FIFPro World XI – A Prediction

Each year FIFPro invite all professional footballers to vote for a goalkeeper, 4 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 3 strikers to compose the FIFPro World XI. With the 2013 World XI to be announced at the Ballon d’Or awards soon in mid-January, I’m allowing myself to fantasise about being a professional footballer and choosing my World XI from the current shortlist.

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer

With Iker Casillas, goalkeeper in the World XI for the past 5 years, out of favour at Madrid under both Mourinho and Ancelotti the time is right for Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer to claim the throne. The German’s second full year at Bayern has been incredibly successful and this is largely due to Neuer’s command of his defence. Voted fans player of the year in the Champions League Final, he is a shoe-in for Goalkeeper of the Year for 2013 and many years to follow.

Defender: Leighton Baines

It’d be quite controversial to pick an Everton player in the World XI but Leighton Baines certainly deserves it. Baines ended in 2013 season with 97 goal scoring opportunities created, the most of ANYONE in Europe and if Everton had a better striker than Jelavic you can bet he would’ve had more assists to his name. Baines has shown he’s a great danger from free kicks and has proven himself a better choice than Ashley Cole to be England’s left back in the World Cup in Brazil.

Defender: Thiago Silva

Since his €42M move from AC Milan to PSG, Thiago Silva has been the jewel in what you could call an average defence. The Brazilian was ever-present in PSG’s first Ligue 1 win since 1994 and in August was named new captain for the current season. Ultra-reliable Thiago Silva gives allows PSG’s very talented midfield the freedom to roam forward safe in the knowledge that Silva will be able to deal with any counter attack that should be sprung. Indispensable to the French champions.

Defender: Dante

Bayern Munich’s treble winning side broke multiple records in 2013, most notably for having conceded the fewest goals in a Bundesliga season ever (18). Dante was second to only goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in total minutes on the pitch which displays his great contribution to an incredible side. His ability to read an attack is as good as I’ve seen in world football. Bayern are 10 points clear of rivals Borussia Dortmund at the time of writing and this is in no small part down to Dante’s performances.

Defender: Philipp Lahm

Every great side needs a great captain. Manchester United’s treble winning side had Roy Keane, Arsenal’s invincibles had Patrick Vieira and Bayern Munich has Philipp Lahm. Pep Guardiola has called him “the most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career” and for good reason. Lahm is unflappable in the most nerving situations and that rubs off on his team mates. This would be his first appearance in the FIFPro World XI and even at the age of 31 he could appear a couple more times before retirement.

Midfielder: Gareth Bale

This summer Bale became the most expensive player in world football and though you could argue he didn’t warrant the astronomical sum, you can’t argue he doesn’t deserve a place in the World XI. Bale carried Tottenham on his back through the first part of 2013 scoring some unbelievable goals in the process. Without his goals in the 2012/2013 season Spurs would’ve finished ninth, a testament to Bale’s worth. After a niggling injury he’s settled in well at Madrid and has shown he is well-worthy of sporting the shirt.

Midfielder: Arturo Vidal

Vidal is the centre-piece of the fantastic Juventus side that has eased to victory in Serie A these past two years. Whether he is given a defensive or attacking role you can count on a performance from Vidal as Juventus have in 2013. Quite unbelievably he is Juventus’ top scorer in all competitions in 2013 despite his central midfield role. Fire in the belly and bite in the tackle on top of his goal-scoring prowess earns him his spot on the World XI – we’ll ignore the 12 yellow cards he accumulated.

Midfielder: Franck Ribéry

The least fancied player on the shortlist of 3 for the Ballon d’Or trophy, Franck Ribéry embodied everything Bayern Munich stood for last season. His 14 assists in the league made him second only to Andres Iniesta across Europe’s 5 major leagues and he’s not shy in front of goal either, contributing a helpful 11 goals. His impressive form has continued into the current season and he’ll no doubt be spearheading Bayern’s charge to inevitably lifting the Bundesliga trophy again in 2014.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has been simply unbelievable in recent times but has still missed out on the Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi for the past 4 years. After 4 seasons of remarkable form he seems to have found another gear unconceivable to most players. 25 goals in 18 games since August and 55 in 55 in all of last season is obscene and the Portuguese shows no signs of yielding. It would seem Ronaldo has finally done enough to beat Messi to the major award, but stranger things have happened.

Striker: Lionel Messi

Messi’s start to the 2013/14 season has been hampered by injury, hindering his chances of winning and unprecedented 5th Ballon d’Or in a row, but it won’t keep him out the World XI (and rightly so). Last season he scored 5 more goals than Ronaldo in 5 fewer games and his ability to stand out in a star-studded team such as Barcelona is incredible. Barcelona don’t look the same all-conquering side when Messi is injured – understandable considering he’s one of the best ever to play the game.

Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Some have been critical of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the past, but no-one can criticise him this year. Zlatan led the way as PSG won Ligue 1 with some sparkling team performances, whilst also claiming the golden boot for himself. His overhead kick from 30 yards for Sweden against England is, for good reason, odds on favourite to win the Puskas award (for most beautiful goal), but he’ll feel aggrieved to not be in the final 3 nominees for the Ballon d’Or.


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