Wednesday, 18 January 2012

1991 World Soccer Top 100

Following on from some of the lists of the world's top players that abounded around Christmas I thought it would be interesting to have a look at a similar list from 20 years ago. This was done in alphabetical order and shows a clear effort to create some diversity of the nations covered, but was interesting nonetheless.
Sergei Aleinikov (USSR)
John Aldridge (Ireland)
Manuel Amoros (France)
Roberto Baggio (Italy)
Franco Baresi (Italy)
John Barnes (England)
Bebeto (Brazil)
Miodrag Belodidici (Romania)
Francois Omam Biyik (Cameroon)
Kingsley Black (Northern Ireland)
Basile Boli (France)
Branco (Brazil)
Andreas Brehme (Germany)
Pat Bonner (Ireland)
Tomas Brolin (Sweden)
Emilio Butragueno (Spain)
Claudio Caniggia (Argentina)
Careca (Brazil)
Jan Ceulemans (Belgium)
Stephane Chapuisat (Switzerland)
Colin Clarke (Northern Ireland)
Lajos Detari (Hungary)
Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay)
Jan Furtok (Poland)
Paulo Futre (Portugal)
Paul Gascoigne (England)
Eric Gerets (Belgium)
Giuseppe Giannini (Italy)
Sergio Goycochea (Argentina)
Ruud Gullit (Holland)
Gheorghe Hagi (Romania)
John Harkes (USA)
Hossam Hassan (Egypt)
Thomas Hassler (Germany)
Heinz Hermann (Switzerland)
Rene Higuita (Colombia)
Mark Hughes (Wales)
Bodo Ilgner (Germany)
Mo Johnston (Scotland)
Jozsef Kiprich (Hungary)
Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany)
Ronald Koeman (Holland)
Oleg Kuznetsov (USSR)
Marius Lacatus (Romania)
Peter Larsson (Sweden)
Brian Laudrup (Denmark)
Michael Laudrup (Denmark)
Anders Limpar (Sweden)
Gary Lineker (England)
Cyrille Makanaky (Cameroon)
Paolo Maldini (Italy)
Roberto Mancini (Italy)
Diego Maradona (Argentina)
Lothar Matthaus (Germany
Ally McCoist (Scotland)
Paul McGrath (Ireland)
Paul McStay (Scotland)
Michel (Spain)
Alexei Mikhailichenko (USSR)
David O’Leary (Ireland)
Darko Pancev (Yugoslavia)
Jean-Pierre Papin (France)
David Platt (England)
Toni Polster (Austria)
Gica Popescu (Romania)
Michel Preudhomme (Belgium)
Robert Prosinecki (Yugoslavia)
Oleg Protasov (USSR)
Tab Ramos (USA)
Frank Rijkaard (Holland)
Bryan Robson (England)
Romario (Brazil)
Oscar Ruggeri (Argentina)
Rui Barros (Portugal)
Ian Rush (Wales)
Hugo Sanchez (Mexico)
Dean Saunders (Wales)
Dejan Savicevic (Yugoslavia)
Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)
Enzo Scifo (Belgium)
Ruben Sosa (Uruguay)
Neville Southall (Wales)
Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria)
Dragan Stoijkovic (Yugoslavia)
Taffarel (Brazil)
Tanju Colak (Turkey)
Jonas Thern (Sweden)
Kubilay Turkilmaz (Turkey)
Carlos Valderrama (Colombia)
Marco Van Basten (Holland)
Hans Van Breukelen (Holland)
Gianluca Vialli (Italy)
Rudi Voller (Germany)
Chris Waddle (England)
Des Walker (England)
George Weah (Liberia)
Walter Zenga (Italy)
Andoni Zubizarreta (Spain)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

European "Rangliste" - Recap

For some time I thought about how useful it would be to have a Kicker style ranking of all the players based in Europe. You can read the background to it here, but in essence it boils down to putting Europe's top players by position into one of three categories.


