2010 is likely to be a year remembered, in footballing terms, by Spanish fans most fondly after their side lifted the famous Jules Rimet trophy for the first time. It has also been a year in which a Barcelona side, possibly the greatest team of all time, have continued to revolutionise football with their style of play. The “Tika-Taka” style they play makes football look like an art form. When watching Barcelona play you realise why football is known as “the beautiful game”. It has also been a year where, in the top leagues and at international level, the 4-2-3-1 has emerged as the modern formation of choice and it becomes a new trend in the changing world of tactical footballing strategies which have moved from the “W-M” formation all the way to the “4-4-2”.
In a year were Barcelona have flourished, Spain have triumphed and 4-2-3-1 has surfaced, here is my 2010 team of the year:
Goalkeeper – Iker Casillas
Ever since he burst onto the scene at the tender age of 17 Casillas has been one of the top goalkeepers in the world and this year he furthered showcased his talents. Captaining Spain to their first ever World Cup win and continuing to impress in goal for his club side, Real Madrid, Casillas has only confirmed what followers of European football already knew. That he is one of the best, if not the best, goalkeeper in the world at the moment. It is testament to his ability that he has played over 400 times for Real Madrid and over 100 times for Spain before even reaching his 30’s, keeping out the likes of Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina from the national side, meaning that this tally is likely to rise even higher.
If this hasn’t convinced you that he is worthy of his place take a look at this save, even if it is from 2009 rather than this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI9S_jV9F3M
Right Back – Dani Alves
Such is the talent in Barcelona’s side Alves’ importance is rarely recognised, yet he plays a pivotal role for Pep Guardiola’s side. Rarely playing in a recognised “right back” role he regularly plays high up the pitch, in the position of a modern wing-back, providing width for the team on the right hand side that Lionel Messi regularly vacates. Last season Alves managed to make 10 goals for Barcelona, their second highest tally behind Xavi, and either scored or created a goal every 192 minutes – the fifth best ratio in the squad. This season has been no different with Alves already creating 4 goals for the team and scoring one himself. Not bad for a supposed right back.
Still don’t agree with us? Then read this piece from Sid Lowe: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2009/jan/26/dani-alves-barcelona-leo-messi
Centre Back – Gerard Pique
Quite simply he is the best centre back in the world. Brave, strong, quick and positional sound Pique possesses the attributes needed to be a top centre back in abundance. He has more though. His touch and passing is exquisite and he can also be a very stylish defender. A main-stay in Barcelona’s side and the Spanish World Cup winning team he has developed hugely since his departure from Manchester United.
His stunning goal against Inter Milan last season highlighted his talents perfectly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVUKROh6y-o
Centre Back – Bruno Alves
Perhaps a surprise inclusion in the squad but Bruno Alves has had a phenomenal year. Rumoured with a big money move to England throughout he eventually chose to leave Porto for Zenit St. Petersburg where he has continued to show how good a centre back he is. A tough tackler and commanding in the air the teams he has played for have been strong defensively and both have been particularly hard to beat – Zenit have lost only twice this season, remarkably. A regular for his national side of Portugal, Bruno Alves is likely to become a household name if he continues to perform to this standard.
This video further showcases his talents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odz_FonzVKQ
Left Back – Fabio Coentrao
If there is a position in world football lacking a world class talent it is probably at left back. Ashley Cole has kept the title of the world’s best in this position for a number of years but Coentrao looks set to take this accolade. He has been a revelation this season and impressed hugely at the World Cup for Portugal. He is quick and superbly talented in possession but he is also gifted in defence which means he can play in both halves of the pitch comfortably. It may not be long before Coentrao, who is still only 22, leaves Benfica to join one of European football’s bigger name clubs.
Take a look at this video to see just how good Coentrao is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCcxX4IqwQc
Central Midfield – Sergio Busquets
Busquets, this year, has revolutionised the deep-lying midfielder’s role. Playing in a prominent position in Barcelona’s midfield trio, just behind Iniesta and Xavi, he hasn’t been outshone, which is a testament to his ability. A competent passer of the ball, he is also strong in the tackle and is now a regular at International level in a Spanish side that are so dominant. La Liga is the perfect environment to flourish in too. He perhaps wouldn’t be fully appreciated in the Premier League, where defensive midfielder’s abilities are often measured on how many stud marks they have left on opponents rather than their technical ability in possession. Busquets is unlikely to be a stand out, flair player but he is still a match winner and the fact that only his team-mate, Xavi, had a better pass completion ratio at the World Cup shows this.
