12 Premier League stars are among the nominees for the FIFA World XI of the year 2014. But which ones could realistically get the honour of being one of the 11 players standing on the stage in Zurich at the FIFA Gala event on January 12th?
The Premier League nominees are: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Filipe Luis (Chelsea), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Angel di Maria (Manchester United), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Diego Costa (Chelsea) and Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
First of all, let’s start by giving all the nominated players from all leagues the credit they fully deserve for their performances throughout the year and congratulate them for the honour of making the shortlist. It should be made clear that it was extremely difficult to compare and decide which are the best ones, sometimes almost impossible.
This was perhaps the easiest decision to make. Manuel Neuer is the third player nominated for the Ballon d’Or for 2014 and there is no doubt he will make the World XI too. The World Cup winner has redefined the term ‘sweeper keeper’ with his adventures out of goal, entertaining every football fan in the world. Not to take anything from his goalkeeping skills, he is arguably the best shot stopper in the world and his saves led Bayern and the German national team to glory in the Bundesliga and in the World Cup respectively. Few would argue against the 6 foot 3 German being the the best goalkeeper in the world.
Player to “narrowly” miss out:
Thibaut Courtois. The young Belgian had a tremendous last season with Atletico Madrid winning the La Liga and helping ‘Los Colchoneros’ into the Champions League final, where they were moments away from winning. There was little surprise when Jose Mourinho ended his three year spell in Madrid and called him back to Stamford Bridge to displace the long serving Petr Cech (already that says something of Courtois’ quality} and the Belgian has done nothing to make Mourinho regret his decision. He will surely push Neuer to the end in the years to come.
There were a few surprises in this 20 man package, with Gerard Pique, Filipe Luis, Dani Alves and David Luiz all making the list, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Joao Miranda, Giorgio Chiellini or John Terry all missing out. Despite that, there is a tough decision as to which four defenders will make the final team.
Philipp Lahm was the easiest choice, although he will feature as left-back to accommodate this formation; he has played right-back throughout his career and excelled. Recently he has started to play as a defensive midfielder in Bayern under Pep Guardiola and still excels, only showing his intelligence and quality. The Bayern and Germany captain has reached the holy grail this summer by lifting the trophy for the World Cup winner, only months after winning his 6th Bundesliga title.
Vincent Kompany will be the first Premier League player to feature in this team. The Manchester City skipper led his team to League title and Capital One Cup glory in 2014. Despite a disappointing Champions League campaign that ended in the Round of 16, Kompany is an integral part of the sky blue defence and his importance is only highlighted by the club’s run when the Belgian is not in the team. He has established himself as one of the best and most powerful centre-backs in the world and his place is with the best players in the world.
Diego Godin is the second centre-back on this team. He was the rock in the La Liga winners’ defence and contributed greatly to the fewest goals conceded in the League. It was his goal that denied Barcelona the title in the last game of the 2013/2014 season and his great performances led ‘Los Colchoneros’ to the Champions League final to highlight one of the most successful seasons in Atletico’s modern history.
If you were missing the name Sergio Ramos, here he is, playing at right back, in his very original position. He may be a centre-back now but he had to feature in this team. Ramos is definitely one of the best defenders in the world and bar the World Cup, he’s had an outstanding season with Real Madrid, coronated by winning ‘La Decima’, the 10th Champions League trophy in a game against city rivals Atletico, where he himself scored minutes before the end to send the game into extra time. One of his biggest trade marks is that he does not only contribute defensively, but also offensively, bagging 9 goals this year.
Players to narrowly miss out:
Branislav Ivanovic. He would be the first in line to slot in any position, as he can play both centre-back and right-back. He is strong and powerful and improved the offensive aspect of his game massively in the last few years. It is quite a miracle that not a single defender from Chelsea made the top four, as when it comes to defending, few teams are better than the Blues. It was a close call between the Serb and the other defenders.
Marcelo and Jerome Boateng were the others to just miss out.
15 world class midfielders and only three positions available… This hardly seems fair as no matter what choice will be made, a player who deserves to be on the team will be left out. This was by far the toughest decision of them all. As the team is playing in a 4-3-3 formation, there is need for a defensive midfielder to give the team a balance.
Xabi Alonso fits the bill brilliantly. In his last season with Real Madrid he was a key player in a team that won the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. Bar a poor World Cup, he was consistently brilliant throughout the year and settled in exceptionally well with his new team Bayern Munich, receiving 2 Man of the Match awards in his first two games and breaking several records in his first five. The Spaniard is a rock in midfield and has an exquisite range of passing preparing chances for teammates.
Angel di Maria will take his place next to his former team mate in this midfield trio. 21 assists and 6 goals speak for themselves. So does his Man of the Match performance in the Champions League final against Madrid rivals. He moved from winger to a more central position for Los Blancos to accommodate Gareth Bale, but flourished in his new position, becoming ever so important, before being sold to Manchester United as the most expensive Premier League player. At Old Trafford the Argentine lost nothing of his form and ability and was the spark for their revival this season, being a constant threat in the final third.
Cesc Fabregas will complete this central midfield three at the expense of Luka Modric. Both have been phenomenal and heavily influential for their respective teams, but Fabregas averaged more goals, assists, passes and tackles won per 90 minutes than his Croatian rival, who only beat the Spaniard in interceptions. Fabregas is currently bossing the Blues’ midfield and already managed to bag 10 assists in 14 appearances in the League. His defensive work has also improved, much to the credit of Jose Mourinho. Expect big things from the Spaniard this season, as he has recently described his new adventure as Stamford Bridge as “some of the best football in his career”.
Players to narrowly miss out:
Every player from the 12 that were not chosen…well maybe apart from Mesut Ozil, whose presence in this nomination is slightly puzzling, with players such as Mario Gotze, Nemanja Matic, Koke and Ivan Rakitic missing out.
Luka Modric will be the most disappointed player of them all at being left out of this side, and rightfully so. Yaya Toure would have featured in this team had he gotten his birthday cake and carried his form into this season. James Rodriguez another one to miss out, with his profile rocketing up ever since the World Cup, not that many people knew about him back in France or Portugal.
Again we have 15 players who could all claim their right to be in this team, but with 2 positions booked for Ronaldo and Messi, there is space left for only one player, and 12 disappointments… Both Ronaldo and Messi have once again been playing on their own planet and will go head to head for the Ballon d’Or for the fourth consecutive year. These two need no introduction and their presence in this team hardly needs to be justified. This leaves the question, who was the third best striker in the world in 2014? From all the options there are, it is extremely hard to chose one player. However, on current form, Sergio Aguero is the most deadliest striker in the world. He is a difference maker for Manchester City in almost every game and in this mood is unplayable. He almost single handedly sunk Bayern and has saved Citizens so many times with his goals already this year and kept them in the title race. He is without doubt the best striker in the Premier League. Luis Suarez was the only deadlier striker until May when he played for Liverpool. But his 4 month ban did not help this cause too much.
Players to narrowly miss out:
Luis Suarez should have and would have been in this team if his discipline did not let him down. He is as much of a difference maker as Aguero is, the difference between last season’s Liverpool and this season’s Liverpool is remarkable. Neymar, Arjen Robben, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale are all players who have missed out on the final spot very tightly and it would be hard for anyone to argue against their inclusion in the team.
There is too much talent in world football for it to fit into just one team. So many world class players have been left out of this selection that it seems like a natural thing to create two world teams instead. And here they are: