Look forward to (or don't/no please do) to plenty of updates this month.
Well since the list was away I have of course changed my mind, discovered or rediscovered tons of players, so there have been plenty of alterations. I touch upon this in one of the writeups as well...
For the time being though I'm very satisfied with the upcoming placements (the previous ones in some cases are a very different matter) but of course that won't last forever so before yet another obsessive alteration attack sets in, it's time to just finish this thing, or at least get down to the highest placed players where my opinion is more set.
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
176: Arda Turan - Galatasaray - Turkey
175: Ezequiel Lavezzi - Napoli - Argentina
174: Klaas Jan Huntelaar - AC Milan - The Netherlands
173: William Gallas - Arsenal - France
172: Shaun Wright Phillips - Manchester City - England
171: Pavel Pogrebnyak - VBF Stuttgart - Russia
170: Darijo Srna - Shakhtar Donetsk - Croatia
169: Bojan Krkic and Pedro - Barcelona - Spain
168: Ronaldinho - AC Milan - Brazil
167: Tranquillo Barnetta - Bayer Leverkusen - Switzerland
166: Stiliyan Petrov - Aston Villa - Bulgaria
165: Amauri - Juventus - Brazil
164: Dirk Kuyt - Liverpool - The Netherlands
163: Bruno Alves - FC Porto - Portugal
162: Lorik Cana - Sunderland - Albania
161: Carlton Cole - West Ham - England
160: Lukas Podolski - FC Köln - Germany
Midfielder - Juventus
Surely a current starting central midfielder for mighty Brazil belongs on this list?
Felipe Melo is a great physical talent who can first and foremost help his team by making good defensive contributions but who also has the talent to participate on the attacking front, not so much with passing, where this season for Juventus his decision making has looked painful, but through powerful runs complementing the attacking players.
Before the current Juventus fiasco he enjoyed good years in Spain for smaller sides proving himself worthy of bigger things and last season he had a breakthrough season for Fiorentina where he was an important player in securing Champions League qualification and where, despite his current awfulness, it can be argued that his physical presence in midfield is missed.
Fiorentina have, despite plenty of talent and being a very good technical side, been losing more midfield battles this season than they did the last.
It's clear to me that for Dunga's Brazil and Prandelli's Fiorentina, Melo has done great in well defined roles suiting his strengths. For Juventus under inexperienced Ciro Ferrara he found himself in a situation where nothing was working for him or the team.
For Brazil and Fiorentina he looked like a player worthy of a higher placing. For Juventus he looks like someone who shouldn't even be on the list. I'm just gonna go for something in between: 159 it is!
Forward - Manchester City
Despite him seemingly having been around forever I have to admit it wasn't until very recently that I discovered any kind of appreciation for any of Craig Bellamy's football skills, and it still feels kind of wrong putting him ahead some of the lower ranked players on this list, as well as some of the very good players not even making it.
It's not even his well publicized daft behavior, who cares (I don't)? I just had no idea that he was actually good.
And to rub salt in that "wound" what I'm finally paying attention to now when it comes to Bellamy probably isn't as good as it used to be.
There are various nagging injuries (knees in particular I think) hindering his performances if we're talking game in and game out.
Maybe it's that in the past (and I'm kinda guessing here) that he's often been either a striker with a partner in a 4-4-2 or a winger in that same system (after all the most popular by far in England during Bellamy's active career), and those two roles didn't really show me (only paying half attention anyway) the full extent of his talent.
On the wing in a 4-4-2 he'll still be fast and work hard, though still not that good defensively and not really the kind of distributor for people in and around the box that you typically come to expect from an EPL winger in a 4-4-2.
Then as a striker in a 4-4-2 he isn't a great goal scoring presence in the box and neither his physicality or passing skills are quite good enough in narrow space playing more central.
So, fast forward to Mark Hughes up and down reign at Manchester City and you'd regularly have Bellamy as a left forward in a 3 man strike force or when (even) more of a left wing in what mostly was 4-2-3-1-like systems.
