan Mollo
This guy again? You betcha.
He doesn't pass with panache for giggles, he passes with real intent.
He was instrumental in Italy's progress to the Euro 2012 final and averages 3.3 key passes per game in Serie A this season.
Having able runners such as Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella helps create channels and space to use, but the pinpoint accuracy of Pirlo's right boot is simply awesome.
Other key threaders: Mesut Ozil, Franck Ribery, David Silva
A special mention is owed to Everton left-back Baines, who has created the most chances out of anyone in Europe's top leagues this season.
With 69 already this season, he's providing ample service to teammates Nikica Jelavic, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar—all you can ask for is better end product from the finishers.
Baines had an absolutely cracking 2012 and usurped Ashley Cole for the title of best left-back in the English Premier League, with many believing he's one of the world's best.
27 - Since Aug 2010 Leighton Baines has scored (12) or assisted (15) 27 PL goals, 10 more than any other defender in that period. Vital.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 2, 2013
Good start to 2013, too.