mandag den 23. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 176-173

Hey the list is back!


The goal is a lot more updates at least until Christmas where things inevitably will be delayed some.

Certainly I can't wait to reach top 100 where the players chosen and their placings have been much more set unlike the 100-200 ranked players where I find myself constantly changing things up.

Anyways here is the update:

Introduction to the list.

The list so far:


200: Alberto Zapater - Genoa - Spain
199: Nikola Zigic - Valencia - Serbia
198: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid - Spain
197: Lucio - Inter - Brazil
196: John Obi Mikel - Chelsea - Nigeria
195: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona - Spain
194: Philippe Mexes - Roma -France
193: Anatolij Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine
192: Theo Walcott - Arsenal - England
191: Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal - Wales
190: Pepe - Real Madrid - Portugal
189: Sergei Semak - Rubin Kazan - Russia
188: Alberto Aquilani - Liverpool - Italy
187: Clarence Seedorf - Milan - Holland
186: Diego Capel - Sevilla - Spain
185: Yossi Benayoun - Liverpool - Israel
184: Riccardo Montolivo - Fiorentina - Italy
183: Kolo Toure - Manchester City -Côte d'Ivoire
182: Yuri Zhirkov - Chelsea - Russia
181: Martin Demichelis - Bayern Munich - Argentina
180: Marouane Fellaini - Everton - Belgium
179: Cristian Zapata - Udinese - Colombia
178: Tim Cahill - Everton - Australia
177: Paul Scholes - Manchester United - England


Arda Turan - Galatasaray - Turkey


A difficult player to rank since I don't see him very often.

He is probably the most talented player coming out of Turkey since Emre Belözoğlu.

Emre who after an up and down time abroad now is back in Turkey, and who a little surprisingly is still only 29.

Emre seems to have been around forever but right now I would say I have even less of an idea of how he is doing than Arda Turan, and therefore perhaps mistakenly didn't even consider him for the list.
At EURO 2008 Emre unfortunately got injured in the opening game and instead it was Arda who shined and also Arda who makes the list!

For years and years heralded as one of Europe's prime talents, Arda Turan is now 22, captain of Galatasaray, has 34 caps for his country and is already quite an experienced player.

He has very good technical ability. Dribbling, shooting and passing and creates goals for himself and for teammates. He is also comfortable on either wing, as well as playing up front working with a striker.
Something like his work-rate I have to admit I'm not really sure of so I can't say whether that's a strength or weakness of his, but if I was to point to something of the latter I would say his athletic ability doesn't seem to be all that great. Neither when it comes to strength or real speed, and that's what keeps him behind the next ranked player and others to yet to come. And the difference in level of competition that he faces.
Hopefully like Emre before him, we'll see Arda in one of the top leagues in not too many years.


Ezequiel Lavezzi - Napoli - Argentina


A notoriously inconsistent performer Lavezzi has unique acceleration going for him. In fact I think it's safe to say that with the ball at his feet he must be a candidate for the fastest player around.
That of course also tells you something about his very good control and great balance. His "Tevez like" stockiness and low center of gravity helps too. Though not as strong or hardworking as Tevez he is definitely faster.

The downside is that it just seems like he doesn't get enough out of those qualities and therefore at times isn't all that effective and helpful to his team.

He doesn't consistently make good or even right decisions. In fact he often picks the worst solutions and his passing skills aren't that good either. And rarely good enough to create. That could easily have a lot to do with bad decision making of course but either way at the moment it just isn't good enough.

Then there is his questionable stamina and/or fitness. If Napoli really do fulfill their ambitions of European football, could Lavezzi even make good contributions twice a week?

His skills on the ball are so unique that he still makes the list but he needs to improve in other areas in my view to have any chance of climbing to somewhere much higher on the list, where I'm sure a lot of people, overly impressed by his skills, would feel he should be placed.


Klaas Jan Huntelaar - AC Milan - Netherlands


Currently having something of a nightmare season for his new club AC Milan which has hurt his ranking a lot.

How much of it is his own fault though I'm not really sure. At the moment Milan is playing with three forwards where one of them, Ronaldinho is pretty much immobile and then to have Huntelaar in there too who does almost all his work exclusively in the box is a bit too much of a balance destroyer and would expose the very thinly occupied midfield behind even further than what's going on at the moment.

Marco Borriello who plays instead of Huntelaar and enjoying something of a resurrection this year, after his own struggles settling at Milan last season, isn't as impressive as Huntelaar can be in the box or as dangerous, but he is good at that too and more versatile when it comes to other things. And he is mobile and has some pace which the Milan lineup desperately needs.

So as long as that system is rewarded with results and Borriello as well as Ronaldinho shows reasonable form it's going to be tough for Huntelaar to establish himself in the lineup.

But all those things are far from given and I'm pretty confident that alone up front with more midfielders behind him or in a partnership with basically any of the other Milan forwards that Huntelaar's striker qualities would come through and he would be scoring a decent amount of goals in Serie A too.


William Gallas- Arsenal - France


In some ways this is the Kolo Toure writeup all over again except there have definitely been times where I haven't thought of Gallas very highly.
Perhaps mistakenly, but to me he often seemed like an erratic defender who while hugely talented was guilty of costly bonehead plays.

At the moment I'm not really seeing that. In fact he does an admirable job of keeping things together in the Arsenal central defense together with his colleague Vermaelen often directly preventing dangerous situations.
Meanwhile at City (albeit arguably with an even harder job for Mark Hughes erratic lineups, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't!) Toure often not at 100 percent isn't really doing the same.

Gallas good track record shouldn't be ignored either.

Previously for Chelsea whether playing as a fullback, something he probably still has the speed to do, or in central defense with John Terry, he was in no way a liability on what was a very good defensive team under Mourinho winning the league two years in a row.

For France also he was part of the near flawless defensive efforts that took apart both Spain and Brazil on the way to the final at the 2006 World Cup.

Gallas despite not having great height impressively rarely misses a beat in the air which speaks volumes about his athleticism.
At 32 now his agility and speed really seems as good as it always was and he is of course very good with the ball as well.
He is also something of a threat to score from set pieces.

