UEFA.COM TOTY 2012 – SALMAN’S XI

All of the players short-listed deserve to be on the Team of the Year, but as in any star-laden team not everyone makes the starting 11.  Although I am a big fan of the traditional 4-4-2 formation, with the class of players available and the exceptional years some of these players have had, I will have to change the formation to match the team.

Let’s start at the back, fortunately we can only have one goal-keeper on the field (unless you were Barthez and played in the outfield for United in the 2001 Far East tour against Team Singapore).   All of these GKs deserve to be on the team and it’s not going to be easy picking just one.   You have 2 GKs that played in the Champions-League final and two that played in the EURO 2012 final and eventhough it would be easy to pick them on the basis of their results, I feel they should be given an equal chance to shine.  Casillas had a phenomenal season winning the La Liga crown and the Euro 2012 crown as captains of both teams.  Buffon helped Juventus fight off Milan for the Scudetto  and got Italy to the final of Euro 2012, where they eventually lost to Spain.  Buffon has a better record in terms of Goals conceded and Clean Sheets kept than Casillas and although it wasn’t down to Buffon that Italy lost the final, I would have to pick Casillas on the fact that even with a team that leaked more goals (Real Madrid) than some of their rivals, he was able to get them to the top of La Liga.

Now who will help protect his net.   The shortlist is filled with cup and league winners as well as Euro winners but to survive the cut, they had to stand out.    My picks for defenders will have to be Kompany, Mascherano, and Ramos.  Kompany was the rock at the heart of the Man City defense that led to them piping Man Utd to the Premier League title (not to mention he scored the sole goal in the second clash of Manchester last season to help City get ahead of United with two games to spare).  Mascherano  helped anchor a Barcelona defense that was missing Talisman defender and Captain Carlos Puyol.  Finally Sergio Ramos was solid in yet another season, helping Real top La Liga and Spain win EURO 2012.

In the midfield, my picks are Toure, Iniesta, Xavi, and Pirlo.   Toure added a new dimension to City’s game and was instrumental in their first Premier League title.  His sole goal in the match against Newcastle was in itself a significant enough contribution to their season, not to mention the countless times he shielded the defense and bulldozed his way through his opponent’s half.  Iniesta has proven to be an integral part of both the Barcelona and Spain machines.  This year he was voted the Player of the tournament for EURO 2012 and later went on to win the European Player of the Year, so it would be very difficult not to include him.  Xavi had a similar year with both club and country and although he did not win an accolade like Iniesta he has been just as vital to both teams and although he might not have the assists or goals like some of his counterparts, his pass completion stat is the highest, followed by Iniesta.  Finally, Pirlo’s contribution to Juventus’ campaign helped bring home another Scudetto as well as making him Player of the Year for the club.  In addition, he was instrumental in Italy’s march to the final of EURO 2012.

Finally, the Forwards.  Each of the shortlisted players had phenomenal seasons for their clubs and countries.  It is difficult not to pick Sergio Aguero or Robin Van Persie for the seasons they had for their clubs where their contributions were the reasons why their clubs ended the 2012 season at 1st and 3rd in the Premier League standings where they would have otherwise been lower down the table.    However, the positions have to go to Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao.  Falcao had a great year with Atletico Madrid helping to win the Europa League Trophy in 2012.  He topped it off with a first-half hat trick against Chelsea in the Super Cup.   Ronaldo’s tally of 46 league goals and 60 in all competitions helped Real Madrid win the La Liga ahead of arch-rivals Barcelona.  He became the only player to have scored against every La Liga team in a single season.  All in all, as an individual Ronaldo probably had the best season of any player in Europe…except for Lionel Messi.  Messi ended the season scoring 50 goals last season in La Liga for Barcelona and although they lost the League to Real Madrid, he steered them towards the Copa Del Rey.   What really sets him apart from all his fellow forwards is the goal-scoring frenzy he has gone on in 2012.  He surpassed Gerd Muller’s goal tally of 85 goals in a calendar year by ending 2012 with 91 goals in 69 appearances.

Therefore, my starting XI will be a 3-4-3 with Casillas, Kompany, Macherano, Ramos, Toure, Iniesta, Xavi, Pirlo, Falcao, Ronaldo and Messi.

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