Friday, December 18, 2009

Everyone Loves a List

For a goofy morning timewaster, enjoy ESPN asking you to rank 20 of the best footballers in the world. In case you're interested, here is my list:

2.Lionel Messi
3.Cristiano Ronaldo
4.David Villa
5.Michael Essien
6.Fernando Torres
7.Didier Drogba
8.Wayne Rooney
10.Andres Iniesta
11.Frank Lampard
12.Robbin van Persie
13.Luis Fabiano
14.Steven Gerrard
15.Franck Ribery
17.Samuel Eto'o
18.Andre Pirlo
19.Michael Ballack
20.Thierry Henry

As compared to the rest of the voters, I am higher on Xavi, Essien, Villa, and van Persie. I am lower on Henry, Eto'o, Ballack, Kaka, and Gerrard. My reasoning on Xavi is that he is even more indispensable to Barca than Messi is (especially now that the Blaugrana have Ibracadabra, who can generate offense by himself). Xavi not only dominates games for Barca and Spain; he allows those teams to play a defined style that forces opponents to cede possession and bunker up in their own defensive thirds. If I were starting a team, I'd take him over anyone.

I was a little annoyed that there were no keepers or defenders on the list, other than Maicon who is a defender in name only. Was ESPN worried that voters would not know who Iker Casillas is?

I guess I should also say a couple words on the Champions League draw:

VfB Stuttgart v Barcelona

Olympiakos v Bordeaux

Internazionale v Chelsea

Bayern Munich v Fiorentina

CSKA Moscow v Sevilla FC

Lyon v Real Madrid

FC Porto v Arsenal

AC Milan v Manchester United

The only team that I wanted Barca to avoid was Lyon. Instead, Barca has drawn the weakest of the eight teams available. Don't look at the fact that Stuttgart made the round of 16 and are a side from a good European league. Rather, look at the facts that they are currently outside of the relegation zone only on goal difference, they qualified from a group ahead of a Rangers side that has been devastated by the recession's effects on Scotland (short version: Setanta going under killed the SPL's TV money) and something called Unirea Urziceni, and their keeper illustrated his "Mad Jens" moniker by relieving himself during a game. This is a colossal mismatch.

The tie of the round of 16 is undoubtedly Inter and Chelsea. I was strangely disappointed that Jose Mourinho didn't offer any of his customary verbal bouquets when Barca and Inter met in the group stages. Maybe he's been beaten down by the hyper-critical Italian press. Maybe he knew that, unlike Chelsea, his Inter couldn't cash the checks that his mouth would write. In any event, I hope that he rebounds to make his return to Stamford Bridge tasty. Inter have a dreadful record in Europe and Chelsea look like the favorites right now, so you can see where I'm going here. Still, we have to see how Chelsea's African contingent look when they return from the Cup of Nations. The same is true for Barca and Arsenal.

United-Milan is also supposed to be a top tie, but I'm not feeling it from either of these teams these days. United clearly miss Ronaldo, although his departure doesn't explain Ferdinand and Vidic forgetting how to play. Their record is good in England and they qualified comfortably, but this team doesn't impress. Still, they should handle Milan. I had to laugh when I read this morning that Ronaldinho saves his best for big occasions like Champions League knock-out ties. Ronnie saves his best for churrascarias. I will always love the guy, but there are few better examples of a player who pissed away the chance to be a legend by not taking care of his body.

It seems likely to me that the quarterfinals will be the three La Liga sides, the three EPL sides, Bordeaux, and Bayern. If there is going to be an upset, then CSKA over Sevilla seems the likeliest spot. Sevilla were upset at this stage two years ago by Fenerbahce and a trip to Moscow in February could be tricky. I am also tempted to say that Lyon can beat Real Madrid because of Real's defensive weaknesses and their streak of losing at this stage of the competition, but Lyon have a lousy record in the knock-out stages. If Ronaldo is healthy, then Real should win.


Tim said...

Another big flaw with that list: no Cesc Fabregas. And what the heck is Ballack doing on the list? He was much better in the early noughties.

