We’re all intelligent and sane enough to identify FIFA as a farcical clown ship on the deep seas of deceit and enslavement. We simply do not take them seriously and I certainly do not take their decisions seriously to any degree. They cater to the most expensive wallets and operate above all laws. #wankers
Breathe. I’m fine.
Now, as their The Best awards just ended at a glittering ceremony in London featuring celebrities and football icons, it is imperative that I have my say on the perennially maligned World XI. The positions usually go to whichever Real Madrid and Barcelona players can make the reception and absolutely zero care is taken to include the footballers actually worthy of this highest honor. While I am also going to select many of the stars whom actually won, it is essential to include some debate and context as well as mention players who could have just as easily slotted in. As always, you have to keep in mind what these players won with their clubs as well as the leagues they play in. Some of the inclusions need no explanation.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus); it cannot be overstated how dominantly beautiful this backline was throughout a wildly successful campaign ending with another Serie A title and a Champions League silver medal. Buffon seems to be getting even better with age and will look to stay fit and in form for Italy next summer. David de Gea did not even make FIFA’s top 10, which is infuriating and patently laughable. The Manchester United ‘keep is genuinely one of if not the best in the world. A phenom. Each and every week he seems to pull off yet another mind boggling save, and undoubtedly would not have been misplaced holding this trophy.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid); a sublime defender contributing goals as well as making sure Real Madrid don’t concede on the counter. I moved Ramos to the right, which was his original position many years ago, because I can. You should know by now I’m awesome and do what I want. His teammate Dani Carvajal should also get a mention as a very worthy winner here.
Centre Back: Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus); it is foolish to omit the man from Pisa off this squad after, alongside his fellow defenders, pocketing every prolific forward the sport has to offer. The Juve defence was monumental. They were just such a force. Real Madrid in the Champuons League final the only team to really unlock this back line. And, well, ask anybody with a heartbeat: nobody is stopping CR7.
Centre Back: Leonardo Bonucci (Milan); unfortunate that Milan’s newest leader left Juventus after being such an integral component of that colossal wall in front of Buffon, but he still merits his place in this all star side despite the Rossoneri’s recent struggles. Bonucci is unparalleled as a stopper and worth the price of admission just to witness his artistry in the first third for club and country. He will bounce back from his current dip to conquer the world again.
Left Back: Marcelo (Real Madrid); there is just no one better on the left side. He defends. He attacks (as all world class full backs should). He is rarely injured, which is also a talent. Nevertheless, it is important to mention his competitors especially the competent and dangerous left back Alex Sandro of Juventus. AND, Filipe Luís worth a holler as he is still dominating on the left side in La Liga for Atlético Madrid with one of his most productive campaigns of his career. But, Marcelo is truly a class above.
Midfield: Luka Modrić (Real Madrid); obvs.
Midfield: N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea); this is a no-brainer to everyone except FIFA and the jury. It is not news that the Premier League isn’t as fancied by the higher ups due to whatever biases they will never relinquish, but Kanté needs to be in this squad. He has spearheaded back to back titles for two different teams (Leicester City and Chelsea) and is a lynchpin in the middle for France. You can see his importance to his team by watching Chelsea’s currently flailing midfield absent his expertise. He pulls strings and is incredibly reliable. He reads the game and breaks down the opposition. He is irreplaceable.
Midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid); see Modrić description.
Forward: Neymar (PSG); just based on flat out skill, Neymar earns his nod here, but there are other attackers I would line up in this spot. Neymar and Barcelona disappointed last season with their ungodly high expectations of winning everything every year. And now the Brazilian is in Paris where defending is largely optional. Robert Lewandowski is a deserving replacement. The Bayern Munich striker scored 43 times in 47 appearances for the Bavarians last season en route to another Bundesliga title as well as leading Poland with nine goals in 2017. Tottenham’s Harry Kane also worth a shout with his blistering form scoring 38 goals for Spurs in this calendar year. The only individual with more 2017 goals than him in the major/relevant leagues? Lionel Messi.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid); the best.
Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona); also the best but not with Cristiano doing what he’s been doing the last 24 months.
It’s quite the team. Many of the positions pick themselves really. It is difficult to compare and contrast players and their accomplishments as the leagues across the countries vary on many different levels. But, these eleven are definitively worthy.
World XI 2018? Here are a few players I think could land on next year’s squad:
Kevin de Bruyne: his unfortunate hair color aside, there are so few people on the planet currently as good as Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder. He is godforsakenly rampant right now and has been ever since he left Wolfsburg in 2015. Defenders do not know what to do with him and his passing reminds me of Andrés Iniesta in his prime. #swoon He has pace and vision. He scores goals. He can do it all. If City end up with the title and/or the Champions League pot, expect KdB to waltz right into this XI.
Kylian Mbappé: I know that he plays in Ligue 1 where competition is somewhat difficult to find, but the French teenager is truly the star his price tag commands. If PSG can win the Champions League (or make a run to the semis or final), I have a hunch Mbappé will be the main culprit in the embarrassment of defences continent wide. With no intention of creating controversy, Kylian is on the verge of becoming the Parisiens most dangerous threat. He is what we thought he was. A frightening talent who is unafraid of any opposition. He has the touch and poise to take over the mantel as world’s best if he wants.
Diego Godín: still a rock in the heart of Atlético Madrid’s defence, the Uruguayan has the ability to win matches on his own. Godín has the unenviable task of facing Messi and Ronaldo (not to mention their mega talented colleagues) no fewer than a combined four times a season. It falls on his shoulders to protect the box and keep these world beaters from finding the net (a net minded by the magnificent Jan Oblak). Atleti are in the throes of a goal scoring drought, which they hope new signing Diego Costa will assist with beginning in January, so even more pressure is being piled on Godín. He has the talent and experience to continue to flourish and prove his place as one of the best.
Marco Asensio: I’ve been watching Real Madrid’s midfielder blossom into this powerhouse from the beginning. He has what it takes to become the playmaker and attacking terror people believe he is on his way to materializing into. He’s already shown he has the skill set and has already annihilated every defence he’s encountered. On the wing or further afield as a forward, Asensio is a monster, and one of the best in the world, with his only dilemma being that he wears white and resides in Madrid. Real’s devastating front six of Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić, Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale don’t lend many starting opportunities to others (see: Isco). But, that is how highly I rate twenty one year old Marco. I see him bursting through and forcing his way into the XI cementing his presence as one of the marquee names for both club and Spain.
Not happening but would be interesting to see them included team members?
Mauro Icardi: already has eleven goals in 10 appearances for Inter in a wide open Scudetto race that should see the Nerazzuri vie for the top spot with Napoli and Juventus.
Dele Alli: nobody in the Premier League can stop the Tottenham maestro, so why shouldn’t he be in the mix of names? Unfortunately for him he’s English, and there’s the matter of the World Cup looming, which will go a long way in deciding which awards go where (see: Fabio Cannavaro winning World Player of the Year in 2006).
Maximilian Philipp: one third of my favorite attacking line in football with American Christian Pulisic and Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko also features heavily), this young German is a delight to watch for Borussia Dortmund. Has technique, speed and finishes with aplomb, it would be a mistake if he isn’t with Die Mannschaft this summer.
There you go. The best now and the best to come. With the upcoming World Cup, the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain as a legitimate Champions League contender, Real Madrid’s early faltering in La Liga and Manchester City morphing into an invincible attacking machine, the best XI will undoubtedly be shaken up with some new deserving names and faces come the end of 2018.
My apologies for keeping you from your Carabao Cup highlights. #YaBish