This is the penultimate of the Top 100 Players countdown from 20th-11th place on our chart, which will be completed on New Year’s Eve. I thought I would start this blog by making my predictions on what will happen in the next year; don’t forget to bring this up in the unlikely event that a prediction is horribly wrong. In the Premier League, I think that Manchester City will win the title, the Lancashire trio of Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan will get relegated and Harry Redknapp will get the England job; this will lead to former Blackburn and Manchester City boss Mark Hughes managing Tottenham. Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG, Porto, PSV and Zenit will triumph in their respective leagues. The Champions League winners will be Barcelona (again) after beating Real Madrid in the final and the Europa League winners will be Manchester United to the delight of Channel 5. Germany will be victorious at Euro 2012 and they will beat Spain in the final, while Klaas Jan Huntelaar will be the tournament’s top scorer. Ivory Coast will win the upcoming African Cup of Nations, beating Senegal in the final. Off the pitch, Joey Barton will reach 10000 tweets, Balotelli will pull more crazy stunts and one of John Terry and Luis Suarz will become embroiled in another controversy. Let’s get started with the countdown from 20-11.
20-Bastian Schweinsteiger—Bayern Munich—Germany—Midfielder
Formerly a right winger, Schweinsteiger was switched to a deep lying central midfield position after Michael Ballack’s injury ruled him out of the 2010 World Cup. He was so successful there that he has remained in that position for Germany and Bayern Munich, where he used there to accommodate Ribery and Robben on either wing. This position seems to get the most out of Schweinsteiger as he can use his passing, long range shooting and tackling abilities to great use and he is brilliant at dictating the style of a game. Former Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Thomas Strunz said that ‘Bastian Schweinsteiger is at the top of the club hierarchy,’ and he is definitely right. His style of play is similar to that of Xavi and Iniesta’s and he is an influential player for club and country. He is currently on 90 caps for Germany and he has scored 23 goals and created 30 goals along the way.
19-Angel Di Maria—Real Madrid—Argentina—Midfielder
Jose Mourinho’s first signing at Real Madrid in June 2010 was that of Benfica midfielder Angel Di Maria. He has proved to be worth the £25 million pounds Real Madrid spent on him and his creative side of the game is imperative to the club’s style of play. El Angelito (the angel) got 9 goals and 21 assists in 53 matches in all competitions in his debut season and this season, he has got 5 goals and 12 assists in 20 matches in all competitions. He has become a mainstay in the Argentina national team and this year, he has played 10 matches for is country and scored 3 goals along the way. He is seen by many as Real Madrid’s version of Lionel Messi due to the fact that they both come from Rosario in Argentina and they have a similar style of play. He is renowned for his quick feet and his dribbling skills at both Real Madrid and his former club Benfica.
18-Thiago Silva—AC Milan— Brazil—Defender
It had seemed that the chance to play in Europe had passed Thiago Silva when he returned to Brazil in 2005 with Fluminense after failing to get a match at Porto and Dynamo Moscow due to injuries and illness. However he impressed at Fluminense and got his wish when AC Milan signed him in July 2009 for a fee of £8.3 million pounds. This saw him create what is arguably the best centre back partnership in Serie A as he linked up with veteran Alessandro Nesta. He is known for his pace which allows him to out speed many strikers and his good discipline; this saw Silva only pick up one yellow card in 42 games in all competitions lasts season. He has been linked to Barcelona on a few occasions as the long term replacement for Carles Puyol and his reputation was further enhanced there when he scored a last minute equalizer against the club in the Champions League this season.
17-Mario Gotze—Borussia Dortmund—Germany—Midfielder
The 2010-2011 season couldn’t have gone any better for the 19 year old attacking midfielder Gotze. In his breakthrough season with Dortmund, the club he has been at since he was eight years old, helped the side to win the Bundesliga title. He scored 8 goals and assisted a further 12 goals in 41 matches in all competitions and he has continued that form this season, with 6 goals and 7 assists in 22 matches in all competitions. He also broke two national records as he came on simultaneously with striker Andre Schurrle to become the first players to be born in re-unified Germany and he is the joint youngest goal scorer of the national team after a strike against Brazil. He was also praised by former Dortmund manager and Germany’s technical director Matthias Sammer, who said that Gotze was ‘one of the best talents that we’ve ever had.’
