European team of the year 2011-2012
With Euro 2012 just three days away here is Mr Sportsbook’s best XI from Europe this season. There is still time to enter our free Euro 2012 predictor game here, which has a top prize of €100,000 and an iPad for the best player. If you refer the main winner of our game you will win €5,000 for yourself, so make sure you share the predictor with all your friends!
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
With a second year as no. 1 at Manchester City under his belt, Hart is fast becoming one of the best stoppers in the world and remains England’s only world-class player. Conceding just 29 goals in the Premier League helped City to the title this year and Hart has made some stand-out stops in their campaign; an instinctive save to deny Darren Bent the pick of the bunch, earning all three points for his side in the process. Although he has had the leagues best centre-back pairing in front of him, Hart has had to produce when it counted and he duly delivered. Special mentions go out to David De Gea who recovered from a shakey start at United and had the best shot to save ratio in the league and also to Italian stalwart Gianluigi Buffon, who had another superb season.
Right back: Lukasz Piszczek
The Borrusia Dortmund full-back had a second excellent season in Germany, a season which culminated in a second successive league title for Jurgen Klopp’s young side. The Polish full-back was actually a free transfer from Hertha Berlin in 2010 and in those two years the former midfielder has transformed into one of the most dynamic right-backs in the game. He marked Frank Ribery out of the DFB Cup final which Dortmund won 5-2 and still managed to maintain an attacking threat. Real Madrid are rumoured to be hovering and if Poland have a strong Euro 2012 expect other teams to join them.
Left back: Ashley Cole
Despite a fairly poor start to the season, ‘Cashley’ has turned it on when the performances have really counted. Since the departure of AVB, Cole has put in a series of world-class shifts for Chelsea and was instrumental in their Champions League win. His goal-line clearance in Naples prevented Napoli taking a 4-1 lead to Stamford Bridge and surely kept Chelsea in Europe. Compettion in the full-back positions was pretty sparse this season; Phillip Lahm was solid if unspectacular and Giorgio Chiellini impressed when shunted out to the left, but Cole was the player who delivered in the big games.
Centre backs: Vincent Kompany and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
Vincent Kompany was finally handed the captains arm-band after Mancini stopped pandering to Carlos Tevez and the Belgian has been the best centre-back in Europe this season. As anyone who plays Football Manager will testify his £6 million fee was a superb transfer and after muddling around in midfield under Mark Hughes he was finally placed in the centre of the Man City defence. He marshalled the meanest back-line in the Premier League this season and unlike the place of Vidic at United, his presence in defence was essential for City; without Kompant they fell apart, but the skipper returned in time to halt the slide and scored the deciding goal in the Manchester derby.
There were several contendors to play alongside Kompany but the 23-year-old captain of Montpellier wins the spot. Mbiwa led his side to an incredible success in Ligue 1 and was extremely unfortunate to not make Laurent Blanc’s 23 man squad for the Euro’s, losing out to Laurent Koscielny who was part of that impervious Arsenal defence. Mbiwa has been at Montpellier for over six years and has already amassed 165 games for them. Montpellier were outscored by the Qatari funded PSG, but conceded just 20 goals in a defence that was superbly marshalled by Mbiwa. Matt Hummels of Dortmund came close to making the team, as did Sergio Ramos who I must begrudgingly admit had an excellent season at Madrid, when not falling out with Mourinho.
Defensive midfield: Andrea Pirlo
There have been some inspired free transfers this season; Demba Ba to Newcastle, Brad Friedel to Spurs, Phillip Mexes to AC Milan but the move of Andrea Pirlo from Milan to Juventus will come back to haunt Milan for years to come. Milan are renowned for having an ageing midfield but after allowing World Cup winner Pirlo to leave on a free he was snapped up by Juventus who proceeded to win the league without defeat. In Antonio Conte’s system, Pirlo has been dropping even deeper than before, and with Arturo Vidal and Antonio Marchisio pressing the opposition high up the pitch, he has been presented with the time and space to dismantle opposition defences. Juventus tightened up their defence to win this years Scudetto and the arrival of Pirlo helped them dictate play and ultimately win the league.
Centre midfielders: Yaya Toure and Mezut Ozil
Yaya Toure returned from the African Cup of Nations just in time to help City to their first title in 41 years, and if the Ivorian had been missing for one or two more games the title might have been out of reach. The younger of the Toure’s carried City through games early in the season and his dynamic runs from midfield would often create a goal from absolutely nothing. Upon his arrival pundits were quick to pigeon-hole the Ivorian as a holding midfielder and expressed surprise when he broke from deep to such devastating effect. The English media have finally caught up with what Yaya Toure can bring to a team but not before he lifted Man City to the title.
After doing well in his first year in Spain, Mesut Ozil has taken his game even further this season and was one of the reasons behind Madrid outscoring Barcelona to la Liga. Ronaldo might have grabbed the headlines with his goal tally, but the diminutive German finished with a remarkable 17 assists in his 35 league games, including that assist in the decisive el Classico for Ronaldo’s winning goal. Ozil is keeping former World Player of the Year, Kaka, out of the Real Madrid team and he is central to their chances of repeating their success again.
Left wing: Cristiano Ronaldo
Despite scoring 60 goals in 55 appearances I’ve had to shift Real Madrid’s main man out to the left hand side of attack. Say what you like about the competitiveness of the Spanish league, Ronaldo has blitzed opposition defences this campaign and is unlucky not to be selected up front in this team. Pretty self explanatory.
Right wing: Lionel Messi
Not being Pep Guardiola, I couldn’t find room in my 4-3-3 formation for a false number 9 role for Messi, so unfortuantely the two best players in the world are out wide. Although I’m pretty confident he could do some damage from out here.
Striker: Radamel Falcao
Competition for this position was especially fierce. Robin Van Persie has had a sublime season as has compatriot Klass Huntelaar, both hitting more than 40 goals. Oliver Giroud of Montpellier also had an excellent season, hitting 25 as his side won the French league, while Sergio Aguero looked as if he had been playing Premier League football his entire life.
But for me one striker stood out and I would be amazed if Falcao is still at Atletico Madrid next season. The 26-year-old has every facet to his game. He is powerful, fast, strong in the air, can score golazo’s and is a big game player. After deciding the 2011 Europa League final with a brave header for Porto, the Columbian tore apart Bilbao in this years final scoring twice with two equally brilliant goals. To have the presence of mind and ability to execute a Cruyff turn on the six yard box, take three defenders out of the game and then finish is staggering. He scored 36 goals in what was his first experience of Spanish football and will have Europe’s elite chasing his signature this summer.