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.

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