World Class *** – Performing consistently to an exceptional standard. Among the finest players in the world and performing at a level comparable with the very best in your position. (Guideline – 15-20 players a season)

International class ** – Performing consistently to an excellent or sporadically to an exceptional standard. (Guideline – 20-30 players a season)

National class * – Performing consistently to a very high standard or sporadically to an exceptional or excellent standard. (Guideline – 50-70 players a season)

For the full profiles of each player, click on the category heading to read the basis of my rating. 
Samir Handanovic (Udinese and Slovenia) **
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany) **
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy) **
Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain and Italy) **
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Moenchenglabach and Germany) *
Michel Vorm (Swansea and Holland) *
Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain) *
Joe Hart (Manchester City and England) *
Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany) *
Roberto (Granada and Spain) *
Tim Krul (Newcastle United and Holland) *
Alexis Thebaux (Caen and France) *
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain) *
Artur (Benfica and Brazil) *
Javi Varas (Sevilla and Spain) *
Dani Alves (Barcelona and Brazil) ***
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany) **
Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil) **
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus and Italy) **
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur and England) *
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus and Switzerland) *
Lukasz Piszczek (Borrusia Dortmund and Poland) *
Micah Richards (Manchester City and England) *
Mathieu Debuchy (Lille and France) *
Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *
Jordi Alba (Valencia and Spain)  *
Yuto Nagatomo (Internazionale and Japan) *
Henri Bedimo (Montpellier and Cameroon)  *
Jose Enrique (Liverpool and Spain) *
Christian Fuchs (Schalke and Austria) *
Thiago Silva (AC Milan and Brazil) ***
Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) ***
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City and Belgium) ***
Lucio (Internazionale and Brazil) **
Ledley King (Tottenham Hotspur and England) **
Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich and Belgium) **
Javier Mascherano (Barcelona and Argentina) **
Andrea Barzagli (Juventus and Italy) **
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain) *
Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich and Germany) *
Joleon Lescott (Manchester City and England) *
Mehdi Benatia (Udinese and Morocco) *
Adil Rami (Valencia and France) *
Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli and Argentina) *
Jonathan Zebina (Brest and France) *
Sergio Ballesteros (Levante and Spain) *
Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille and Cameroon) *
Dante (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Brazil) *
Javi Martinez (Atletic Bilbao and Spain) *
Ezequiel Garay (Benfica and Argentina) *
Jan Vertonghen (Ajax and Belgium) *
Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur and England) **
Daniele De Rossi (Roma and Italy) **
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain) **
Jeremy Toulalan (Malaga and France) *
Lucas Leiva (Liverpool and Brazil) *
Alex Song (Arsenal and Cameroon) *
Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *
Phil Jones (Manchester United and England) *
Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany) *
Xavi (Barcelona and Spain) ***
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich and Germany) ***
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus and Italy) **
Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur and Croatia) **
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid and Spain) **
Claudio Marchisio (Juventus and Italy) *
Yaya Toure (Manchester City and Ivory Coast) *
Gokhan Inler (Napoli and Switzerland) *
Rasmus Elm (AZ Alkmaar and Sweden) *
Yoann Cabaye (Newcastle United and France) *
Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan and Italy) *
Alain Traore (Auxerre and Burkina Faso) *
Stijn Schaars (Sporting Lisbon and Holland) *
David Silva (Manchester City and Spain) ***
Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona and Spain) ***
Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich and Germany) **
Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *
Miralem Pjanic (Roma and Bosnia and Herzegovina) *
Kevin-Prince Boateng (AC Milan and Ghana) *
Christian Eriksen (Ajax and Denmark) *
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal and Spain) *
Andre Ayew (Marseille and Ghana) *
Pablo Aimar (Benfica and Argentina) *
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) *
Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur and Holland) *
Frank Lampard (Chelsea and England) *
Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina) *
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France) ***
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales) **
Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid and Argentina) **
Eden Hazard (Lille and Belgium) *
Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain) *
Dries Mertens (PSV Eindhoven and Belgium) *
Nani (Manchester United and Portugal) *
Santi Cazorla (Malaga and Spain) *
Nene (Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil) *
Juan Arango (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Venezuela) *
Cedric Barbosa (Evian and France) *
Jonathan Biabiany (Parma and France) *
Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid and Turkey) *
Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille and France) *
Alessio Cerci (Fiorentina and Italy) *
Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) ***
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) ***
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England) ***
Marco Reus (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Germany) ***
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina and Montenegro) **
Raul (Schalke and Spain) *
Hulk (Porto and Brazil) *
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea and England) *
Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay) *
Andriy Voronin (Dynamo Moscow and Ukraine) *
Maxi Moralez (Atalanta and Argentina) *
Robin Van Persie (Arsenal and Holland) ***
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich and Germany) ***
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan and Sweden) ***
Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) **
Roberto Soldado (Valencia and Spain) **
Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow and Ivory Coast) **
Demba Ba (Newcastle United and Senegal) *
Klaas Jan-Huntelaar (Schalke and Holland) *
Olivier Giroud (Montpellier and France) *
Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen and Peru) *
Lukas Podolski (Cologne and Germany) *
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese and Italy) *
Yakubu (Blackburn Rovers and Nigeria) *
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) *
German Denis (Atalanta and Argentina) *
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid and Argentina) *
Alexander Frei (Basel and Switzerland) *
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina) *
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France) *
Jeremy Perbet (Mons and France) *

