Monday, 22 October 2007

Writing cheques their butts can’t cash! The ‘best of the best’


JJ here,
Ah Monica Belluci… anyway

Despite the fact that the first game of the weekend had enough incidents to fill an entire edition of Match of the Day, there was very little elsewhere that surprised anyone in the Premiership this week. Arsenal won, United beat Villa as per, Chelsea realigned the spirit of sense in the universe by actually beating Boro and City won at home against a brutal Birmingham.

But of course, you knew all that and speaking of things that you all knew, it’s fairly certain that the recently-announced list of 2007’s World Player of the Year didn’t have too many unfamiliar names to yourselves on it. A good dash of Barcelona, a healthy bit of AC Milan, some English stars, and to wreck everybody’s buzz altogether, a clutch of Chelsea performers.

One of the English present was Steven Gerrard who, as is by now Mersey legend, was subject of the ‘substitution heard around the world’ on Saturday when the promising Brazilian Lucas Leiva took his place with 20 minutes left and, shock horror, created as much as Gerrard had all game and never lost the ball unlike his club captain.

Gerrard, like many others on the 2007 lit, is a man whose reputation is far bigger than his admittedly awesome talent (say what you like but the guy is a damn good player whom any side would happily take in the morning, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Lp0BEGYPo). He’s been called the best midfielder in the world by plenty of commentators but mainly by Andy Gray, whose knowledge of football outside the Premiership is hazy to put it nicely. Actually, now Gray seems to think Cesc Fabregas (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMJAY8Ox5ko) is the best on the planet, yet he can’t even get in the Spanish first team.

Basically, ‘the best in the world’, whether it’s the overall award or just for a particular position is a hugely contentious accolade. Looking down the names of this year’s nominees I can point to maybe seven players that deserve to be there on the strength of the last 12 months.

Have a look at the list below and see if you can pick those seven that I actually think deserve their place…

World player of the year list: Buffon (Juventus, Italy), Cannavaro (Real Madrid, Italy), Cech (Chelsea, Czech Rep), Ronaldo (Man Utd, Portugal), Deco (Barcelona, Portugal), Drogba (Chelsea, Ivory Coast), Essien (Chelsea, Ghana), Eto'o (Barcelona, Cameroon), Gattuso (AC Milan, Italy), Gerrard (Liverpool, England), Henry (Barcelona, France), Juninho (Lyon, Brazil), Kaka (AC Milan, Brazil), Klose (Bayern Munich, Germany), Lahm (Bayern Munich, Germany), Lampard (Chelsea, England), Marquez (Barcelona, Mexico), Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Nesta (AC Milan, Italy), Pirlo (AC Milan, Italy), Ribery (Bayern Munich, France), Riquelme (Villarreal, Argentina), Ronaldinho (Barcelona, Brazil), Rooney (Man Utd, England), Terry (Chelsea, England), Tevez (Man Utd, Argentina), Thuram (Barcelona, France), Torres (Liverpool, Spain), Van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid, Holland), Vieira (Inter Milan, France).

Here’s my shortlist anyway.

