Madrid 6 – 5 Barcelona.
No, it’s not a legendary scoreline from a game between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. It is, in fact, the number of players who have been chosen from Barcelona and Real and Atletico Madrid in this year’s FIFPro Team of the Year.
But that doesn’t leave room for anybody else, you tell me rather despondently. Damn right it doesn’t. But it should, and only underlines FIFA’s credentials as an elitist organisation stuffed full of purists who wish to see the beautiful game take precedence over battling to a win with your arms thick with elbow grease.
Well, here’s what my FIFPro Team would look like.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus and Italy
What! No Iker Casillas? Yes, no San Iker between the sticks in my Team of the Year. That accolade goes to Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon.
Buffon was one of the reasons Juventus won the Serie A unbeaten last season. He’s always commanded his box with authority and rarely will you see him flap at a cross or spill a shot for someone else to snaffle home the rebound.
Buffon has proved over the years that he is a Juventus man through and through. The World Cup winner was flooded with offers after his team had suffered the ignominy of relegation for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, but he stuck with the club and helped them earn promotion back to Serie A.
The one bone of contention you could throw at me was Casillas’ performance at the Euros, where Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final. Yes, Spain beat ten-man Italy 4-0, with two goals coming in the dying minutes of the game when the match was all but won.
Right back: Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid and Spain
My decision for Ramos to slot in at right-back might raise a few eyebrows since he played a lot of last season at centre back. But he has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent performers over the last year and is one of the most hard working defenders in the modern game.
In possession of an attacking flair, which he has had to curb since moving into the centre, Ramos has developed a great understanding with fellow centre-backs Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and Rafael Varane, displaying an earnestness to help out his team in sticky situations
The versatile Spaniard also played in the centre for Spain when Carles Puyol missed Euro 2012 through injury and seemed to form a telepathic understanding with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique. Yes, he may have blazed a very decisive penalty against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, but the pressure to succeed can overwhelm even the best.
Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund and Germany
No Gerard Pique in this team. The first of my two centre-backs is Germany defender Mats Hummels, one in a new generation of German footballers who has taken to replacing the old guard with ease.
Along with Serbian international and Club captain Neven Subotic, Hummels guided Borussia Dortmund to their second consecutive Bundesliga title. In a league where Bayern Munich have reigned supreme for decades, Dortmund are now the Bavarian side’s biggest threat.
Seldom are the occasions on which Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t claimed victory over their more illustrious rivals. That they earned themselves back to back league titles also shows how far they have come since nearly being bankrupt a few years ago.
Hummels also had a very solid Euro 2012, marshalling the German defence before bowing out to Italy in the semi-finals of the competition.
Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus and Italy
Like Hummels, Chiellini has also been outstanding for both club and country in the centre of defence. Along with Leonardo Bonucci, the giant Italian stopper has been adept at organising the back four.
Chiellini, like Buffon, could have chosen to move on when Juve found themselves embroiled in Calciopoli, but he chose to stay on with them, and that decision has gone on to reap rich rewards. Only one side – Juve apart – have gone 49 games unbeaten and Chiellini’s efforts have ensured that he – along with his team mates – has written his name in the annals of history.
He was also excellent for Italy in the European Championships held over the summer, where he won a runners-up medal.
Left-back: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich and Germany
But he plays as a right-back. Fair enough, he does, but he is equally comfortable playing on the left as well. He played there for Germany at Euro 2012, and has played there for Bayern Munich several times since he joined them in 1995.
A product of their youth academy, Lahm is the perfect example for those who wish to scale the ranks in football. Brought in as cover for French duo Bixente Lizarazu and Willy Sagnol, Lahm is now an indispensable part of this team.
Chosen as captain ahead of his more illustrious teammates like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and fellow homeboy Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm exudes calm and plays with confidence.
Leading by example for both club and country, The Magic Dwarf is a highly skilled defender who is as content defending as he is to join in the attack. Lahm played an integral role in Bayern’s march to the final of the Champions League, where they lost the final at home on penalties to eventual winners Chelsea.
He was also one of Germany’s most consistent performers at Euro 2012, scoring the opening goal for his nation against Greece in the quarter finals.