mandag den 9. august 2010

The 200 best players in the world: 61 - 56

I'm tempted to write some team reports with thoughts about various clubs for the upcoming season instead... but yes I should wait and I will until the transfer window is closed. Even if that means clubs will have played already. That should only improve the reports anyway.

So on with the list instead we go and this did get pretty long rather than my original intent of getting down the list maybe even in a hurry:

Introduction to the list

200 - 101 (and every writeup+honorary mentions)

100 - 95
100: Jose Bosingwa - Chelsea - Portugal
99: André-Pierre Gignac - Toulouse - France
98: Andrés Guardado - Deportivo La Coruna - Mexico
97: Ricardo Carvalho - Chelsea - Portugal and Rio Ferdinand - Manchester United - England
96: John Terry - Chelsea - England
95: Mark Van Bommel - Bayern München - The Netherlands

94: Alejandro "Chori" Dominguez - Valencia - Argentina
93: Claudio Marchisio - Juventus - Italy
92: Michael Carrick - Manchester United - England
91: Darren Fletcher - Manchester United - Scotland
90: Miralem Pjanic - Lyon - Bosnia-Herzegovina
89: Santi Cazorla - Villarreal - Spain
88: Samir Nasri - Arsenal - France
87: Luis Suarez - Ajax - Uruguay
86: Mario Balotelli - Inter - Italy
85: Alberto Gilardino - Fiorentina - Italy
84: James Milner - Aston Villa - England
83: Mikel Arteta - Everton - Spain

82: Thierry Henry - Barcelona - France
81: Thomas Müller - Bayern München - Germany
80: Ivica Olic - Bayern München - Croatia
79: Branislav Ivanovic - Chelsea - Serbia
78: Nemanja Vidić - Manchester United - Serbia
77: Giorgio Chiellini - Juventus - Italy

76: Marcos Senna - Villarreal - Spain
75: Lass Diarra - Real Madrid - France
74: Francesco Totti - Roma - Italy
73: Antonio Di Natale - Udinese - Italy
72: Emmanuel Adebayor - Manchester City - Togo
71: Mirko Vucinic - Roma - Montenegro
70: Antonio Valencia - Manchester United - Ecuador
69: David Pizarro - Roma - Chile
68: Dimitar Berbatov - Manchester United - Bulgaria

67: Juan Manuel Vargas - Fiorentina - Peru
66: Robinho - Manchester City - Brazil
65: Patrice Evra - Manchester United - France
64: Michel Bastos - Lyon - Brazil
63: Seydou Keita - Barcelona - Mali
62: Javier Zanetti - Inter - Argentina


Ashley Cole


Left-back - England

Cashley to say the least isn't the most popular player but he is an excellent left-back nonetheless.

He has great fullback stamina. Times his forward runs very well and has the necessary skills to be comfortable in the opponent half when doing it. There are definitely even more talented fullbacks at attacking out there than Cole but he is effective (his crossing especially is good, as well as his control) and he has great physical tools.

He is fast and strong. Both characteristics put well to use when it comes to tackling, and I think generally when it comes to his significant completeness at the position, it's his defending that sets him apart from most others.

One on one which is always a common situation out wide, he is great and his team defending is very good as well. You don't find him caught out of position and his strength, pace and timing makes him good at participating in back-four play, marking and defending in the box (and whereever next cause he has great range) when opponent possession for an example is on the opposite wing.

At 29 he does have some injury history (but of course also seasons of not missing a single beat) and is definitely a player depending heavily on athleticism, so it will be interesting to see how long he can stay on top.
Generally for fullbacks on this list, the gaps between them aren't as large as all the players in other positions packed in would suggest.

There are even fullbacks outside the list that I don't think are that far off, and who should probably have been included, since after all this is an important position.

