The FIFA World XI has been announced and, like everything FIFA do/say, has been met with almost instantaneous outrage. For once, however, I find it rather difficult to disagree with them. The most notable fact of the team, of course, was that every single player came from La Liga. So, turning that on its head, here is an alternative world XI, for which I have not allowed myself to choose any players from Spain. In keeping with the FIFA one, though, I’ve opted for a 4-3-3 formation.
GK – Manuel Neuer
The Bayern ‘keeper would surely have been fairly close in the voting to the eventual named goalie, Iker Casilias. He is certainly one of the very best in the world, as evidenced by his displays both at international level with Germany– where he reached the Euro2012 semifinal – and club level, where he was unlucky to be on the losing side of a penalty shootout in the Champions League final.
RB – Philipp Lahm
Neuer’s club and international teammate and captain, Lahm is one of the players on this list I genuinely feel should have been in FIFA’s actual side; he could even have been selected at left back, as he is equally adept on either side. However, he gets the nod at right back for his remarkable consistency, the perfect modern full back blend of ability to defend and attack, and because it was easier to think of another non-La Liga left back than it was right back. Speaking of which…
LB – Ashley Cole
Unlikely to win many votes in a popularity contest – unless competing against his Chelsea teammate John Terry, perhaps – but Cole has been one of, if not the very best left back in world football for a number of years now. He may not quite be at the level he was a couple of years ago, and with age that’s hardly surprising, but it’s testament to how good he is/was that despite that dip he’s still the best choice for this team.
CB – Thiago Silva
Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were selected by FIFA as the centre back pairing, probably due to their partnership for Spain during the Euros, and in fairness they do make up two of arguably the world’s four finest centre backs. Logic dictates, then, that with the other two playing outside La Liga, they both make this team. One of them is this man, who is a colossus at the back for Brazil, and for whom PSG paid a small fortune to take him from Milan. The other is…
CB – Vincent Kompany
The Belgian is the best centre half in the Premier League, something he certainly proved in the first half of the year, helping to inspire and lead his Manchester City side to the title. He’s had a little bit of injury trouble this season, and his form dipped slightly as a result, but now he’s getting back to his best, and when he’s at that level few can claim to be better.
CM – Andrea Pirlo
Wine; cheese; steak; Nigella Lawson; Pirlo: some things just get better with age. It wasn’t that long ago that Milan were happy to let the regista leave on a free transfer. Since then, he’s played a key role in an unbeaten, title-winning season at Juventus, passed England into oblivion and Panenka’d his way into the hearts of footballing hipsters everywhere. Had been spoken of as a possible Ballon d’Or candidate, given he was probably the second best player at the Euros, so it was a surprise to see Xabi Alonso named ahead of him.
CM – Bastian Schweinsteiger
The third Bayern player named here (I should perhaps take a moment to remind everyone, mostly myself, they did not win anything last season, and nor did Germany!) and unquestionably one of the best central midfielders around. Does a fantastic job of both protecting the back four and efficiently linking defence to attack.
CM – Yaya Toure
Let off the leash earlier this year to devastating effect, when Yaya Toure breaks from midfield it is an awe-inspiring sight; mixing the elegant lope of a gazelle with the power of a lion, he is like both predator and prey, and it is worthy of being captured on camera and given a whole series presented by David Attenborough. Defensive midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, advanced attacking midfielder, there isn’t really a way to define his position – especially because he’s capable of being everywhere – but when on form he’s a joy to watch, a terrifying prospect (just imagine being in the way of him when he builds up a head of steam) and probably the best central midfielder in the Premier League right now.
ST – Edison Cavani
Napoli’s Uruguayan hitman could probably reach this list for his hair alone, his long flowing locks drawing man-crushes from football fans worldwide in the need of a David Beckham replacement. *Spits, swears, ogles women, hammers a few things* Masculinity salvaged, Cavani actually makes his list because he is one of the most deadly strikers in world football. He has hit over 30 goals in each of the past two Serie A seasons, and is well on the way to doing so again this term. Did I mention the hair?
ST – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic, previously unheard of in these parts of the world, burst onto the scene with an incredible four-goal demolition of England for Sweden, which included a bicycle kick of such skill and athleticism it probably belonged the the Olympics. Aside from slaying Hodgson’s men, he’s also been leading the line as PSG hunt glory in Ligue 1, while Milan have been left struggling to fill a 6’5” hole in their attack.He’s certainly one young prospect to keep an eye on…
ST – Robin van Persie
At the time of writing, ‘How is RVP’ is a UK trending topic. Mostly it is because of people RTing a tweet from Rio Ferdinand expressing disbelief that his teammate is not in FIFA’s world XI. While I don’t think he merits a place ahead of Falcao, he can’t have been too far behind either. Arsenal fans may not care for him now, but he’s the reason they qualified for this season’s Champions League, and now at Manchester United he is proving to be the difference in the title race.