Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Recap


Rene Adler (Hamburg and Germany) **
Samir Handanovic (Inter and Slovenia) **
Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) *
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy) *
Fraser Forster (Celtic and England) *
Remy Vercoutre (Lyon and France) *
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany) *
Federico Marchetti (Lazio and Italy) *
Willy Caballero (Málaga and Argentina) *
Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Republic) *


Jordi Alba (Barcelona and Spain) **

Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany) **

Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatia) **

Leighton Baines (Everton and England) **

Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus and Ghana) **

Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City and Argentina) *

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid and Brazil) *

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham and Belgium) *

Bastian Oczipka (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) *

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea and Serbia) *

Cicinho (Sevilla and Brazil) *

Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) *

Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux and France) *

Daniel Carvajal (Bayer Leverkusen and Spain) *

Ismailiy (Braga and Brazil) *

Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow and Russia) *


Dante (Bayern Munich and Brazil) **

Andrea Ranocchia (Inter and Italy) **

Thiago Silva (PSG and Brazil) **

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus and Italy) **

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay) *

Water Samuel (Inter and Argentina) *

Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain) *

Gonzalo Rodriguez (Fiorentina and Argentina) *

Martin Demichelis (Malaga and Argentina) *

Miranda (Atletico Madrid and Brazil) *

Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli and Argentina) *

Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille and Cameroon) *

Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke and Germany) *

Ezequiel Garay (Benfica and Argentina) *

Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City and England) *

Gil (Valenciennes and Brazil) *

Defensive midfielders

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain) **

Michael Carrick (Manchester United and England) **

Maxime Gonalons (Lyon and France) *

Benat (Real Betis and Spain) *

Sandro (Tottenham and Brazil) *

Esteban Cambiasso (Inter and Argentina) *

Victor Wanyama (Celtic and Kenya) *

Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt and Switzerland) *

Etienne Capoue (Toulouse and France) *

Mario Suarez (Atletico Madrid and Spain) *

Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion and Argentina) *

Central midfielders

Andrea Pirlo (Juventus and Italy) ***

Xavi (Barcelona and Spain) ***

Arturo Vidal (Juventus and Chile) **

Marouane Fellaini (Everton and Belgium) **

Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk and Brazil) **

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich and Germany) **

Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain and France) *

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid and Spain) *

Steed Malbranque (Lyon and France) *

Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal and Spain) *

David Pizarro (Fiorentina and Chile) *

Aaron Hunt (Werder Bremen and Germany) *

Borja Valero (Fiorentina and Spain) *

Remy Cabella (Montpellier and France) *

Sebastian Rode (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) *

Attacking midfielders

Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) ***

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal and Spain) ***

Hernanes (Lazio and Brazil) **

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) **

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia) **

Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich and Germany) **

Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain) **

Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona and Spain) *

Isco (Malaga and Spain) *

Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille and France) *

Marek Hamsik (Napoli and Slovakia) *

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England) *


Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France) ***

Gareth Bale (Tottenham and Wales) **

Willian (Shakhtar Donestsk and Brazil) **

James Rodriguez (Porto and Colombia) *

Romain Alessandrini (Rennes and France) *

Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina and Colombia) *

Juan Arango (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Venezuela) *

Dries Mertens (PSV Eindhoven and Belgium) *

Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid and Turkey) *

Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium) *

Markel Susaeta (Athletic Bilbao and Spain) *


Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) ***

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) ***

Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay) ***

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich and Germany) **

Francesco Totti (Roma and Italy) **

Michu (Swansea and Spain) **

Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) *

Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus and Italy) *

Erik Lamela (Roma and Argentina) *

Dusan Tadic (Twente and Serbia) *

Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina and Montenegro) *

Alex Meier (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) *


Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG and Sweden) ***

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid and Colombia) ***

Robin van Persie (Manchester United and Netherlands) ***

Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan and Italy) **

Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) **

Antonio di Natale (Udinese and Italy) **

Demba Ba (Chelsea/ Newcastle and Senegal) *

Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany) *

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) *

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham and England) *

Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem and Ivory Coast) *

Jackson Martinez (Porto and Colombia) *

Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray and Turkey) *

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao and Spain) *

Miroslav Klose (Lazio and Germany) *

Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord and Italy) *

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Wider Focus

When kicker compile their rangliste they traditionally list a number of players who, while not receiving a rating, have played well enough to merit consideration. These players are considered to be within "wider focus". The following were players who merited consideration across Europe. Naturally this list is not exhaustive.


Asmir Begovic (Stoke City and Bosnia)
Thibault Courtois (Atletico Madrid and Belgium)
Gorka Iraizoz (Athletic Bilbao and Spain)
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland and Belgium)
Fabian Giefer (Fortuna Dusseldorf and Germany)
Salvatore Sirigu (PSG and Italy)
Antonio Mirante (Parma and Italy)
Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon and Portugal)
Steve Mandanda (Marseille and France)


Rafael (Manchester United and Brazil)
Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina and Italy)
Stefan Radu (Lazio and Romania)
Patrice Evra (Manchester United and France)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea and England)
Nacho Monreal (Malaga and Spain)
Sebastian Jung (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany)
Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)
David Alaba (Bayern Munich and Austria)
Jeremy Morel (Marseille and France)
Hugo Mallo (Celta Vigo and Spain)
Adriano (Barcelona and Brazil)
Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord and Netherlands)


Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund and Serbia)
Timm Klose (Nurnberg and Germany)
Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich and Germany)
Facundo Roncaglia (Fiorentina and Argentina)
Andrea Barzagli (Juventus and Italy)
Aurelien Chedjou (Lille and Cameroon)
Chico (Swansea and Spain)
Robert Huth (Stoke City and Germany)
Nicolas Otamendi (Porto and Argentina)
Juan Jesus (Inter and Brazil)
Neto (Siena and Portugal)
Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany)
Gerard Piqué (Barcelona and Spain)
Pepe (Real Madrid and Portugal)
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City and Belgium)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus and Italy)

Defensive midfielders

Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich and Brazil)
Francesco Lodi (Catania and Italy)
Gareth Barry (Manchester City and England)
Ignacio Camacho (Malaga and Spain)
Ricardo Faty (Ajaccio and France)
Cristian Ledesma (Lazio and Argentina)
Ayman Abdennour (Toulouse and Tunisia)

Central midfielders

Claudio Marchisio (Juventus and Italy)
Yaya Toure (Manchester City and Ivory Coast)
Moussa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur and Belgium)
Ricardo Montolivo (AC Milan and Italy)
Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen and Belgium)
Roman Neustadter (Schalke and Germany)
Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany)
Pablo Batalla (Bursaspor and Argentina)
Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven and Netherlands)
Gokhan Inler (Napoli and Switzerland)

Attacking midfielders

Oscar (Chelsea and Brazil)
Diego (Wolfsburg and Brazil)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and England)
Andre Ayew (Marseille and Ghana)
Adel Taarabt (QPR and Morocco)
David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
Koke (Atletico Madrid and Spain)
Julien Feret (Rennes and France)
Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow and Japan)
Renaud Cohade (St Etienne and France)

Szabolcs Huszti (Hannover and Hungary)

Gonzalo Castro (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany)