But while ignoring left and right, with just three rather obvious fullbacks left to go - let's take a look at their internal order using new order as well as the honorary mentions :

4. Ashley Cole
5. Javier Zanetti (his midfield play a significant part of his ranking of course. While very good I don't think he is a better left-back than Evra for an example)

6. Patrice Evra
7. Branislav Ivanovic (his centre-back credentials also playing in but not as much as Zanetti's midfield play. He really impressed me at right-back)

8. Jose Bosingwa
9. Marcell Jansen (I haven't included Vargas, Marcelo and Bastos since their fullback play isn't that big part of their rankings. Jansen is trickier since it's clearly bigger but he is playing more and more wing instead it seems and that of course is a big part of his ranking)

10. Bacary Sagna
11. Domenico Criscito
12. Benoit Tremoulinas
13. Taye Taiwo
14. Rod Fanni
15. Aly Cissokho (actually I probably got carried away and overrated Cissokho overall here but then again the same can be said about at least the two above (or moreso even) so now I'd put him over those two)

16. Darijo Srna
17. Yuri Shirkov

Some notable omissions (where I'm sure I'm forgetting some people):

Fabio Coentrao
Joan Capdevilla
Alexandr Kolarov
Gareth Bale
Alvaro Arbeloa
Gael Clichy
Eric Abidal
Filipe Luis

Well all of those to various extents definitely belong on the list (making me look dumb) I think with perhaps the first real stumbling block for many of them, if we're talking the fullback position only, being Sagna at number 10.

Clichy I think still has the most upside if he'll defend reasonably. He is just pure speed and athleticism going forward.

Bale and Kolarov would have their rankings helped by their wing play but may just be the "worst" fullbacks. Very good players though.

Filipe Luis I'll reserve judgment on till I've seen him some more. I suspect he is very good though.

Coentrao to some extent the same, even if he had close to flawless periods for everyone to see during the World Cup.

Arbeloa I feel is underrated and would actually put him ahead of both Abidal and Capdevilla who could be on the down, meaning I'd probably put them at the bottom but ahead of Taiwo and Fanni at least. Abidal helped along by some versatility.

All in all then (and this is tough - more putting in order - just what I don't need):

Gael Clichy at 11 behind Sagna but with a good chance to surpass him in my book with an impressive season.

Kolarov who I'm a little skeptical about when it comes to playing in a back-four at 13 behind Tremoulinas

Coentrao just behind Kolarov

Then Bale who still has to prove some in the longterm and possibly not even at this position...

Then Arbeloa. Him also ahead of the Ligue 1 guys.

Filipe Luis the same and probably it will turn out that he is ranked too low.

And finally

and Abidal


Andrea Pirlo


Midfielder - Italy

One of the best and most valuable players of his generation, being the most important contributor to both Champions League triumphs as well of course a World Cup win.

I first remember seeing him for Inter (don't have any memories of him from even earlier than that for Brescia) when in a game as a young attacking midfielder he came off the bench to replace Roberto Baggio.

With his supreme technique in all actions with the ball he immediately stood out and I was convinced right from his very first touches that this was the next great Italian number 10.

He didn't look particularly fast back then either, a little fragile too, but his first touches standing out in a game even more back then than it would now and then his godsend passing seemed levels above everyone else.

I didn't quite understand why Inter sent him out on loan back then but it was a time where they had several highly paid star forwards in their squad making playing time a challenge for everyone.
Indeed an aging Baggio was soon forced out as well only to end up having several impressive seasons, being the (divine pony tail) man again, at Pirlo's former club Brescia.

But to name some of the rich Inter attacking talent at the time. They had:

Ronaldo, Vieri, Zamorano, Djorkaeff, Baggio, very promising at the time Nicola Ventola and the year(s) Pirlo was loaned out the likes of young stars Recoba, Seedorf and Mutu had joined as well.