With age and experience the errors (bad positioning/bad decisions) have become rare. It lands him at 173!

tirsdag den 10. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 181-177

Introduction to the list.

The list so far:


200: Alberto Zapater - Genoa - Spain
199: Nikola Zigic - Valencia - Serbia
198: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid - Spain
197: Lucio - Inter - Brazil
196: John Obi Mikel - Chelsea - Nigeria
195: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona - Spain
194: Philippe Mexes - Roma -France
193: Anatolij Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine
192: Theo Walcott - Arsenal - England
191: Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal - Wales
190: Pepe - Real Madrid - Portugal
189: Sergei Semak - Rubin Kazan - Russia
188: Alberto Aquilani - Liverpool - Italy
187: Clarence Seedorf - Milan - Holland
186: Diego Capel - Sevilla - Spain
185: Yossi Benayoun - Liverpool - Israel
184: Riccardo Montolivo - Fiorentina - Italy
183: Kolo Toure - Manchester City -Côte d'Ivoire
182: Yuri Zhirkov - Chelsea - Russia

And it continues:


Martin Demichelis - Bayern Münich - Argentina


The thing he is holding there is his talisman. Maybe it's what saved him from being dumped from the list? Cause it got pretty pretty (Larry David style) pretty close.

At first I had Demichelis much higher. I was thinking here is someone who can do a good job both as a central defender and defensive midfielder. That's some value right there and a very useful player I thought.
He was ahead of so many of the players coming up, but at some point for whatever reason it just started looking silly. It looked wrong!
And it's entirely possible that some of the players he is STILL ahead of STILL makes it look a little silly. I'm not even sure anymore...

I'm not sure how much defensive midfielder he has actually played in recent years either, and also recently it hasn't exactly been easy to look any good at all as a central defender for Bayern.
Worst of course last season when Klinsmann was still the manager and made it a rule to organize the team in a fashion ensuring as many defensive holes as humanly possible.
That has cost lower ranked Lucio some spots I'm sure, and someone who I suspect would look good on a lot of teams, Daniel Van Buyten didn't even make the list.

Demichelis however remains. He is pretty good at everything in two different positions. That's not so bad when you think about it.

I hope!


Marouane Fellaini - Everton - Belgium


The most expensive Belgium player of all time and Everton's highest purchase of all time as well, unfortunately hasn't had a great start to the season and that has affected his ranking some.

However with how good he was last season, a key contributor to Everton's impressive repeat 5th place in the league, I expect him to perform much better, sooner rather than later.

Fellaini is something increasingly rare these days, a tremendous box to box player. He defends. He attacks. From one end to the other. He has great stamina and can really put it to use.

Then there is his his height which makes him effective in the air. Something always useful whether in his own team's box or the opponent's, where he has shown himself to be a good goalscoring threat.

When it comes to passing he is not as impressive as some of the midfielders already listed and it's possible his ball control could improve as well, but make no mistake about it, with his size, despite looking skinny he does have great balance which of course really helps.

He is someone potentially commanding football games but I do think he could improve his defensive discipline. Work hard is one thing, needlessly flying around in tackles is another and he'd well adviced to put that great energy into great positional play moreso than into reckless tackles.

If he can improve/add even some of those elements to his impressive box to box play he will have an excellent case for a much much higher placing.


Cristian Zapata - Udinese - Colombia

Fullback/Central defender

I'm not sure what there have been more of in recent years for Zapata, various injury problems or various big clubs he has been linked to.

I think that with a good injury free run he would have been at a big club already and very likely higher ranked too. That hasn't happened though but with the athleticism and skill he has shown both as a central defender and right-back he just had to make the list.

And while he may settle, depending on where he ends up, as "just" a central defender, his size would indicate such, I think that right now there aren't really many if any, as able as Zapata to play both as a central defender and fullback as well as him when on form.

Unfortunately it's only been in glimpses and last season especially was disappointing. I even remember some horrible individual errors in Serie A when he played but I wonder how much of that was due to the lack of a good injury free run, in fact he was coming back from missing 6 months, errors like those are not really something I remember from the seasons where he played more and I haven't seen any this year either.

Anyway it's too early to say if his sky high potential has been severely damaged by the injuries or how much they will affect him in the future.
With this ranking I'm definitely not writing him off but also being a bit cautious as I'm still uncertain where exactly he is right now, let alone how far he will go.
If this was made a couple of years ago, before all the adversity, I don't think I would have hesitated jumping the gun and based on his obvious talent and high level of play, ranked him very high.
Just like I have with some of the, yet to come, young stars now.
Who I hope will have a lot more luck with injuries than Zapata.


Tim Cahill - Everton - Australia


Yet another really tough player to rank. Some years ago, Ballon d'Or nominee and everything, a a much higher ranking would have seemed obvious, but rightly or wrongly, it's my impression that Cahill has slowed down some, or at least at the moment isn't quite on the same level as the last few years.

He still has a good work rate and in the opponent's penalty area of course is a very proven goal scorer with both head (especially that) and feet but overall it just seems that it's to a lesser extent than before.

Though decent enough in his own right Cahill's never been a great technical player, this list will be full of better ones, but what set(s) him apart are the things above (workrate/goalscoring) and if those two great qualities are lesser now because of presumably less effective movement he loses some real value.
Though he is not old yet at 29, he has had some serious injuries along the way and that could be a reason for any correctly perceived slowdown or decline.

One interesting thing to look out for at Everton is to what extent Cahill and Fellaini will play together or if one, they do share a lot of qualities, will be preferred over the other. Earlier this season manager David Moyes expressed doubts over fitting them both in at the same time and commented it was a real dilemma.

I suspect for now at least, just like on this list, Cahill will still be ahead but if not able to find room for both (Arteta at some point will come back too) I don't think Cahill should be given a long a leach at all.
Meaning if he isn't just as effective in the final third as he used to be, Fellaini younger and stronger likely will be, it's only a matter of time anyway, and should be given the chance.


