It isn’t easy picking a team and then declaring it is the best XI of the year. You can’t rely purely on numbers. Sometimes the numbers don’t do justice to a player’s contribution to a team. Take Casillas for example. He is not statistically the best of the nominees in any category above,  bar games played. However it is impossible to look past his contribution as a leader and as a last line of defence for both club and country. Captaining Real to La Liga, and then sitting down with Puyol and Xavi to ensure that La Roja were united, before captaining them to a second consecutive European Championship. San Iker will guard my goal.

I have opted for a three-man defence. For his brilliant performances for both Valencia and Spain, and an explosive start to his Barca career, Jordi Alba makes my XI. Another Spaniard is my second pick, with Sergio Ramos having a fantastic year for club and country. Ever present and unbelievably consistent, Ramos has been a rock for Real and Spain. Mats Hummels rounds up my defence. Strong in the air, on the ground and with the ball at his feet, Hummels has been key to Dortmund’s recent success, both domestically and in Europe. He also played every single minute of Germany’s games at Euro 2012, helping them reach the semi-finals.

The middle of the park was the most difficult of the areas to pick from. In the end, I’ve reluctantly gone for 4 midfielders. Andres Iniesta starts off my midfield picks. Electrifying for both club and country, Iniesta’s brilliance was recognized when he was named Euro 2012’s player of the tournament, as well as the Best Player in Europe. One of the final three nominees for the 2012 Ballon d’Or, personal stats don’t do Iniesta justice – he is often the reason Barca and Spain manage to pull opposition teams out of position and penetrate their defences. Joining Iniesta in the middle of the park is the player with more assists than any other nominee and one who plays in a style reminiscent of the great Zidane. Mesut Ozil has created goals galore for both club and country, and has been key to unlocking the tightest of defences. Juan Mata completes the attacking midfield trident. Mata’s performances in 2012 have led Chelsea to the one trophy they craved above all else – the Champions League. Even after the arrivals of Oscar and Hazard, Mata remains the main man – when he plays well, so does Chelsea. Protecting the back 3 and linking up play for those in front of him is the colossal Yaya Toure. There were times when he single-handedly dragged Man City to the 2012 EPL title.  Defensively sound and a potent attacking threat, Yaya Toure is arguably one of the most complete midfielders in the game.

91 goals in a calendar year. This calendar year. In the final 3 for the Ballon d’Or. Leo Messi is a no-brainer. Forget about the fact that he averages over a goal and a quarter a game. That he has the best conversion rate. That he has more assists than any nominee bar Ozil. He is just a joy to watch. That alone would get him on my team. The numbers should make sure he gets on each and every one else’s. Partnering Messi upfront is his media-proclaimed rival, Ronaldo. Instrumental in Real wresting La Liga away from Barcelona, and scoring goals second only to Messi, Ronaldo has had a phenomenal year. Rounding up the front three is another La Liga player. Behind only Messi in chance conversion rates, Falcao is the reason Atletico Madrid are Europa League champions and the reason Chelsea were dismantled in the European Super Cup. His goal scoring has also ensured that Atletico end 2012 in 2nd place in La Liga, ahead of Real Madrid. He is, quite simply, the best number 9 in the world.

Humaid’s XI: (3-4-3) Casillas; Ramos, Hummels, Alba; Toure, Ozil, Mata, Iniesta; Messi, Falcao, Ronaldo

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