Putting together any kind of best XI side is always a challenge considering that one has to select individuals when in reality it is the team that propels the individual towards excellence. Yes, there are some very rare cases of footballers having excelled despite the mediocrity of their fellow squad members (e.g. Maradona at Napoli) but it is difficult to imagine top players attaining the highest level without being a part of a successful team of footballers. Iker Casillas is a prime example, having won every major trophy with a best-ever Spanish national team and arguably the world’s most successful club, Real Madrid. Casillas has had a phenomenal career so far and 2012 is probably the icing on the cake for the man who continues to lead from the back for both club and country.

My chosen formation consists of 3 at the back, starting with Casillas’ versatile teammate, Sergio Ramos. At age 26, Ramos has cemented his place for club and country and, like his captain, has had a great year. The Spaniard is not the tallest centre-back around, but is an extremely agile and technically gifted defender. Manchester City’s centre-back, Vincent Kompany, is my second pick. The towering Belgian is the captain of his club side and there is no question that his leadership, desire and athleticism launched Manchester City towards the successful capture of the Premier League crown. In fact, Kompany rammed home the header that won his club’s decisive game against their rivals United, which took City to the top of the league table with 2 games remaining in the 2011-12 season. Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund completes the trio in defence – the German has been the anchor for his club side, which completed the domestic double in style.

The midfield is what makes any team tick and that is why I’ve picked 4 solid players for this part of the team. Yet another Spain and Real player features here and that is the engine in the middle, Xabi Alonso. He has had a fantastic twelve months in which he has run the game for both his national team and club side with the minimum of fuss, winning a trophy with each. Another relentless midfielder, Yaya Toure, has been chosen for his box-to-box prowess. This year, the Ivorian’s strength on and off the ball is what has allowed him to succeed in both a deeper and advanced role, depending on the what the situation requires. It is scary to think of how much more the Manchester City talisman can improve in 2013. We swiftly move from a midfield colossus to the subtle artist that is Andrea Pirlo, a player who refuses to call it a day and for good reason. The Italian was almost solely responsible for his national team’s unexpected drive to the final of the European Championship, scoring an important goal and providing 2 more along the way. In addition, Pirlo ran the show for Juventus as they went on to win the Serie A title and has also ensured that they finish the year on top of the league looking towards further success at the end of the ongoing season. No midfield can be complete without Andres Iniesta, one of the most gifted and composed dribbling midfielders of the modern game. The Spaniard contributed immensely towards his national side’s victory in Euro 2012 in addition to Barcelona’s triumph in the Spanish Cup. Clearly, it is no surprise that Iniesta is a finalist for the Ballon d’Or for the second time in three years.

My forward line consists of three masters of goal scoring, starting with the one-and-only Lionel Messi. Frankly, there no words to describe the magic that this man unleashes on the football field. While Messi has no equal when it comes to unlocking defences with finesse and precision, his striking partner Didier Drogba is a one-man battering ram who has terrorized defences across the world for nearly a decade. No statistics can do justice to the sheer impact that Drogba has had for Chelsea over the years and 2012 is no different. Without the mighty Ivorian, Chelsea would not have gotten to the quarterfinals of the Champions League let alone defeated Bayern Munich in the final to lift the coveted trophy. Drogba also guided his club to the FA Cup during the year, becoming the first player to ever score in 4 different finals of the competition. The final player in my XI is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugese phenom is yet another player who had an exceptional year for both club and country. We finally saw Ronaldo do well in his national shirt by taking Portugal to the semi-final of Euro 2012 and he also contributed immensely to Real Madrid’s league title. But despite the fact that the Portugese phenom has been getting better every year, he is unfortunate to co-exist in the same generation as Lionel Messi. To use an example from the world of tennis, Cristiano is the equivalent of Nadal in comparison to football’s Federer. That being said, it would still be incredible to see the both of them play on the same team one day. In fact, one can only imagine the domination that all three forwards would command if they were to feature together.

Asfand’s XI: (3-4-3) Casillas; Ramos, Kompany, Hummels; Alonso, Toure, Pirlo, Iniesta; Messi, Drogba, Ronaldo

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