Paul Scholes - Manchester United - England


35 years old now and obviously not going... Quite as strong.

When he first came up, if anyone remember, he was actually a striker but that was relatively short lived and he quickly became a very good attacking midfielder and then at some point gradually developed into a superb all around midfielder contributing effectively both to attack and defense, and doing it day in and day out.

That I think is the biggest difference from now and to then. Then being when he was one of the very best in the world. Say at least 100 places better than this.
He does still have those games where he will do all the things he is so good at and do it almost as good as ever, but it's not every game anymore, in fact it can be pretty far between sometimes. Too far between. There just isn't the same consistency.
If I think that Cahill has slowed down then I know that Paul Scholes has. But of course when it comes to quality he has something of a head start over most, hence him still being ranked ahead of a lot of very good players.

Scholes is a very good passer, probably underrated over the years when it comes to that, short or long and very direct, established attack or in transition, Scholes can deliver.
Especially when keeping the pressure on an opponent like Manchester United have done time and time again in the Ferguson era, Scholes has been a key player in forcing and forcing (and forcing!) the tempo, contributing through great work both with and without the ball, into reaching a final frenzy where eventually the poor opponents just could not keep up anymore and succumb. Usually by some time in the final minutes with United grabbing a late winner or equalizer...
Over the years I think, the higher the tempo the better the performance from Scholes. Dynamic runs, booming shots on goal, quick turns with the ball, crunching tackles and direct passing.
Scholes could do all those things very well even when the tempo was high (on the flip-side when it was not so high, like occasionaly in Europe, what most would stand out sometimes from Scholes would be those trademark dumb tackles).
But even if now as a veteran he can only bring that "A -game" some of the time it's still enough to earn him a place on the list

fredag den 6. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 184-182

Introduction to the list.

The list so far:


200: Alberto Zapater - Genoa - Spain
199: Nikola Zigic - Valencia - Serbia
198: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid - Spain
197: Lucio - Inter - Brazil
196: John Obi Mikel - Chelsea - Nigeria
195: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona - Spain
194: Philippe Mexes - Roma -France
193: Anatolij Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine
192: Theo Walcott - Arsenal - England
191: Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal - Wales
190: Pepe - Real Madrid - Portugal
189: Sergei Semak - Rubin Kazan - Russia
188: Alberto Aquilani - Liverpool - Italy
187: Clarence Seedorf - Milan - Holland
186: Diego Capel - Sevilla - Spain
185: Yossi Benayoun - Liverpool - Israel

And it continues:


Riccardo Montolivo - Fiorentina - Italy


Montolivo was difficult to place. In some ways his performances when playing at the highest level for quite a few years now have been rather disappointing. That includes when given the chance for the national team and when asked to play a leading role for Fiorentina in Europe.

On the other hand he is such a complete player that a place among the 200 best would seem rather obvious.
He is a good technical player with a very nice range of passing and he has good ball control too.
He also works hard and defends well.

Still if it had not been for some very good performances this year, in Europe too, the disappointments of previous years, despite all that nice completeness , would have kept him off the list.

With a reputation of being a complete enigma, my theory is just that Montolivo early was asked to do too much. Not that I really blame the club for asking a lot from someone, for some years, seen as their best player. Who else would they ask?
But Montolivo consistently just wasn't able to be an attacking midfielder, with serious playmaker duties, as well as carry his weight defensively. At times it was just too much I think and Montolivo had some collapsing performances where he basically failed on all fronts. He didn't contribute well to attack, awful sometimes in fact, and he wasn't able to carry out his defensive duties either.

This season I'm more seeing a Montolivo with some much simpler tasks and it has really helped his performances.
The emergence of talented players in front of him like Vargas (moving him further forward has been a great move) and of course Jovetic, plus the clever signing of Marchionni, has relieved him of a lot of attacking duties.

He doesn't have to always be the one trying to make something happen anymore. With attempted passes or runs.
Now a lot of the time he can just concentrate on more simple distribution to the people around him and they too can make something happen. In fact they're more likely to!

As a result we're now seeing Montolivo less often in the final third where he has struggled with less space. Because Fiorentina now have players who can do great things even there. In the tightest of spots.
Montolivo then from further back can start counter attacks or seek out people with a deep ball, under not so much pressure and much more comfortable. OR just do something simple.
He isn't the best attacking player anymore and he isn't forced to pretend that he is.

This has of course also done wonders for his defensive performances where it's been a lot easier to maintain good position when not having to play catch up from failed attacking duties.

Could it be argued then that Montolivo really has made the list cause of great teammates who've made him look better?

I think that had he done very well with his previous huge responsibility that it would have been something worthy of a much higher placing. But he just isn't that good.
I do think however that in this current role that he is showing enough good things to earn a spot around this mark.
WITH a chance to get higher if it continues. He is better technically than some players still to come and pretty good defensively too, a little worse than some. A little better than others!

Last but not least a random thing about him which I didn't know but found interesting (liked even) when I read it on Wikipedia:

Somewhat unusually for an Italian footballer, Montolivo has publicly stated he is an atheist.

How about that?


Kolo Toure - Manchester City - Côte d'Ivoire


Kolo Toure is someone who in his career has been called everything from terrible to excellent.

All the while during that I've always thought he was very good, but certainly at times last season doubts crept in while at times watching what looked like a quite shaky Arsenal defense.

However like I talked about in the introduction to this list I do believe such things very easily can have to do with the overall defensive balance of the team, which for Arsenal last year lead by central midfielders with some way to go still, certainly wasn't great.

In previous seasons even when still inexperienced at what was a new position, on more balanced teams, Toure has looked just great though, with the prime example being Arsenal's incredible unbeaten 03-04 title winning season where he was a key player in defense on a very well balanced team.
Another example was Arsenal's 2006 Champions League run where they reached the final and along the way managed an impressive 10 consecutive clean sheets.
It's special times like those when central defenders receive a lot of praise and Toure was no exception, getting recognition as one of the best in the world at his position.