Jefferson Farfan (Schalke 04 and Peru)
Daniel Caligiuri (Freiburg and Germany)
Patrick Ebert (Valladolid and Germany)
Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland)
Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur and England)
Alan (Braga and Brazil)
Robert Snodgrass (Norwich and Scotland)
Pedro Leon (Getafe and Spain)
Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad and Mexico)
Joaquin (Malaga and Spain)
Gael Danic (Valenciennes and France)
Eric Bautheac (Nice and France)
Antonio Candevra (Lazio and Italy)
Mbark Boussoufa (Anzhi and Morocco)


Siem de Jong (Ajax and Netherlands)
Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany)
Alain Traore (Lorient and Burkina Faso)
Theo Walcott (Arsenal and England)
Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo and Spain)
Bryan Ruiz (Fulham and Costa Rica)
Antonio Cassano (Inter and Italy)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City and Argentina)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool and England)
Lukas Podolski (Arsenal and Germany)
Ruben Castro (Real Betis and Spain)
Dimitri Payet (Lille and France)
Alejandro Gomez (Catania and Argentina)
Samuel Eto'o (Anzhi and Cameroon)


Alfred Finnbogason (Heerenveen and Iceland)
Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar and USA)
Oscar Cardozo (Benfica and Paraguay)
Albert Meyong (Vitoria Setubal and Cameroon)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton and England)
Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham and Bulgaria)
Edin Dzeko (Manchester City and Bosnia)
Roberto Soldado (Valencia and Spain)
Wissam Ben Yedder (Toulouse and France)
Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon and France)
Dario Cvitanich (Nice and Argentina)
Pablo Osvaldo (Roma and Italy)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (St Etienne and Gabon)
Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart and Bosnia)
Rafik Djebbour (Olympiakos and Algeria)
Carlos Bacca (Club Brugges and Colombia)
Alexandr Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg and Russia)
Dieudonne Mbokani (Anderlecht and Congo)

Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich and Croatia)

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Strikers Part 2

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG and Sweden) 17 games, 18 goals ***

Most pundits thought at the start of the season that PSG would walk the French title. However, had it not been for the sensational form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic the club would be well off the pace in Ligue 1. His performance in Sweden’s 4-2 victory over England will be remembered for many years to come with some touting his final goal as the best ever scored. That game might finally have won over the naysayers who have spuriously questioned his greatness in years gone be.

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid and Colombia) 17 games, 18 goals ***

When Atletico Madrid paid over the £35m they had just received for Sergio Aguero to acquire Radamel Falcao they seemed to have signed a top player for a top price. As it turned out the deal was a comparative bargain, with the Colombian stepping up to another level during his time at the Vicente Calderon. Now a genuine candidate as the finest striker in the world, rumours abound of a cross city move to the Bernabeu or a switch to Chelsea in the summer.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United and Netherlands) 22 games, 17 goals ***

Some questioned the price that United paid for Van Persie given his age, the length of time his contract had to run and more pressing priorities at Old Trafford. Somehow though he has already proven those doubters wrong with a series of performances that have confirmed his status as the Premier League's finest player. To have settled in so quickly is remarkable and he looks poised to reach 30 league goals for the second season running.

Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan and Italy) 20 games, 14 goals **

Were it not for the performances of El Shaarawy Milan would find themselves in a relegation fight. The youngster, known as the Pharoah, has carried the team in the absence of the departed Ibrahimovic and Thiago. Quick and a brilliant finisher he has provided the cutting edge that the side have sorely lacked and singlehandedly lifted the club into a semi-respectable position at the winter break.

Edinson Cavani (Napoli and Uruguay) 17 games, 16 goals **

There are few strikers in the modern game with the full range of abilities that Edinson Cavani possesses. The Uruguayan is a centre-forward who hurts team in a multitude of ways and is, on occasion, unstoppable. This season he has been at his very best, dominating defenders and winning matches almost single handedly. With Cavani in such form Napoli still look a major threat to Italy’s established powers.

Antonio di Natale (Udinese and Italy) 17 games, 14 goals **

It is difficult to recall a player whose career enjoyed such a dramatic upturn after the age of 30 as Di Natale. The Udinese striker is still frightening defences at 35 and shows no obvious signs of decline. The Zebras have suffered an alarming dip in form this year, which is far from surprising given the number of players they have sold in recent seasons, but Di Natale has still been remarkably consistent.

Demba Ba (Chelsea/ Newcastle and Senegal) 20 games, 13 goals *

A move to Chelsea in the January transfer window was ample reward for Demba Ba’s heroics at Newcastle. The striker has been one of the few bright lights in Newcastle’s disappointing start to the season and his arrival at Stamford Bridge should now provide some much needed competition for Fernando Torres. Last season his form tailed off dramatically after Christmas so he needs to maintain focus in order to justify a starting berth.

Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany) 17 games, 12 goals *

The impressive displays of Stefan Kiessling have left Bayer Leverkusen as the closest challengers to Bayern Munich as the Bundesliga run-in beckons. The German striker has formed an excellent partnership with Andre Schurrle in the Leverkusen attack and his ability in the air makes his a more than capable target man. The club have the experience required to maintain their exemplary form and with Kiessling at his best they may well run Bayern close in the coming months.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Strikers Part 1

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) 16 games, 10 goals *

The hunt for Robert Lewandowski’s signature continues as the Polish forward is yet to agree an extension at BVB. Many believe that rumoured interest from Manchester United is merely a smokescreen used to push up his potential wages, but there is no denying the ability of Dortmund’s centre-forward. He has been a certain source of goals since his arrival at the club and would be an excellent acquisition for a host of top clubs.

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham and England) 22 games, 10 goals *

Many doubted the ability of Defoe to lead the line on his own, but this season has shown than not only he is a superb finisher, he is also a far more rounded player than in previous years. Major injury troubles have severely hit the team’s ability to field a consistent line-up, but both and home and abroad Defoe has helped to minimise the impact of the disruption. With many of those injured stars now returning, Andre Villas-Boas will hope Defoe fine form can support a top four finish.

Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem and Ivory Coast) 18 games, 16 goals *

Bony’s bright start to the season will lead many clubs to curse a missed opportunity. Liverpool had the striker on trial over five years ago but passed on the chance to sign him, prompting a move to Sparta Prague. That gave the Ivorian a period to acclimatise to European football and by the end of his time in the Czech Republic he looked to have progressed. Given Vitesse’s modest finances he looks certain to join either a larger Eredivisie team or leave the league come the summer.

Jackson Martinez (Porto and Colombia) 13 games, 12 goals *

No team can rival the consistency with which Porto unearth gems in South America. The Dragons are famed for the quality of their scouting and Martinez, a player they have tracked for a number of years, is further proof of the keen eyes of their talent spotters. The Colombian striker has settled superbly in Portugal and, in the absence of the departed Hulk, has carried the team’s attacking efforts.

Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray and Turkey) 15 games, 9 goals *

Having dominated the Turkish league at Trabzonspor last season the next frontier for Burak to conquer was naturally the international game. Gala sneaked into the knockout stages thanks primarily to the six goals that their new signing delivered and now face a far from daunting tie with Schalke. The powerful centre-forward has already made a name for himself in the Champions League, but could take a step to the next level if he maintains his scoring touch in Europe.

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao and Spain) 18 games, 11 goals *

Athletic’s poor autumn form was largely due to their pitiful efforts in front of goal. Were it not for the finishing of Aduriz the Basques would likely be propping up the Primera Division’s table. The contractual complications with Fernando Llorente have certainly hurt Bilbao’s prospects but Aduriz has proven a more than capable stand in, emulating his more illustrious teammate’s prowess in the air and leading the line with great courage.