At some point of course Hughes more or less lost his mind though and went for some of the most unbalanced stuff I can remember from a good team. Most memorable the goal fests against Bolton and Sunderland where despite the impressive work rate from the likes of Bellamy and Tevez, there really were only two people in midfield with defensive duties and who could defend.
Anyways in between all that fun Bellamy really impressed me. He worked extremely hard both ways, was great in transition and consistently put his considerable skills to great use in the final third. Whether through great runs (with and without the ball) finishing or generally doing a good job of complementing the players around him.
and Daniel Agger
I think I promised earlier that there wouldn't be more shared spots... But there'll be more, much more!
Well, just a few more, all with some kind of a common theme, and all of course an excuse to include more players, which of course was the original excuse to make this a top 200 list in the first place, instead of say a top 50 or 100. Therefore, the more the better I say!
Of course making it a top a 200 is also what's made it such slow going. Not really the number itself or the accompanying write ups, but the sheer impossibility of putting the 100-150-200 players in perfect order. There is so little between these players and I'm still constantly altering things. Just today looking at the list for the first time in a couple of weeks I found myself spending a good two hours changing stuff around.
Not that anyone goes from 180 something to say number 79 (Fellaini would have an excellent case though-but sadly done is done), then order would be meaningless but 4-5-6 spots here and there, up or down, non stop, enough to drive you crazy! And I won't even go into the number of players first left out then proving they really belong (damn you!), or even worse players who I had either somehow forgotten about or who wasn't even on my original radar bursting out of nowhere playing excellent football!
Of course the slower this gets the more of these will show up... So therefore get on with it!
Well, this is the homer pick I guess. With apologies to Christian Poulsen and Nicklas Bendtner (and perhaps young Ajax phenom Christian Eriksen), who both have not had the best of times for their respective club teams the last year or so (but still I'd claim along with tons of others around the 200 mark of this list), Simon Kjær 20 and Daniel Agger 25 are the two best danish players at the moment and likely the danish national team central defender partnership for many years to come.
They're quite different though. Kjær at just 20 is the virtual mistake free dominating physical defender who'll beat his man when space is tight, on ground or in air, with serious consistency, sometimes non stop, while Agger not as strong physically, and unfortunately injury plagued, uses great instincts and ability (timing/tackling/heading/good acceleration for a defender) to beat his.
Agger is also much superior with the ball where he has great ball control and some good passing skills that he can also put to use going forward (rare for Liverpool/less rare for the national team).
Unlike Kjær though his decision making isn't always good and he will make the occasional big mistake, perhaps a bit like some previously ranked übertalented defenders, have a little too much faith in his own talent sometimes trying the difficult instead of the simple. Something I haven't really seen from Kjær.
What I do think I've seen from both of them though is a good deal of leadership impressively enough, and both so to speak can take charge of defense.
When playing for Denmark I have noticed Kjær struggling at times with positioning, Agger too for that matter, but I mostly put that down to the criminal lack of support they sometimes find themselves without and just general lack of defensive balance (not least when compared to both their club teams) a situation where I think all defenders would struggle.
In many ways it's still early days for Kjær but if you combine the very high level he plays central defender at already, plus the number of European giants already linked to him, it's hard to see him not becoming a star.
With no disrespect at all to recently retired Martin Laursen, his career is almost the worst case scenario here.
Like Kjær currently, Laursen also showed good things for a smaller Italian club, in his case Verona.
Good enough to be transfered to AC Milan for a good bit of money, but due to injuries and serious competition (Maldini, Nesta and Stam for starters) it just didn't happen for him there.
Then sadly there were even more injuries but thankfully Laursen finally did get to show what an excellent defender he could be, at club level as well, even when only relatively healthy, when he had a great final time at Aston Villa.
Kjær's next destination, and it's just a matter of when, almost certainly will be a big club and I guess that's where we'll see how far he can really go.
I don't think it would be unwise to wait though. Maybe at least one more season gaining experience for what's becoming a pretty good team that's even challenging for spots in Europe.
