There is only one person in the starting XI under the sticks- Iker.
Things have not changed much for him. With a suspect backline Iker Casillas is the one that saves Madrid’s hide time after time after time. He might not be close to his Zamora-winning season last year, but he is the man. To me, Casillas is the FIFA World Player of the Year. His resume was more impressive than Cristiano Ronaldo’s as he was solid with both club and country. He has not given his club any headaches, and is not one to be splattered on the European tabloids making out with hot models on the beach. Hey, he can even compete with Ronaldo in the female department as well.
In Spanish football there is one phrase that is quickly becoming cliché and for the past few years it seemd to have been making the rounds more and more.
“Without Iker, Madrid would be history”
Right now Madrid is 12 points away from the top. If it weren’t for him they would be fighting somewhere in the proverbial no-man’s land called the middle of the table. It is that eternal gray area where teams kind of mesh together and disappear from the collective vision. Yeah, that place. That is where Madrid would be without him. Gonzalo Higuaín is a player that proved that he could appear in the big games. He was also the man that scored the title-clinging goal against Osasuna last season. So far this year he has been the Merengues’ biggest scoring threat. There have been no doubts that he is the actual revelation of the tournament. He was able to smoothly make the transition from super-sub and Copa del Rey fill-in to a viable scoring option for the future.
Barcelona have four players, although their entire starting XI could have been put in here and not very many complaints would have emerged. Lio Messi is without a doubt the most exciting and dominant player in the game right now. It seemed like years ago when Samuel Eto’o was considered expendable at the Nou Camp. He was a player that had one foot out of the door and the other on a banana peel. A rash of injuries as well as his participation in the African Cup of Nations saw him in limited duty for the blaugrana. Now he is the leading scorer in La Liga and on pace to surpass the 30-goal mark. He is being fed by the best midfielder in the game right now. If there was a bright spot in the Barcelona lineup in the first half of 2008 it was Xavi. “The Mentalist” was also the player of the tournament in Euro 2008 as he was the vital cog in Spain’s triumph. Dani Alves was an important acquisition for the blaugrana and he has sure paid dividends for them. He was the back that Gianluca Zambrotta could not be for them and the one that they were loking for ever since the departure of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst three seasons ago (it’s been that long already!). His pace have given Lio Messi more space to work with as left backs no longer pinch in to cover Messi as they have to respect Alves’ pace and ability to serve the ball into the box for an open Henry, Eto’o, in the air. He might not have the numbers, but his performance in big games cannot be doubted. Carles Puyol must be considered among one of the best central defenders in the game right now. Tarzan is the captain of the Catalans for a reason. If there was a moment that encapsulates his importance to the club, it is his play against Real Madrid a few weeks ago.
Although he is still young, Sergio Ramos is one of the best right backs in the game. His versatility and ability to be a threat in set pieces have made him a valuable asset to the Merengues. Yes, I know plays at the right. Putting him on the right is a tribute to his versatility. He can play on either end and he has made appearances as a central defender. If he could only control his temper he could be considered among one of the greats.
Marcos Senna is the heart and soul of the Villarreal side and his ability to make that first touch on the Submarine attack makes him vital. His ability to change his part of the reason why Villarreal have become contenders in La Liga in the past couple of years. His knack to make the big pass as well as his mastery of the freekick have to have him among one of the top five players in the world. Senna’s style of play is not just good for domestic play as his participation in Euro 2008 proved. His teammate Diego Godín is as hard as they come. The Uruguayan international is the biggest roadblock to overcome on the way to Diego López and he has established himself both in the back as well as in set pieces.
Dani Alves Godín Puyol Sergio Ramos
Xavi Senna Maxi Rodríguez Messi Eto’o Higuaín
Who should I add? Who should I take out? Do you think I was smoking something when I added them? Let me know?