tirsdag den 3. august 2010

The 200 best players in the world: 76-68

List is finally back!

The new goal (optimistic as always since this will require non stop blogging) is now to finish this (or at least get to the very top) around the 12th of August and then probably around the end of August start some previews of the upcoming season.

Not like last season entirely with the focus on for an example Serie A but more on different clubs in different leagues.

Then I won't have waste two days thinking about what on earth to write about Chievo when instead I could have more interesting things to talk about regarding a top club in England or Spain. I also think I watched enough Bundesliga last season to talk about some teams there.

Ligue 1 is more uncertain since coverage of that here was very on and off, but certainly selected clubs in England, Italy, Spain and Germany I feel I have something to say about and for once I've also been glued to the transfer window , so I'm disturbingly up to date with everything.

Anyway the list, the list, the list!

This entry is quite the veteran/Roma/Manchester United edition:

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


Marcos Senna


Midfielder - Spain

Spanish player of the year two years (but seems forever) ago now.

The 2009/10 season was a struggle for Brazilian born Senna with always unpleasantly tied lack of form but plenty of injuries being an almost permanent feature. However towards the end he did seemingly, just in time, find enough form to validate a World Cup spot on the all conquering Spain team where he had been a mainstay and key contributor, basically ever since being granted Spanish citizenship in 2006.

Most famously of course during EURO 2008 where performances of his featuring hardly putting a foot wrong earned him much praise.

This time it wasn't to be though. The emergence of Sergio Busquets, much improved, and ever improving throughout this season, and perhaps Busquets advantage of systematic familiarity with the Barca players everywhere around him, meant at this point a starting place for Senna had become increasingly unlikely.

Still it was a surprise that uncapped Basque Javi Martinez got a spot as the assigned defensive midfielder backup, but as Del Bosque said, he had a very good season. Senna (although Del Bosque didn't say so) had not. Martinez is also the future. Senna is not.

That is not to say it's all over for Senna as one of the finest at his position. It's possible he has seen some decline in athletic ability the last few years but when healthy he is still a very smooth midfield operator in all his actions both with an without the ball.

How much he has left is hard to say. I think it will be (and is already in many ways) similar to fellow Brazilian born (94 World Cup winners) excellent defensive midfielders with great careers in Spain, Mauro Silva and Mazinho who continued to be very good into their 30s.

An even better example perhaps is Donato, who like Senna became a Spaniard, and with Mauro Silva incidentally, seemed to last forever commanding the Deportivo La Coruna midfield.

Senna kinda reminds me of those.

So if he can overcome injury problems I expect similar from Senna at Villarreal. There are even rumors currently that he is in play to fill the midfield depth lost at Barcelona with Yaya Toure's departure. Who knows if that will happen. They may very well go for someone younger instead but perhaps it does show that he is at least still relevant at the highest level.


Lass Diarra

Real Madrid

Midfielder - France

Lass was higher on the list originally but while his team dominated most games he managed to still have an uneven season eventually losing his place to Fernando Gago.

A lot of that was injury related of course but then to turn matters into a whole new kind of worse, just before the World Cup it was announced that Diarra was requiring significant rest dropping out of the France squad (if early reports had not been as serious as they were, in retrospect then perhaps you could call this a blessing in disguise!) due to suffering severe intestinal pain and stomach cramps.

A second test in Madrid revealed that Diarra's injury was due to asthenic syndrome secondary related to sickle-cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.

Bad enough to raise serious questions about his career. The latest however is that he is training with the rest of the squad preparing for the new season ready to go and in a recent interview, he talks about putting this season behind him and his burning ambition of proving himself as a true Real Madrid player.

When at his best Diarra more than anyone is compared and actually resembles Claudio Makelele in playing style.

Both with the ball, passing and controlling it they look similar and even the way he uses his quickness and small but strong frame to win the ball from an opponent brings back memories of Makelele at his best.

You could say he still lacks some consistency, but for most of last season after being promising for a while, he was very good, then this season was when he was supposed to take the last step as without a doubt one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
I know my early ranking of had him down as one of those, this one as well to a lesser extent, but there are some question marks now and it's not given if in a year he would be ranked better or worse than this.

Hopefully better but most importantly, hopefully with his good health intact.


Francesco Totti


Forward - Italy

For many years one of the best players in the world but now at age 33 that's not quite the glowing truth anymore.

The genius of the living Roma legend still lives strongly on though and each season he scores and creates plenty of goals.