Ronaldo: Fantastic last season for Man United, scored hugely important goals (such as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2w9bnSYJ04), with 23 in total last year. If he could hit a free kick worth a damn he would have made it to 30. Decent for Portugal too from what I’ve seen.
Drogba: The best striker in Europe last year in a team that struggled to create chances. Somehow combines being the striker who offers himself for long balls yet also, amazingly, manages to finish off the chances as well.
Kaka: Self explanatory. Won the Champions League for AC Milan. Had he not sent Inzaghi through for that vital second, Dirk Kuyt’s goal at the death would have meant so much more. The Man United games, as well as his performance against Bayern Munich showed Gerrard, Rooney, even Ronaldo how a big game player does things when it’s ‘squeaky bum time’ (copyright Alex Ferguson).
Van Nistelrooy: Despite the calls of Sky Sports News cretins, David Beckham did not single-handedly win La Liga for Real Madrid last year. While Becks was doing video interviews with CNN and rowing with the Madrid hierarchy, Ruuuuuuuud was quietly going about scoring goals and setting up some for Raul too. No Ruuuuuuuud, no La Liga title.
Totti: Okay he was rubbish against Man United, but he won the Golden Boot and dragged Roma to the Italian Cup and second place, losing out only to the freakishly consistent Inter Milan.
Riquelme: Dusted himself down after the debacle of Argentina’s exit from the World Cup to be the man who led Boca Juniors to the Copa Libertadores. Was brilliant for Argentina in the Copa America too… until the final. Okay, he’s a choker, but he’s the most gloriously talented choker alive. Recently came to life in the international break too. How long can this man (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98YSGszcPy0) stay in limbo with Villareal?
Messi: Started the year with a hat trick against Real Madrid, finished the season second in Spain but with the title of ‘greatest player on the planet’ in his sights. Whether this is true or not is hugely debatable, however his form of the last two months is astonishing. Plus there’s this goal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrao0ROwpAM

The thing is though that all of my choices have things going against them as well. For instance, Kaka has Milan’s pretty poor season in Serie A; Riquelme didn’t play for long periods due to the dispute at his club; and of course Messi was part of a Barcelona side that won nothing.

Outside of these though there are some shocking inclusions. Cannavaro, last year’s winner, had a terrible season with Real Madrid (they won the league but he was ineffective and derided by his own fans). Buffon played in Serie B for the majority of the year. Marquez was at the centre of a Barcelona defence that leaked goals at important times. Lahm played for a Bayern side that failed to get in the Champions League positions. Ribery plied his trade for an average Marseille and a piss poor France. Thuram was a shadow of himself at Barcelona when he actually played. Henry was injured for the majority of last season too.

Then there’s Rooney, who played well in the league but far below his standards at times – especially in Europe, excluding the first game against Milan. The aforementioned Gerrard huffed and moaned out on the right flank for Liverpool for good portions of the year. Terry, like Cech, was injured for a good chunk of the season. Klose, Deco and Juninho also get in because some voters could think of no other famous names to mention. In fact, name me one thing that any of the final three achieved last year – outside of Juninho helping Lyon to a bizarrely unsatisfactory league title (their fans even hated them by the end of last year). There’s nothing, they all had so-so years, and that’s being pretty nice to them.

It’s not that the competition – voted for by international managers and captains – is meaningless; it’s just that some of the nominees make it hard to take it seriously. Indeed, there’s even the argument that there’s very few ‘great players’ out there, though this is more likely due to over-analysis than anything else. However, the list may be a testament to just how much modern footballers mistake media clout for a decent player; let’s not forget David Beckham (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLBTDYHz-b0) finished in the top three a few times.

I suppose if international managers and captains can be collectively under the illusion that Thierry Henry had a great year when he spent most of last season in a black overcoat on the sideline of the Emirates, then no wonder he thinks he’s great too. One big ego-stroke really, and we can’t stop it as it’s only those in the game who get to vote. Kinda makes you realise why international football is s bloody poor doesn’t it.

3 comments:

Mark V said...

i'd include deco, he's a pretty class act, Pirlo & Ribery are worth a shout in terms of talent and Gattuso is great.

I think because there is so much media exposure of these players, it's easy to say, well x wasn't playing/bottled it, but who else is there out there really, you pretty much need to be in the Champs League, need to be past a certain age, and have won caps.

The only big names I can see missing are Totti, Zlatan, Fabregas...

JJ said...

I think the whole thing would be better if there was no long list of 30. It invites criticism and cynicism ("that rhymes marge and you know it rhymes"... apologies, was watching the simpsons last night after a long time avoiding it). Put up a simple top ten and go from there, as it is, I still think it's PR bollocks for the players who make fifa the most cash at the end of each financial year (Henry, Eto'o etc). If blue peter can fix a vote then Sepp and the lads in geneva certainly can.

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