Miroslav Klose (Lazio and Germany) 19 games, 10 goals *

The veteran German striker has been playing some of the best football of his career since his move to Rome. Despite his excellence at international level Klose has always possessed a rather underwhelming club record, but Lazio appear to have got the best out of their front man and his potency in front of goal has been a key factor in their unexpected title push.

Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord and Italy) 14 games, 14 goals *

Feyenoord are making a habit of excellent loan signings. Last year they took Manchester City’s John Guidetti to De Kuip, and this season brought in Pelle before shrewdly striking a permanent deal for the Italian striker. Tall and rangy he has set the Eredivisie on fire this campaign and his exceptional form has been the key factor in the club’s title challenge. While Feyenoord have made his deal “permanent” it would be no surprise to see an ambitious Serie A club look to take him back to Italy.

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Forwards

Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) 19 games, 28 goals ***

The transcendent ability of Lionel Messi continues to thrill and excite. Yet somehow, given the sheer unending nature of his brilliance, it is almost possible to not fully appreciate the magnitude of his greatness. Whether it was desire for a change or other motives there were those who didn't consider the Argentine to be the best player of 2012. The question is now how many years will it take for someone to overthrow his dominance.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) 18 games, 16 goals ***

By his own incredible standards 2012-13 has so far been slightly underwhelming for Cristiano Ronaldo. That he is currently the top scorer in the Champions League and is averaging roughly a goal a game in La Liga shows just how high our expectations are. Yet with Los Merengues well off the pace in the league and facing a tough European encounter with Manchester United he and his teammates will need to improve if they are to end the season with any silverware.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay) 21 games, 15 goals ***

The start of Brendan Rodgers' tenure at Liverpool has not been plain sailing. Had it not been for he influence of Luis Suarez it would have been disastrous. The Uruguayan has been in exceptional form so far this year, carrying the team a times and displaying quite why he is so popular at Anfield. The obvious worry for supporters is quite how long will he be willing to stay at a club who are unable (on present evidence) to challenge for major honours.

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich and Germany) 16 games, 9 goals **

After the phenomenal form that Muller showed in the 2009-10 season and the 2010 World Cup the last two years were something of a disappointment. This campaign he has been back to his absolute best with a series of exceptional performances for Bayern justifying quite why everyone was previously so excited about the young German international. Decision makers at FC Hollywood clearly felt the same by extending Muller’s contract until 2017.

Francesco Totti (Roma and Italy) 18 games, 6 goals **

At the age of 36 Totti is still excelling in Serie A. There may be more youthful alternatives but nobody possesses the imagination or creativity to make some of the passes that the Roma skipper pulls off. Admittedly some of those passes come at a price with Totti misplacing a fair proportion, but with six assists already in the league it is a worthwhile trade off.

Michu (Swansea and Spain) 21 games, 13 goals **

Arguably the signing of the season in the whole of Europe. The great question was why nobody challenged Swansea to sign an attacking midfielder who had scored15 goals for Rayo Vallecano the previous year. Regardless of his price he has proven an inspired acquisition for Michael Laudrup and has now been linked with a move to Atletico. Unsurprisingly Swansea would be looking for a lot more than £2m.

Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 17 games, 6 goals *

Dortmund's path to the top has largely been based on judicious scouting of underrated youngsters and the motivational techniques of Jurgen Klopp. When signing Marco Reus last January the club were returning to some of the big money acquisitions which had been their habit ten years ago. With Shinji Kagawa gone much of Dortmund's offensive expectations have come to rest with Reus and while he has perhaps yet to hit his Gladbach form he has still proven an excellent signing.

Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus and Italy) 18 games, 6 goals *

If there is a criticism of Juventus it is a lack of class in the final third of the pitch. The club dominate games but are sometimes undone by their inability to kill teams off. Potentially the player who is most hindered by the absence of a first-rate front man is Giovinco, who creates a multitude of chances that really should be capitalised on. As it is he has been as impressive this year as he was last and may be evolving into Italy's latest fantasista.

Erik Lamela (Roma and Argentina) 16 games, 10 goals *

The arrival of Zdenek Zeman appears to have brought the best out of Coco Lamela. The youngster has been in scintillating form on the right of Roma's attack where he is able to put his exceptional dribbling ability to good effect. The Argentine moved to Europe within enormous expectations given his age and ability and now seems well set to deliver on that talent. Certainly if he can maintain his goalscoring record Roma could yet find themselves in the top three at the end of the season.

Dusan Tadic (Twente and Serbia) 18 games, 8 goals *

The title challenge of Steve McClaren's Twente has been led by young Serb Tadic. Having joined for £6m in the summer from Gronigen, a sizeable fee by Dutch standards, there was good reason to expect Tadic to deliver but he has improved significantly at Twente. Already a Serbian international the Erediviie may not be able to keep hold of his gifts for much longer.

Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina and Montenegro) 15 games, 8 goals *

The rise and rise of Stevan Jovetic continues apace. The Fiorentina forward was among the leading talents of last season in Serie A and this term he has more than justified Fiorentina's decision to ward off potential suitors. With the Viola now seemingly active in looking to attract attackers it raises the question of whether they are supposed to support the Montenegrin or replace him.

Alex Meier (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 17 games, 11 goals *

Many of Frankfurt's leading lights this season have been youngsters who have not previously had a chance to prove themselves. Meier by contrast is something of a veteran who has been at the club for eight years without ever standing out at the highest level. This season he has certainly grabbed the attention of spectators with his ability in front of goal, providing the cutting edge that the team's enterprising approach work has otherwise been lacking.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Wingers

Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France) 12 games, 4 goals ***

Ribery appears to be one of those players who never gets his dues from British audiences. Perhaps it is his lack of success at national level, but the Frenchman has been one of the game's leading stars side his move to Bayern. A heavy scorer and provider of a wealth of assists, Ribery makes up for his lack of pace with exceptional dribbling ability and a hugely dangerous right boot. This season has arguably been his finest in Munich as he has carried the team to the German summit.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham and Wales) 17 games, 9 goals **

So far this season there has been more discussion of Bale’s diving than his football. That has unfairly masked the excellent performances that the Welshman has produced for both club and country. For Spurs he remains a huge attacking threat while for Wales he can on occasion be a one man team. Never was that more apparent than in his individual demolition of Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers.

Willian (Shakhtar Donestsk and Brazil) 14 games, 2 goals **

Numerous clubs were linked with a move for Willian in the summer, if they were to enquire again in 2013 it would be for a significantly higher price. The Brazilian was exceptional in the Champions League group stages, particularly in Shakhtar’s victory over Chelsea at the Donbass Arena. Fantastic individual trickery allied with rare vision make him one of the most dangerous wide players in the game.

James Rodriguez (Porto and Colombia) 12 games, 7 goals *

Already highly rated prior to the start of the season, this has been the year in which the young Colombian has come of age. Quick, direct and blessed with exceptional technique the Porto star has been one of the stand out performers in the Liga Sagres. Most of Europe's leading sides are monitoring his progress, but given Porto's history for driving a hard bargain he won't come cheap.

Romain Alessandrini (Rennes and France) 16 games, 7 goals *

It is often hard for players to make the step up from the lower leagues to the top flight. Alessandrini has proven in the last two seasons a Clermont to be a player of huge promise, but this campaign he has proven he can cut it against the best clubs in France. The youngster has a tendency to cut inside from the left wing and has demonstrated his potency in front of goal having scored seven in the league already this season.

Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina and Colombia) 18 games, 1 goal *

After a number of years in the doldrums Colombian football is enjoying a renaissance. There are certainly better known examples of the resurgence of the nation, but Cuadrado has proven an excellent signing for Fiorentina. While he's mainly used as a wingback at club level, for the Colombian national team he plays a more advanced role which suits his trickery on the ball and willingness of get forward at every opportunity.

Juan Arango (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Venezuela) 17 games, 5 goals *

The owner of the world's sweetest left foot may well not be Lionel Messi or Robin van Persie but Juan Arango. Gladbach's star midfielder has continued to enjoy his time in the Bundesliga with a penchant for spectacular shots from long range. Although he could never be described as prolific when Arango does hit the back of the net his goals tend to be memorable.

Dries Mertens (PSV Eindhoven and Belgium) 15 games, 7 goals *

Belgium's abundance of riches means that Dries Mertens has been relatively overlooked among spotters of young talent. The PSV star is at his best cutting inside on his right foot and is a superb free-kick taker with pinpoint accuracy. The success of his club has been based on numerous strong performers (Kevin Strootman in midfield is certainly worth of mention) but nobody has been a more dangerous threat in PSV's attack.

Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid and Turkey) 16 games, 5 goals *

With Adrian among the few Atleti players not to fire this season, much of the creative responsibility for the team's attacks has rested with Turan. Last season he showed why such a fuss had been made about his ability in Turkey and this year he has been equally good. A brilliant dribbler he has curbed some of the selfishness which was a trait before his move to Spain and is now an a prodigious provider from either wing.

Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium) 20 games, 4 goals *

After making a fantastic start to his Chelsea career, Hazard has been rather more muted in recent months. The precocious nature of his talents and his lack of experience at the highest level would perhaps suggest such a come-down, but he has still been impressive when afforded time and space. Given the calibre of his performances for Lille in recent years, there is no doubt there is still much more to come for the Blues.

Markel Susaeta (Athletic Bilbao and Spain) 17 games, 2 goals *

Last season saw Bilbao flying high as Marcelo Bielsa's influence made the Basques one of the most exciting clubs in Europe. This year has been far more problematic but Susaeta has been one of the few performers to seriously up his game. The winger has gained international recognition making his debut for Vicente del Bosque and scoring on his debut in a 5-1 victory over Panama.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Attacking Midfielders

Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 15 games, 6 goals ***

A common cliche is to refer to the return of an injured player as being "like a new signing" for the relevant club. If Dortmund were to have signed a player of Goetze's calibre in the summer it would surely have cost them in excess of £30m. For the youngster's technical ability and vision on the ball are worthy of the world's best players and if he can continue in his current vein of form the sky is the limit both for the club and the player over the rest of the year.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal and Spain) 20 games, 7 goals ***

The media don’t seem to be able to make up their mind about Arsenal this season. At one stage they were being touted as title contenders, then dismissed as in crisis. One man that everyone is sure about is Santi Cazorla. Technically outstanding the Spaniard has adapted to the Premier League immediately and demonstrated the form that made him a star at Villarreal and Malaga. Now commonly accepted as one of the league’s finest players.

Hernanes (Lazio and Brazil) 18 games, 7 goals **

For all the hype that surrounded Hernanes during his time at Sao Paulo it took an eternity for a European team to take a chance on him. Lazio have reaped the rewards of their faith in recent seasons as he has emerged as one of the finest playmakers in Serie A. Consistently overlooked by Mano Menezes at national level, “the prophet” will be hoping that Luis Felipe Scolari is more appreciative of his talents.

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) 13 games, 1 goal **

For some time the criticism of Iniesta has been that while he can shine on the biggest stage he doesn't deliver enough on a regular basis. So far this season he has suffered his usual injuries but when fit he has been contributing killer passes a he most regular rate of his career. With the big games set to come for Barca the demand will be to maintain his productivity and stand out against the best.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia) 17 games, 18 goals **

The departure of Jadson to Sao Paulo has allowed Mkhitaryan to develop still further this season. Previously playing in central midfield the move forward appears to have brought out the best in the Armenian international who is an expert at finding space between the lines. Shakhtar are reaping the rewards of his proficiency in front of goal with Mkhitaryan using his greater freedom to improve on his already impressive offensive contribution.

Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich and Germany) 17 games, 6 goals **

There appears to be a growing maturity about Toni Kroos. Everyone has known what a technically gifted footballer he is since he first emerged at youth level but he is now willing to shoulder his burden of responsibility within the Bayern team. Part of that must be due to the heightened competition for places that exists within the club, but he now looks well set to fulfil the lofty expectations that surround him.

Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain) 18 games, 7 goals **

Probably the outstanding player of Chelsea's season so far, Mata is one of the only attackers to consistently hit top form. While the arrivals of Oscar and Eden Hazard have made the club a greater threat going forward and added some much needed invention it has sometimes resulted in the Spaniard being placed out on the left flank. That is certainly not his preferred position and it is when he has had his opportunities through the centre that Mata has really been at his best.

Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona and Spain)16 games, 5 goals *

Last season saw Cesc Fabregas deployed in a variety of positions as Barca sought to integrate the former Arsenal man into the side. This season he has found himself more regularly in his natural midfield role rather than playing as a forward and while that has reduced his goalscoring it has allowed him to influence play more in deeper areas. Ultimately Fabregas has he versatility to excel wherever he is selected and at present he is on course for another stellar season.

Isco (Malaga and Spain) 18 games, 4 goals *

The most exciting “newcomer” of the last La Liga season has improved again this time around. So far his best performances have come in the Champions League, thrilling against Panathanaikos and then consistently impressing during Malaga’s surprisingly comfortably progression to the second round. It’s no wonder that he has recently received the “Golden Boy” award from Tuttosport as Europe’s most promising young player.

Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille and France) 19 games, 2 goals *

Providing the creative spark in a sometimes workmanlike midfield has been the duty of Valbuena this season. The diminutive Frenchman is fortunately full of ideas and is constantly disrupting opposing defences. New manager Elie Baup certainly seems to have got the best out of Valbuena who does have a tendency to blow hot and cold, but this season at least he has regularly been in peak form.

Marek Hamsik (Napoli and Slovakia) 19 games, 7 goals *

Hamsik has long been regarded as one of Europe's most promising young midfielders but his undeniable ability has often been hampered by chronic inconsistency. This season he has begun to address that, providing a consistency of performance that has bolstered Napoli's title challenge. The next target is for him to maintain this form throughout the season. If he does that then the hype will finally be justified.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England) 14 games, 7 goals *

Robin van Persie’s arrival at Old Trafford has led to a change in role for Rooney. Now employed as a deeper creator he has embraced the change in position and dovetailed well with the Dutch centre-forward. That may change again when Shinji Kagawa returns to the line-up but for now he seems to be revelling in the space he finds in the midfield as well as defending from the front with some excellent pressing play.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Central Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo (Juventus and Italy) 17 games, 4 goals ***

The air in Turin clearly agrees with Andrea Pirlo. Since moving to Juve in the summer of 2011 he has been reinvigorated and renewed, staking his claim again as the best central midfielder in the world. Certainly nobody can touch him in terms of elegance, or in the efficacy of his perfectly weighted chipped passes. Scandalously omitted from the Ballon d’Or’s final three, another Serie A title will be fit recompense for the Italian maestro.