Since then those kind of words and Kolo Toure in the same sentence have been much more rare.

I think he is basically the same player though. Maybe even slightly stronger now than then and of course more experienced.
He still has great athletic ability. Can win headers and save his team with great tackles.

And with secure ball control, he can still make those impressive runs forward.

He is neither as great as he may have looked when Arsenal's been good or as bad as he may have looked when they've struggled. Likely he is just somewhere in between.

With a decent start this season for his new team Manchster City, I say he is the 183rd best player in the world, is what he is!


Yuri Zhirkov - Chelsea - Russia


Unfortunately as I write this Zhirkov hasn't had any chance to really do anything for his new team Chelsea.

This is something that hasn't helped his ranking.

For the Russian national team and from the occasional look at him for CSKA in Europe though, he has shown himself to be very skilled technical player who with consistent raids down the left wing could make life complicated for opposing defenses and create goal scoring chances for his team.

This could be done with dribbling, crossing or just by being talented enough to be a key part in often breathtaking combinations with skilled teammates.

Overall I thought Zhirkov was a peculiar signing by Chelsea. On the one hand their leftback depth behind Ashley Cole is a little suspect but on the other hand he seems way too good to be just that, a back up.

Zhirkov is also to an extreme degree an all out attacking back who is below par defensively and really much more someone resembling a winger.
So you could say then, that's what they did, they bought him as a winger?

But Chelsea currently doesn't really play with wingers.

In their midfield diamond there is the left central midfielder spot. Where both Malouda and Frank Lampard can do very well while it's a little unclear to me what exactly Zhirkov could do.
It does involve not insignificant defensive duties, nothing new for someone sometimes playing fullback of course, but with a lot of action for that position more central, I wonder what he could do there. He is not exactly a player you'd feel confident in winning physical midfield battles or even holding his own there.

Another option which we could be seeing, once among others Didier Drogba, is off to the African Nations Cup, would be just Nicolas Anelka up front and an extra midfielder then playing instead of Drogba.
That would make room for Lampard in a central midfield attacking role and Zhirkov could play as the left-wing fighting/rotating the spot "just" with Malouda (interestingly with a new 4 year extension) as his main competition.
And of course this could be an option whenever one of Anelka/Drogba wouldn't be available.

All in all it's definitely premature to call Zhirkov the next Alexey Smertin at the club. Smertin who barely played in 3 years at the club. Arguably Zhirkov is a lot better anyway, but it does look like things won't be easy and it definitely hasn't been a great start for him.

onsdag den 4. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 187-185

The list so far:

200: Alberto Zapater - Genoa - Spain
199: Nikola Zigic - Valencia - Serbia
198: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid - Spain
197: Lucio - Inter - Brazil
196: John Obi Mikel - Chelsea - Nigeria
195: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona - Spain
194: Philippe Mexes - Roma -France
193: Anatolij Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine
192: Theo Walcott - Arsenal - England
191: Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal - Wales
190: Pepe - Real Madrid - Portugal
189: Sergei Semak - Rubin Kazan - Russia
188: Alberto Aquilani - Liverpool - Italy

And it continues with:


Clarence Seedorf - Milan - Holland


Now at 33 years of age, few if any active players have achieved more in their careers than Seedorf.

He has won the Champions League title an incredible four times with three different teams (Ajax, Real Madrid and twice with Milan) and league titles in Holland, Spain and Italy.

For his national team it's been a far more bumpy ride but that's a whole other story...

Throughout his long career Seedorf has been a technical superb midfielder, one that could be used in any role there almost, able to make fine passes, short, long or cross and with his great ball control beat guys with his dribbling skills or participate in sweet combinations with skilled teammates.

These days due to age what he has lost is some pace. That in itself is very negative for any player.

He has probably lost some stamina too, though he certainly still works quite hard in most games.
But if we're talking game after game then it could be argued that he hasn't really been able to perform at a high level consistently in recent years. There are longer between the really good games you could say, and the bad ones make more appearances than they used to.

I'm not sure how much truth there is to it exactly, but I've certainly heard more than one Milan fan over the years suggest that Seedorf saved his best for the Champions League games while often being quite mediocre in Serie A.

What Seedorf has added though, and with him being part of (and at times contributing to) an aging struggling Milan team, the deciding factor in him still making this list, IS some real "veteran savvy".
He just plays smart and reads the game very well I think, relies on that more, now that his body isn't quite able to do what it once was.

You could say that there is at least one of Seedorf's midfield teammates who maybe it would do some good if he could somehow learn from that.


Diego Capel - Sevilla - Spain


Diego Capel is a very explosive winger. He has great acceleration, only knows one way, that is of course forward, and with the always impressive high energy that he brings to seemingly every game, can be an absolute terror for opposition defenders with his constant harassment.

I think that he especially excels when play is direct where as if the game is slower, for whatever reason, with more touches, that he loses some of his tremendous value compared to when the game is fast paced and of course especially compared to games where there are plenty of transition opportunities. The more of those for Capel, the better! He is really good in those situations.

In some ways of course the above is true for most players who thrives on pace but the really good ones of those I'll argue offer more to their teams and can vary their game more.
Be constructive in their actions further back in midfield. Just vary their play! Their whereabouts. Their passing. Their movement. Their play off teammates. Set a different tempo...

Capel it's my impression is just 100 percent dynamite winger who ideally should always get the ball when he can run effectively at someone or better, fast into space, like a Sevilla bull seing red, but of course that's not always possible and I'm not sure if other wing type of players (and I'm talking really really good ones much higher up including a certain teammate) don't offer more there.
Capel I don't feel have that many other dimensions to his game than run, dribble, cross the ball!
And that's actually fine when you do it all well like Capel does. I even think he can defend some too! But to get even higher up I think he needs to add even more to his game.

That he is seeing increased competition from talented teammate Diego Perotti I suspect could have to do with this as well. I'm actually not sure of Perotti, he doesn't have many games yet, but could he be a more well rounded player? Doing certain things better than Capel?