I'm not exactly sure how Pirlo did in those loan spells at Reggiana and then back to Brescia again for the 2000/2001 season meeting up once more with the legend Baggio but it did make me remember and search for this in retrospect fascinating goal against Juventus where as a clear sign of things to come Pirlo number 5 on his shirt regista style from deep central midfield with a trademark deep through ball finds Baggio who with his usual elegance turns it into a goal behind a perplexed Van der Sar in the Juve goal.

Elsewhere in the year 2000, Pirlo lead the azzurrini to the European Championship picking up the player of the tournament award in the process.

However the real breakthrough came when AC Milan decided it was a good idea to invest in the obvious young talent (imagine that!) and secured him for maybe, maybe not €18 million in one of those not uncommon Serie A deals at the time involving many players back and forth at strange prices, maybe or maybe not, to create some nice false profit in the books...

He started out in the attacking midfielder role but at some point came the important change into a deep-lying playmaker. A historic change that helped pave the way for the major successes mentioned in the opening lines of this writeup. European Cups. The World Cup.

It was a move I have always hailed Ancelotti for making but I recently learned that he doesn't even (to his credit I guess! Most coaches I'm guessing would love that on their cv) take credit for it himself.

This is from his autobiography:

"Pirlo really helped me out. He approached me one day and suggested that he could play in a deep position, just in front of the back four. I was extremely sceptical. He was an attacking midfielder, his tendency was to run with the ball. And yet, it worked. He became one of the best in the world in that role. I stuck Seedorf out wide, with Rui Costa and Rivaldo behind the lone striker and - presto! - there was my 4-3-2-1, or Christmas Tree."

All the more reason to hail the great player then which suits me just fine.

Pirlo would probably have become a very good trequartista too. Even with the complications involved of being such in this era of football. And while he isn't fast or strong enough to be a great goal scoring threat up there, it's not like he didn't consistently with technique and vision do great things in the final third too, it's just that the one area where he is truly unique, and still best in the world, the accurate passing, through balls even from sometimes way deep would largely be taken out of his game. There are others with tremendous range of passing and its always valuable, but Pirlo combines it with great vision and superb ball control.

It was incredibly valuable to have a player who even from deep in midfield would be a threat in attack. A threat to create a chance or a dangerous situation out of , or from rather, nowhere almost.

For Italy in 2006 it meant the team could attack with pinpoint effectiveness and be dangerous with only few players coming forward. Many teams nowadays playing defensive will attack with only few players to keep their defensive shape and men behind the ball when possession is lost again, but even in transition it will often be difficult to be dangerous cause you're sitting deep a long way from goal and maybe doesn't have enough individual quality to erase that deficit so to speak and manage to be a threat with only so few people attacking.

The team we saw do it best last season was Inter in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona where sitting deep they made minimal possession extremely effective by as often and quickly as possible seeking out their one skilled passer, Sneijder who would then make excellent quick one touch passes of many ranges to one of only 2-3 players making runs forward ahead of him. The rest of the team behind could then comfortably concentrate on keeping their defensive shape. They were already managing to be dangerous attacking with only 3-4 players.

Pirlo at important times for Italy and Milan was in the unique position rarely matched by anyone else that the very next second after having created something in attack he would be in position to defend. Simply cause he hadn't moved! That simple. That true. He was back in or near his own half ready to defend having created from deep.
It's very hard to do effectively even remotely consistently and needs a unique player to pull it off but when realized I almost can't emphasize enough the value I think it has, or imagine even a greater risk reward scenario for your team.

This is also why I've struggled finding the right ranking for him and I'm still not sure. One thing is comparing him to the players he is just ahead of, Ashley Cole, Vargas or Zanetti. They're so different it's almost impossible, but also when looking at Pirlo isolated it is very tricky. Because in theory despite whatever athletic decline he has seen, and it can look serious at times, somewhere on some team, he could still have that value. Those skills are still there.

Is he by now just a specialist then needing the perfect conditions but then if that's in place can be the most valuable player putting the team over the top, on to glory?