Anonymous said...

Good to see Essien getting some appreciation. He was in great form before his injury.

Who puts more fear into you? Seeing Torres or Villa in opposition up front or Didier Drogba? I know the list isn't who's more intimidating, but it plays into it. Drogba's size and power shouldn't be undervalued.

I think you need Sergio Aguero on that list, probably in the high teens - though I understand the website you linked to limited the available selection.

Anonymous said...

And Barca's own Zlatan? You watch him more than I do. What are you thoughts on his selection? Would he be in the 20s somewhere?

LD said...

That list is only of players in the World Cup, so no Zlatan, Arshavin, Modric, Given, etc.

There are a host of other players going to SA who I'd have ahead of some on the bottom of that list. Fabregas, Casillas, Buffon, Anelka, Sneijder, Stankovic, Tevez...

It'd be interesting to rank the best player from each of the 32 teams.

I've got no problem with Xavi as #1, though I'd probably have him 4 or 5. The only player of the ones you list as "higher/lower on" that I'd differ with you on is probably Kaka, maybe Gerrard too. I'd be lower on Lampard than you are.

I have this sense that Kaka and Ronaldo's estimation in many has suffered this year (as well as Benzema). Each of those guys is a genius on his own, but it doesn't work as well together. Some people have a flair for working with other stars, others don't (or at least not at first). By the summer, I'd guess Real finds a way to play Kaka and Ronaldo on the field at the same time and we all think they're 2 of the 5 best again.

Michael said...

Tim, I suspect that Ballack is on there because ESPN needed a German. It doesn't bode well for the Mannschaft this summer that Ballack was the one who came to mind. Cesc does deserve a mention, but on the international stage, he is a little in the shadows of Xavi, Iniesta, Senna, and Xabi Alonso. Maybe he'll make a bigger international impact when he's playing with the former two for both club and country. :)

Anon, Drogba on his game is as good as Torres, but he goes through stretches where he doesn't much care. Torres is more consistent. As for Villa, I'm a huge fan and I wish he were playing for Barca. I'd take him over any striker in the world. Aguero runs too hot and cold for my tastes. I'd take his teammate Forlan right now, although Aguero's youth makes him more valuable on the open market. I'd have Aguero over Henry or Eto'o.

LD, I noticed that you didn't have any defenders on your expanded list. Then I thought to myself "who is the best defender in the world?" and I struggled. I'm a fan of Pique, but Barca defenders tend to look better than they are because the team monopolizes the ball. I've always been a Rio Ferdinand fan, but he's slipped this year. Ditto for Carvalho. I'd mention Lucio, but commenter Klinsi will come on here and berate me for that. Gallas?

Regarding the Real Madrid signings, my estimation of Ronaldo has gone up this year. My opinion on him has changed after reading how everyone in Madrid is impressed with his professionalism. Plus, Real are miles better with him in the side. Kaka has struggled to make the expected impact, which is why I dock him a little. He was involved in one of the Alcorcon disasters. Benzema I dock significantly because he's been pouty at Real. The comparisons to Anelka there are not being made in a complimentary way.

Good call on including Sneijder. His sudden indispensability to Inter, combined with RVP becoming key at Arsenal, have me optimistic about the Dutch this summer. Then I remember that their back line involves Jonny Heitinga.

Michael said...

Oh, and if Zlatan were up for consideration, I would have him behind Villa, Torres, and Drogba. I'm not sure if I'd take him over Rooney, but that's the area of the list where Ibra would fall.

Neil Young and Geraldo said...

What about Clint Mathis? Isn't he Georgia's favorite son?

LD said...

Gallas has slipped over the last few years, though I'd say he's the best pure defender on Arsenal this year. The defender I've been most impressed with in England this year is Richard Dunne. Rio's lost 2 steps recently and I'd say he's got 2 better defenders on his own back line (when healthy, I'd prefer Vidic and Evans). The traditional Italian stoppers are all too old.

Cristian Chivu?