After an average goal scoring record at Palermo, many were surprised at the sudden turn of form of the Uruguayan striker. In his debut season for Napoli, he scored 33 goals in 47 games in all competitions which saw him endeared by the San Paulo faithful. This saw many clubs chasing the signature of the striker bet he refuted those claims by signing a new contract with the club until 2016. This season has seen a similar story to last season as Cavani has scored 13 goals in 19 matches so far in all tournaments. He also helped Uruguay to win the Copa America but has failed to make his mark on the national side as he is played out of position for his country due to the presence of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. He won the praise of Italy manager Cesare Prandelli who said “He has improved a lot and has become an important player… He is the maximum a coach could ask for.”
15-Gonzalo Higuain—Real Madrid—Argentina—Striker
Higuain has had an injury hit year which restricted the amount of performances he made in the 2010-2011 season but this didn’t stop him from getting an impressive goal tally. The Argentina international scored 13 goals and created 6 goals in 25 games last season in all competitions and this season, he has got 14 goals and 2 assists in 24 matches so far in all competitions. From October 2nd to October 15th, Higuain hit three hat tricks in four matches for club and country with the unlucky sides being Espanyol, Chile and Real Betis. He also managed to get a solitary goal for his country at the Copa America against the eventual champions Uruguay. He had the luxury to play his international football for either France; the country of his birth or Argentina; which was the player’s homeland and the country he picked to represent.
The highest ranked defender on the list is Barcelona and Spain centre back Gerard Pique. His return to his hometown club from Manchester United in May 2008 saw him go from being a benchwarmer at Old Trafford to becoming one of the World’s best defenders’ at the Nou Camp. In the 9 games he has played for Barcelona in La Liga this season, the Catalan club have only conceded 4 goals with him in the backline. Last season Pique got 4 goals in 51 games in all competitions as Barcelona won the Champions League and La Liga. He has formed one of the best centre back pairing’s in recent times with him and Carles Puyol playing alongside each other for both club and country. The centre back has an interesting name because Pique means ‘pickle’ in English and his other surname is Bernabau, the stadium of his club’s arch rivals Real Madrid.
13-Sergio Aguero—Manchester City—Argentina—Striker
Many eyebrows were raised when Argentina striker Sergio Aguero decided to sign for Manchester City this summer for a fee of £38 million pounds. I thought this wasn’t the best move for the striker as I thought that he should have held out for a move to Barcelona, but he has proved any doubters wrong with a splendid start to life in English football. 15 goals and 5 assists in 24 matches in all competitions has seen his reputation increase further and he is one of an elite group of players to get 8 goals in their first 5 Premier League matches. His debut against Swansea City saw him get 2 goals and an assists, which prompted many people to call his debut one of the best ever. He scored 5 goals for Argentina this year and this included three goals at the Copa America, with his goal against Bolivia said to be one of the best in the tournament.
12-Mesut Ozil—Real Madrid—Germany—Midfielder
Last season saw Ozil have a brilliant debut season at Real Madrid. The German Messi or Zidane (take your pick) scored 10 goals and created 24 goals in 53 matches in all competitions and his assist record was higher than anyone else in the whole of Europe. This season has only seen him score 2 goals and make 6 assists in 22 matches in all competitions. He has had a good season so far but he has been criticized for failing to live up to the hype of last season and this has seen Mourinho warn the player about his future in the Spanish capital. He also assisted the most goals in Euro 2012 qualifying as he created 7 goals in 10 qualifying matches. He has been hailed by Germany under 21 manager Horst Hrubesch, who said “We have our own Messi. Our Messi is Özil,” and Germany manager Joachim Loew hailed the player’s ‘genius moments on and off the ball’.
11-Manuel Neuer—Bayern Munich—Germany—Goalkeeper
Manuel Neuer is the highest ranked goalkeeper in the Top 100 chart due to his form this year. He helped Schalke to an unexpected run in the Champions League, when they got to the semi finals. He left his hometown club at the end of the season for Bayern Munich in a £18.3 million pound deal, which made him the second most expensive goalkeeper of all time. The deal was greeted with anger by both Schalke and Bayern fans, who were annoyed that the player had signed/left for their rivals. He made his mark on Bayern by not conceding for over 1000 minutes in nine consecutive matches in the Bundesliga, which saw him grow on the Bayern fans that were sceptical of his signed at first. He was heavily praised for his performance for Germany against Turkey as he played a major part in two of his country’s goals in a 3-1 victory.
Thanks for reading the Top 100 so far from the players ranked 20th-11th on the list. Please comment on what you think so far and if you think some players are being underrated or perhaps the opposite, tell me what you think. The final instalment of players ranked from 10th-1st will be uploaded on New Year’s Eve.
Also, can you sign this petition to help Barnet FC stay at Underhill for the foreseeable future as they have been told by the Football League they can’t stay there next season due to Barnet Council’s pathetic stipulations and hypocrisy. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keeping-barnet-fc-at-underhill/