And should that mean an even lower ranking then or how about much higher, since in some ways you could say that's also at least one mark of an elite impact player...

The 2009/10 season for Pirlo despite difficult conditions, that I shall touch upon soon, was actually better I thought than the previous one. Mainly he stayed healthy (well until it really mattered at the World Cup SIGH) and I found myself impressed with his work rate and durability game in and game out.

The surroundings weren't kind to him though.

Around him there was less defensive protection than ever. One Veteran Ambrosini did his best but other than that I don't think there were many teams in Europe defending with less players than Milan consistently found themselves doing.
Opponents often had a free pass to the Milan penalty area and I'm still surprised the consequences suffered, in the form of more embarrassing defeats, weren't worse.

In attack they had very little movement in front of Pirlo. Attacking fullbacks who he has always had radar-like connections with when coming forward, think prime Zambrotta, Cafu or Grosso, were a clear weakness for the team and there wasn't much there for him to work with.

Of the front three the only one with good movement and not least pace was Pato and he struggled with health, so for good and bad, Pirlo in many ways, as the rest of the team, was reduced to hand the ball over to Ronaldinho, permanently parked on the left-wing, no need (or conditions you could say) for Pirlo to make special passes at all, and then just see what the Brazilian's genius could create.

Quite a lot actually if you had people up there near him. Something Pirlo was also forced to at times, and while that did mean goals and a team usually dangerous, it resulted in a very unbalanced team and generally very bad conditions for Pirlo who is so good in a team attack that has pace and movement. But for Milan found himself on a team where it was much more about individuals. Either up front trying to create on their own or in the back among the unfortunate few (not uncommonly including Pirlo somewhere) forced to defend on their own.

There simply was no team for Pirlo to put over the top.

Current Andrea Pirlo is still an excellent passer, Short and long with vision. His first touch is great and his skills at times means he can still go past people without pace. I also think he has good stamina and he continues to be an expert on set pieces.

He is very slow though and at times to such an extent it's possible to mistake him for a zombie out there slowly wandering around with an empty stare just lusting for some ball.
This also has made him easier to mark and he is still very much a target for the opposition. Then with so little movement around him he can be made to look pretty bad at times losing the ball in costly areas.

Defensively like already talked about his greatest value has always been that he is there back in position behind the ball ready to defend his zone and that actually is more important than tackling anyway but by no means is he a good defensive player (especially not now) and he needs protection in the form of defensive midfielders around him as his slowness duly prevents him from having any kind of range to his defending and if he is forced to press will look completely out of place.

All in all I'm still not sure where to rank him but for Milan and Pirlo's sake I hope their coach Allegri (one of Italy's most promising) will find a way around Ronaldinho (and indirectly Berlusconi perhaps) and create a more balanced side than what we saw from Leonardo.


Mario Gomez

Bayern München

Striker - Germany

Gomez needs to think of happier times:

Okay so it really hurt he claims, and that does make sense of course, but a goal is a goal and lately Gomez is in another harmful situation (possibly here hurting his behind in the process) sitting on the bench not able to score the goals he loves so much and which over his still young career he has netted at a fantastic rate.

A year ago it was 24 in 30 league starts (37 in all). Then 23 in 28 across all competitions. In 06/07 there was 14 in 22 and even when still finding his feet in the Bundesliga the year before that, amidst many substitution appearances, it was for what its worth 7 goals in 6 starts.

But here he is at Bayern, their best striker by some margin I still believe, on the bench.

For starters you can only have so many attackers in a lineup and Bayern have two excellent ones in the form of Ribery and Robben both somewhere higher up the list.

Then there were the impressive form of two of my favorites (and I can definitely see why any coach would feel similar!) Olic and Müller who both contribute, as talked about in their writeups of course, in different ways with different things than Gomez does. Then if the coach in connection with all the other players in the lineup, feels that's what makes the team better, then it doesn't really matter if another player isolated on his own is better individually ( not least if those other things are deemed less important on this particular team with their specific players).