He has outstanding technical ability and unique vision, whether it's for goal or for teammates.

Moreso than ever, currently most of his work using those remaining strengths is centered in and around the box. His movement (though still smart) and especially work-rate has declined but fortunately if that movement or (declining) pace cannot create space like it can for a lot of good strikers, his technique is so great that even in tight space close to people, as long as its close to the goal, he will be a serious threat.


Antonio Di Natale


Forward - Italy

Came back brilliantly from serious knee ligament injury and had his best season ever at age 32.

Di Natale has always had pace, been good on the counter with good work rate but I never thought I'd see the technical brilliance he showed time and time again last season.

Not just scoring the 29 goals. Though clinical finishing certainly doesn't hurt here. But superb ability and intelligence shown in all actions consistently over a long season is very impressive. He didn't just seemingly never do wrong, he seemingly always did great!

Whether an exquisite first touch followed by a great run, pass or shot or even actual playmaking skills coming from him! Something which I did not at all suspect he was capable of but sure enough Di Natale showed vision this season and was a high quality créateur in the final third where he could have easily finished with more than the 6 assists that he did.

It's possible this high ranking will look a little silly not long ago from now. Of course not long ago I would never have considered ranking Di Natale this high but as it is this list had great focus on the current, where Di Natale's (too good to be true almost) great play is just impossible to ignore.


Emmanuel Adebayor

Manchester City

Striker - Togo

Definitely talented enough to be ranked even higher.

He is blessed with physical and technical tools to such an extent that it puts most other strikers to shame and that elusive excellent size/technique combination that I think is so valuable, alone almost should ensure a better ranking.

However his work rate and especially team work with and without the ball, making the players around him better with passing and not least movement is at best uneven, and pales in comparison to higher ranked similar talented forwards.

For me personally I thought this was nicely illustrated in how the club he left, Arsenal, looked for much of the year now without him. With his physique and technical capability in many ways Adebayor looked like an ideal center-forward on a team like Arsenal who controls possession but it quickly became surprisingly clear that without him up front there was suddenly both better movement and team work. Players complementing each other instead of, to put it rather harsh (it's not like there weren't good times) just Adebayor.

For Manchester City it's been similar. There have been games with great individual performances from Adebayor. Full of impact. Not least the infamous game against his former club Arsenal but also plenty where it has looked like he was doing more harm than good with poor attitude and work rate left seriously wanting.

With teammate Carlos Tevez in the lone centre-forward role as well performing much better than Adebayor it will be interesting to see what the future brings.

I'm sure he will still get games should he stay at Manchester City but it has become pretty clear that in a standard 4-2-3-1 at least, it's not really worth "sacrificing" Tevez into a further back forward (certainly not wide) role just to make room for Adebayor. For someone even better though, maybe!

In theory him and Tevez could still work great, and did at times, in more like a 4-4-1-1 with Tevez behind in more of a free role, where I think he is great, but with Manchester City rapidly bolstering their lineup, an excellent player like David Silva also is now on board who in recent years has played a more or less a free role behind a striker (rather than as a wing).

New (Mario Balotelli) and old (Robinho) could also still make their way making starting attacking places even more elusive but at least until Roque Santa Cruz is sold (Mark Hughes always willing) and Balotelli not bought yet (still with something to prove as a centre forward anyway) he should at least be first alternative to Tevez as the man up top.


Mirko Vucinic


Forward - Montenegro

The versatile forward is effective both coming from the left in wider more technical/pace demanding roles or as a centre forward playing good parts of the game with his back to the goal requiring strength and control.

That he in what you could call true Balkan striker style is also capable of sparks of trickery in whatever the role is another thing that adds in his favor.

In short this is a classy forward who when it comes to just about everything isn't as good as the best out there but who gains many placings through completeness and versatility.


Antonio Valencia

Manchester United

Winger - Ecuador

A beast of a winger who's physical tools, strength and pace make him a very dynamic player who is very tough to deal with.

The best description of his technical skills may just be, simple but effective, because while certainly not bad he doesn't have the technical capability of many other good wingers, look no further than flashy teammate Nani for starters, but if you add the balance Valencia possesses, thanks to his strength, even when in full flow going down the right hand side, and then his ability to cross the ball, you have, despite one fottedness even, an extremely effective player. More effective than most flashier wingers.

Then there is his great work rate making him very comfortable in a fast paced (often) high pressure game and I'm sure I'm seeing positional discipline as well, where he is consistently defending his wing, be it via pressure or back tracking, throughout a game and with that providing great value to his team.