Yeah it's a tough world this but there is good news too! Capel is still only 21 and can only get better.

That is until of course, he gets old and slow... But that shouldn't happen for a while!


Yossi Benayoun - Liverpool - Israel

Attacking midfielder

Good at comforting John Terry?

With Benayoun it's relative simple. With his good technical ability he is good at creating goalscoring chances.
He can pass a decisive ball and he can make a decisive run.

Elsewhere than in the final third his value goes significantly down and he really isn't able to contribute much. Not even with the ball, unless surrounded by very good players, like good wingers or good fullbacks coming forward, and definitely not without the ball.

I do think he has improved his workrate quite a bit but he is still a bad defensive player that makes Liverpool worse there when he plays.
That can be helped when he is sort of put out on the wing himself where he doesn't have to "fill as much" but then he will often spend a lot of time too far away from where he is really good, like when deep in his own half having to make up a lot of ground, and then can't contribute much either.

Ideally he would always play just behind a striker and with good technical players near him but at Liverpool that's the preferred spot of someone who is better.
Still when him and Gerrard do both play they can produce very good things, but the team mostly will be worse defensively. It is of course up to the manager what he prefers. Literally, one way or the other.

The 200 best players in the world: 188

One more before the Champions League games start. More later tonight.


Alberto Aquilani - Liverpool - Italy


Injury problems throughout his career and barely having played yet this season is what keeps him this low.

But he has more than enough ability I feel to still make the list.

Aquilani is a very complete midfielder who while not as good defensively as defensive midfielders per se still is quite good and certainly better than most of the midfielders categorized, like he himself usually is, as attacking.
He is just disciplined when it comes to that part of the game and without being a strong tackler or anything does a good job of defending his zone.

I think for Liverpool, health permitting and possbily Rafa Benitez staying permitting, that there is a good chance, like his predecessor Xabi Alonso did and like other players under Benitez have, that he will make great improvements physically and then we could see a really strong two way player deserving of a far far higher ranking. But again, health permitting!

As okay as he is when it comes to the defensive part of the game, he is still way behind in those areas if you again compare him to someone like Alonso. But there are some other things he does on a similar level and some things he does even better.

First of all he is a good passer. In the short passing game he is generally secure and makes good decisions and he is able to execute deeper more direct passes as well.

Where he is definitely better than someone like Alonso though is in the final third playing in tighter space.
He can make quality runs in and around the penalty area both with and without the ball and has some play making ability there too. Unlike some of the previously ranked players who to some extent are restricted to only being able to do this further back in midfield.
He is of course also well known for having a good shoot from the outside.

I think all in all this reads like a player with enough quality to pass many players yet to come. But again and again bad health really hurts him. Hopefully it will less in the future. Both Liverpool and the Italian national team could of course really use him.

mandag den 2. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 192-189

The list so far:

200: Alberto Zapater - Genoa - Spain
199: Nikola Zigic - Valencia - Serbia
198: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid - Spain
197: Lucio - Inter - Brazil
196: John Obi Mikel - Chelsea - Nigeria
195: Sergio Busquets - Barcelona - Spain
194: Philippe Mexes - Roma -France
193: Anatolij Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine

And it continues with:


Theo Walcott - Arsenal - England

Wing - Forward

Like Ramos, Walcott is another player who had a rollercoaster ride up and down the positions of this list.

At 20 he is a player who definitely can still improve in a lot of areas.

Actually in a lot of those areas he might be one of the worst players on the list! However as everyone knows he has that great gift of speed and in the end I just didn't feel comfortable leaving someone so elite in that important differencemaking area off the list.

I think it's clear that when he has space available to him he is right up there in effectiveness with players ranked much higher.

With injury problems lately (and that counts against him too), a very good indication of exactly how good he is just now, will be to what extent he gets a run in Arsenal's new 4-3-3 this season and how well he performs. Will be interesting to watch!


Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal - Wales



No I haven't seen a lot of him but I'm confident that what I've seen is good enough.

Actually having seen him so little is probably what stops me from putting him even higher!
I'm being a little (too) careful. This is after all a player who is yet to play a whole lot on the highest level.
Sure, I suppose there is a chance that I'm overrating him. That it's ALL TOO SOON.
But what I seriously think I've seen would fully justify including him. Just because it's so rare and so few players got it. Ramsey he's got it!

He has that superb vision and playmaking ability that you only see from very few players and there is great technique too.

Ability, and this is where almost every talent of this type fails/develops into something else in the current game, on a high enough level to survive, to thrive in a climate of tight opposition team defense.

In fact on this whole list you only see it from a very small handful of players so what I think we have with Ramsey is a truly unique talent and possibly the most interesting talent to come out of the UK since Joe Cole (someone like Rooney was a bigger talent but of a nature that at least at the time was less interesting).
AND I do think Ramsey's playmaking ability is a level above what Joe Cole's was and the sick thing is, his technique is at least comparable too!

Even if somehow everything else about him is way below average I'd say that it's okay to include him here.

But let's take a look at some of the other things. Something like how good his movement is I'm not sure of yet and then there is his whole physical ability where there easily could be some way to go.
At least when he is on a team like Arsenal where coincidentally exactly the things Ramsey could bring, that some teams would die for him to bring, on his team IS one of those small handful of unique players who also just happens to be one of the best in the world, AT bringing those things.

I really have a feeling that Ramsey would start on most teams right now and it's really only a team who has someone like Fabregas already who can afford to hold such a gifted player back a little and instead fill the midfield around the big star with more primarely physically talented players.

Players who I might add arguably to some extent has been underachieving quite a bit, and I think Wenger's recent comments about how it's getting more and more difficult not to play Ramsey, is an indication that physically he is getting there too. And I hope so! Cause he will really need to.

With both him and Fabregas playing, even with such a team likely dominating possession, his workrate would have to be very high and he would have to be able to defend his midfield position reasonable well. Whether that would be putting on high pressure on the ball holder Barca style or tracking back transforming the 4-3-3 to more defensive formations when not in possession.

