torsdag den 6. maj 2010

The 200 best players in the world: 109-101

With this entry I've finally reached the top 100 and when I look at all the players to come all I see are writeups that I can't wait to write and individual rankings that I'm mostly pretty happy with.

The last thing is the most important. Countless of times this has been delayed by me instead of doing writeups preferring to waste hours messing with the order. No more of that!

Surely this will be smooth sailing from here with entries at least every other day? Right? Right...

Introduction to the list

The list:

New order

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
159: Felipe Melo - Juventus - Brazil
158: Craig Bellamy - Manchester City - Wales
157: Simon Kjaer and Daniel Agger - Palermo and Liverpool - Denmark
156: Alessandro Nesta -Milan-Italy
155: Aly Cissokho - Lyon -France
154: Walter Samuel - Inter - Argentina
153: Diego Lugano - Fenerbahce - Uruguay
152: Mauro Zarate - Lazio - Argentina
151: Sebastian Giovinco - Juventus and Luca Cigarini - Napoli - Italy
150: Taye Taiwo - Marseille - Nigeria, Rod Fanni - Rennes and Benoit Tremoulinas - Bordeaux - France
149: Domenico Criscito - Genoa - Italy
148: Fernando Llorente - Atletic Bilbao - Spain
147: Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Sebastian Veron, Lucho Gonzalez, Pablo Aimar and Javier Pastore - Boca Juniors, Estudiantes, Marseille, Benfica and Palermo - Argentina
146: Alexis Sanchez - Udinese - Chile
145: Tom Huddlestone - Tottenham - England
144: Gerard Pique - Barcelona - Spain
143: Raul Meireles, Porto - Joao Moutinho - Miguel Veloso, Sporting Lissabon - Portugal
142: Bacary Sagna - Arsenal - France
141: Eljero Elia - Hamburger SV - Netherlands
140: Marko Marin - Werder Bremen - Germany
139: Giuseppe Rossi - Villarreal - Italy
138: Raul - Real Madrid-Spain and Ruud Van Nistelrooy - Hamburger SV-Netherlands
137: Konstantin Zyryanov - Zenit Saint Petersburg - Russia
136: Simon Rolfes - Bayern Leverkusen - Germany
135: Ze Roberto - Hamburger SV - Brazil
134 - 129
134: Mauro Camoranesi - Juventus - Italy
133: Simone Perrotta - Roma - Italy
132: Marcelo - Real Madrid - Brazil
131: Christian Chivu - Inter - Romania
130: Simäo - Atletico Madrid - Portugal
129: Marcell Jansen - Hamburger SV - Germany
128 - 122
128: Hatem Ben Arfa - Marseille - France and Goran Pandev - Inter - Macedonia
127: Rafael Marquez - Barcelona - Mexico
126: Nigel De Jong - Manchester City - Netherlands
125: Grafite - Wolfsburg - Brazil
124: Pablo Hernandez - Valencia - Spain
123: Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahce - Spain
122: Ramires - Benfica - Brazil
121: Mohamed Sissoko - Juventus - Mali
120: Dejan Stankovic - Inter - Serbia
119: Stefan Kiessling - Bayer Leverkusen - Germany
118: Frederic Kanoute - Sevilla - Mali
117: Jermain Defoe - Tottenham - England
116: Carlos Puyol - Barcelona - Spain
115: Alou Diarra - Bordeaux - France
114: Antonio Cassano - Sampdoria - Italy
113: Deco - Chelsea - Portugal
112: Ryan Giggs - Manchester United - Wales
111: Thomas Vermaelen - Arsenal - Belgium
110: Gareth Barry - Manchester City - England


Wilson Palacios


Midfielder - Honduras

Palacios has quickly established himself as one of the most reliable midfielders in the world.

Defensively in many ways I think he is comparable to previously ranked Nigel De Jong.

Palacios like De Jong has a great work rate and at least comparable tackling ability where De Jong of course is a master, but what puts Palacios just ahead is that both athletically and when it comes to overall technical ability he has a bit more to offer.

Something that I don't think should be underrated as a deciding matter in what team is winning the midfield battle on the given day.
If a player like Palacios not only defends well but through running (especially that) or passing (he does actually have a tendency to lose the ball at times which is his one weakness I guess) can add some pressure coming from the primarily defensive players also, then it's just even more to deal with for the opposition and slowly but surely the midfield that does the best, or most it can, on the attacking front while not making mistakes defensively can gradually, or very quickly sometimes, take over the game. Make it one way traffic instead of back and forth. A certain Scottish Manchester United enforcer is a very good example of this currently.

