onsdag den 4. august 2010

The 200 best players in the world: 67 - 62

This one got a little delayed unfortunately but other than that not much to say other than I hope to have the next update posted some time tomorrow. Maybe just maybe reach the top 50 even. We shall see.

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


Juan Manuel Vargas


left-back/left-winger - Peru

Dynamite two-way player with a fantastic left foot.

After being moved from left-back to left-wing before last season, giving him more attacking freedom he really broke through and is still regularly put in connection with big clubs, not least Real Madrid.

He is pretty fast, really strong and works very hard both on the attack and when defending.

His left foot is capable of some of the hardest deliveries known to man and obviously with that kind of thunder in his boots, the shooting ain't too bad either.
I've also witnessed some impressive accurate long range passes coming from him. His short passing game on the other hand, doesn't really stand out as anything special.

Even though he has good enough control to maintain nice speed with the ball at his feet when on the move, he isn't really the kind of winger well capable of dribbling past opposing backs using flair, he will get his great deliveries in consistently though making him effective.

Being a good left-back as well puts him just ahead of another very effective hard working winger like Valencia (who has more upside though) and even if Vargas isn't quite as fast, his defending sets him apart.



Manchester City

Attacking midfielder/Winger - Brazil

Easily one of the most talented attacking players in the world. So much so that it has taken quite the history of self destruction by him in order to not hold a (much) better ranking.

When he has the ball he is so good it's almost impossible to stop him from racking up the goals and assists over a season, but like similar immensely talented ball artists, Cassano and Ronaldinho, he always seems to walk a fine line between actually helping or hurting his team.

Without the ball he is very inconsistent but when his team is in possession at least, still nowhere near as bad as the older Ronaldinho (both curiously enough tagged by none other than Pele as cocaine users in one of the few interesting statements ever coming out of the great one's mouth), but defensively both for Real Madrid and Manchester City he has been consistently hopeless which just isn't good enough for someone often occupying a wing.

This like Cassano would suggest a more protected role behind a lone striker and in front of a defensive midfield would be better but Robinho perhaps doesn't have kind of 'fantasia' creativity in tight space central, especially when it comes to passing which has to be excellent to thrive there, and instead is better with space coming from out wide using his pace and his spectacular dribbling ability. Even if that ability, as everyone knows, is sometimes overdone.

By the way, on that note for plenty of thoughts on the difference between Italian style fantasisti and Brazilian style choreographed dancing this article offers some interesting perspective.

It also seems like on the surface everything point towards Robinho actually having the physical capability to put in work defending his wing well. Why not him when just about every other good winger in the current game does it?
I'm sure they don't exactly love it all that much either but they're professionals paid to do a job for their team.

Naturally some are better at it than others which there are many examples of throughout this list, as well as often being important enough to be the deciding factor in who I think is the better overall player.

That Robinho at times (maybe even most of the time) for the well organized Dunga Brazil team did put in something resembling the required effort just makes it all the more frustrating when he doesn't and further suggest unprofessionalism on his part. Despite all the talent, to get much higher on this list, that's something that sooner rather than later will have to change.


Patrice Evra

Manchester United

left-back - France

Maybe the best left-back in the world. He has good control and passing ability. Great pace and stamina. Plenty of strength spiced up with lots of aggression.

He was very good going forward from day one arriving at United and that is still where his true strength lies. He will go up and down the line all game and occupy left-midfield, making numbers, be a constructive part of possession and helping his team as well as almost any other fullback.

Defensively he has steadily improved over the years to become a good defender and I think it's rare for an example that he is caught out of position. He is also a strong tackler but I don't think quite as good a one on one defender as for an example Ashley Cole. Not as comfortable as him either (but better than most fullbacks) when doing more centre-back type of defending (ground and lot least air) whenever that's required in the box.

All in all, perhaps the best left-back in the world. But not quite on my list.


Michel Bastos


Attacking midfielder/Winger/Left-back - Brazil

No he is not a Robinho clone since he is a lot more versatile, offers more teamwork and also does not possess the same attacking talents with the notable exception of his great shooting and set piece expertise which always means a good amount of goals.

In the 2008/2009 season playing for Lille he took the league by storm racking up assists and spectacular goals with his excellent left foot.
Had it not been for an even more outstanding season from Yoann Gourcuff in a beautiful titanic effort leading Bordeaux to the title, breaking the Lyon stronghold, he could easily have been player of the year.

This year for a Lyon team that much of the season struggled to find its feet wasn't as good. They came good in the end but in the meantime Bastos had been used all over the place, not unusually benched in Ligue 1 then starting in the Champions League, in different roles and positions and his form was at times uneven.

I'm not even sure where he is best. From the left-wing where he has had most of his success he can provide great deliveries into the box but it's not like he has the blazing speed and dribbling ability to take advantage of space as best as possible (or as the true elite) and torment an opposing fullback. He might actually have better odds at that moving into space in overlaps from a leftback role coming from further back, we saw that for Brazil, but there his defending isn't top notch.

He is probably at his best if not parked permanently out left but for an example in a 4-2-3-1 has someone in attacking central midfield he can switch around with, or on the opposite wing for that matter, and be versatile. Just so his game doesn't become too focused on beating a fullback one on one, but puts an element of being a good goal scoring threat into his game as well, in good shooting positions central or cutting inside from the right, where he of course can be very dangerous.
15 goals in all competitions in a season not unanimously seen as good, I think speak volumes of how effective he can be.