And last but not least here is an interesting article on him that I found:
When Cardiff City striker Jay Bothroyd was an 18-year-old coming through the youth system at Arsenal, his reaction to being substituted in the final of the Premier League Youth Cup immediately cost him his future at the club. He pulled off his shirt and tossed it scornfully at the coaches in the dugout. He was, literally, sent to Coventry, to restart his career.

In the hotly competitive world of youth football, where the most promising players are hunted by a pack of ­ravenous agents, scouts, and managers, it is rare to find the perfect combination of talent and temperament. Terry Burton, Cardiff's assistant manager, remembers the moment he clapped eyes on a boy called Aaron Ramsey, who immediately impressed on both counts.

"He had just left school and was only two weeks into his career and we drafted him into the team for a friendly at Merthyr Tydfil. He was excellent. He had this maturity and vision above his years." Burton got straight on the phone to the manager, Dave Jones, and told him Ramsey had to be included in the first-team squad for their pre-season trip to Portugal. The boy never looked back. His first full season, which began at the age of 16, ended with an appearance in the FA Cup final last May. "In a very short space of time he added to the small list of folk heroes at Cardiff," Burton adds. "Everyone loves their own, don't they?"

He was the one to tip off Arsène Wenger about this special kid at Ninian Park. Burton's connections go back to his time as an apprentice at Highbury, where he went on to coach and help bring through players such as Tony Adams. "I have been 20 years away from the Arsenal and I never really knocked on the door to recommend someone," he says. "But I did with Aaron. That's how impressive his qualities are.

"I spoke to Arsène just before they signed him. I was sitting with him in his office at the training ground and said: 'I'd really like to find something negative to say, but I can't.'" The worst he could come up with was that he was exceptionally quiet – ­surprisingly so for a lad nicknamed Rambo who wrote on his social networking ­webpage that he was scared of "nuffin".

As Burton explains: "Having come across a lot of London boys who obviously have a ­different type of personality, you didn't really know Aaron was about the place. Not on the pitch, though. As a character, that's where he comes to life. That's the best way, really."

Burton was also important in swinging Ramsey's decision away from Old Trafford and towards north London. "Manchester United were in, just after we had played in the Cup final. I said to Aaron: 'I don't know what is going to happen, but if you get the chance, ­consider Arsenal because of the way they play and the way you play.'"

Burton is sure there will be no resentment from Cardiff's vociferous fans this afternoon and says they are all very proud of him and how he is pushing on. It is easy to detect the improvements that come from working with, and against, faster technicians. "It is not very often that young players move up and get straight into the team," Burton says, smiling. "He did that at Cardiff and again with ­Arsenal. He'll be thinking the game is easy."

Not quite. Even though Wenger describes Ramsey, who was 18 on Boxing Day, as "ahead of schedule", he still has to take on board some valuable lessons. While he has caught the eye with some of his cameo appearances this season, a splendid first goal in the Champions League at Fenerbahce being the best example, on other occasions he has been guilty of preferring the flash over the safe option in the closing stages of nervily tight games. Nobody doubts that he will soon learn.

At the rate he is progressing, his home town of Caerphilly will soon no longer be famous just for producing cheese and Tommy Cooper.


Pepe - Real Madrid - Portugal


Even more so than Mexes earlier Pepe is incredibly naturally gifted.

Whatever the sum may be of his great athleticism and excellent technical ability, it's probably higher than for any other central defender on the list, or out there anywhere, I think quite similar to the young Lucio, so despite all the well known flaws, some seen on the picture above, leaving him off the list entirely I just didn't think was the correct choice.

Yeah he is a total nutcase and in the midst of any run of good form, sometimes looking dominant, he is capable of both defensive and epic mental breakdowns.

Hopefully he'll get his act together eventually. Based on talent alone he really should be up there with the very best central defenders.


Sergei Semak - Rubin Kazan - Russia

Central midfielder

Captain of the excellent Russian national team as well as the champions Rubin Kazan, this inclusion is somewhat of a tribute to the almost impossible win that Kazan secured over Barcelona.

There was definitely luck involved and Barcelona mostly dominated but Kazan still managed to do what teams astonishingly seldom have succeeded in doing against this historically great Barcelona team, and actually executed their defensive game plan close to perfection.

Under, what of course is, which is why so many teams fail, the most difficult of conditions.

I think sometimes it's a more than a little neglecting of the work that goes into good defense when people talk about a team "just" "parking the bus".
Certainly against Barcelona facing that incredible attack it would never be enough or as simple as to just have the whole team back and kick the ball away, or whatever it is "parking the bus" implies you do exactly.

Some teams are perhaps reduced to that when playing Barcelona but as we see all those teams end up suffering heavy defeats too.
If it was in any way simple or easy to get a result against a team like Barcelona that way then everyone would do it (and maybe not lose all the time!).

No what everyone are trying to do is to play a good defensive game with all that comes with it. Work very hard defending space. Marking zones. Close down at exactly the right times and back off exactly at the right times. This has to go on all over the pitch from almost every player and against a team as good as Barcelona it requires not just very hard work but really wise tactical sense. A lot of that can be prepared by the coach of course, and absolutely have to, but the execution of course is still up to the players.

Chelsea last season in the Champions League was the team, maybe the only team all season who was able to do it. They had a great coach in Hiddink to organize things to perfection and they had the right players to execute (not just by parking the bus) but team defense at a high enough level to give themselves a great chance to win.

Now I wouldn't say Rubin Kazan was on that level defensively, that Chelsea showed in that game. Not even close. Barcelona created a lot of chances, but still they did do a good job and their players executed very well under great pressure.

And not just out of the blue either. Apparently Kazan has only lost once away from home in over a year.
That's pretty remarkable in itself and that (finally) brings me to their captain, the currently ranked 189 player in the world, Sergei Semak who quite simply embodies these things. All these things talked about above!

He is a veteran leader for club and country who basically does all the right things in his defensive midfield position. Both with and without the ball.
Obviously he is far from the most talented so far on this list, he is in fact the least talented, but he could very well be the smartest (his teachers wanted him to become a mathematician!) And if you combine that with what is still a very impressive workrate for a 33 year old then you have one very effective football player. One I think worthy of a spot on this list.

