Who's the best?
A little over a week ago the FIFPro World XI were announced. Amongst the casualties was Diego Milito, who was even omitted from the initial shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. As expected, the World XI prominently featured Spanish players as 2010 has been a World Cup year for them. Nevertheless, no World Cup winner was as announced the best player of 2010, Lionel Messi was crowned as the world’s best.
Some may argue that Argentina’s below average showing at the World Cup should’ve prevented Lionel Messi from winning his second successive Ballon d’Or.
Personally speaking, I would’ve given the award to Xavi, perhaps even to Wesley Sneijder. The latter has been integral to Inter Milan’s treble success while Xavi is the player that makes both FC Barcelona and Spain tick. With Xavi, Spain has become European & World Champions. Of course, Spain’s recent success story cannot only be attributed to the player from Terassa but he certainly played a huge part in it.
It’s not a coincidence that FC Barcelona & Spain have monopolized headlines for their mesmerizing football. The spine of the Spanish national team is comprised of no less than seven (!) Barca players. With the exception of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, every player who has been voted into the FIFPro World Player XI has won a major trophy in 2010. Where’s the uproar?
How come this one is flying under the radar? Talk about bias. But why question the decision to award Lionel Messi the Ballon d’Or when Cristiano Ronaldo has won exactly…nothing? Although he scored a glut-load of goals he hasn’t led his team to a single title. Not to mention, Real Madrid didn’t even progress past the last 16 in the Champions League. Meanwhile Diego Milito may have scored fewer goals than the player dubbed CR7 but his goals were a whole lot more decisive.
But let’s get to it. I hope you enjoy this slide show and if you don’t…well, at the very least you took your time to flip through it.
I’m sure I will be doomed, cursed and subject to accusations of bias, most likely from Real Madrid fans. But hey, how about you read my explanation first? Of course, the world’s most expensive signing was and is scoring at a ridiculous rate. A lot of players crumble under the pressure of a huge (in this case MASSIVE) price tag but CR7 seems to thrive under it, on an individual level his 2009/2010 campaign was quite spectacular.
But when it truly mattered, Cristiano Ronaldo just went AWOL. In both Clasico fixtures against FC Barcelona, he cut a rather frustrating figure while he and his Real Madrid cohorts completely disappeared in the UEFA Champions League. Why do I point out the Clasico’s? If FC Barcelona didn’t win the games against their eternal rivals the title race might’ve ended differently.
On a list full comprised of champions he is the odd man out. Besides personal glory he doesn't have much to show for in 2010.
Gone Bale Gone.....
Up until 2009, Maicon was hands down the best right-back in the business. No less attacking than his compatriot Dani Alves, who himself has a legitimate claim on being the world’s best in his position, Maicon was considered the more balanced of the pair. The Inter full-back had the right mixture of attacking instincts and defensive discipline. But for the majority of the 2009/2010 he was mediocre at best. His form only improved during the latter stages of the season.
In 2010, after being humiliated and shred into pieces by Tottenham Hotspurs’ Gareth Bale, it is safe to say that Maicon can no longer be considered the best or even one of the best, right-backs in football. Whereas Inter Milan made all the right calls during the transfer window in 2009, they arguably made some of the worst decisions in 2010.
Instead of holding onto one of football's brightest and most talented players in Mario Balotelli, Inter Milan decided to cash in on the hot-tempered youngster. Even more absurd has been the decision to keep Maicon when Real Madrid came for his services. If the reports are to be believed, Madrid made multiple bids in excess of 20 million Euro for the Brazilian. Judging by his form thus far, Inter Milan would be hard-pressed to find any suitor for even half the quoted amount in 2011.
Inter Milan does have a promising young full-back who goes by the name of Davide Santon, right?
Relax dude, at least you won the World Cup.