Xavi (Barcelona and Spain) 18 games, 5 goals ***

At the Christmas break in La Liga Xavi not only possessed a pass completion ratio of over 95% but he made over 100 passes a game on average. That, in a nutshell, is why he remains the greatest regulating midfielder in the history of the game and arguably the most important defensive player in world football. That level of control, along with the goals of Lionel Messi, has been the route of Barca’s success over the last five years and with a new contract penned until 2016 Xavi will be racking up countless more passes in the future.

Arturo Vidal (Juventus and Chile) 15 games, 5 goals **

While other clubs may rival Juventus for quality, none possesses the complete range of talents that La Vecchia Signora enjoys, nor blends them together so well. Nowhere is that more apparent than in central midfield where the grace of Pirlo, the timing of Marchisio and, notably, the industry of Vidal come together. The Chilean possesses an armoury of abilities and has a fair claim to be the most complete box to box midfielder in world football.

Marouane Fellaini (Everton and Belgium) 16 games, 8 goals **

Aside from his despicable head butt on Ryan Shawcross recently and the consequent three match ban, this has been a tremendous season for Fellaini. His robust physicality is normally a major virtue and he was superb against Manchester United early in the season to set the tone for Everton’s great start. Given the Toffees’ habitual improvement in the second half of the year we can expect Fellaini to be again to the fore in the remainder of the campaign.

Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk and Brazil) 16 games, 1 goal **

The driving force in Shakhtar's midfield Fernandinho was outstanding in the autumn's Champions League campaign. Possessing an innate sense of where to position himself, the presence of Tomas Hubschman allows the Brazilian to surge forward on occasion and utilise his technical ability in advanced areas of the pitch. With an excellent shot and competent with both feet Fernandinho illustrates the wealth of options Brazil have at their disposal.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich and Germany) 16 games, 4 goals **

An injury to Schweinsteiger midway through the 2011-12 season did immeasurable damage to Bayern Munich's domestic campaign. For while the team can rely on numerous match winners the German star remains the driving force in midfield and provides remarkable authority which seems lacking in his absence. So far this year he has probably not been at his very best but his continued presence will be vital for the club to avoid a similar decline.

Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain and France) 18 games, 3 goals *

Much of the focus around PSG this season has naturally been directed towards their expensive summer signings. One player who has deserved greater attention has been Matuidi whose performances in the centre of midfield have been the basis of so much that is good about the Parisians. A hive of energy, the Frenchman drives the team forward but possesses the work ethic to cover for his more adventurous colleagues.

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid and Spain) 17 games, 0 goals *

Despite the many challenges that Real Madrid have faced this season, one man who has continued to dictate the tempo of their game has been Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard has had to cope with the arrival of Luka Modric and the absence of Sami Khedira, but has maintained the rhythm of his passing and kept Madrid ticking. Alonso is yet to sign a contract extension at the Bernabeu but won't be short of offers if he were to decide to leave.

Steed Malbranque (Lyon and France) 16 games, 2 goals *

Few could have believed at the start of the season that Steed Malbranque would be among the stars of Le Championnat. After a spell with St Etienne during the last term was hugely underwhelming he has enjoyed probably the best form of his career as Lyon have mounted an unexpected title challenge. Nimble on the ball and with excellent distribution, he’s given a fantastic new weapon to coach Remi Garde.

Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 13 games, 1 goal *

A revelation last time around Gundogan has been even better so far this term. An exceptional short passer, his intelligent distribution and willingness to receive the ball means that Dortmund always have an option under pressure. This season has seen him show his considerable talents on the Champions League stage and he now looks set to grow into one of the continent's finest midfielders.

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal and Spain) 20 games, 4 goals *

Other players have certainly grabbed more headlines for Arsenal this season but Mikel Arteta has been the man who had steadily provided the ammunition to to the damage. The accuracy of his passing and his ability to find space to make himself available for a pass is among the best in the league. With Jack Wilshere now back and fit some of the onus may have been lifted from the Spaniard's shoulders, but expect him to continue to boss a midfield in which Arteta is the centre-piece.

David Pizarro (Fiorentina and Chile) 15 games, 1 goal *

Pizarro barely got a kick when on loan at Manchester City last season, but this term he has shown quite what a fine midfield playmaker he is. Fiorentina's midfield boasts a wealth of similarly minded player and the team have surprised many with the strides they have made up the table. Certainly the availability of Pizarro is of tremendous help given his depth of experience during previous title challenges with Roma.

Aaron Hunt (Werder Bremen and Germany) 15 games, 6 goals *

Werder Bremen have not made the best of starts to their Bundesliga campaign but Hunt has been a bright light during a mediocre winter. Not afraid to have a pop at goal, Hunt has been in prolific form with six already in the league, as well as turning creator on occasion as well. Germany have a wealth of options in the centre of midfield but if he continues to play as he has Hunt may well force himself into contention as a worthy alternative.

Borja Valero (Fiorentina and Spain) 19 games, 1 goal *

No team have benefitted from the relegation of Villarreal quite like Fiorentina. Having signed Gonzalo Rodriguez and Borja Valero in the summer, the Viola now look set to pounce for striker Giuseppe Rossi. Valero has been one of the year's best acquisitions with his calm and measured passing setting the tone for Fiorentina's charge up the Serie A table. Few can match the Spaniard for his ball retention and the ability to pick the right pass under pressure.

Remy Cabella (Montpellier and France) 19 games, 5 goals *

Montpellier's title victory last season was an enormous shock, but the extent of their decline this time round has been almost as surprising. While many of the team's leading lights have failed to reproduce their form from last year Cabella has been even better as he pulls the strings in the heart of midfield. According to L'Equipe only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has performed better in Ligue 1 which indicates quite what level the Montpellier man has reached.

Sebastian Rode (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 17 games, o goals *

This season has seen Rode come on leaps and bounds as he has made the step up to play in the top flight. The youngster has already proven his ability throughout German youth teams but few expected him to make quite such a big impact in the Bundesliga. Neat and tidy in possession, he and Pirmin Schwegler have formed an excellent partnership and provided a strong central base for Frankfurt. That control in midfield has been a vital part of hugely impressive season.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Defensive Midfielders

Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain) 17 games, 1 goal **

In Barcelona's possession game, the role played by Busquets is rarely given its due credit. For almost no midfielder possesses better positional awareness or is more adept at quickly cycling the ball to evade opposition pressing. This season he has continued to play his normal game and give the world's leading club a rock solid base from which to build.

Michael Carrick (Manchester United and England) 20 games, 0 goals **

If one word could characterise Manchester United’s season so far it would be “frantic”. Despite topping the table at Christmas they have rarely looked in control, even against weaker sides. The one man who does provide that surety in central midfield is Carrick whose clever and measured passing has been a rare beacon of calm as those around him lose their heads.

Maxime Gonalons (Lyon and France) 18 games, 2 goals *

One of the finest passers in Ligue 1 this season has been Lyon’s superb midfielder. Unflashy, the French youngster is a master of retaining possession, but has the vision and the skill to launch a well aimed long ball when needed. Not a player who has generated to much hype in recent years, but he certainly has the quality to establish himself in both the French national team and, if the price is right, in one of Europe’s biggest leagues.