Even Klose. Himself with a history sitting on the Bayern bench brings different movement and dynamics (in the form of his remaining pace) to the team than Gomez.
I would though, even if he returns to good form, have a harder time understanding him playing over Gomez than I would Olic or Müller.

Then again if as some reports on and off during the season suggested are correct, that Gomez (Luca Toni style? Maybe not quite but still) have practiced feuding with Van Gaal, then that's not something that will provide the greatest outlook for more starting time.

If he were to get the chance again what Gomez does brings of course is a very impactful around and inside the box presence. He is very strong, good in the air and while at times can look underwhelming still with good and definitely underrated technique. Both when it comes to control and finishing.
I still think a large part of the under appreciation or denial even of any Gomez skill at all come from his high profile failure at Euro 2008 where he just didn't put a foot right.

With great performances in the Bundesliga naturally getting much less attention internationally, those things can haunt a player.

But Gomez from the starts that he actually DID get last season (and in all competitions he did score 19 goals) I thought both when it came to movement other places than in the box (maybe even more pace) and general ball skills as well that he looked better even than at times for Stuttgart during his scoring goals for fun (even using penis) glory days of the previous seasons.

In many ways that's what this good (even if too good according to some) ranking is based on.

Rightly or wrongly I thought he looked very good when I saw him and while as the season progressed getting to see that less and less certainly hasn't boosted his ranking, I'm not willing to dismiss my impression totally on a 25 year old, at his club in competition with excellent players, when I have no reason to suspect he is suddenly a worse player than the free scoring one of a year ago or the one I was very impressed with this season while he was still getting the chance.


Karim Benzema

Real Madrid

Striker - France

Benzema is one of the most naturally gifted strikers in the world. Strength combined with pace and considerable skills with upside.

So much so that I think he is someone who with a good next season under his belt could jump as much as 20 something places up the list. If not more.

However apart from very few exceptions (exceptions mostly having in common being universally recognized top 10-15 players in the world not long ago) almost everyone still to go on the list will be coming of either one outstanding season (in my eyes at least) or at least two very good ones playing at a very high level.

And for Benzema, despite all the tools being in place, last season did just abruptly put a stop sign to that.
Now I'm sure that's only in place temporarily and in just a matter of time with force he will run that sign over.

In many ways like with Gomez there is no shame either in losing playing time when the competition consists of other excellent players. One of them even, Higuain who with his finesse contra Benzema's physicality, had every condition in place for a great breakthrough season, both in terms of strength of teammates around him compared to the general opposition faced, and coach Manuel Pelligrini's tactics suiting finesse rather than power.

But who is to say that at some point that won't be reversed under new coach Mourinho?

They're definitely two completely different coaches and even if that reversal of fortunes doesn't materialize exactly, I will be very surprised if Benzema won't be much more of a factor this season under Mourinho than he was for Pelligrini.


Zvjezdan Misimovic


Attacking midfielder - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Old school number 10 who's playmaking in the Bundesliga has just been too astounding to ignore.

Athletically speaking he is behind the large majority of players on this list but he makes up for it by being extremely gifted in everything that involves touching the football.

He was (and still is) the brains and conductor of the great Wolfsburg attack that took the Bundesliga by storm and won the league 2008/2009. That season he amassed an amazing 23 assists.

If the simple plan was to score plenty of goals by mixing a passing (and set piece) maestro like Misimovic with a couple of very good strikers then it certainly proved successful as Grafite and Dzeko finished one and two on the scoring charts with 28 and 26 apiece.

Helping their rankings Dzeko and Misimovic continued to shine last season where Wolfsburg both scoring less goals and letting in more stumbled to an 8th place finish.
Those two actually managed to more or less contribute at a similar impressive rate as in the glory year while Grafite on the other hand struggled to find consistency and in that kind of attack only netted what's a modest 11.

