Collective grumbles were to be heard across England as the FIFPro World XI was announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards in Zurich on Monday night, with players from La Liga monopolizing all eleven places.
The fact that no players from the Barclays Premier League, argued by many as the best league in the world, made the cut has caused a level of bemusement amongst fans of the English game, especially considering the year saw some of the most iconic moments in the history of the English football, with none more memorable than Sergio Aguero tapping home for Manchester City to snatch the league title from city based rivals United in the dying moments of the final game of the season.
Other leagues have reason to feel aggrieved too. The Italian Serie A has not been represented in the world eleven since 2010, whilst players from Germany’s Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 have never been represented in the World XI since the original vote by professional footballers across the globe in 2005, with representatives from leagues in Spain, England and, to a lesser extent, Italy largely dominating the list.
It has to be said that the World Xi is less of an advertisement for the overall quality of top-tier Spanish football and more a clear indication of just how far ahead the top two teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid, are from the rest of the chasing pack. Indeed, of the eleven players only one in the team comes from outside of the two largest clubs in Spain, with that gatecrasher being Atletico Madrid’s mercurial forward Radamel Falcao.
But is the team a fair representation of the best world football has to offer? Or should there be more players from the Barclays Premier League. According to the Professional Footballers Association’s alternative World XI, which is based only on the votes cast by those players plying their trade in England, Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Ashley Cole, Yaya Toure and Robin Van Persie would all make it into the team at the expense of Iker Casillas, Dani Alves, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso and Falcao.
It’s not surprising that significantly more players from England feature in the alternative eleven , after all players are more likely to vote for players they enjoy playing with or have admired playing against, not to mention the fact that a number of players will have undoubtedly voted for their friends. Whilst there is a case for different players to make up the World XI, they may not necessarily be from the Premier League.
At the back Bayern Munich’s Phillip Lahm will feel aggrieved that he did not get a place in the World XI, with the ambidextrous full-back having a stellar year which saw Bayern reach the final of the Champions League and have an emphatic first half of the current season. There is also a solid argument that Giorgio Chiellini should have been featured at the back, too given the Turin side’s 2011-12 Serie A win and current Champions League form.
Yaya Toure may have had a solid year for Manchester City, but if one is to debate Xabi Alonso’s position in the 2012 World XI then the first contender for a position in the middle of the park has to once again go to an Italian, with Andrea Pirlo, even at the age of 33, still putting in assured performances for both Juventus and Italy, with England fans unlikely to forget his Euro 2012 penalty any time soon.
Possibly the strongest argument for Premier League involvement comes up front in the World Xi, with Robin Van Persie a strong contender for inclusion. The Dutchman scored 37 goals in all competitions for Arsenal in the last campaign and, after moving to Manchester United is now top scorer in the Barclays Premier League with sixteen goals in the league so far this campaign and not showing any signs of stopping.
Falcao, by comparison, scored 36 goals in all competitions for Atletico last season, playing a handful of games more than Van Persie, whilst the Columbian has netted 17 in La Liga thus far this season, only second to Lionel Messi. A close call on goals between the two, but a UEFA Europa League and Super Cup double, with Falcao taking apart Chelsea in the latter, undoubtedly supports the argument that the 26 year-old should be up alongside Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Still, the World Xi is little more than a minor honor for players more focused on actual football competitions, and Premier League supporters will take more than enough satisfaction from how competitive and exciting England’s top flight has been over the course of 2012. Spain will undoubtedly be proud of holding the monopoly on the worlds top players, though, with Barcelona and Real particularly pleased.