For Agger it's a matter of staying healthy. He has certainly shown that he functions at a high enough level to play for a big club but I do fear that if he doesn't have a good healthy spell soon, then he won't be seen as someone you can really depend on, despite all the talent, and he'll then end up playing somewhere, perhaps less prestigious than Liverpool.
Defender - AC Milan
At least the best that I've ever seen.
I guess there are a few I can think who could rival his marking and defensive instincts, Fabio Cannavaro and Ciro Ferrara (maybe the best pure man marker, then later adapted great to zone) come to mind, but then Nesta had size and strength (stronger than Jurgen Kohler who is another that come to mind) that they didn't have, as well as all the defensive ability and instincts you could ever imagine. He even rivals their superb agility and Cannavaro's great range of command and he was much better with the ball.
There is also Maldini of course but he was at his greatest at left-back. Thuram is another favorite of mine who deserves mention.
Before the injuries causing him to miss whole seasons in recent years, there were simply no one better than Nesta. For Lazio and early Milan, as well as the Azzurri where his luck has been brutal, following in the unfortunate footsteps of Ferrera, getting injured in 3 World Cups, he was immense and amazing to watch, putting on display after display of flawless defending.
This season surprisingly he's back playing. I honestly thought his career was over and from what I've read it was close.
He is 33 and with a physique, though thankfully not broken, still not nearly capable of what it used to athletically.
Still he's been doing an admirable job on a Milan team currently with a very attacking balance that sees microscopic defensive help from the midfield.
If it wasn't for Nesta with all the ability that remains often holding things together with his partner the talented Silva in and around the penalty area against opponents with a wide open highway towards it, who knows where they'd be in the table? Would rookie coach Leonardo still have his job?
His play has been so impressive that there's been plenty of talk of a comeback to the national team where he's been retired for years now but the latest is that he's turned down that chance.
Staying healthy I'm sure is a big part of that decision and so far he's managed to do just that and while he is definitely not the best defender in the world anymore, he is still kinda up there when healthy, and almost for the glimpses alone that he gives you, of the immense defender that used to rule air and ground, for those alone Nesta just has to be on the list.
Left-back - Lyon
Could have been Nesta's team mate at Milan this season where he had signed a pre-contract but some kind of problem with his teeth, that I'm too lazy to look up now, meant that he failed the medical.
Too bad for Milan, congratulations Lyon, is the popular conclusion that it's hard to disagree with.
Cissokho 22 has had something of a meteoric rise from one club and on to the bigger.
20 games for a French third division side before being snapped up Vitoria Setubal in the Portuguese first division and there it only took 13 games before the dominant team in Portugal in recent years, champions FC Porto signed him.
There when everyone (including me) got to see him playing in the Champions League, everyone got kinda interested and the transfer rumors could begin.
Just 13 games was his finishing total for FC Porto before Lyon stepped in and put to good use some of all that money they received in the Benzema transfer and signed Cissokho for around €15 million+20 percent of his next transfer fee.
After that little summarization of Cissokho's young career so far, it almost goes without saying that he is someone who's talent is very obvious and immediate when you first see him.
He is very athletic and strong technically. Man to man defensively he is a beast (and looking at his build he can get even stronger) and on the offensive he is fast enough and skilled enough to make good deliveries and can be pretty hard to stop if he gets into full gear, resembling a winger.
I'm actually surprised he is listed as only 1.83 cm. He seems even taller to me. Maybe it's the lanky build and long legs.
Cissokho really isn't that experienced on the highest level yet but to call him a raw talent or anything like that would be insulting and indicate holes and weaknesses that I'm just not seeing.
There really isn't anything not to like here and it's scary to think that with experience he'll get even better.
He is yet to make his debut for France but has found his way into the squad recently where on his position higher ranked Patrice Evra is the clear first choice.
Personally I think he is a better left-back than likely rival Abidal but Abidal does have versatility going for him. Another French left-back Gael Clichy cause of injuries and poor form (mostly defensively-he is good going forward) is way behind when it comes to going to the World Cup I think but who knows with Domenech.
If Benoit Tremoulinas of champions Bordeaux is even an outsider I don't know, but he is someone who has been been playing great lately, so who knows.