Don't blame it all on Grafite though because the real reason should probably be found with coach Felix Magath leaving the club.

Magath who, with a serious risk of entering into blasphemy, kind of like Alex Ferguson in England, just seems to somehow know exactly what it will take and how to execute it in order to do well in the Bundesliga.
Once again exemplified last season where it was Schalke's turn to feel his heavy handed magic touch impressively finishing second in the league behind much more talented Bayern.

Wolfsburg on the other hand without Magath just couldn't find the right balance and if you consider they're playing with two centre-forwards and then an old school "non factor defensively" (lazy) number 10 around them, it's really more remarkable that they ever did. Even in a league, especially that year it seemed, erupting into almost reckless emphasis on back and forth attacking football.

But he isn't called "Quälix Magath" for nothing of course (a mash of his first name Felix and the German verb “quälen”( to torture!) and through stern discipline and demands of hard work he made it all come together.

Looking to get back on track then, before the upcoming season, wealthy Wolfsburg has been one of the most frequent teams in the transfer headlines. Not least with constant rumors surrounding star striker Dzeko going or staying but also reinforcements coming in, not least in the form of a new good looking central defense with the signings of Simon Kjaer and Arne Friedrich.
They should improve things in the back definitely, but defensively just how much, if Wolfsburg under new coach Steve McClaren still plays that same attacking trio up front, is a good question and perhaps also an interesting little test on the (oh so much rambled about on this list) importance of central defenders.

Of course if Dzeko gets sold the whole picture changes completely but even if that doesn't happen (and for now it probably won't) some other interesting signings they've made could change the balance as well if those newcomers can steal playing time from Grafite.

I'm thinking of forward/winger Mario Mandzukic who I suspect is much more of a hard worker than Grafite and then interestingly, if he can break through already, young Swiss recent U-17 World Champion Nassim Ben Khalifa who at 18 years of age now isn't just already on the Swiss U-21 team but in contention for the senior team as well. No matter what happens he is definitely one from that team to at least keep an eye on.


Rafael Van der Vaart

Real Madrid

Attacking midfielder - The Netherlands

It's possible that he is ranked too low.

The tricky thing is that just ahead of him on the list are some players I know that I want to have him behind, but then a little further up there is especially one young similar player you could say to Van der Vaart (who compared to this player in many ways is been there done that) that I feel uneasy about ranking quite a few places above him.

And of course as this list goes, I then have little doubt that I want to rank that same young playmaker (who I'm not sure should be above VdV!) ahead of the same people I think Van der Vaart should be behind. Go figure! I know I have spent many hours on this list trying myself.

Well, with VdV we have another playmaker type of player on our hands but overall a more complete one than Misimovic who's game looks more like he belongs in the late 80s/early 90s battling for playmaking duties with the likes of Dragan Stojkovic or Gheorge Hagi than in the current game where everyone works for the team. Including of course without the ball.

Van der Vaart as everyone knows has excellent technique. In tight space in the final third his skillful work especially can stand out among his peers. Like for an example in slick passing combinations creating for others or with his delicate footwork apply the finishing touches himself.

The 2009/10 season for VdV at Madrid started like the previous, his first one, had finished.
Not with good prospects at starting many games at all, and even though countryman Sneijder had left the building, the club had signed Kaka as the according to plan fantastic upgrade.

Cristiano Ronaldo of course had also come to town occupying another of the now more and more elusive attacking spots.

As Kaka struggled both with form and health though, suddenly things were looking brighter for Van der Vaart and filling in behind Higuain he easily had his best performances for the royal club both creating and scoring goals.

Of course as it turned out it still wasn't quite going to happen for VdV at Madrid and even with Kaka still out, as soon as club legend (legendary bad influence could be the more accurate assessment) Guti showed some flash, he too started eating minutes of VdV's playing time.

