FIFPro World XI: (back L-R) Ronaldo, Marcelo, Ramos, Pique, Dani Alves, Casillas, (front L-R) Falcao, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Xabi Alonso
The supremacy of Real Madrid and Barcelona as footballing titans was again highlighted last night at the Fifa Ballon d’Or Gala with the announcement of the FIFPro World XI squad. All eleven of the players named in this year’s edition came from La Liga and included ten players from the two top teams in Spain. Ramadel Falcao (Atletico Madrid) was the eleventh, who also plies his trade in La Liga, to make it a full house of players who play their club football in the Spanish top flight.
The final team was as follows:
GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
DEF: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Marcelo (Real Madrid)
MID: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
ATT: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)
What has had many football fans talking is the lack of players from other European leagues. Granted, there is no doubt that La Liga oozes players with immense amounts of talent and with regards to the six Spanish players, becoming the first team to retain a European Championship after 44 years without a major honour is a massive achievement.
However, there are some who would argue that the Spanish theme that runs through the FIFPro setections comes at the cost of the omission of a few players who more than deserved a place in the final XI.
Not many would argue about Iker Casillas’ inclusion in the squad for the fifth year running. Having led his country to retain their European Championship crown in Poland and Ukraine in the summer, it is no surprise that the Real Madrid shot stopper made it into the final XI.
However, Petr Cech’s (and Manuel Neuer’s to a certain extent) performance outshone all other goalkeepers in the 2011 Champions League campaign. Cech played in 13 of Chelsea’s games leading to the final, the most of any goalkeeper in the tournament that year. He faced 222 shots, 93 more than Napoli’s Morgan De Sanctis in second place. He conceded just 12 goals despite facing numerous penalties, including a save from Arjen Robben’s spot kick in the final to keep them in the game, and two shootout saves to set up Drogba’s match winning penalty.
An area that certainly could have included some players from other nations was the defence. Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique was involved in just 22 league games for Barcelona last term, scoring two goals and playing in a total of 38 games in all competitions for the Catalan side.
Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund stars Vincent Kompany and Mats Hummels undoubtedly deserved a mention, having both helped their sides to domestic league victories.
Kompany captained the Citizens to their first league trophy since 1968 and was by far one of the best defenders in the world last season. He was recognised for this exploits when he was named the Premier League Player of the Season for 2011/12.
Hummels also won the German Cup with Dortmund, sealing the double for Die Schwarzgelben, and has been an influential force in their Champions League campaign this season.
Chelsea full back Ashley Cole should probably have also got some credit for his outstanding performances on the left for both his club and country. Arguably the world’s best in his position, along with Petr Cech, Cole won the Champions League back in May, an achievement of which none of the final FIFPro XI defenders can boast.
In midfield, although it would be extremely harsh to say that Xabi Alonso, Iniesta and Xavi were undeserving of a place, the oversight of Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo is tough to ignore.
Juventus went the whole 2011/12 season unbeaten and finished as Italian champions. Pirlo was pivotal in midfield for the Old Lady, ending the season with the most assists (13) and a pass completion rate of 86.8%, yet the 33-year-old went without inclusion in the World Team of the Year.
Finally, it would suffice to say that despite coming up against the likes of four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid marksman Ramadel Falcao, the absence of Manchester United striker Robin van Persie came as a surprise to some. His 30 goals in 38 league games for Arsenal was the most of any player in the Premier League and helped the Gunners to a third place finish ahead of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Now playing under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, Van Persie has shone in a United shirt scoring 20 goals in 26 appearances in all competitions so far this season. His goal scoring ability is certainly up there with the best and he will probably feel slightly hard done by regardless of the competition he faced.