European "Rangliste" 2011/12 - Strikers (Part 2)

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal and Holland)  ***
What a year 2011 was for the Dutchman. After years of recurring injury problems Van Persie was finally able to demonstrate what he could do with a period of prolonged fitness. He started scoring at a rate of a goal a game in January and never stopped. Already this season he has 17 league goals to his name as he spearheads Arsenal’s assault on the top 4. If he can remain healthy for the rest of the season the sky is the limit for both him and Arsenal.
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich and Germany) ***
Nobody in football at present is quite such a natural goalscorer as Gomez. Somehow, anyhow, he finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net. His movement and anticipation are unquestionably his greatest assets, but his range of finishes prove that his prowess in front of goal is unrivalled. Now that he is replicating his club form for the national team Germany have the cutting edge to support their European Championship challenge. 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan and Sweden) ***
Barcelona’s decision to pay £45m and exchange Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic always looked a terrible decision. That they then compounded the error by letting the Swedish master join AC Milan for just £20m only made it worse. Since returning to the San Siro, Zlatan has rediscovered the form that made him such a valuable commodity. Blessed with truly sublime technique Ibrahimovic at his best is a one man attack, one which Milan must keep firing if they are to retain their title.
Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) **
Last season saw Cavani join the ranks of the game’s best strikers. This season he has maintained that level of domestic performance and shown that he can also cut it on the European stage. The three goals he scored over the two matches with Manchester City were crucial in securing Napoli’s progress in the Champions League and in showing that money can’t always buy you success. Having said that, the list of clubs interested in signing the Uruguayan front man would suggest that not everyone believes it to be the case.
Roberto Soldado (Valencia and Spain) **
With a broken leg potentially ruling David Villa out of the European Championships this summer, the race is on to fill Spain’s centre-forward role. Of course, it is eminently possible that Vicente Del Bosque will opt to use David Silva as a “false nine”, but if Spain do choose a traditional striker Soldado must be in pole position. Over the last couple of years he has developed significantly, but this season has been a further step up in class. In particular his five goals in six Champions League outings demonstrated an ability to operate at the highest level, even if Valencia couldn’t reach the knock out stages.
Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow and Ivory Coast) **
An incredible goalscoring record in Switzerland was enough to recommend Doumbia to CSKA Moscow. Since his arrival in Russia he has not disappointed as he continued that remarkable run of form. This season he has taken that level of performance into the Champions League with five goals in the group stage (including a vital one away in the San Siro) that put CSKA through to the second phase of the tournament. While the Russian league grows ever richer and more competitive it still remains to be seen whether CSKA could hold on to such a talented young striker.
Klaas Jan-Huntelaar (Schalke and Holland) **
Often touted as the next in a long line of prolific Dutch strikers, it appeared after his transfer to Real Madrid that things might not work out for Huntelaar. With an increasing trend towards players who do more than just score goals there were doubts as to whether he could succeed at the highest level. While his game remains primarily based on goals, the volume which he provides has put to bed any lingering concerns. Quite simply there are precious few more potent penalty box strikers in the game at present and certainly not many who deliver on so many fronts. It’s only a matter of time before the Hunter surpasses Patrick Kluivert’s record of goals for the Dutch national team.
Demba Ba (Newcastle United and Senegal) *
Set for a summer move to Stoke (until doubts over his knee led to a failed medical), Ba’s free transfer to Newcastle must be the best “buy” of the season. The powerful Senegalese striker has proved an immediate hit on Tyneside with a flurry of goals that have lifted Newcastle into an excellent top half position. What has been remarkable about Ba has been not just the quantity, but the variety of his goals. Lethal in the air, he possesses a delicate touch and has shown himself a set piece specialist as well. Alan Pardew’s faith in the striker’s fitness has already been repaid, hopefully the doubts about his knee do not prove well founded.
Olivier Giroud (Montpellier and France) *
Montpellier’s title push this season has been based squarely on the shoulders of Olivier Giroud.  Few were aware of the calibre of the striker prior to the start of 2011/12, but scouts around Europe are now circling for the latest French bargain. Having made his debut for France against the USA in November, the Montpellier man must now focus on staking a claim for the Euro 2012 squad. Laurent Blanc’s team remain in transition and so Giroud must surely be a strong candidate to make the position his own.
Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen and Peru) *
Pizarro’s consistency in front of goal has seen him overhaul Giovane Elber as the Bundesliga’s all-time record goalscorer among foreigners. For all his success though the Peruvian has probably never begun a season as well as this. As the focal point of Werder’s attack he has been instrumental in the run of form which left them well placed at the half-way break.

