Yes, we all heard it, we all saw it: the FIFPro team of the year contained nothing but an entire selection of La Liga players.
Yet, what we didn’t see was the voting process. And sources close to FIFA president Seb Platter have exclusively revealed to ThinkFootball that all of the FIFPro voters were given ballot papers containing only La Liga players.
Such developments have gone far to reveal why the likes of Dani Alves and Gerard Pique made the elite team after enduring sub-par seasons, while sure bets such as Robin Van Persie and Emile Heskey (with an astonishing seven goals to his name in 2012) could not find a place.
To remedy this bizarre situation, here is an alternative XI of the year, which includes players from the Champions League winners (seriously, why wasn’t at least one Chelsea player in the team?), the ever-evolving Bundesliga, a Juventus side that went unbeaten for a whole season (again, recognition?) and other destinations across the world… or mainly, Europe.
The rules are simple: no one from the actual team of the year is allowed. If you’re bored at work or out of topics to argue about with those around you, pick your own!
GK: Petr Cech
2012 was generally a year in which the shot stoppers shone. Gianluigi Buffon is still going strong at 34 years young, Manuel Neuer impressed for club and country – even scoring in a Champions League Final penalty shootout – and Zlatan Ibrahimovic aside, Joe Hart enjoyed a formidable year.
But ultimately, in 2012, there could only be one winner. A goalkeeper who is often an unsung hero in the shadow of the likes of Iker Cassilas, Buffon and Neuer.
This year, Cech’s European dream finally came true. And what’s more, the Czech international played a big part in making it happen, proving pivotal in the winning penalty shootout, as well as denying Arjen Robben from the spot in extra time and withstanding the bombardment of Barcelona over two legs in the semi-finals.
LB: Ashley Cole
Although you might be wondering whether this will just turn into the actual Chelsea team, fear not: it won’t. However, as far as the left back position is concerned, it was only ever going to be Blue.
For many years now, no one has held a candle to Cole in his favoured position. Yes, Marcelo is good, while there are those that argue Leighton Baines is ready to push Cole out of the England team.
But to this day, no one has yet demonstrated the same positional nous, cool-headedness and overall quality as the Chelsea full-back. In 2012, the 32-year-old added another FA Cup winner’s medal and of course maiden Champions League winner’s medal to his collection. He did miss a penalty at Euro 2012 – but he is English after all.
CB: Mats Hummels
With height, youth, tackling ability, positional sense and a penchant for the odd goal on his side, Hummels is another defender of the highest calibre that really should have made the real FIFXI Pro. For Hummels, 2012 was the year Borussia Dortmund burst onto the Champions League contenders’ scene after also securing a German league and cup double.
And the 24-year-old has been at the epicentre of his side’s ongoing success, as well as that of the German national side – who did reach the Euro semis after all, even if many of us expected them to win the tournament outright.
CB: Vincent Kompany
A leading figure this past year – quite literally – Kompany has shown how football should be played. Although he suffered a dip in form during the 2012/2013 campaign, Kompany led by example all through 2012. An intelligent, strong and honourable defender who shone for club and country, Kompany scored vital goals and made even more vital goal-line clearances on a regular basis.
However, at centre-back, Thiago Silva is worth mentioning, while – although he hasn’t got the cleanest of records – John Terry is still the beating heart of the Chelsea defence. It also says a lot that if Nemanja Vidic was fit for the entirety of the year, he would be one of the first names on this team-sheet.
RB: Phillip Lahm
At right back this year, we have been blessed with talent (which makes the decision to suggest an underperforming Dani Alves was the year’s best all the more perplexing). There was Lukasz Piszczek, Darijo Srna and Stephan Lichsteiner. But then there was Lahm.
Of course, placing the 29-year-old at right-back might be considered cheating as the German often finds himself on the left. But one moment this season alone is worth noting to quickly put that debate (both left vs right and Lahm vs other contenders) to bed. It was a Champions League semi-final… the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid… the 90th minute. Lahm had the ball at his feet and surged down the right flank to whip a sensational cross in for Mario Gomez to convert.
The rest, as they say, is history.
CM: Yaya Toure
The former Barcelona midfielder had a beastly impact on 2012 as Manchester City won the Premier League title in a nail-biting finish none of us will ever forget.
So many moments embodied what the powerhouse midfielder is all about, from his FIFAesque finish against Newcastle to his goal at the Bernabeu that proved the La Liga champions would have to fight until the end to beat the Premier League winners. The Ivorian has been an absolute cornerstone for his any of his club’s achievements.
CM: Andrea Pirlo
OK, it has to be said: Pirlo has been over-hyped in many quarters. But the metronomic maestro still had an unbelievable year, steering Italy to the Euro 2012 finals and playing an integral part in a Juventus side that went unbeaten for a whole league season and then duly made its mark on the Champions League group stages.
In Pirlo, we see another player who could easily have walked into the real FIFPro side. Well, at least he’s got due recognition here.
LW: Gareth Bale
Perhaps a surprise choice – and there is plenty of scope for debate about this year’s best wingers. However, Bale’s pace, energy and dynamism sometimes defy belief. His performances last year were on par with his traditionally phenomenal standards, while any arguments about the level at which he can produce are dispensed with when you consider his terrorisation of Maicon in 2010.
When running down the left at pace with the ball at his feet, Bale is easily one of the best and most ferocious wingers in the world. We may just see living proof of that if a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona materialises.
RW: Arjen Robben
Another controversial choice, but Arjen Robben is another fantastic wide man. Ignore his penalty misses in the Champions League and German Cup finals (even though they do hinder the case for his selection somewhat) and you see a lightning-quick, flair player who can beat a man at the click of a finger.
Very probably a negative influence during Holland’s Euro 2012 campaign and reportedly a target of the frustrations of team-mate Franck Ribery, Robben was still a major reason both his club and national sides got to any finals in the first place.
Ribery is, of course, also worth a notable mention in this position, but Robben overshadowed him in 2012… Discuss.
CAM: Juan Mata
Immediately, the candidacy of David Silva comes to mind, but while that Spaniard’s form petered out, Mata’s never did. A star for both Chelsea and Spain, we can safely assume the FIFPro voters were led by Vicente Del Bosque – who simply seems to have forgotten to include Mata in some of his Spain squads…
A Champions League, FA Cup, Euro 2012 winner and an extremely underrated player who would probably win a lot more were every one of his teammates as committed and driven as him, Mata fully deserves his place in this particular team of the year.
ST: Robin Van Persie
Finally, the best striker in world football without question. Yes, Falcao performed sensationally, but Van Persie was something else. Not only did the 29-year-old win the Player of the Year award for last season after finishing top scorer, but he then went on to score 16 goals for Manchester United in the same calendar year. It’s just easy when it’s him.
It does, however, feel like a betrayal to leave out Didier Drogba; but statistically-speaking, this decision has backing. Drogba certainly turned up for the big games – as his record of nine goals in nine cup finals with Chelsea shows, but Durchman Van Persie was the most consistent striker of 2012. Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez are worth mentions, but not as realistic contenders to Van Persie’s throne quite yet…
Manager: Roberto Di Matteo
Now, while a manager of the year doesn’t officially come into the FIFPro, the fallen Di Matteo deserves no end of mentions. For goodness sake, the Italian should still be Chelsea manager after guiding the club to its maiden European trophy… but that’s another story.
With tactical ingenuity, infallible man management and a never-say-die spirit, Di Matteo overshadowed all other managers in 2012 – yes even Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Though it is fair to throw a shout out to Zambia manager, Herve Renard, whose efforts to secure triumph at the African Cup of Nations were nothing short of remarkable.