Including in my mind the perplexing decision to start him in the Champions League round of 16 second leg knockout game against Lyon:

"Guti and Granero are starting for Madrid in the absence of Marcelo and Alonso.

I can see almost no argument for Guti starting over Van der Vaart. He has played good recently but so has VdV all season. He is an excellent passer but so is VdV. And VdV is better at everything else plus he doesn't have Guti's history, perhaps especially in Europe in recent years, of utter failure and dragging the team down with him. I guess it's hierarchy at play."

That was before the game and while not really trying make this about Guti, but researching this writeup a bit however I came across it and perhaps (perhaps not) it's a nice little specific piece of perspective on many of these placings.

The Real Madrid - Lyon post game thoughts:

Real had an excellent first half against Lyon who defended deep which didn't give Real much trouble at all. They played circles around them and created many chances. Most noteworthy as I'm sure everyone saw to Higuain who had several.

Guti from mostly a deeper role did well when he wasn't under pressure and the combination of that and the excellent players making runs in front of him could have resulted in more than 1-0.

Then in the second half Lyon basically moved the whole team up starting at the back four now with Toulalan playing there.

Guti had less time on the ball and the whole Real Madrid midfield got outworked and failed to perform (literally) under pressure. This tactic worked even better for Lyon than in the first leg where there probably still was a small edge to Madrid, at worst, but here almost from the start Lyon battled their way to clearly getting the better of things.

It was obvious that for Madrid, Xabi Alonso was severely missed.

And not to make Guti a scapegoat, he isn't gonna change after all these years of being Guti, but while being heavily praised by the commentators he did do some very dumb things.

There had already been some mistimed back heels in places where you just cannot afford to lose the ball and just before the goal, maybe born out of frustration from Lyon's effective pressure preventing him playing, from his midfield role he started chasing the ball all the way back to Lloris. To no avail of course and while he was praised once again by the commentator all I could think was now it's going to be a 4 against 4 or similar the other way with people on their heels left vulnerable.
So many goals are either that or set pieces and of course it gave Lyon all the opportunity they needed and they (not least Pjanic) took advantage brilliantly and created a good goal.

I won't claim VdV would have been great in that role. The fact that he is better defensively than the likes of Misimovic or Guti far from means he is great. But him and the large majority of this list, the more common the higher we get, unless you have amazing talent, does team work.

If without the ball and opponents having possession:

Defend position/zone whether through back tracking or pressing and work hard.

Not fail to defend because of either bad stamina or bad mentality, and if great stamina or great mentality is indeed in place then don't ruin it with poor discipline and compromise the defensive shape with hopeless pressure in the final third or even the goalkeeper (especially not if a defensive midfielder like Guti was - for forwards it should be said that it's different and at times simply the defensive contribution that's right there and available) or make dumb sliding tackles in midfield that a good amount of the time will only cause holes in your team's shape.

Then without the ball and your team having possession:

Have good movement (of course a lot of that will be whatever movement in accordance to team tactics and ability of teammates) and be a passing option or create space so that it's that others get the improved conditions to be.

Guti I feel throughout his career has been bad at all of these and even in his prime, despite his skills with the ball, my suspicion of him hurting the team more than helping it would probably have prevented him from ever getting a decent ranking.
There are of course other players on the list who are bad without the ball. Quite a few only defensively which is (still!) just a natural part of the game but I think a general trend on this list has been the worse you are without the ball the better you have to be with it. And the other way around too of course.

Anyway that may or may not have been the first complete sidetrack in a while.

In the meantime Real Madrid was out of the Champions League once again and for VdV as the season rolled on (and Madrid rolling in La Liga) neither being able to secure games in the attacking midfielder role, the more central midfielder role or Marcelo's sort of left-central midfielder role, meant that when it was all said and done he had started (and played for that matter) less games than in his debut season.

We shall see if it's more of the same next season. So far Kaka has been ruled out for months and Guti has taken his act to Turkey.

Not a bad start.

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