European "Rangliste" 2011/12 - Strikers (Part 1)

Lukas Podolski (Cologne and Germany) *

Consistently prolific for Germany, Podolski has never really delivered at club level. Until now that is. For in 2011/12 the striker has been unerring in front of goal, taking chance after chance provided to him. Rumours of a move to England in January were widespread but it is unlikely that he would jeopardise his chances for Euro 2012 with a risky move to a foreign country. A player who has always primarily excelled for the national team would be foolish to throw his place away with the team seemingly on the cusp of greatness. 
Antonio Di Natale (Udinese and Italy) *

The last few seasons have seen a transformation in the performance of Di Natale. For much of his career he was a good, if unspectacular , forward. Yet the last three years have seen him convert himself into a goalscoring machine. Few players have better movement or are more single minded when in front of goal. Indeed given the level of consistency he has displayed it is only surprising that he is still so regularly overlooked.  
Yakubu (Blackburn Rovers and Nigeria) *

Amidst the storms encircling Ewood Park one man has been a shining beacon. Indeed, while Blackburn currently sit bottom of the Premier League, were it not for Yakubu things would be immeasurably worse. The Nigerian striker has netted nearly half of the club’s goals, including two in the shock win at Old Trafford and all four in a victory over fellow strugglers Swansea. Things still look bleak for the Lancashire club, but if they do get out of the relegation mire then a debt of gratitude will be owed to Yakubu.
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) *

Last season it was Lucas Barrios that benefitted from Dortmund exceptional creative midfielders. This time out it has been the young Pole, Lewandowski. The front man has already scored 12 times in the league as he joins the hunt for the Bundesliga topscorer crown, but given so many prolific strikers currently plying their trade in Germany he will not get it without a fight. Could Dotmund’s Polish pair prove instrumental in their nation’s European Championships? Time will tell.
German Denis (Atalanta and Argentina) *

When at Independiente, Denis was among the best strikers at Argentina. Sadly for much of his time in Europe (following an initial move to Napoli he joined Udinese in 2010) it looked like he would never quite cut it. This season’s loan move to Atalanta has reaffirmed his ability to play in one of the world’s hardest leagues. In tandem with Maxi Moralez, Denis has shown himself to be a dangerous front man whose clinical finishes have helped a potentially struggling side into a position of relative security.
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid and Argentina) *

Injury ruined last season for Higuain, but this season he has again demonstrated his credentials as one of the world’s best forwards. Although he has to share the duties up front with Karim Benzema his goals to games ratio for Madrid remains exceptional. In the last four seasons he has notched up over 70 goals in less than 100 league games, a remarkable achievement given that many of those appearances would have lasted less than 90 minutes. Despite that, there are still frequent suggestions that Los Merengues would be willing to let him go for the right price. Baffling.
Alexander Frei (Basel and Switzerland) *

