Following FIFA’s announcement of their team of the year, a sense of unjust and scepticism soon set in. The team sheet is as follows;
Four Real Madrid players, five Barcelona players and two Manchester United players comprise this unimaginative list of footballers who have ruled 2011. Don’t get me wrong, these players have all contributed to the year in fine style with their sublime goals, incisive passing and will to win. That is not the issue. The issue is the heavy one sided nature of the selection. Three different clubs make up the entire XI, only two different leagues are represented with the split being nine from La Liga and only two for the Premier League. This seems very unfair for other players who have had an excellent year for their clubs, who have not been selected.
From a British perspective, journalists love to wax lyrical about Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sky Sports show La Liga games with Barca and Madrid too regularly, accompanied by programmes dedicated to analysing and discussing the Spanish League. Even airing ‘The Cesc Fabregas Show’ revolving around the ex-Arsenal midfielder and his progress with the Catalans, guarantee no Arsenal fan will be interested in that and given the long saga over whether he would leave or not boring the public to death, neither will many neutrals. ITV are the worst culprits for me when it comes to lauding these two teams. Their commentary on, arguably Arsenal’s finest game of 2011, their first leg 2-1 win against Barcelona in the Champions league, was bordering sickening every time they talked about the Spanish side. Jim Beglin and David Pleat unnecessarily glorified every single pass, shot, tackle, save and run Barca made, whilst Arsenal’s efforts to try and win the game were described as being futile. Commentators are meant to be impartial to who they are watching but surely their allegiances would be with the English team, in a European tie if any?
FIFA’s selections reflect this over exuberance.
To me the choices should highlight to the world a selection of players who have consistently performed at a high level for their club and country, stayed out of controversy in the press and have exuded an all round professional attitude to the game, whilst heavily contributing to their sides success.
The selections of Messi and Ronaldo are a no brainer in that respect. They are both on another planet in terms of football ability. I more have an issue with who was not picked.
As a replacement for Rooney I would have chosen Robin van Persie. Arsenal had a year to forget but van Persie has had a sensational year, just one goal shy of taking Alan Shearer’s record of most goals scored in a calendar year (35) in the premier league. This is something which is worthy of recognition. Rooney’s achievements in 2011 compared to van Persie’s are far inferior.
The Bundesliga saw the emergence of Borrusia Dortmund’s creative midfielder Mario Goetze, who at just 19 years old has made himself the first name on the team sheet for the German club. I would omit Xabi Alonso from FIFA’s XI and put Goetze in his place. Similarly to Jack Wilshere, before the 2010/11 season, Goetze had made just 5 appearances for his club but then went on to be an ever-present in his side. His age makes his exploits even more remarkable to, being named FIFA’s Golden Boy of 2011, ahead of Wilshere, Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen and winning the Bundesliga.
Sticking with the Germans, I believe Philipp Lahm deserves a place in the full back position instead of Dani Alves. Captain of German giants Bayern Munich, the 5ft 7 left back has been irreplaceable in not only the Bavarians first XI but for his country as well. His consistency, professionalism, decisive tackling and surging runs make him Bayern’s ideal choice as captain. He would be ahead of Dani Alves purely because of Alves’ tendency to go to ground on soft challenges and subsequently nurse a fake injury. This is something FIFA will surely want to stamp out of the game.
Other players worthy of note are Mario Gomez’s scintillating form for Bayern, Neymar’s goal haul for Santos and his Goal of the Year effort alone, Eden Hazard’s participation in Lille’s title winning side of 2010/11 and his current form of nine goals and six assists this season show he is continuing to grow and Edinson Cavani’s superb form for Napoli continues from 33 goals last season to 14 so far this season.
There is an argument to suggest that the selection does not mean anything and that it’s another pointless accolade for players. I would not disagree with that argument. The selection represents FIFA’s way of thinking in that they promote and award those who have already been awarded heavily. Other players around the world, who have done just as much, if not more, deserve the credit that their performances have merited.