Benat (Real Betis and Spain) 16 games, 4 goals *

Recent seasons have not been kind to Betis who have found themselves firmly in the shadow of neighbours Sevilla. One bright light has been Benat, the Basque playmaker who has carved a reputation as a first class set piece expert. Though he didn’t make Spain’s squad for Euro 2012 the year marked his debut for the national team which, given the depth of midfielders that La Roja enjoy, indicates quite how good a player he is. That ability also indicates that he probably won’t be at Real Betis for much longer.

Sandro (Tottenham and Brazil) 21 games, 1 goal *

Though he had a part to play in Spurs’ fourth place last season, the presence of Luka Modric and Scott Parker meant that Sandro was not always an automatic choice under Harry Redknapp. The departure of the Croat and injury to Tottenham’s player of the season have afforded the Brazilian more opportunities and he now seems the focal point of a strong midfield. One criticism is a tendency to allow his over-eagerness lead to unnecessary and sometimes dangerous free-kicks.

Esteban Cambiasso (Inter and Argentina) 19 games, 2 goals *

Cambiasso’s career had appeared to be in decline since his 2010 Champions League victory, but the 2012-13 season has witnessed a return to form. Often employed further forward than his traditional sitting role, he has revelled in the additional responsibility and has posed a credible goal threat when arriving in the box. With Inter appearing to falter in the league they need the calm head of Cambiasso to steady the ship.

Victor Wanyama (Celtic and Kenya) 20 games, 5 goals *

Kenya is not a country renowned for the calibre of its footballers. Along with brother McDonald Mariga, Wanyama is already a credible candidate as his nation’s greatest ever player, and he is still only 21. His tireless energy and discipline are characteristics for which his compatriots are probably better known, but he has impressive ability on the ball which means he can be noted for more than just his athleticism.

Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt and Switzerland) 15 games, 2 goals *

Only returning to the Bundesliga in the summer, Frankfurt are one of the league's traditional big boys. Yet despite their illustrious history few expected them to be in the top four at Christmas. That they are can partially be attributed to the performances of Schwegler, a Swiss international who has been at the club for three years. The midfielder is primarily a regulating passer who wins the ball an passes it to those more able, though he does enjoy a speculative long distance effort from time to time.

Etienne Capoue (Toulouse and France) 17 games, 3 goals *

Toulouse have endured a mixed start to the season, losing as many games as they have won and generally floating around mid table. Capoue's performance meanwhile have been anything but mixed, with a string of powerful displays in the centre of the team's midfield. At his best he's a player who can seemingly do everything, as a proficient passer and tackler and possessing an ability to time his bursts forward well. Certain to move to a bigger club before long.

Mario Suarez (Atletico Madrid and Spain) 14 games, 1 goal *

The midfield engine room of Koke, Gabi and Mario Suarez has played an integral part in Atleti's phenomenal start to the season. The trio are largely unheralded but perform vital work in allowing the likes of Arda Turam and Falcao to play. The height of Suarez is unusual for a player in his position, but allows him to gain an advantage for his side in the hustle and bustle of the busy midfield. Time for more credit to be given to the industrious Spaniard.

Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion and Argentina) 14 games, 0 goals *

Few could have predicted that the solid if unspectacular Yacob that we saw at Racing Club would have settled quite so well in the Premier League. Admittedly, he hasn’t maintained the exceptional form that he displayed at the start of the season, partly due to injury, but he has still far exceeded expectations. Positionally sound and demonstrating clever distribution he has given West Brom a whole new dimension.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Centre-backs

Dante (Bayern Munich and Brazil) 17 games, 1 goal **

An outstanding performer last season at Gladbach, Dante has improved again this year following his move to Bayern. Athletic, competent on the ball and excellent in the air, the Brazilian seemingly has the lot. Die Roten’s defensive performances this season have owed so much to the air of calm that their afro-haired centre-back exudes. What baffles is how it has taken so long for him to show this form, given that he is now 29.

Andrea Ranocchia (Inter and Italy) 17 games, 1 goal **

For a player who has improved enormously this season, Ranocchia still has the power to infuriate. As good in the air as you would expect for a player of his height he still has a habit of making untimely but crucial errors. Despite that his overall performances have been consistently excellent and he now seems to be developing into the player many hoped for when he was at Bari.

Thiago Silva (PSG and Brazil) 14 games, 0 goals **

The expectation of becoming the world’s most expensive defender might have weighed heavily on some players. Not Thiago Silva. Instead the Brazilian has settled well in Paris and is demonstrating some of the form that led him to be regarded as the best centre-back in the game. If he maintains that level of performance the Parisians should find themselves celebrating come May.

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus and Italy) 13 games, 0 goals **

Juventus have a history of doggedly determined defenders, from Claudio Gentile to Ciro Ferrara, and Giorgio Chiellini is mounting a considerable case to be at the head of the pantheon. Superb last season, he has again been to the fore, though injury has taken its toll on occasion. The Old Lady look to be untouchable in Serie A, now with a winnable tie against Celtic in the Champions League, they will be looking to make major progress in Europe.

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay) 17 games, 1 goal *

Godin’s fine season began with the European Super Cup and he has maintained this rich vein of form ever since. The Uruguayan is physical and very strong in the air, focusing primarily on the art of defending, rather than seeking to over-elaborate. Atleti are currently enjoying their finest season since the title winning year of 1995-6 and can thank Godin for their impressive displays at the back.

Water Samuel (Inter and Argentina) 12 games, 1 goal *

The Wall remains as impenetrable as ever. Even at 34 Samuel has not lost any of his tenacity or desire to win. Aerially excellent despite his stature, he epitomises the street smarts that South American defenders are renowned for. His derby record is remarkable and he was to the fore again these season with a crucial goal in a victory over Milan.

Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 16 games, 1 goal *

Following two seasons as arguably the best defender in Europe, Hummels has not quite been at his best in the Bundesliga this season. In Europe though he has shown much of his finest form and was instrumental in Dortmund topping an extremely difficult group in some style. During their title winning campaigns Dortmund always came on strongly in the second half of the season and they will need to do so again if they are to overhaul Bayern at home.

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain) 17 games, 1 goal *

A constant theme of all Jose Mourinho teams since his days at Porto has been the solidity of his defence. This season Real Madrid have been sorely lacking in the control and certainty that is normally a given with the “Special One” in the dug out. Sergio Ramos began his conversion back into the central role he played at Sevilla last year and it continues to look his natural home. Madrid now need his team mates to emulate his exploits.

Gonzalo Rodriguez (Fiorentina and Argentina) 17 games, 5 goals *

After the relegation of Villarreal last season it was inevitable that their most prized possessions would move on. One man who certainly fell into that category was Rodriguez who had established himself as among the most commanding centre-backs in La Liga before the Yellow Submarine’s demise. Fiorentina are now benefitting from that ability, both at the back and, more surprisingly, in attack where he has so far been deadly.

Martin Demichelis (Malaga and Argentina) 16 games, 2 goals *

It is often said that a blend of youth and experience is required for any team looking to have success. At Malaga Demichelis definitely falls into the latter category. The Argentine is a player who tends to veer between excellence and awfulness, as supporters of Bayern Munich will testify, but so far this season he appears to be enjoying a purple patch and will supply vital know-how in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Miranda (Atletico Madrid and Brazil) 16 games, 2 goals *

Despite his effeminate name Miranda is not a defender that front men relish tangling with. The Brazilian stopper has been in fine form, with a well established partnership with Diego Godin proving fruitful. Physically imposing, he was very highly rated in his native Brazil and was an integral part of Muricy Ramalho’s all-conquering Sao Paulo side before joining Atleti in 2011.

Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli and Argentina) 15 games, 0 goals *

The two point deduction that Napoli have suffered in respect of match fixing may yet cost them Champions League qualification. The club currently sit fifth but have been as good as any side, bar Juventus, so far in Serie A. Among their most impressive performers has been the indomitable Campagnaro, a player of tremendous grit and spirit who will need to step up yet further following the ban on club captain Paolo Cannavaro.

Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille and Cameroon) 19 games, 0 goals *

The good news for Marseille is that Cameroon’s failure to qualify for the African Cup of Nations means they will not be deprived of the services of Nkoulou this January. For while Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have never heard of the defender he is undeniably one of the finest centre-backs in Ligue 1. Atheltic, reasonable on the ball and a disciplined marker he has been a stand out performer in L’OM’s title challenge so far.

Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke and Germany) 15 games, 0 goals *

The partnership formed between Hoewedes and Kyriakos Papadopoulos at the heart of Schalke’s defence has been among the best in Europe this season. The German has previously suffered from his versatility with managers using him to plug problem positions but this term he has benefitted from a settled role and partner. Given Holger Badstuber’s injury and the ongoing lack of form of Per Mertesacker there may be a chance for Hoewedes to establish himself in the German national team.

Ezequiel Garay (Benfica and Argentina) 12 games, 0 goals *

Since the retirement of Roberto Ayala the Argentine national team has been crying out for a centre-back who is able to anchor the side. Alejandro Sabella now seems to have a host of options to select from, but looks to have installed Garay and Napoli’s Federico Fernandez as his first choice pair. The tall Garay is certainly composed on the ball and has the pace needed to make up for any over-confidence. His move to Portugal has been a resounding success after a disappointing spell at Real Madrid.

Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City and England) 20 games, 1 goal *

No team had a better defensive record in the first half of the season in England than Stoke City. Manchester United youth graduate, Shawcross, has been at the heart of their success, forming a superb partnership with Robert Huth. The Englishman embodies Stoke’s will to win and never say die attitude which has seen them develop into a test for any visiting attacker. A first full England cap against Sweden in October was well earned.

Gil (Valenciennes and Brazil) 15 games, 1 goal *

One of the surprise successes of Ligue 1 this season so far has been Valenciennes. While their recent form has been slightly underwhelming, the club began the season extremely well and have to thank their commanding, Brazilian centre-back for much of that. Tall and good in the air, he arrived from Cruzeiro 18 months ago and has proven to be a big hit in Le Championnat. Whether he or the club can maintain this form is less certain.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Fullbacks

Jordi Alba (Barcelona and Spain) 15 games, 2 goals **

No transfer this summer looked more certain to be a success than Jordi Alba’s return to Barcelona. Having served his footballing apprenticeship at La Masia and enjoying an excellent understanding with so many of his new team mates from the Spanish national team he has slotted in immediately. His arrival looks to have solved one of the few remaining problems for Barca and he looks set to be a fixture in the side for many years to come.

Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany) 17 games, 0 goals **

Arguably the most consistent full-back of the last decade, it seems incredible that Lahm is still only 29. This season has been among his best and his leadership skills have helped to propel Bayern to one of the best Hinrunde performances in Bundesliga history. At present it seems hard to see any rival emerging and if the team can hold on it will see their captain clinch a fifth league title.

Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk and Croatia) 17 games, 1 goal **

The energy supplied by the Croatian veteran down Shakhtar’s right-flank remains at crucial as ever. With Alex Teixeira frequently drifting off the wing and into his preferred central position, Srna tends to have a great deal of space in which to operate and deliver his pin point crosses. Facing a tough Champions League draw as the reward for their group stage exploits, Shakhtar will need their captain’s vast experience if they are to progress further.

Leighton Baines (Everton and England) 21 games, 3 goals **

Everton’s excellent start to the season had much to do with the fine form of Baines. Not just a strong defender, what marks him out is his offensive contribution with superb crosses well suited to Everton’s aerial threats. For a number of years the understudy to Ashley Cole, there is now a reasonable argument that he should be England’s first choice left back. Rumours of a move to Manchester United continue.

Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus and Ghana) 18 games, 1 goal **

The immense vitality that Asamoah brought to bear at Udinese has been more than apparent down the left flank of Juventus this season. From his wing-back role Asamoah is at his best when marauding forward, but he does his fair share of defensive work too. The Ghanaian’s power and strength now mark him out as one of the most athletic players in the game.

Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City and Argentina) 16 games, 2 goals *

Manchester City have experienced a perplexing start to the season. Woeful in Europe, the team still find themselves in the hunt to retain their league title despite the failure of many of their big stars to hit top form. Probably their most consistent performer this season has been utility man Zabaleta, whose steely determination contrasts so sharply with many of the high earning dilettantes who litter the Etihad.

Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid and Brazil) 14 games, 0 goals *

There are certainly players who have taken more plaudits for Atleti’s excellent start to the season than their left-back. Despite that Filipe Luis has been a constant source of invention down the flank and a regular threat to opposing defences. Having rejected the chance to play for Poland, the nation of his father’s birth, he will be hoping for a recall to the national team in recognition of his impressive play.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham and Belgium) 19 games, 1 goal *

In the absence of Benoit Assou-Ekotto the Belgian has found himself playing at left-back rather than his preferred central position throughout his early period in England. Despite that he has acquitted himself admirably, drawing praise for his excellent distribution and general calm on the ball. A cleanly taken strike against Swansea recently reminded fans of the potency in front of goal he was renowned for at Ajax.

Bastian Oczipka (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 17 games, 0 goals *

Bayer Leverkusen acquired one excellent full-back during the summer in the shape of Daniel Carvajal and allowed another to slip through their grasp. Oczipka has been the Bundesliga’s most creative defender so far this year, with a phenomenal seven assists in the first half of the season. An excellent crosser and hugely comfortable going forward the young German has been a vital part of Frankfurt’s shock rise.

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea and Serbia) 19 games, 4 goals *

This season has seen Branislav Ivanovic asked to switch frequently between right-back and centre-back as the Blues have looked to cope with the loss of John Terry and accommodate the attacking threat of new signing Cesar Azpilicueta. The Serbian’s versatility has been important, but equally significant have been the goals he has scored from defence. As fine a header of the ball as there is in the league, he could yet finish on double figures if he continues this way.

Cicinho (Sevilla and Brazil) 14 games, 1 goal *

Often confused with his compatriot of the same name, it can’t be too long before everyone is aware of Sevilla’s exciting young right-back. It was unsurprising that the Andalucians swooped for his services after an excellent spell at Palmeiras saw him selected as the best player in his position in the Sao Paulo state championship. Now Sevilla are struggling and find themselves in the bottom half of La Liga at the winter break, it will increase the pressure on their young Brazilian to maintain his impressive form.

Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund and Poland) 16 games, 1 goal *

Despite their excellent league form over the previous two years Dortmund surprised many with the way in which they cruised through one of the most difficult Champions League groups of recent seasons. Piszczek has been one of the stand out performers for Die Schwarzgelben during their golden period and has maintained his best form during the season so far. For the time being he seems happy in the Ruhr, but many of Europe’s wealthiest clubs have an eye on the Pole.

Benoit Tremoulinas (Bordeaux and France) 15 games, 1 goal *

A debut for the French national team was just reward for an excellent start to the year for Tremoulinas. The attacking left-back has been raiding down the flank all season and was back at the level he showed for Bordeaux in their title winning year of 2010. Didier Deschamps is a clear admirer and given a lack of potential rivals he has the quality to cement the position as his own.