The 200 best players in the world:194-193

A couple more. More coming up


Philippe Mexes - Roma - France


For many years now Mexes has been one of the most talented central defenders in the world.

When it comes to natural ability he pretty much has it all.
He is very athletic and good technically with nice ball control and a vision still intact from his earlier days playing as a sweeper.

I will say that some years ago he wasn't overly strong, if you compare him to some of his rivals at this position, but he has improved on that and these days has become quite muscular!

He also has very good tackling ability and is pretty strong in the air as well.

I also think that he has some of the best defensive instincts of defenders outside people like the three Cs (Cannavaro, Carvalho and Cordoba) and when you combine that with his great agility you have someone who can look more impressive than almost any other central defender when he is on his game.

Yet here he is ranked just inside the top 200 with many (despite my reservations about the position) central defenders ranked ahead of him?

Well as questionable as I find that he hasn't ever been getting a better run for the French national team and as strange it looks when new Roma coach Claudio Ranieri at times has picked (non ranked) Nicholas Burdisso over him, Mexes does have some serious question marks and they're the exactly kind that coaches (forever scared to lose their jobs and with good reason I might add) hate to deal with the most.

Mexes will gamble sometimes. He will lose focus sometimes, and overall I think he is one of those players (warning: rambling trying to make sense of the mystery that is Mexes, coming right up), who when he is good he is very good and when he is bad he is very bad...

That's somewhat of a cliche and it's not quite that black and white or he wouldn't even have a job. As a defender with the simple description of "a job to defend" you just can't afford to be very bad whenever you're not good, but I think it's definitely something that works against him in the minds of coaches when goals against often is a situation where there at least is an explainable reason why the goal wasn't prevented, but in cases that happens to involve Mexes sometimes, with all his god given ability, there really can't be found any good reason why the goal wasn't prevented, and I think that can leave some coaches puzzled, a bit scared maybe, and instead they go for players less enigmatic, more easy to figure out, what in fact they can and not least, WILL do. With Mexes sometimes you just can't be sure.

Now for a whole bunch of attacking players that's a normal thing and with all the variables involved part of the job risk almost, but for a defender with their rather simple task, it's really more rare and not a great thing either.
And that's why for all his great ability that he is ranked where he is.


Anatoliy Tymoshchuk - Bayern München - Ukraine

Central midfielder

Tymoshchuk is someone who would have been quite a bit higher not too long ago but it might have been under false pretenses. Here was a player when you saw him in Europe for Zenit or for Ukraine who looked really impressive with exactly the kind of controlling presence, physical and technical, that you'd want to see from a holding midfielder. Including what looked like some strong leadership too.

Now enter his big switch to Bayern this season and with all eyes on Tymo it's been a lot less smooth sailing.
For starters the passing hasn't quite been on a high enough level.
Like with Mikel at Chelsea, here just not quick enough, or correct enough if you will, to really make Van Gaal's system GO.

In other areas he doesn't look comfortable either and when I've seen Bayern he's been caught out of position defensively too.
Maybe too much is asked of him. Or maybe he just isn't good enough in another role than the very well defined one, that he must have known inside out, playing years in Russia and Ukraine.
He has of course played under another Dutch coach before, Dirk Advocaat, at Zenit, but the players and their characteristics, surrounding him now is certainly completely different than what he saw there and for Shaktar.

At first glance now, much more than before he has to complement excellent wings, their attacking as well as their (lack of) defending, while previously he has been one of several strong players running the show, both ways, more down the middle.

I don't want to make his individual struggles worse than they are but it's without a doubt disappointing that his performances with very good players around him has actually been worse than what we've previously seen from him, and in a worst case scenario it could be the first signs of a player maybe more limited and one dimensional than Bayern thought they were getting.

Still his success and impressive displays at an important position for many years now still suggest otherwise and earns him a spot on the list.

søndag den 1. november 2009

The 200 best players in the world: 200 - 195

And so it slowly begins!

By the way feel very free to comment about anything and you could even do your own rankings as I go along!
Like for an example, of these five players who do you think is the best?


Ah I see.

Anyway, here is my long awaited first take (of many):

200 :

Alberto Zapater

Central midfielder - Genoa - Spain

Zapater makes the list because he has no real weaknesses. He is a tactical strong player who has managed to fit into Gasperini's demanding system at Genoa very well with strong two way play.
When that is defending he is a hard working player and a good tackler and when it's in possession he is good playmaker with considerable passing skills, especially from deeper on the pitch, able to fluently spread the play. Not least benefiting Genoa's always forward storming "wings".

At 24 after starting out at Zaragoza he has been a regular starter at a high level since his teen years and is already closing in on 200 league games. That experience shows with his usually good decision making.
Finally he is also something of set piece specialist able to create goals from there. For himself or for others.

It will be interesting to follow his career from here on out. His ballcontrol probably isn't great enough to be a prominent midfielder for a top Spanish side or their national team for that matter. but even though the competition is absurd I don't think I'll entirely rule out him eventually getting a chance as a defensive midfielder.
Certainly someone like the excellent Marco Senna at 33 now isn't getting younger so in not too long there will be one more squad place available there.
Maybe Zapater eventually at least can come into consideration. He wouldn't be undeserving.


Nikola Žigić

Striker -Valencia - Serbia

Zigic 202 cm (6'8), one of the tallest players around has had a somewhat tumultuous career. At one point a few years ago he even quit stating he had no desire left for the game anymore.
Fortunately he didn't go through on that but you have to wonder how he is feeling at the moment, when he ever since his big money move on the picture above, has seen very limited playing time for Valencia.

They still prefer playing David Villa surrounded by an army of excellent forwards and wings and while it's certainly easy to see Zigic also being very effective in that mix, he just hasn't been getting many chances.
Not that he necessarily should mind you, not least because he'll be far from the last Valencia player to feature on this list!

