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.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City and Cote d'Ivoire
And so we have the first entry from the Barclays Premier League in this list. Not to play down Xabi Alonso's performance in anyway, but while he may not be the heart-beat of Manchester City akin to how Steven Gerrard is at Liverpool, Yaya Toure is certainly the dynamo around which the Citizens are built.
Orchestrating play from the middle of the park with his lung-busting runs, powerful forays forward, piledrivers that gave City goals at the most crucial of moments and immense physicality make him a force to be reckoned with for any opposition.
Couple that with his ability to pick out a pass and find a teammate, his willingness to track back and help out his defenders and his no-nonsense approach to closing down the opposition make him one of the most desired players in football.
Whenever City needed that extra something in defence, Vincent Kompany was there to help out. Whenever they needed someone to provide the driving force forward, Yaya Toure was the man they turned to.
He also was part of the Ivorian team that made it to the finals of the African Cup of Nations last year.
Andrea Pirlo, Juventus and Italy
No Andres Iniesta? How dare you!
No. There is no Andres Iniesta in my team because he did not have the same impact he had in seasons gone by.
Andrea Pirlo, however, displayed the same tenacity and determination he always has. The 33-year-old play maker was Juventus' most integral cog in midfield as the Bianconeri made history by winning last season's Serie A without losing a single game.
Age has not had the slightest effect on the Italian's mesmerising, breathtaking performances that have led pundits and players alike to hail him as one of the best in the current generation of midfield maestros.
Pirlo continued his excellent club form into the summer's European Championships. His masterclass performance against Germany comes to mind, where was instrumental in sealing progress to the final as Italy won 2-0.
Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid and Germany
No Xavi as well? Sacrilege!
Both Xavi and Iniesta are missing from my FIFPro XI because they did not contribute as much as they did in previous seasons. The Barcelona duo spent a significant time on the sidelines through injury which saw Real Madrid win the league title last season.
One of the capital side's key men in that title charge was Mesut Ozil. With influential Brazilian midfielder Kaka on the bench and off-form, the role of playmaker-in-chief was the German's to grab, and grab he did with both hands.
Most of Real's play in the middle of the park flowed through the German, as he set up his teammates time and time again and also chipped in with the odd goal every now and then.
While Cristiano Ronaldo was grabbing all the headlines for his team, Mesut Ozil played the quintessentially German role of being quietly efficient and going about his business.
He also assumes that mantle for the German national team, dictating play as his side made it through to the last four the European Championships before falling short against Italy.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo certainly deserve to be there on this list. They are the best players the world has seen among the current generation of players, but I would not agree to the inclusion of Radamel Falcao. I'd put this man instead:
Robin van Persie, Manchester United and the Netherlands
Yes, Falcao is a brilliant striker who led Atletico Madrid to a Europa League triumph last season, and Robin van Persie failed to take his club performance to the Euros, but he played a massive, massive role in Arsenal's third placed finish last season.
He scored 37 goals in all competitions and took over as club Captain after the departures of Samir Nasri to Manchester City and Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona.
While certainly not a one-man team, the lack of van Persie's goals – and through them the leadership which comes along with the armband – would have seen the Gunners finish the season in the middle of the table.
Arsenal fans will be seething at the man they now call Judas for his move to Manchester United, but he saved the Emirates Stadium outfit last season.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer
Defenders: Neven Subotic, Lukas Piszczek, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Dani Alves, Vincent Kompany
Midfielders: Shinji Kagawa, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Eden Hazard, Nene
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Robert Lewandowski, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Didier Drogba, Olivier Giroud
There will be few who agree with this team, but FIFA and I see eye to eye on painfully little. And yes, I know this article will generate a lot of comment.
First Published On : Jan 11, 2013 15:05 IST