This video highlights his talents well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdUASXf_hbY
Central Midfield – Xavi Hernandez
Xavi is arguably the best central midfielder in the world. He is a graceful midfielder and his passing ability is second to none. He is not only a protagonist in Barcelona’s style of football but Spain’s as well. When Xavi gives the ball away it is a shock. He recently completed 120 passes in just 70 minutes of football when playing against Real Sociedad, a record, meaning the diminutive midfielder has become a standard setter in world football.
Take a look at this compilation of Xavi’s best moments and marvel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJhpEL221Hs
Right Wing – Lionel Messi
Could this position belong to anybody else? Messi is the greatest player in the world currently, possibly even of all time. There have been so many superlatives used to describe the winger’s ability but it is impossible to do him justice without seeing him in action. Messi has an elusive ability that means he can avoid tackles like no other player. Given a free role for Barcelona and Argentina, so not to limit his abilities, he has been a phenomenon on the world stage. Already on course to break Barcelona’s all time scoring record – he currently has 105 goals – this season Messi has created, or scored, a goal every 46 minutes for his club, a quite remarkable statistic. It is easy to forget that Messi is only 23 as he is such a complete player.
To truly gauge Messi’s ability it takes more than a five minute clip but here are some highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwjolFi3dXE
Attacking Midfield – Mesut Ozil
The attacking midfielder burst onto the international stage at the World Cup but he had been widely recognised as an outstanding talent before his marvellous spell in South Africa. Tipped to shine by many Ozil lived up to his reputation and became a key figure in Germany’s attacking quartet, providing intelligent passes and creative movement which opened a number of defences apart in the competition, including England’s. Ozil has an unrivalled ability to create space for himself and his off the ball movement is, at times, scintillating yet it often goes un-noticed. His move to Real Madrid in the summer has meant he has continued to show-case his talents on the grand stage, with all due respect to Bremen, and he has gone on to shine in Mourinho’s side which is packed with talented individuals.
Here is a superb compilation of Ozil’s finest moments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM8qJdF3qhY
Left Wing – Angel di Maria
The tricky left winger had been described as “the next big thing” by many football commentators but this year he has thrived under the spotlight. In South Africa he played well enough to earn himself a big money move to Real Madrid and he has lived up his reported 25 million euro price tag with ease. At times the former Benfica winger has been the star of the show and he has a huge future ahead of him considering he is just 22. The great Diego Maradona was quoted saying “one on one, he's devastating” and di Maria has certainly proved his former national team coach right.
Take a look at this article by Sid Lowe on di Maria: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/sid_lowe/11/01/angel.di.maria/index.html
Striker – David Villa
Villa’s goalscoring record is unbelievable; he is the most clinical striker in world football with an unrivalled ability to score goals. 108 goals in 166 games for Valencia, 11 in 15 for Barcelona and 44 in 70 appearances for Spain. His predatory instincts are frightening and it was no surprise that he finished joint top scorer at the World Cup. Villa offers more than just clinical finishing though. He is a fantastic dribbler of the ball, which was highlighted in the World Cup where he often played on the left wing for Spain, and his first touch is also excellent. It is hard to think of a more deadly striker than David Villa in world football.
Here is a compilation of some of his best moments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmQa6mgClgg
There is one notable exception from this side which is Cristiano Ronaldo but I’m not sure that he fits in. Likely to play in a similar role to Messi there is only one winner in my eyes as to who would start. Of course, Ronaldo is a fantastic player with exquisite ability and his record at Real Madrid is incredible but Messi outshines him in terms of ability. It is also worth noting that 9 of the 11 included currently play in La Liga and there is a strong Barcelona bias to the squad. But 2010 has been Spain’s year. It has been Barcelona’s year, despite Inter Milan’s success in the Champions League, and ultimately it is because of this that this team is dominated by this nation.