But when you have seen him play. Mainly for Serbia and for his former club Racing Santander, including recent loan spells, what you see is the kind of physical strength/ability combination that with more regular playing time would justify an even higher ranking and have for similar players.
He is obviously strong in the air and just strong in general, but he has technical ability too, ball control which makes him good with his back to the goal and on top of that I actually think his shot and ability to find and exploit space between defenders arguably is better than similar to him but higher ranked players.
So he really should be higher! But he needs to play and hopefully he will somewhere soon.
In permanent crisis financially Valencia could definitely use the money if they were to sell him and it's very possible that a good World Cup, where we will see him, is what could trigger a move.
At 29 it's not like he has unlimited time left.


Sergio Ramos

Fullback/Defender - Real Madrid - Spain

Too high? Or maybe way too low even?
I can say that Ramos more than most when performing the impossible job of putting all these players in some kind of respectable order has enjoyed more of a roller-coaster ride than most.
From pretty high to sort of in the middle of things, THEN jumping back up to a very high ranking, but now here the poor man is, near the very bottom..
But at least he made the list! That's worth something!
Like minded attacking spirits like Fabio Grosso or Glen Johnson did not!

What speaks in Ramos favor is that when it comes to contributing to attack he has skills so good that they're right up there with the very best at his position. The flip side then of course being that he can be pretty awful at defending. Not just in the rare instances when he is actually in position mano-a-mano, but much worse all the times when poor discipline and Ramos way out of position creates unbalance for his team, so bad it often means letting in goals.
In the case of Ramos some kind of precise + - assessment of Ramos value, goals for and against, would definitely be welcome when deciding his ranking compared to others.
For Spain, a team in superb balance in recent years, I think overall you have to say that his contribution is mostly a positive thing. I suspect the same would be the case if he played for the current Barcelona or even his former team Sevilla, but in the end a lingering suspicion of him actually having hurt, more than helped, Real Madrid in recent years, is what keeps him this low.

When your team takes a drastic measure like removing a player from a position where he clearly is better suited on to somewhere where he just isn't very good, in this case central defense, that is a pretty alarming sign actually going as far as to suggest that we here have a player unwilling to make tactical adjustments for the team's benefit!
That in itself sounds almost crazy but why else remove him from somewhere where he could do so much good if it isn't that he is doing very bad, to the team!

SIGH, before I decide too take him remove him from the list all together, meaning more revamping, I should probably just move on to:



Defender - Inter - Brazil

For years and years a very good player not least known for his ability to go forward.
He has great technique, whether it's controlling the ball or passing it out of the defensive ranks and he is also great in the air and strong man to man facing an attacker.

He also has this great desire to win I've noticed and really always plays with very high intensity.
Now when rating players that's probably very overrated usually, but I feel like mentioning it since Brazilians often have a reputation for exactly the opposite. You know, they're so lazy!

But all in all that sounds like pretty much the perfect defender huh? Well unfortunately Lucio has become painfully slow. Not that he was very fast, at least not on the first meters, to begin with, but he is much slower now! And when you combine that with his not exactly famous ability for spot on safety first positioning you have a player who at times can actually be something of a liability.

However the key will obviously be to adjust, position himself much more carefully, and by the way I'm sure Mourinho will "help" him with that, and he will still be a good defender and one who with all his technical ability and shear strenght, is fully worthy of a place on this list!


Jon Obi Mikel

Central Midfielder - Chelsea - Nigeria

Speaking of physical ability and good technique we have one here so capable of both that he probably should be way higher.
Unfortunately, like I've written about several times in other entries, Ancelotti's midfield Chelsea diamond and with the other player characteristics in and around it, very much requiring non slow short passing distribution to be very effective, that's just something that has not been a good friend of Mikel and he has really struggled in it:

Again things started of slow with too much short passing going through Mikel resulting in nothing positive except for Hull that is.
I do think Mikel is a good player who when the first few times I saw him thought would become an excellent one. Of that I'm not so sure anymore. But he is very strong and can do the simple things and play an effective holding midfielder role.

What he just isn't though is any kind of effective distributor in what is clearly meant to be an attacking possession game. He won't make that very good pass to people making runs in front of him and won't make a quick first touch pass to a Bosingwa coming forward. Or be part of a nice one-two or triangle with his colleagues in the diamond.

That unfortunately was his role however so he did look to do those things but the result was turnovers and/or momentum for Hull. He was never comfortable and either took too long on the ball, lost it or both.
Resulting in 1-0 for Hull and Mikel getting substituted at halftime.

It's not like he is a bad passer of the ball or has bad ball control (definitely not that).
He has just been way too slow and when trying to quicken things has made errors. Not good! And definitely a clear weakness for a player who on the surface at his time at Chelsea (there is that lack of pace and the reckless temper BUT other than that) had looked like he didn't really have any! Well he does, and that's why he is so low I guess, behind several of central midfielders yet to come.


Sergio Busquets

Central midfielder - Barcelona - Spain

The first one of those (midfielders that Mikel finds himself behind, please pay attention) is young Barcelona player Sergio Busquets.

His father was a not very good goalkeeper and just a few months ago I would have been inclined to put a similar not very good stamp on Busquets.

Not that he wasn't talented but he did look out of place and too many levels below what was surrounding him on the Barca midfield. Quite simply he looked like he still had a long way to go.

Enter this season and I see he has improved exactly what I see someone like Mikel is lacking.
That very good passing ability. One touch passing too. Long AND short. Some actual deep lying playmaker ability.

And with that already blending in much better than he did last season. It's a really quick, really drastic improvement I think.
Now it's of course very possible that the technical ability was already in place. Last season too. And it's just the added experience we're now seeing the results of. That coming up from the youth team he is now more comfortable at the highest level where you have less time on the ball.
Either way, whether it's technical or mental, we are seeing it now in full flow, and how far he will eventually go will now depend on how good he becomes physically and defensively where of course right now he is nowhere near someone like Mikel.
He has good size though so really you would think everything is in place for him to become one of the best midfielders in the world.