David Pizarro


Midfielder - Chile

One of the more underrated players in the world for many years now.

With great range of passing and intelligent decision making Pizarro brings effective distribution to whatever midfield he is part of.

His diagonal passes especially are impressive and when under pressure in his own half he has the composure and ball control to win himself time for another good pass.

Usually a deep lying playmaker he is capable of both a slower secure short passing game aiming for control and longer more direct passes aiming for transition.

His team work in both the offensive and defensive departments are exemplary and if this starts to sound like a player who could be even higher, well maybe he could(!) but everyone else now are excellent too or offer something really important, and he does have athletic limitations (that very few players still to come will have) manifesting themselves in perhaps not being fast or strong enough to one; be great in the final third where there is less space, and two; defensively be a very good player, despite his good work rate and positioning meaning he can certainly defend when sitting deep. But he isn't a complete defensive player....

Yes it's all very harsh indeed.
I could just turn it around into something positive instead, cause it's still more strengths (just not to the extent that it could mean say jumping 15 places higher) than weaknesses and all part of the excellent midfield package that makes him the highest ranked midfielder so far.


Dimitar Berbatov

Manchester United

Forward - Bulgaria

Much criticized Manchester United forward checks in at number 68 and I wouldn't be surprised if some will think that's way too good of a ranking while others that it's way too poor...

Of course I'm not convinced it's "way" one way or the other, but if anything I'm leaning towards this being too poor of a ranking, since certainly while he was at Tottenham I remember rating him very highly, and even though I try to avoid it, it's hard being left unaffected by constant negativity surrounding the abilities of a player.
Even when that player likely isn't much different from the one I thought more highly of when at a different club not even that long ago.

Being a Manchester United player of course is something else, with more intense pressure and focus on the player's performances. Especially as a striker and especially for one carrying around a heavy price tag.

That Berbatov then in most people's eyes gives away this lazy laid back impression while carrying himself around, I'm sure is not helping matters.

Overall when there is almost nothing positive said about a player ever, everything can't be good, surely?

Well I do see some positives of course or he would be ranked lower. For starters his reputation as lazy is probably blown out of proportion and could easily quite often be superficial criticism based on perceived slack appearance. Everyone can look lazy alongside Rooney anyway but unless I'm mistaken (when watching match stats that unfortunately I can't find online right now) Berbatov does actually put in a good amount of kilometers run on a regular basis.

He has excellent technique that he tries to rely on much more than strength and he is capable of great first touches and creative passes in the tightest of space. He simply has that rare flair for the creative.

What he isn't is very dynamic. He is simply slow for a forward and even though his technical skills can be useful anywhere they're only a difference maker close to the goal because he doesn't have the pace when further away.

It should be hard for a striker to look bad playing alongside Rooney but perhaps Berbatov really would prefer a role where it was okay for him to be more stationary always near the penalty area and not just okay, but strongly recommended, for everyone else to then move in and around him.
Sometimes that happens at United too but to realistically try and make up for the scoring threat lost with Cristiano Ronaldo's exit to Real Madrid, Rooney of course was made primarily a striker and his and everyone else's movement now reflect that.

Including Berbatov's (but offering the least dynamic movement of everyone will shine a bad light on him) and while Rooney has tremendous flexibilty (a great strength) in his movement and work thereby in theory also making room for Berbatov the striker, as well as the two of them close together creating, it is very demanding and asks for flexibility/fluidity and dynamic two-way play, back (even if not all the way back then certainly some midfield play) and forth, right and left. Something plenty of the midfielders are able to do and not least Rooney leading by example, but maybe I wonder if it hasn't proved a little bit too steep of a challenge for Berbatov to shine through on a consistent basis.

I just have a feeling he would like something more stationary. Less fluid with him the great Berba as the center piece and the attack evolving around him. But I'm also convinced that wouldn't be the better for the team...

He definitely has enough quality to do great things occasionally and despite my reservations about him fitting in so far, I would be hard pressed to claim that he actually hurts the team, if he is indeed holding Rooney the striker back then that's a just a plain scary thought, rather I just think it's like he doesn't make it better (that's not exactly hurting the team right?) and everyone watching can sort of sense that and certainly they have the hope that it could indeed be better, adding to the frustration.

That I think will take a different kind of excellent player though, playing around and behind Rooney.

Until that they'll just have to live with Berbatov consistently not making things any better but at least occasionally doing something great.

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