Picking an Early World Cup 2014 Best XI on Current Form
With the World Cup approaching in just over 12 months time, the footballing world is beginning to ready itself for Brazil 2014.
There may well be a lot football to be played across the globe before then, whilst the respective qualification campaigns still have to be navigated.
Nonetheless, here's a look at an early selection for the Best XI at next year's competition.
Special mention goes to several players:
Thibault Courtois, the outstanding Belgian who is already amongst the world's top-five goalkeepers and is only going to get better.
Gareth Bale and David Alaba, both of whom have been outstanding throughout 2012/13 and would deserve their place in such an XI, but simply can't be included due to the unlikely nature of their respective countries reaching next year's finals.
Same with the Uruguayan strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. La Celeste are struggling to make the finals, despite having two of the most talented forwards currently in Europe, and although the same logic could be labelled at Cristiano Ronaldo, by hook or by crook, he'll likely get them there. The Uruguayan's chances are far more uncertain.
Let us know if you agree or disagree.
Anyhow, let's take a peek:
GK: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
The Bayern Munich stopper has had an incredible season with the Bavarian giants.
A meagre 15 league goals have been conceded during the current campaign as Bayern have swept all before them as they look for a historic treble.
The 27-year-old former Schalke man will head to Brazil as, barring injury, Germany's undisputed number one.
Given current form and the Iker Casillas situation at Real Madrid, he is the best goalkeeper in world football at the present time.
RB: Darijo Srna (Croatia)
Other than the aforementioned Alaba and the man who takes the left-back spot in this eleven, there are few full-backs who are in the midst of a first-rate season who are also regular starters for their international side.
However, in Shakhtar Donetsk's Croatian-international Darijo Srna, there is certainly one—a player whose stationing in Eastern Europe has unfortunately meant appreciation of his ability has been somewhat limited.
Nonetheless, he remains a player of great technical and physical qualities, whose leadership remains key for both club and country. He has proven over a consistent period that he is one of the best full-backs in Europe.
LB: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Philipp Lahm will lead Bayern Munich out at Wembley on May 25, hoping to lift a European crown which has eluded him during his illustrious career so far. Doing so would be a just reward for another remarkable season.
Adept in either full-back position, consistency is the byword for one of world football's most progressive players, who has once again been a major part in Bayern's success.
Quick, intelligent, technically skillful, Lahm will once more be a vital part of Germany's defence at a major tournament in 2014.
Quite frankly, he is the best full-back in world football at this time.
CB: Sergio Ramos (Spain)
The reigning World and European champions will head to Brazil amongst the favourites, and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos remains a rock at the heart of the Spanish defence.
His growing maturity as a centre-back has once again been present this season for Madrid, and he's played a key role for Los Merengues.
With Spain boasting a defence which hasn't conceded a goal in a major knockout tournament since 2006, Ramos is likely to have a big part to play in any potential challenge, both with his physicality and his ability to take care of danger.
CB: Dante (Brazil)
The Bayern Munich defender has had a magnificent first season with the Bundesliga winners.
He has become the German sides number one selection at centre-half, due to his sensible defensive style and his ability to play intelligent forward passes which start attacking moves.
Such wonderful form has carried into international football, where he has made his Selecao debut.
Given that the pragmatic Luiz Felipe Scolari is in charge of the five-time World Cup winners, Dante will likely get the nod, alongside Thiago Silva, over the more effervescent David Luiz next year.
CM: Arturo Vidal (Chile)
The Juventus midfielder has played a vital part in their second successive Scudetto, being the only Bianconeri star to reach double figures this season, in terms of goalscoring.
He has been a mainstay in Chile's midfield for a good number of years now, a part of the side which thrilled with their high-pressure style under Marcelo Bielsa in South Africa at the 2010 tournament.
A player of great drive and determination, he has enjoyed two marvelous years in Turin and has an all-round game and adaptability to rival anyone in the game, at present.
With Chile desperate to impress in 2014, Vidal will play a key role and his performances will play an important part in any relative success.
CM: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Having been a highly-talented yet frustrating winger during his formative years, Schweinsteiger has matured into a central midfielder of the highest ilk. And the present campaign has quite possibly been his best, playing an integral part in Bayern Munich's run to a potentially unprecedented treble.
After injury struggles towards the end of 2011/12 and a rather disappointing Euro 2012, the German general has been back at his most dominant this campaign, outstanding for both club and country.
Germany coach Jogi Low has been experimenting with various personnel and formations during recent friendlies, but Schweinsteiger's role at the heart of Germany's midfield is in little doubt.
Should they go far next summer, he'll be a potential Golden Ball winner
RAM: Frank Ribery (France)
Another Bayern Munich star, the French winger has been at his dazzling best over the past few weeks, and has had another season where he has played a big part in the success of FC Hollywood.
Ribery was a part of the French squad which reached the World Cup final in 2006, whilst he also played a role in their dismal 2010 campaign. In all honesty, he was largely underwhelming at both tournaments.
However, there is renewed optimism about Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus, and Ribery has been impressive in recent matches for his country.
He's added a real maturity to his game since entering his 30th year and he'll play a key role for France, assuming they make their way through a likely play-off and reach Brazil.
Given his ability and latest spell of form, there won't be many defenders relishing a dual with the mercurial Frenchman.
CAM: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
There couldn't be a best list without the world's best player could there?
A recent spell of injury troubles for the Barcelona man may have ended his clubs hopes of European success this season, and helped with all the "end of an era" talk, but Messi has doubtlessly had another record-breaking season.
46 La Liga goals once more point to his class, as do the eight he's notched for his country as they head to the South American qualifying table.
2014 has been tipped as his tournament, and with Alejandro Sabella's side having shown the sort of stability and tactical acumen that was so lacking under previous incumbents (ahem, Diego Maradona), they are certainly challengers.
If they live up to their billing and become contenders, then expect Messi to live up to his.
LAM: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
In any other generation, he would likely be the undisputed best in the world.
Nonetheless, the 28-year-old Portuguese skipper has turned into a leader for both club and country, and this has been another season of excellence for the Real Madrid star. Another 33 league goals have ensured his star continues to rise, as have 12 Champions League strikes.
Portugal still have some work to do to ensure their place in Brazil, but the expectation will be that Ronaldo will get them there. On top form once again this season, it would be disrespectful not to include him in this eleven.
Portugal have lived firmly in the shadows of their Iberian rivals in recent times. The world's most expensive footballer ever will be doing his utmost to change that come Brazil.
CF: Radamel Falcao (Colombia)
Goals are his business. And business is good.
The Atletico Madrid striker has again notched by the hat-full at the Vicente Calderon this campaign, and his Colombia are some people's dark horses for next year. That the tournament will be played in South America adds to that feeling.
A wonderful striker capable of scoring pretty much any type of goal imaginable, Falcao will lead the line for Jose Pekerman's side next summer, barring injury of course.
A talented squad—for whom a place in the semi-finals is not beyond the realms of probability—will look to Falcao for their goals. If he's given decent enough service, he has the potential to make a big impact.