As conquerors of Manchester United in the Champions League this season much focus has fallen on Basel. Naturally much of the acclaim has been devoted to their pair of young talents, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaquiri, but nobody did more than veteran striker Alexander Frei to help the club into the knock out stages. The 32 year old scored five times in the Champions League and has already hit 11 goals in the league during a scintillating run of form.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina) *

The ease with which Aguero has settled in to the Premier League has been startling. Most players take some time to adapt, but the Argentine looked at home from his first game. Admittedly, it took a long time before he reached a level of fitness that allowed him to complete a game, but he always looked razor sharp in front of goal. When he was with Atleti the consistent rumours over his future made it inevitable he would one day join a club that could match his ambition. Next season will surely offer an opportunity for an all-out assault on the Champions League.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France) *

When Jose Mourinho arrived at the Bernabeu it was clear that he had little faith in Karim Benzema. In fairness, the striker didn’t seem to have much confidence in himself after a difficult first season. The tail end of last season he went along way to regaining the manager’s trust, and this season he has continued that form. As with Gonzalo Higuain, the Frenchman is never sure of a starting berth, but like his Argentine clubmate his displays usually make him look the part. With two strikers as good as these Real Madrid are in a fortunate position.
Jeremy Perbet (Mons and France) *

Arguably the most impressive player currently in Belgium, striker Perbet has been in exceptional form in front of goal this season.  Signed on loan last season from Lokeren when Mons were in the Belgian second flight is goals helped secure promotion and were enough to secure a permanent transfer. This time out he has kept up that run of scoring and currently sits atop the charts in the Jupilier League.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

European "Rangliste" 2011/12 - Forwards

Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) ***
Still beyond any question the best player in the world. Messi remains incredibly consistent, while able to produce moments of genius on demand. In December’s Clasico Real Madrid seemed to have control of the game until the little Argentine picked the ball up in midfield and surged past a host of defenders to set Alexis Sanchez free. It is that ability to turn any game along with performing in almost every game that makes him a class apart.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) ***
Last year Ronaldo managed to break the 40 goal barrier in La Liga and he already has that target in his sights for this season as he maintains his incredible run of form.  For all the criticism that he receives few can deny that the Portuguese forward ranks among the very best players we have seen in recent years. If he is to receive the universal acclaim that his numbers probably deserve he must eventually deliver against his apparent nemesis, Barcelona.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England) ***
Rooney’s blistering start to the season saw him score nine league goals in just five games as he drove Manchester United to the top of the league. A spell playing in central midfield coincided with a barren spell in front of goal, but he appears to have returned to his old ways in recent weeks. Rumours of a possible exit currently abound, but the England star remains Manchester United’s most prized possession and there are surely few clubs out there who could afford the fee or wages.
Marco Reus (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Germany) ***
At the start of the season there were few outside of Germany who were aware of the prodigious talent of Marco Reus. Certainly he impressed last campaign, but given the traditional focus on England, Italy and Spain the performances of the youngster were largely unnoticed. This year’s run of spectacular form has already secured a summer transfer to home town club Borussia Dortmund and may yet catapult Reus into the Germany side for Euro 2012. The rest of the world are now sitting up and taking note of the German wunderkind.
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina and Montenegro) **
Long regarded as one of the most promising young players in the world, Jovetic had previously flattered to deceive. This season though he has already surpassed the total number of goals he had previously scored in Serie A. The big-haired Montenegrin may now be too hot a property for Fiorentina to hold on to. They will not be short of takers if Jovetic does decide to move on.
Raul (Schalke and Spain) *
Perhaps unfairly, there were those who doubted whether Raul would ever be able to operate at his best away from his beloved Bernabeu. Since joining Schalke though he has recaptured the form that made him one of Europe’s top players. Last season’s  Champions League form masked the disappointing domestic performances of the club, but this season Raul’s partnership with Huntelaar has ensured the Gelsenkirchen club are far more competitive. Vicente Del Bosque has failed to rule out a return to theSpanish national team so could we yet see one last hurrah?
Hulk (Porto and Brazil) *
After last season’s incredible success it might have been hard for some Porto players to motivate themselves this season, especially after the departures of Andre-Villas Boas and Radamel Falcao. One man who certainly hasn’t displayed such problems has been Hulk. The Brazilian was exceptional last year and has been integral in Porto’s attempts this season to retain their title. Given his continued excellence it is surely now just a matter of time before he makes the step to one of Europe’s true giants.
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea and England) *
Earlier this season Roberto Mancini bemoaned the decision of a previous administration to allow Daniel Sturridge to go to Chelsea. When the manager of the world’s richest club covets a player, it is clear he must be doing something right. Certainly this season Sturridge has been tremendous as he has learnt to play away from his normal central role. With pace, an excellent shot and a great attitude this is a young player who can go all the way.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay) *
Putting the furore that surrounded his contretemps with Patice Evra to one side, the signing of Suarez has been a master-stroke for Liverpool. With Andy Carroll making an underwhelming start to his time at Anfield and Steven Gerrard out for so long with injury the onus has been on the Uruguayan to deliver. His overall play has been excellent but Liverpool fans must hope that he can replicate his goalscoring exploits for the national team when playing at a club level.
Andriy Voronin (Dynamo Moscow and Ukraine) *
As much as it might astonish Liverpool fans, Voronin has been rather good this season. The former Anfield flop seems far more at home in Moscow (just as he did in Berlin) and has proven himself an accomplished performer during his time in Russia.  As the league attempts to realign itself with the rest of Europe, the Ukrainian has hit a rich vein of form and demonstrated quite what he is capable of.  
Maxi Moralez (Atalanta and Argentina) *
Despite his short stature, Moralez has made a major impact in Serie A. In particular, his combination with compatriot German Denis has been the source  of so much of Atalanta’s good play this campaign. Constantly lively and inventive, he is always looking to play the killer pass and regularly succeeds. It’s unlikely that he can force his way into the Argentina national side in the near future given their abundance of riches, but it certainly seems that his play is well suited to Italy,  after enduring a previous nightmare in Russia.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