To conclude, Bastos is a very good versatile allround player with a great left foot but other than that not quite with the kind of flair and creativity you usually associate with the best players from Brazil.
What in my book puts him ahead of some of those, and other talented attacking players behind him on the list, is his team work, including ability to be part of a team defense but also good decision making and work rate without the ball in attack. When you add that to what his left-foot produces of goals and assists, you have a very effective player.


Seydou Keita


Midfielder - Mali

For quite a few years known as very good defensive midfielder. That alone being something which would have earned him a decent ranking on my list.

But ignoring whether I was late to the Keita party or not, helped along by all that tika-taka Barca stuff, this season he has gone up quite a lot in my estimation with some excellent two-way midfield displays.

It makes sense that he is able to do it. He has great stamina, is strong with balance and has always been good on a technical level as well whether it's passing or control. He also has the intelligence to know where to be. That's mostly been when defending, but that he now makes well timed runs forward too makes sense then and if Barcelona didn't happen to spend all their time in the opponent's half you could even refer to him as box-to-box!

In a way this progress has been aided by other people's problems.

Henry completely collapsed meaning Iniesta (he himself often struggling or out with poor form) got games as left-forward rather than left-central midfielder (thankfully for Barca there was also the emergence of Pedro) so there were holes to fill right there left central in midfield, -rather than central itself where Busquets now was breaking through- and Keita proved to be just the right man for the job being a more dynamic player than for an example another (not so) potential contender, Yaya Toure, who can't move into open space out wide like the quicker Keita.

Basically here is a complete midfield two-way player. Those could very well be my favorites. I guess rest of the list must be (better be!) really special...


Javier Zanetti


Right and left-back/Midfielder - Argentina

Quite simply a force of nature. He plays every game every year. Has probably had one semi serious injury in the last fifteen and that was 10 years ago when he only played 29 of the league games...
He has missed just two league games in the last four seasons at an advanced age.
7 of the last 8 seasons he has played 50 games or more, rarely if ever as a substitute, and almost never badly. If ever at all. He is one of the most consistent players around. He is 36 years old. The oldest on the list.

He has great stamina and is seemingly never tired. When he plays fullback he still gets up and down the line and if he is midfielder, more common in recent years, he defends well and still makes those trademark (Il Trattore) tractor style runs forward with cannot be rocked balance, the ball glued to his feet. At 36 he is still somehow a dynamic player.

First time I saw him was early 1995, the first Confederations Cup being played (then actually less prestigious than it is these days) and the final between Argentina and Denmark.

Denmark had the Laudrups and Argentina still young ones such as Ariel Ortega, Batistuta, Ayala etc etc and then there was Zanetti who's class immediately stood out. He had made his debut late 1994 post the Argentina/Maradona World Cup collapse in America that year.

At this point he was an exciting right-winger who with pace and skill gave Denmark all kinds of problems and if I remember correctly one year later for the incredibly exciting and talented Argentina 1996 Olympic silver medalist team (but with respect to the gold medalists Nigeria by far the best, they had Ayala, Chamot, Ortega, Crespo, Simone, Sensini, Claudio Lopez, Delgardo, Almeyda and Gallardo,) it was similar though looking at those names it's possible he was right-wingback with Chamot, Sensini and Ayala the central defenders. He was very attacking I do remember that.

In the following years for Inter that was also his role. Under ever changing coaches they had many spells where they played 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 if you will and during those years, where they just could not win, whether he was a wing-back in one of the above systems or fullback in a back-four, in my mind it was always between him and Cafu for the title as the best right-back in the world.

Unfortunately for Zanetti he was "stuck" on both an underachieving club and national side, while Cafu even at Roma won a Scudetto and then there was his highly praised work, and the trophies to show for it, for Brazil and later AC Milan.

Cafu therefore understandably got the more attention and was of course an excellent, one of the best ever, right-backs, but was he a better player than Zanetti?

Personally I think it's up in the air but towards the end of Cafu which coincided with Zanetti starting to play other positions I do think Il Capitano as Inter fans call Zanetti, was the more complete and better player. And I won't rule out that he was in fact all along.

Of course Inter would later get the current best right-back in the world Maicon and as he came into his own (himself a former winger) Zanetti started to play most of his games in midfield, either as a defensive midfielder or right-central midfielder in a diamond during the Roberto Mancini years.

He was now at a point. A point he is still at where he could do a great job in several positions and as Jose Mourinho took the Inter seat, that is what he did, right, left, center, midfield or defense leading the team to great triumphs culminating of course this year with the European Cup and treble.

Mourinho who after his first season in charge said this:

"The player who surprised me the most was Zanetti. His passport cannot be telling the truth (claiming he's 35), it must be ten years out, he's incredible,"

He is indeed incredible and when I started this list I really didn't think I would rank him this high. But as the season went along he just kept proving again and again that he was still going strong, showing no signs of slowing down yet another season at an advanced age defying nature, and then his amazing physical ability, good technique, intelligence, leadership and not least unique versatility makes him one of the better players in the world.

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