Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2011 Team of the Year
The 2010/2011 season is over, and the 2011/2012 season is about to start, with Europe's top teams now making the moves that they believe will take them to the next level. Last season was again dominated by the sensational FC Barcelona of Pep Guardiola, who continued their unchallenged domination over European Football.
But it was not all about FC Barcelona. There were players from other teams who also had magnificent seasons. Let's take a look at the 2011 team of the year (so far) in a classic 4-3-3 formation.
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Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
It'd be an understatement to say Manuel Neuer has been great lately. He's pretty much the main reason why a very average Schalke side managed to reach the semifinals of the Champions League and why they were not even more heavily defeated by Manchester United.
He might be only 25, a very young age for a goalkeeper, but this season, Neuer established himself as one of the best, if not the best, goalkeepers on the planet. His move to Bayern Munich will certainly make the Bavarians one of the teams to beat in next season's Champions League. Bayern's last Champions League win in 2001 was inspired by Oliver Kahn's superb goalkeeping, and they'll be looking for Manuel Neuer to have a similar effect.
Left-Back: Philipp Lahm
This was another very solid season for the 27-year-old German fullback. He played in almost all of Bayern's matches and did so at a very high level, fully displaying his versatility. The Bayern captain was solid on both ends of the pitch and one of the Munich's best players this year.
Center Back: Thiago Silva
The AC Milan defender had his best season to date, establishing himself as one of the best defenders in the world. His partnership with Nesta was vital to make AC Milan Italian champions and the best defensive team in the Serie A. He only picked one yellow card in 40 matches and also showed he can be great as a defensive midfielder. Thiago Silva promises to be one of the best defenders in the world for many years to come.
Center Back: Nemanja Vidic
Nemanja Vidic is arguably the best center back in the world right now, and he was instrumental in Manchester United's amazing campaign. On many occasions, especially during their Champions League campaign, Manchester United's defense proved to be an impenetrable wall, much thanks to Vidic's. The Manchester United captain led the defensive line perfectly and even chipped in with some important goals (namely against Chelsea).
Right Back: Daniel Alves
Daniel Alves is undoubtedly the best right back in the world. Not only is he a solid defender, but a fearsome offensive weapon. In the past five seasons, no player has racked up more assists than Alves in all competitions. This past year, he was once again a vital part of Barcelona's attack, while fulfilling his defensive duties as well.
Holding Midfielder: Sergio Busquets
What a fantastic year for Sergio Busquets. After winning the World Cup with Spain, the young Catalan had a phenomenal season at Barcelona and was key to the team's incredible success. He was the perfect complement to Xavi and Iniesta, and he was impeccable covering for Daniel Alves and Gerard Piqué's overlaps, showing an ability to read the game and maturity way above his age.
Center Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez
No surprises here. Xavi was his usual self again last season, pulling the strings of Barcelona's midfield, passing opponents to death, setting up goals and even scoring some himself. He controls everything Barcelona do going forward, and the team clearly decreases their level in his absence. He's one of the world's best players and fully deserves his place in the 2011 team of the year.
Attacking Midfielder: Andrés Iniesta
The midfield is all Barcelona. How could it not be? Barcelona's levels of domination reached new heights this past season, with the catalans averaging 74 percent possession, much thanks to the superiority of their midfield trio of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta.
After becoming a national hero in Spain with his World Cup-winning goal, Andrés Iniesta had his best season to date. The 27-year-old was one of the most consistent performers last season, and, as always, he stepped his game up a notch in the big matches, helping Barcelona overcoming all their rivals en route to the Champions League title, which might very well have eluded them if Iniesta hadn't taken over the home legs against Real Madrid and especially Arsenal.
Left Winger: Cristiano Ronaldo
When a player scores 53 goals in a season, there's no way he can be left out of the team of the year. Real Madrid failed to overtake Barcelona, but it was certainly not because of Cristiano Ronaldo's performances. The 26-year-old Portuguese winger had a phenomenal season, breaking the record for most goals scored in a single La Liga season (41), a season statistically only bettered by the world's best player, Lionel Messi.
Right Winger: Lionel Messi
The most obvious pick. Lionel Messi is this generation's greatest player and this year's top performer as well. He won the Di Stefano award for La Liga Player of the Year, was the Champions League top scorer and won both competitions with Barcelona. He had a less than stellar Copa America, but still chipped in with three assists in a tournament that ultimately ended in disappointment with Argentina getting knocked out by Uruguay in the penalty shootout. Still, Messi is a lock to win his third consecutive Ballon d'Or, and his place on this team of the year is inarguable.
Center Forward: Radamel Falcao
While the likes of Villa, Eto'o or Cavani had quality seasons, the center forward of this team can only be Porto's Radamel Falcao. The Colombian striker was on fire, scoring 39 goals in 42 appearances and a record-breaking 18 goals in 16 European matches (!). Along with Hulk, Falcao was the star of a Porto side that went undefeated in the Portuguese league (27 wins, three draws), won the Portuguese Cup and swept all before them in the Europa League. No wonder he's rated at 30 million in the market.
Manager: André Villas-Boas
He's here for the same reason as Falcao. In his first year as a manager of a top team, Villas-Boas won 85 percent of his matches (49 wins, five draws and four defeats in 58 matches) and won the treble with Porto. You just couldn't ask for better. He did more than enough to be considered manager of the year. Let's see if he can continue his dream run at Chelsea.
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