European "Rangliste" 2011/12 - Wingers

Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France) ***
Bayern Munich’s blistering start to the season owed so much to the contributions of Ribery. When fit the Frenchman has always been a class act and this season was no exception as he delivered a series of assists in addition to multiple goals of his own. His combination of trickery on the ball, quality of crossing and accuracy of shooting means that defenders rarely stand a chance. If he and Arjen Robben maintain full fitness throughout the second half of the season then Bayern will be contenders on all fronts.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur and Wales) **
Now that the insufferable hype surrounding Gareth Bale has died down he is again showing why his fellow professionals voted him the best player in England last season. When in the mood the Welshman is simply unplayable with his combination of pace and power providing a constant threat. There are many players who are quick though who lack the end product to make it count. Fortunately Bale doesn’t fall into that camp with a tremendous left-foot ensuring a healthy supply of goals and assists. It’s now only a matter of time before the hype builds again.
Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid and Argentina) **
Nobody has provided more assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues than Di Maria this season. That surely underlines the importance that the Argentine has on Mourinho’s team. Admittedly in Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain he has three of the deadliest front men in world football to aim for, but that should not take away from the former Benfica player’s contribution. He must ensure that he delivers in the biggest games of all if Madrid are to finally overhaul Barcelona.
Eden Hazard (Lille and Belgium) *
The young Belgian has been touted as one of the hottest prospects in the game for some time now, and over the last 18 months he has demonstrated the form that he was obviously capable of. A scintillating dribbler, always capable of achieving the unexpected, the Belgian currently appears to be committed to staying at Lille but there are bound to be big money offers this season. Despite his excellent form Lille could not make it through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League but it is a certainty that he will have plenty of time to impress on that stage again.
Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain)  *
There has been little to cheer about so far this season for Chelsea fans, but one cause of celebration has been the start that Juan Mata has made at the club. The Spaniard has been one of the few Chelsea men to demonstrate any imagination in his play as the team have frequently toiled without their normal certainty of purpose. As Andre Villas-Boas seeks to overhaul his squad, he already has one player at least to base his new look team upon.  
Dries Mertens (PSV Eindhoven and Belgium) *
PSV’s excellent start to the season could largely be credited to the influence of Mertens. Having joined in the summer from Utrecht along with Kevin Strootman, the Belgian could barely stop scoring in the opening weeks of the year. The winger had never previously shown such potency in front of goal, but PSV fans weren’t complaining as he rapidly ascended the goalscoring charts. While he has suffered a lull in recent weeks a resumption of that form would test PSV’s resolve to keep their most prized possession.
Nani (Manchester United and Portugal) *
Last season saw Nani make the step up from fringe player to lynchpin in the United team. This season has seen a continuation of that form. There are few sides with the depth of wide players that Manchester United enjoy in Valencia, Giggs, Young and Park, but Nani has proved himself essential with the goals and assists he provides. Frequently frustrating in his pass and shot selection, many now expect the Portuguese winger to develop further into one of the world’s best players.
Santi Cazorla (Malaga and Spain) *
