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
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.