It's Christmas time again, and in Italian football, quite the contrary of what happens in England, it means a two to three week break and some well—or not so well—deserved vacation for our beloved/behated stars.
It's a good chance to assess the situation and pick up the best and the worst performers so far in this 2009-2010 Serie A. By the way, it's always fun to do that.
I will start with my Top 11, which is not intended to be an all-star list of the "best" players currently in the Italian Serie A, but a team which includes the ones who have performed better so far in this season.
For my Top 11, I've chosen an "almost" well-balanced 3-4-2-1 formation.
Check it out.
Yes, I'm a Fiorentina fan. No, I'm not being partial on this one. Yes, Frey actually deserves this spot.
The French shot-stopper is having another great season, and with 15 goals allowed, the Viola boast the second best defense in Serie A, only behind the mighty Inter.
This is not much of a surprise, considering Inter fields a world class back line which includes the likes of Samuel, Chivu, Lucio, Maicon, and Cordoba.
But what if you replace those names with, let's say, Dainelli, Comotto, Gobbi, Natali, and Pasqual? "Pas de problème," as long as you have Frey performing a couple of miracle saves any given Sunday. And actually some Wednesdays, too.
Danish defender Simon Kjær has been a revelation for Palermo and the whole Serie A.
A powerful, tough tackling centre-back, extremely good in the air and with a commanding attitude, Kjær is a mainstay for both the club and country at just 20 years old.
With several major clubs following his progresses, the future looks bright for the talented Dane; the present says he's already one of the best defenders in Serie A.
Former Lazio skipper Sandro Nesta managed to overcome a career-threatening back injury, and after missing a whole year he's back (sic) in business for AC Milan.
His season highlights include an unlikely injury time brace to clinch a dramatic win against Chievo.
There's actually not much to say; when fully fit, Nesta is still the best centre-back in the world. Yes, I said in the world.
21 year-old Ranocchia is probably the most promising Italian youngster emerging this season.
He's the leader of a surprisingly solid back line for newly promoted Bari, where he's getting plenty of experience while on loan from ambitious Genoa.
At 6'5" (1,95 m) Ranocchia is dominant in the air, but he's comfortable with his feet as well, playing the ball cleverly and with composure.
Mr. Lippi, how about taking this kid to South Africa instead of Cannavaro or Legrottaglie? Yeah, I know, he doesn't play for Juventus but...
OK, next slide.
Not much discussion here. Maicon is going on consolidating his status as a world class fullback, probably the best right back in the game.
Maicon works as the primary play maker for Inter, carrying the ball up "his" right flank almost like an NFL running-back. Catch him if you can.
His pace, strength, dribble, and crossing are just—did I already say that?—world class. This is a Serie A Top 11, but Maicon would easily be a Top 11 selection for any league. Any.
Currently available in the "Batman edition," courtesy of Patrick Vieira's elbow.
Roma superstar and future captain De Rossi is having another outstanding season, and at only 26 years old, he's regarded as a venerable veteran and actually an icon for both the team and the city of Roma.
A key player for club and country, he acts as a play maker/regista/holding/box-to-box midfielder, excelling in any of these roles, and has an eye for goal, too, having found the net four times so far.
With eight goals, Napoli midfielder Hamšík is currently a legitimate contender for this season "Capocannoniere," as he has scored more often than international class strikers like Gilardino, Pato, or Trezeguet.
"Marechiaro" (interesting nickname) is the ultimate scoring threat: he can strike with both feet with power and accuracy, he's dangerous off the ball, good in the air, and he's a clinical set piece taker.
Hamšík's excellent first half of the season also includes international success, as he led Slovakia to the World Cup for the first time in the young nation's history.
Only 12 months ago, Vargas was considered one of the biggest flops of the season.
Fiorentina had bought him for nearly 15 million euros, but he was struggling at the left back position, being nonproductive while attacking and a disaster while defending.
Then, the Viola manager Prandelli switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, moving Vargas up to the left wing while protecting him with a proper full back. The result: "El Loco" turned into an unstoppable, indispensable, irreplaceable left winger.
So far this season, Vargas has been terrific both in Serie A and Champions League, providing tons of perfect crosses and finding the net with regularity as well.
So you thought age and bad injuries would limit Totti's form and numbers? How about nine goals in 12 Serie A matches? Sounds good? Should I also mention an absurd 11 goals in six Europa Cup games?
Acting as a fake centre-forward, some kind of "Fantasista meets Target-man" position, Totti controls the whole offence, creating chances for his teammates and himself.
"Er Pupone" (33) recently signed a new contract expiring in 2014: can he keep this kind of form through the next five years?
You can't keep the Capocannoniere out of the Top 11.
With 11 goals (in 14 matches), Di Natale is currently leading Serie A, and his tally could have been even more impressive without injuries and suspensions.
The "other" Bianconeri are not having exactly a great season. Nevertheless, Antonino's performances are likely to push him into Lippi's squad for the upcoming World Cup—and into this Top 11 as well.
With the departure of mega-star Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Nerazzurri were looking for new options up-front.
Samuel Eto'o has displayed some impressive performances, but has not been extremely consistent so far. Controversial youngster Balotelli grabbed any kind of headlines for any possible reason, except for actually playing football.
Milito, on the other hand, has been an ever-present force so far, showing consistent form and clutch performances, leading the offence and scoring 10 Serie A goals in the process.
Ibra was a true genius, a dribble artist, and a virtuoso on the ball. "El Principe" Milito is simply an authentic perfect striker, a master of positioning, and a deadly finisher, possibly the best traditional centre-forward in the world.