Daniel Carvajal (Bayer Leverkusen and Spain) 15 games, 1 goal *

A product of the Real Madrid youth system, Carvajal has settled in excellently during his formative months in the Bundesliga. An attacking full-back, the youngster has already displayed the offensive potential which marked him out in Spain, with four assists before the Christmas break. Right-back is probably the position in which Spain are currently least strong and Carvajal may well be battling Cesar Azpilicueta and Martin Montoya in the years ahead.

Ismailiy (Braga and Brazil) 6 games, 1 goal *

Many Brazilians arrive in Europe with vast price tags and equally large reputations. Others, like Ismailiy, fly under the radar and are forced to earn every ounce of recognition they receive. The youngster moved to Portugal with second flight Estoril, before stepping up two years ago with Olhanense. His efforts in the Liga Sagres were sufficiently impressive to lead Braga, one of the shrewdest judges of talent in European football, to acquire his services and so far he has not let them down.

Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moscow and Russia) 18 games, 6 goals *

Whether at left-back or on the left of midfield, Russian international Kombarov loves to venture forward down his wing. Yuri Zhirkov’s absence during the autumn internationals allowed him to show Fabio Capello his strengths, including the set-pieces which are his real specialism. Spartak’s disastrous Champions League campaign was enough to unseat Unai Emery, now returning manager, Valery Karpin, needs Kombarov to be at his best if the club are to return to the competition next season.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Rangliste Winter 2012-13 - Goalkeepers

Rene Adler (Hamburg and Germany) 17 games, 0 goals **
A switch to Hamburg has been just the tonic that the career of Rene Adler was crying out for. Previously the German number one he was displaced by Bernd Leno at Bayer Leverkusen last season and appeared to have his best days behind him. The form he has shown at Hamburg has arguably been the best of his career and led to a recall to the German national team for a recent friendly with the Netherlands.
Samir Handanovic (Inter and Slovenia) 16 games, 0 goals **
Following his summer move from Udinese, Handanovic has continued the form which impressed so much for the zebras. Inter’s early season form has been built on the security Handanovic provides, in marked contrast to the difficulties faced by his former club.  Given his height it is sometimes surprising quite how agile the Slovenian international is, but few can question his ability to pull off remarkable saves.
Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 17 games, 0 goals *
Arguably the story of the season so far in the Bundesliga has been the remarkable success of Frankfurt. Although they have fallen away slightly in recent weeks the performances of Trapp were integral in that fine form. Every inch a modern keeper, with excellent distribution and positioning, Germany appear to have yet another young prospect competing to displace Manuel Neuer.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy) 16 games, 0 goals *
While they have already suffered two defeats this season, breaking an exceptional unbeaten run, Juventus actually look stronger this season than they did last time out. Buffon remains unflappable and is a constant source of security behind the Old Lady’s tried and tested back three. If one question can be raised it is that he has rarely seen enough action to truly demonstrate his finest form.

Fraser Forster (Celtic and England) 20 games, 0 goals *
Celtic’s champions league progression owes a huge debt to the performances of Forster. A spectacular shot stopper who proved almost unbeatable at times he has drawn many admiring glances from across the continent. With England’s goalkeeping situation far from a picture of health he could well be a credible alternative to Joe Hart and Jack Butland.
Remy Vercoutre (Lyon and France) 17 games, 0 goals *
The departure of Hugo Lloris to Tottenham might well have threatened to derail Lyon’s season. Instead, understudy Vecoutre has stepped up and made the position his own with a series of unflappable performances. Having been at the club for over ten years the keeper has had precious few opportunities in the past , playing second fiddle to Gregory Coupet before Lloris, but has now staked a great claim to the jersey on a permanent basis.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany) 17 games, 0 goals *
Given the remarkable team performances from Bayern during the Hinrunde it has sometimes been difficult to gauge quite how well Manuel Neuer has been playing. Such has been the dominance enjoyed by the German leaders there have been whole games in which he has hardly been tested. Yet when called upon Neuer remains a keeper of exceptional class and has proven he has the concentration to leap into action at a moment’s notice.
Federico Marchetti (Lazio and Italy) 13 games, 0 goals *
Lazio’s second place at the Christmas break has owed much to the heroics of goalkeeper Federico Marchetti. Indeed, the impact of his absence from the side has been noticeable, with Lazio conceding 10 goals in the five league games he has missed, compared with just 8 in his thirteen appearances. At his best in the team’s 0-0 draw with Juventus in November, Lazio will need him to remain in such fine form if they are to consolidate their Champions League position.
Willy Caballero (Málaga and Argentina) 17 games, 0 goals *
Malaga’s strong start to the season has been founded on a superb defensive record. Nobody can take more credit for that than Caballero, who despite his modest price tag is looking like one of the club’s shrewdest signings. Given the difficulties Argentina have had in goal in recent years it might not be too late for an international debut.
Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Republic) 19 games, 0 goals *
Few clubs have endured greater volatility over recent year than Chelsea, and the disruption caused by Roberto di Matteo’s sacking proves this season is no exception. Despite that Petr Cech remains a rare beacon of stability in Chelsea defence. Having returned to something approaching his best during last year’s Champions League success, that form has been continued this season as he has captained the team in the absence of John Terry and Frank Lampard.

European Rangliste - Winter 2012-13

This time last year I set out to emulate German magazine kicker, who have, since the 1950s, prepared a ratings system to evaluate the performance of players throughout the year. Initially limited to Germans based domestically it was in time widened to include foreigners in the Bundesliga and eventually German players based overseas. This list covers the first half of the European season 2012-13 and will be updated at the end of the season with ratings for the entire campaign.

The kicker writers have historically assessed the performances of players on a semi-annual basis and then categorized them into the following categories:

- World Class
- International Class
- Broader Circle
- In Focus

In order to simplify these (I am after all looking at the whole of Europe) I have amalgamated the bottom two categories into a single “National Class”.

Note: My rankings do not necessarily correlate with those of kicker. The magazine has never published the criteria that they work on in determining the level of performance, nor make clear how the ratings would tally with the rest of the world. As such a player that kicker deem to be international class may well end up in a different category under my rankings.

These rankings as ever are naturally subjective and in no way claim to be definitive. They should hopefully though be interesting and provide some food for thought. Many thanks go to the various people who have given me suggestions in this, they were hugely appreciated


These rankings apply to all players based in Europe in a given period. They focus primarily on domestic and European performances, with due consideration given to internationals but exclude continental tournaments such as the World Cup, European Championships and Copa America. Consideration is given to the calibre of competition and opposition faced to reflect the difficulty in obtaining performances. Therefore an outstanding performance in the Belgian league will count for less than one in the Champions League final.

Players are rewarded for competing to a high standard in multiple competitions and for maintaining consistency throughout the period. Where a player is injured for a period of time in a season it may prevent them demonstrating the necessary consistency to be classified as world or international class.

The rankings consider merely the performances made during the period in question. They do not look at the ability or past history of a player, only how they have played during the year studied. They do not assess the completeness or variety of talents a player demonstrates either, merely the level to which he influences the games played in.

Note: In any given season there may be no players performing to a world class level in a particular position, players do not become world class by default (ie the lack of performance by others) but by the performances they make.

All appearance and goal information provided relates only to domestic league performances.


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)