Perhaps especially in England where it still isn't always given what team goes out there with the defensive mindset and who's looking to attack in numbers. Perhaps both sides are looking to attack in numbers! Then we have the battle, and while Palacios isn't one of those players I'll call a great two-way player, for Tottenham he hasn't been much of a factor further upfield and is first and foremost at his best defensively, his good work with at least constructiveness both ways (well one way it's supposedly destructiveness) is something opponents consistently have to deal with both when they try to attack and when they defend.

On second thought I should probably simply have said that Palacios has great midfield presence.


Gabriel Agbonlahor

Aston Villa

Striker - England

For me the second best English striker after Wayne Rooney and I think it's only a matter of time before that also becomes the popular view.

The way Aston Villa plays he doesn't get nearly the number of goal scoring chances that some other strikers enjoy the luxury of and therefore there hasn't been that breakout goalscoring season just yet. But his outstanding pace, work-rate plus underrated power and technical ability (control and shooting) in my opinion puts him ahead of the pack.

If he is a good enough tactical fit compared to the various rivals in order to earn a World Cup place is an interesting question though.

Some forwards automatically will get selected ahead of him because of what their size brings to the table and then there are some who are still a little bit better in and around the box in tight space including with their back to the goal and are perhaps more proven finishers (even if I think that's somewhat dubious), where Agbonlahor is at his very best running into space.

How much of that Capello thinks England will need from a reserve, with the main guy being better at that and everything else, will make or break Agbonlahor's World Cup hopes.


Ashley Young

Aston Villa

Winger/Forward - England

Ashley Young made the PFA team of the year both in 2008 and 2009 but after an inconsistent 2010 wasn't particular close this time around.

Just like the many previously ranked players of his type, difference making speed is his main weapon and he has good dribbling ability.

He is ranked ahead of all of them so far cause I feel he is a little bit more of a complete player or with a better trackrecord.
He is good in second-striker type of roles as well, and at least until this season, was a very consistent weapon creating and scoring goals through effective crossing and shooting. Better (even much better) than most of the wingers ranked so far.

In true Martin O'Neill Aston Villa style he also has a good work-rate but could improve creativity and short passing.


Giampaolo Pazzini


Striker - Italy

This was one of the quotes from Pazzini's coach at Sampdoria Luigi Del Neri in my Antonio Cassano writeup:

“Before Cassano couldn't manage many 30m sprints. When he plays further forward he has to sprint 10m so it's different. The question is: when will he do 30 separate 10m sprints?

With Pazzini on the other hand that's a question that doesn't even have to be asked.

Pazzini does those sprints in between opposing defenders tirelessly throughout every game. He has both the work-rate, the acceleration and off the ball movement to be very effective at it.

On top of that he has good ball-control and even some decent dribbling ability that he can use to make way for his very good shooting. In many ways then, a classic Italian dangerman!

At Fiorentina Pazzini was behind in the pecking order to Gilardino and Mutu. With Mutu's career pretty much destroyed this season, Fiorentina could have really used him, but Pazzini moved to Sampdoria instead where, with apologies to Cassano and Palombo, he has been the best player ever since and a big part of their great results lately.

If I had to point out a non strong point it would be that even though he is certainly an option in the middle (if anything) he perhaps isn't the greatest fit in the more and more popular Italian 3 forward lines, at least if you compare to some of his Azzurri World Cup rivals, but he is so good in other areas that he should make the final squad anyway.


Toni Kroos

Bayer Leverkusen (on loan from Bayern Munich)

Attacking midfielder/Winger - Germany

That photo of Kroos the young sensation and the legendary Kaiser himself was taken back in 2007 at the U-17 World Cup where Kroos was awarded the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.

As a 16 year old he had already been signed by Bayern Munich and done so well for their youth team that as a 17 year old he was promoted to their senior squad. There he showed great things as well, for starters he set up two goals in his 2008 debut, but appearances predictably were very limited and he was sent to Leverkusen on loan.

A loan-deal that was then extended into this season in what turned out to be a great move not just for Leverkusen where Kroos played a big part in taking them straight to the top of the table with one brilliant display after another, but for Kroos himself who got the stage where at a young age he could take the Bundesliga and the Germans so much by storm that he'll be very hard to avoid for the World Cup.

When I first saw Kroos he kind of reminded me of young Steven Gerrard. Build and appearance seemed similar and there was that striking ability when kicking a football to have it do whatever he wanted. Especially when it came to shooting.

Now this was a sketchy first impression and Kroos doesn't have that freak athletic ability and unique drive of Gerrard when Gerrard is at his best, making Kroos a less dynamic player, but what he does have is a silky touch when it comes to ballcontrol and the more delicate passes, he even has vision, and then, again like Gerrard, when it comes to crosses, for an example on set pieces, he can really put force into the ball and be accurate at the same time. Or he can just elect to put the ball into the back of the net!