Villarreal’s dire start to the season only underlined the importance of the departed Santi Cazorla. After leaving the “Yellow Submarine” the diminutive midfielder has settled well at Malaga and maintained the standards which made him such a hit at El Madrigal. An excellent set piece taker and generally clever and inventive on the ball he is exactly the sort of signing that Malaga should look for if they are to challenge the traditional Spanish super-powers.
Nene (Paris-Saint Germain and Brazil) *
For all the money spent at Paris-Saint Germain this summer, arguably their best player so far this season has been a man already at the club. Nene impressed all last season with his contribution from midfield, as he chipped in with numerous goals. This season he has repeated the feat as the club from the capital mount a credible title challenge. With the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti and the seeming desire of the PSG hierarchy to attract star names, Nene may be one of the casualties at the Parc des Princes. If he were to be allowed to leave it would be a huge mistake.  
Juan Arango (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Venezuela) *
Marco Reus has, rightly, received much of the credit for Gladbach’s form this season in attack .The role of Arango in creating the chances though should not go without mention. For down the left-flank this season the Venezuelan has been outstanding in fashioning chances and beating defenders, without gaining the appropriate plaudits. With Reus departing in the summer, the role of Gladbach’s left winger will become even more vital.
Cedric Barbosa (Evian and France) *
Far from a household name, Cedric Barbosa is approaching the end of his career but has picked this season to deliver his best performances yet. At the half-way point in the season he is rated by France Football as the best outfield player in the league in their game by game ratings on the back of his six goals and six assists. Durability has proved an issue this time out, as the midfielder has not completed a single game in the league this year. Evian will be praying that he does not fade as the season wears on.
Jonathan Biabiany (Parma and France) *
On loan Biabiany has certainly set about showing owners Sampdoria what he is capable of this season. The youngster never really had sufficient opportunities during his time at Inter, but his current time at Parma has underlined his class. An exceptionally capable dribbler, the Frenchman has been Parma’s best player so far during his spell at the club. Will he now get an opportunity in Genoa or will he be on the move yet again?
Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid and Turkey) *
Very few Turkish players have been a hit abroad, despite the many talents the country has produced in recent years. One man who looks set to succeed outside of his homeland is magical winger Turan. At Galatasaray it was obvious that he was a gifted player, but Spain was always likely to be a harder test. So far at least he looks set to pass that test and his nascent partnership with Radamel Falcao may well bring rich rewards to Atleti.
Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille and France) *
Plagued by a lack of consistency, diminutive midfielder Valbuena occasionally looks like a world beater. That he does so all too infrequently is what holds him back from becoming a superstar. At 27 years old he is already a late bloomer, having come to prominence during the back end of the 2009-10 season, but must start to show the maturity his years command if he is to become a top class international.
Alessio Cerci (Fiorentina and Italy) *
Had Roberto Mancini had his way, Cerci would have been lining up for Manchester City this season rather than Fiorentina. As it was, the clubs could not agree a fee, but there is much to admire in the Viola’s left winger. Tricky and creative, he is often a joy to watch but he has regularly been criticised by fans for a lack of consistency. The Roman native enjoys no great affinity with the supporters in Florence and as such it would be no great surprise to see him move again in the summer.