Over the last few years, FIFA’s team of the season has basically been a best La Liga XI (Mainly Real Madrid and Barcelona) with a few players from Bundesliga/Ligue 1/ Serie A in order to satisfy fans from those leagues. And each time, Premier League fans will take to Social Media to express their disgust at the continual snubbing of their players. In truth, the Premier League is not the same force as it was in 2009. Their performances in Europe’s premier competition has been pretty poor despite a Chelsea win in 2012 which was largely down to luck and grit. So, it seemed justified to have such a team dominated by the La Liga giants at the beginning. But year after year, the team selection has become more biased and this year, it was utterly shambolic.
FIFA World XI is not longer a team of individuals who made a difference throughout the season. It’s a team that is purely formed on the basis of statistics. It’s as if FIFA officials visit statistics websites, check scores and choose the best players. What these stats fail to show is how individuals defied logic and odds to claim their prize and the amount of effort it took to achieve it. Neuer probably had the most clean sheets in Europe last season, but that’s because he’s sitting behind the strongest defense (by a mile) in Germany. What about the efforts of Jan Oblak, who kept clean sheets vs Barcelona and Bayern Munich on route to the Champions League final or Kasper Schmeichel, who was instrumental in Leicester’s fairytale triumph? They don’t have the stats that Neuer has, but their achievements trumps his’, big time.
This year, I personally feel that all the Real Madrid players deserved their inclusion. Ramos has been slightly susceptible at the back, but more than makes up for it with his last minute goals. Marcelo is the best attacking full back in the world at the moment and he had a great year as well. Kroos and Modric have been brilliant for club and country last year, although, having both of them in the team is probably a little too much. As for Cristiano Ronaldo, 2016 was his year. Messi deserves his place in the team too, after carrying both club and country forward last year. But the rest of the team selection was poor.
Iniesta is rightly considered the greatest midfielder of his generation, but that shouldn’t mean he gets a free entry into this team. Kante and Pogba were brilliant throughout the year for their respective clubs and definitely deserve to feature in the team. How Gerard Pique features in this list so often, I cannot understand. His attitude towards the sport and authorities was very poor throughout and he definitely wasn’t the anywhere close to the rock solid Bonucci. As for Dani Alves, it’s almost as if FIFA filled out the rest of the team, had a vacancy in the Right Back position, searched for ex Barcelona or Real Madrid players and chose him. Raphael Guerriro had a breakthrough season after winning the Euros and earning a move to Dortmund. I know he’s a left back, but FIFA never saw it as a problem to play to right backs in the team when they placed both Alves and Lahm in the same team in the past. Luis Suarez might have won the Pichchi award, but he hasn’t been as influential against stronger opponents and was poor in the Copa America as well. Griezmann was in the top 3 players of the year list, but wasn’t part of the best XI, something that makes no sense. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are success stories of 2016 that definitely deserve a mention.
So, if I could name my World XI, this is how they would line up:
Raphael Ramos Bonucci Marcelo
Coach – Claudio Ranieri (the only one they got right)
This one isn’t perfect and can definitely be improved. But I think it has covered all the major achievements over the past year. These awards coupled with the leniency shown by FIFA towards Real Madrid and Barcelona for the reduction of their transfer bans shows that FIFA continues to be influenced by the giants, despite the removal of Blatter and Platini. FIFA should realise that individual brilliance is not just about being the best in the group. It’s also about the little David who beat Goliath. Till then, these awards will continue to be meaningless.
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