Last night at the annual FIFA awards in Milan, a peculiar question was answered. Is the World XI more of a recognition of talent and accomplishments from the previous season, or is it just a popularity contest?
FIFA answered that question for us when it revealed its World XI. It’s a popularity contest, writes The Anfield Talk’s Drew (@notdrewcasper).
First, lets start by looking at the World XI revealed last night: Alisson, Marcelo, Ramos, Van Dijk, De Ligt, De Jong, Modric, Hazard, Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappe. Realistically, about three of these players deserved the honor in being in the starting team for the best eleven players from last season.
Real Madrid had a historically bad season, being eliminated relatively early from trophy contention on all fronts. Yet, they have the most players in the FIFA world XI. Marcelo is the most shocking inclusion, as his injury plagued season caused him to miss a variety of matches, and even when included in the Madrid XI, put in less than stellar performances for a Madrid defense that struggled mightily.
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley took to twitter, saying: “Whoever voted for Marcelo should be outed in the interest of public safety.” The same criticism applies to Sergio Ramos.
If Sergio Ramos deserves a nod, than how isn’t Raphael Varane included? He shared the same responsibilities as Ramos, and they both failed together last season, but Varane helped lead his nation to a World Cup title, while Ramos enjoyed an early holiday. Madrid midfielder and reigning Ballon D’or winner Luka Modric also made the team.
Modric is probably the “worst” player to win the Ballon D’or on the last 15 years, and that honor was completely undeserved, much like this one. Modric lead a midfield that was basically non existent in its ability to impact matches, and was schooled by a bunch of youngsters from Ajax at home in the champions league. I could think of seven midfielders who should be in this team before Modric. It’s shocking.
Then, we have Eden Hazard. Hazard had a great season with Chelsea, but is included in the midfield three in this World XI. Hazard in a midfield three? Makes sense regarding that every coach he’s played for at Chelsea emphasized the fact that he isn’t willing to work hard and defend. He’s a winger, and there’s loads more talent performing at higher levels than Hazard. Yes, he lead Chelsea to top four and Europa League title, but if that’s the basis for making it, how do Mane and Salah get overlooked?
The Ajax duo of De Jong and De Ligt impressed everyone amidst their unprecedented run to the champions league semifinal, but there are simply better players, in better leagues, playing at higher levels. There is a clear bias when it comes to choosing these teams. All that matters is playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid.
My World XI
Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker
Alisson swept up every single award that he could possibly receive, proving his worth at the world’s best goalkeeper by being virtually unbeatable at club and international levels.
Left Back: Andy Robertson
Andy Robertson burst onto the scene last year by providing a load of assists from a defenders position, and always tracking back to make sure his back line is organized. He helped lead the Reds to European glory, but was omitted over Marcelo who’s impact on last season is invisible. Everyone who voted for this team should be ashamed with that decision.
Center Back: Virgil Van Dijk
There’s nothing that needs to be said about this man.
Center Back: Kalidou Koulibaly
Koulibaly, time and time again, shows the world his worth. Often putting in world class performances for Napoli, and spearheading a fantastic defensive record for Senegal while helping them to the African Cup of Nations final. Yet, he was omitted for Ramos so had a statistically terrible season, and a player who excelled in an easy league. De Ligt got his lucrative move to Juventus, a league where Koulibaly has been dominating for years. Ironic, isn’t it?
Right Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
What more did this young star have to do to prove his worth? There simply isn’t a better player at his position right now, and he’s only 20! In fact, FIFA admitted there isn’t a better right back as they awarded a third center-back that position; De Ligt. Trent helped Liverpool to a second straight champions league final appearance, providing so many world class assists along the way. Another shocking omission.
Center Defensive Mid: Fabinho
You may think this is a Liverpool bias, but if you watch enough football, Liverpool especially, and compare his performances to his peers around Europe, he is head and shoulders above everyone else. Fabinho has become the anchor to Liverpool’s midfield, but was overshadowed by his country, and his peers apparently. He was beat to the position by Frenkie De Jong, probably because he got a move to Barcelona.
Left Mid: Kevin De Bruyne
It’s no secret that Man City are an absolute juggernaut. But, KDB is the man who really makes Man City click, and provides them with an expertise of passing and control that few other players in the world offer. He can literally pick out any pass he wants, and his injuries aren’t an issue for me because Marcelo was included. But, Eden Hazard beat him to this position because he got his move to Real Madrid. The bias is real.
Right Mid: Bernardo Silva
Bernardo had a masterclass of a season, helping Man City to a domestic treble and his Portuguese national team to a UEFA Nations League title. Yet, after what was a breakout season, was omitted for Luka Modric. I cannot fathom why. The Ballon D’or winner was never anywhere to be found on the pitch, but because of the crest on his jersey deserves to be amongst the best, when his performance levels have dropped significantly.
Left Wing: Sadio Mane
Mane was apart of a three way tie for golden boot in the Premier League, helped Liverpool to champions league glory and lead his Senegalese national side to the final of the African Cup of Nations, but was overshadowed by the wonder boy Kylian Mbappe, who continues to scorch the farmers league that is Ligue 1.
Striker: Lionel Messi
No explanation is ever needed for this man. His left simply does all the talking.
Right Wing: Mohamed Salah
Salah is a two time defending golden boot winner in the Premier League, and on current form, probably the most lethal winger in the world. The man is simply a walking goal contribution, but he too was omitted from the world XI by Ronaldo. Yes, I understand how good Cristiano is, but he moved to Juventus. Juventus are practically the only respectable thing to come from the Serie A in ten years, and Ronaldo joined the cruise ship to an Italian League title, and was far from his best.
It’s clear, this is a popularity contest and doesn’t account for season statistics, unless you get a move to Madrid or Barcelona. I’m sure many of you who read this will see my choices and immediately think there’s a strong Liverpool bias, but I remember many of these World XI’s that were primarily Madrid and Barcelona players, if not all eleven.
The fact of the matter is Real Madrid have fallen, and quite simply aren’t as good as everyone is still treating them off the back of their success that was clearly a result of Cristiano Ronaldo. The same for Barcelona, who have blown significant leads in back to back seasons in the Champions League. It’s time the Premier League and its players get some respect again. After all, there were two all English European finals this season.