This is the eight part of the Top 100 Players countdown from 30th-21st place on our chart, which will be completed on New Year’s Eve. I thought I would start this blog by recounting my favourite and least favourite football memories of 2011. The best memory I have of this year is Barnet beating Port Vale 1-0 to help us stay up when relegation loomed and the pitch invasion that followed is a memory I will cherish for many years. Manchester United’s astonishing 6-1 home loss to ‘skint’ rivals Manchester City which signalled a possible change in the power of English football. Other memorable results include Chelsea’s 5-3 home loss to Arsenal, Manchester United’s 8-2 home win against Arsenal but my favourite match of the season was Newcastle’s stunning comeback to draw 4-4 against Arsenal. Away from the Premier League, I have enjoyed watching the performances of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Lille and Uruguay for two reasons; they play good football and they show that playing that brand of football will bring success. My least favourite memory of 2011 is that the scumbags at Barnet Council have told Barnet that they can’t stay at Underhill beyond this season, which will probably lead to ground sharing and this is beyond ideal. Enough of my ranting, let’s get started on the countdown from 30-21.
30-Iker Casillas—Real Madrid—Spain—Goalkeeper
It is almost impossible to see Iker Casillas off the squad sheet for either his club Real Madrid or his country Spain, in which he has been a key member of the starting eleven for both in the past 11 years. This season Casillas has kept 8 clean sheets in 16 matches and has only conceded 15 goals in the process to his side finishing top of La Liga before the winter break. This year has seen Casillas noted for his achievements with Spain as he broke the record for most international caps for his country with him gaining his 127th cap against Costa Rica, which beat the record of fellow goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. Expect Casillas to be around for some time to come for both Real Madrid and Spain due to his qualities and leadership abilities.
Lille managed to pull off a shock Ligue 1 title victory in the 2010-2011 season and Belgium winger Eden Hazard had a lot to do with this. His 12 goals and 10 assists in 52 matches in all competitions proves his worth to the Lille side and he has continued to improve this season with the Lille youth academy product get 8 goals and 6 assists in 26 games so far. His creativity, skill and pace has seen the youngster compared to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and he has won the plaudits of many players and managers. He even won the acclaim of who is arguably France’s greatest player and Real Madrid’s current director of football Zinedine Zidane, who said of the youngster “Eden Hazard is a future expert … He is very good and will become even better.”
28- Luka Modric—Tottenham Hotspur—Croatia—Midfielder
The transfer saga of Luka Modric proved a few things; one was that not even £40-50 million pounds (depending on who you believe) could buy the Croatian star and that him being a part of the Tottenham side can put them in the category of being a ‘big club’. He is not a regular goal scorer or creator but his passing ability is second to none and his presence in the centre of midfield allows Tottenham to be the team they are. You also know you are a good footballer when the ‘cult hero’ or ‘scumbag’ (you decide) that is Joey Barton says “What a footballer Luka Modric is, hats off. Best in the league by a mile.” The only way that Modric can continue to improve is by staying with Tottenham and is place as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders will be cemented.
27-Zlatan Ibrahimovic—AC Milan—Sweden—Striker
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is probably has one of the best records in World football as he has won nine league titles in his last nine seasons with five different clubs. He has also played a major part in the majority of those successes and he was pivotal to AC Milan’s Serie A win last season; the Sweden striker got 21 goals and 13 assists in 41 matches in all competitions. This season Ibrahimovc has got 16 goals and 6 assists in 18 games. He is not popular with everyone though as he frequently clashed with Pep Guardiola, his manager at Barcelona and Ibrahimovic told him ‘to go to hell’. Despite him being Sweden’s best player, some think that he doesn’t play as well for the national side as he does for his club sides.
26- Yaya Toure—Manchester City—Ivory Coast—Midfielder
When Roberto Mancini signed Yaya Toure from Barcelona for £24 million pounds, many people thought he would play in his natural position of defensive midfield. Mancini had a trick up his sleeve and instead decided to play Toure in a more advanced midfield role, in which he has been used to great effect. Toure is basically what you would call your ideal ‘FIFA player’; he has a good pass of the ball, he can finish, tackle, head, has good stamina and can play in almost any position. His African player of the year award was well deserved and he has helped Manchester City to the top of the Premier League. It was also his goal in the FA Cup final against Stoke which gave the club their first tournament win in 35 years.
25-Joe Hart—Manchester City—England—Goalkeeper
The old adage that all good teams start from the back is proved to be true by Joe Hart. The former Shrewsbury stopper has helped his club side of Manchester City to the top of the Premier League and has remained a key part of the side despite the money Mancini has available. He is also unbeaten in his first 16 matches for England which goes to show that he should have been the first choice goalkeeper at last year’s World Cup. Last season Hart won the Premier League’s Golden Glove award for keeping 18 clean sheets in 38 league games and despite only keeping 4 clean sheets in 15 league matches so far this season, he has only conceded 15 goals and has helped his side to win many points this season.
The comparisons of Nani to former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t be more false. While both players use trickery a lot in their games, Nani is more creative than Ronaldo and makes more opportunities for his teammates and the Portuguese winger (Nani not Ronaldo) said “I am Nani and not Cristiano Ronaldo … I don’t want comparisons because our style of play is different.” Last season in 33 league matches, Nani scored 9 goals and created 18 to help Manchester United return the title to Old Trafford. In 18 matches this season, Nani has scored 6 goals and assisted 8 goals in the club’s title challenge. He was also a key part of Paulo Bento’s side which qualified for Euro 2012.
23-Wesley Sneijder—Inter Milan—Holland—Midfielder
Sneijder has been unlucky at Inter Milan this season due to the managerial changes at the club. Gian Piero Gasperini was the first manager in a torrid season at Inter and his 3-4-3 formation either excluded Sneijder from the team or he was played out of position. Under Claudio Ranieri, the Dutch playmaker has struggled for both form and fitness. The one thing that isn’t in doubt is Sneijder’s ability and 7 goals and 11 assists in 38 matches in all competitions show that. He should also add to his record of 2 goals and 4 assists in 10 matches in all competitions this season but whether that will be at Inter Milan or another club is up for speculation. He has been heavily linked to Manchester United and he could be the answer to their prayers for an attacking centre midfielder.
22-Mats Hummels—Borussia Dortmund—Germany—Defender
Out of all the players to have left Bayern Munich over the years, Hummels is probably the one that Bayern most regret letting go of. He was an integral part of the Dortmund side which triumphed emphatically in last season’s Bundesliga and he was the main part of a solid defence, which was built on Hummels centre back partnership with the Serbian Neven Subotic. With Per Mertesacker’s form over the past year becoming increasingly shaky for club and country, Hummels stepped up to the plate for the Germany national team and has remained as part of their national side ever since. He has become one of the Bundesliga’s best defenders due to his composure, tackling and heading abilities.
21-Vincent Kompany—Manchester City—Belgium—Defender
When Kompany signed for Manchester City from Hamburg for a fee of £6 million pounds three years ago, it was seen that this would be the last chance for Kompany to prove himself as a quality player after an average spell in Germany. It wasn’t expected that the Belgian centre back would do this well and his performances have seen him elevated to the captain of the Manchester club. He is a calm figure both on and off the pitch as he leads from the back and his handling of Tevezgate was praised. He is also part of one of the World’s best international centre back partnership with Kompany playing alongside Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen for Belgium. The year ahead should see him win his 50th cap for his country and a possible first Premier League title for the blue half of Manchester.
Thanks for reading the Top 100 so far from the players ranked 30th-21st 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 next instalment of players ranked from 20th-11st will be uploaded on Friday.
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/
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