Who am I kidding? If Casillas didn’t win the FIFA World Cup with Spain he wouldn’t have made the FIFPro World XI at all. Let’s be frank here, Casillas hasn’t even been the best goalkeeper in La Liga. Moreover, Spain usually dominates the possession and the very least you can expect from an unchallenged keeper is to make a few decent safes every once in a while.
He is scoring more frequent, now is he?
It’s a mere coincidence that FC Barcelona’s No. 8 comes in at eight. San Andres' ability on the ball as well as his importance to FC Barcelona and Spain cannot be understated. He is the other half of football's best center-midfield pairing. The understanding Iniesta has with Xavi borders on telepathic. Therefore he was sorely missed when he spent the majority of the 2009-2010 season injured on the treatment table. Though it goes against my principles I will agree with Jose Mourinho on this one.
El Illusionista may have scored THAT goal in the FIFA World Cup final but he just missed too many games for my taste.
The last line of defense
Although this pair of center-halves is almost separated by 10 years, it appears as if the two of them have been marshaling FC Barcelona’s and Spain’s defense for years. Though I’m leaning towards placing Carles Puyol at No. 6, mostly due to his seniority, I’ll give the nod to Gerard Pique. The latter literally offered blood, sweat and tears to his country. Even before reaching the semifinals of the World Cup, Gerard Pique was looking like a prize fighter.
Pundits like to point out FC Barcelona’s supposedly fragile defense as the only weakness of the team. How come this defense has the best record in La Liga if not Europe?
Who said I only can play center-back?
Seemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal, the Brazilian wasted no time forming one of the finest defensive partnerships with Walter Samuel. In Serie A as well as the Champions League the Brazilian has been nothing short of imperious. If Samuel is the Wall, their partnership should be dubbed the brick wall since a lot of opponents had just hit that.
One of those opponents, Van Gaal’s FC Bayern Munich, who faced Lucio’s Inter Milan in the Champions League final...the sweet taste of revenge.
Golden Balls. Am I the only one thinking this isn't right?
He is without a doubt the best player in the world but in 2009-2010 he wasn’t as decisive as I would’ve liked. Although he and the rest of the Argentine national team had a miserable manager in Maradona, he can count on the services of Xavi and Iniesta with FC Barcelona. Not to mention, in Pep Guardiola he has a coach who has the talent to maximize his boundless potential. La Pulga continues to break records but 2010 has been a World Cup year.
Sorry Lionel, but you’re still the best player in the world.
Genius at work.
As I am writing this article I have come to the conclusion that Xavi, though a deserving winner, might not be as deserving as I have assumed. FC Barcelona and Spain boast some of the very best in their respective positions, playing an inch-perfect through ball to Lionel Messi or David Villa is almost guaranteed to result in a goal. I’m not undermining his importance to either team; it can’t be stressed enough, but Xavi really excels when his partner-in-crime Iniesta is playing alongside him.
There's always the next World Cup.
Sneijder at No. 2? Yeah, I have been stressing all along that 2010 was a World Cup year therefore Sneijder couldn’t possibly be the winner. Sure, he did play a major part in Inter Milan’s treble winning season but Diego Milito was far more important than the Dutchman. I’d liken Sneijder’s role to that of Chicago Bulls’ Scottie Pippen during the team’s heyday in the 90s. Inevitably this would make Diego Milito Inter Milan’s version of Michael Jordan.
Milito made the big plays, he couldn’t have done it without a strong supporting cast but he always rose up to the occasion when his team needed him the most.
Sky's the limit!
There was never, not even a remote, possibility that Valencia CF was challenging for major titles (or titles that matter to the voting panel), thus David Villa never had a realistic chance on being a contender for football's most prestigious individual prize. Still, El Guaje performed to his usual high standards and almost single-handedly dragged Spain to the World Cup final.
While he didn’t score the Cup-winning goal in the final it was largely due to his efforts that Spain made it to the final at all. At the 2010 World Cup, David Villa was easily Spain’s best player ahead of Xavi AND Iniesta.