Kroos quite simply has excellent technique involving anything that has to do with kicking a football and that's not a bad thing at all.


Alexandre Song


Midfielder/Defender - Cameroon

Song really started to come into his own last season and has uninterruptedly ever since been a model of consistency. He is also yet another player who has earned a ranking boost through great functionality in two different positions, defensive midfielder as well as sometimes a very capable central defender.

Where Song looks most impressive is man to man duels where he becomes an almost immovable object winning the ball the vast majority of the time. He has great strength and balance in those situations.

While he is not the quickest and doesn't offer much forward I have been impressed with his passing game. He has good distribution and doesn't subtract but definitely adds to Arsenal's possession game.

So does midfield partner Denilson you could say, who often has some of the best passing completion rates out of anyone, but unlike him Song has that clear physical defensive presence and doesn't make the downright gross mistakes without the ball that Denilson continues to do, at times costing Arsenal dearly.
Despite all that secure passing it isn't even given that Denilson is in fact positive value for Arsenal, while in Song's case there is no doubt whatsoever that he is indeed.

Another interesting comparison is much lower ranked Chelsea midfielder Mikel.
For my first few versions of this list Mikel was one the major stumbling blocks obstructing Song's entrance. I couldn't really see Song being much better, or worse for that matter, but it's now clear to me that Song's better passing game and ability to play two positions has him ahead of someone like Mikel by a good margin.


Jérémy Toulalan


Midfielder/Defender - France

The least I could do for what is surely one of the most boring players on this list was to find a funny picture...

Toulalan is another defensive midfielder specialist who doesn't offer much the other way and who has received at least somewhat of a ranking boost cause he is a capable central defender as well.

He has a great work rate and is forever harassing the ball holder, is very consistent and doesn't seem to ever make major mistakes.

With the ball he actually has good control and very secure distribution. Again no mistakes but again very little going forward.

Just a very unspectacular solid player doing good things defensively to help his team.


Alvaro Negredo


Striker - Spain

Negredo started this season as he finished the last one, looking like the next superstar striker coming out of Spain.

Relative quick, strong and with excellent technique again and again he showed exquisite finishing scoring goal after goal.

Then things came to a sudden halt and he has spent most of the time since struggling for his new team Sevilla, and as touched upon in the Frederic Kanoute writeup , just hasn't been able to fill the shoes of either Kanoute or Luis Fabiano, in what's been a poor season for the whole team.

As Sevilla's terrible record without that duo starting suggests I think a lot of it is just how much of the Sevilla style and tactics were based on what those two could do, and while Negredo is very good in his own right, he is a different type and less of the supreme athletic box presence that those two together virtually guaranteed.

Sevilla for the last many years have always had great creativity and pace coming from the wings.
Negredo to really shine it's possible needs a whole different kind of buildup, passes coming more from central, so he can be at his best just inside and around the area where his great technique poses much more of a dangerous threat than trying to meet any kind of passing off the ground whether it's a cross or a target-man type of feed with his back to the goal.
It's possible Negredo can develop those things to his game also but so far I haven't really seen it.

His mostly great play the last two years has also put him in the Spain World Cup picture where there is a never ending battle to be first (and maybe second) reserve to the superstars Fernando Torres and David Villa.

On my ranking Negredo is the highest ranked of the bunch and the one who at his best I think is ahead of the others but certainly Athletic Bilbao powerhouse Llorente who I regret not ranking higher and is playing great this season with his size and strength offer something that the others don't and if only one gets to go (Pedro with his versatility has become pretty much certain) then I think it should be him.


Walter Gargano


Midfielder - Uruguay

Small in stature but with a big heart Gargano could be one of the most underrated players in the world.

Despite his size this is a midfielder who can command. Defensively with his great work rate and ball winning ability where he is surprisingly strong and in possession where he doesn't just have good technique but a very impressive passing range.

The only weakness I can come up with (and it might be wrong) is that in a tactical demanding environment he perhaps hasn't adjusted a 100 percent yet. On pure talent he blows most of the defensive midfielders he face every week well away, he is just a much better player, but perhaps just perhaps if we're talking defensive positioning alone he isn't quite up there with your good/standard Serie A defensive midfielder.

With my limited knowledge of the Uruguay national team, on paper their World Cup squad has good talent defensively, I chose to rate Diego Lugano pretty high, and not least up front with players still to come on this list, but in midfield I only really see Gargano. It will be interesting what kind of quality they have around him and if not much, if Gargano can carry them on his back.

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