The annual FIFA “The Best” awards took place on Monday afternoon, with several controversial selections being made by the voting bodies of FIFA. Luka Modric broke a decade long duopoly between Messi and Ronaldo for Best Mens Player; Marta won Best Women’s Player, despite Sam Kerr having the best season amongst any female player; and Mohamed Salah won the Puskas Award for his 7th best goal last season, beating out worldie bicycle kicks from both Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But the big focus of the night, other than Modric, was the World XI, which was announced as well. Before we discuss, here is the team:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United, Spain)
Right Back: Dani Alves (PSG, Brazil)
Center Backs: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain); Raphael Varane (Real Madrid, France
Left Back: Marcelo (Real Madrid, Brazil)
Central Midfield: Luka Modric (Real Madrid, Croatia); N’Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)
#10: Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina)
Left Wing: Eden Hazard (Chelsea, Belgium)
Right Wing: Kylian Mbappe (PSG, France)
Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Real Madrid, Portugal)
There are a couple of no brainers in the team, as you’d expect: Ronaldo and Messi, despite not winning the Best Men’s Player, had sensational club seasons. Luka Modric was a stalwart for both club and country. Kante and Varane played key roles in France’s World Cup triumph. Marcelo and Ramos anchored a Real Madrid backline that won their third straight Champions League. No issues with any of those.
The questions, for me, stem around de Gea, Alves, Mbappe, and Hazard.
Hazard was terrific for a Chelsea team that, albeit, did not qualify for the Champions League, but he upped his game at the World Cup, putting several terrific performances in for Belgium en route to winning the Silver Ball, for the tournament’s second best player.
Mbappe took the world by storm this summer, scoring four goals at the World Cup for victorious France, and won Young Player of the Tournament Award. He also has been terrific for French giants PSG.
But the fact that both of them made the team over Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, who was on the podium for Best Men’s Player, and who won PFA Player of the Year in the Premier League over Hazard, Kante, and de Bruyne, along with leading Liverpool to their first Champions League Final in a decade.
Salah had to make the team. Whether it was over Mbappe or Hazard is immaterial (I’d probably put him in over Mbappe, who had a terrific World Cup but wasn’t quite at Salah or Hazard’s level domestically.
Another player who should have made the team is Kevin de Bruyne, who, in my opinon should have been given PFA Player of the Year over Salah. He was the driving force behind Manchester City’s record breaking title run in 2017-18, and was outstanding for Belgium, springing the counter attack that defeated Japan, and scoring the game winning goal vs. Brazil in the quarterfinal. de Bruyne may be out two-three months with a knee injury, but that shouldn’t withhold his spot in the World XI. For me, de Bruyne is the fourth best player on Earth, behind Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar.
Goalkeeper is another question mark. FIFA awarded Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid (formerly of Chelsea) the title of Best Goalkeeper in the World on Monday. Courtois also won the Golden Glove Award for best keeper at the World Cup this summer. However, Courtois was not included in the World XI– that honor went to Manchester United and Spain’s David de Gea. While de Gea was quite good for the Red Devils domestically, he was awful at the World Cup, conceding more goals than he saved. He conceded a hat trick to Cristiano Ronaldo, including a howler at the end of the first half vs. Portugal; he conceded twice vs. Morocco; and he was unable to save any of Russia’s penalties in the shootout that eliminated the Spaniards.
If players like Mbappe are included in the World XI based off the strength of their World Cup performance, doesn’t that justify Courtois being selected over de Gea? Also, how does Courtois win Best Goalkeeper and not make the World XI?
The biggest discrepancy, however, is easily Dani Alves being selected as the best right back, despite not being in the top five.
Alves played 16 games for PSG, and only 2 for Brazil. He missed the World Cup due to injury, and has not played yet in the new season.
Kieran Trippier of Tottenham and England, meanwhile, was the best right back at the World Cup and arguably England’s best player both in attack and defense, and has picked up right where he left off in the new club season.
You could argue that Joshua Kimmich, Sime Vrsaljko, Dani Carvajal, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, and Benjamin Pavard are all more worthy than Alves, who surely gets in on reputation only.
In my opinion, here’s who should have made this year’s World XI:
Courtois; Trippier, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Kante, de Bruyne; Ronaldo, Messi, Salah
Who do you think should have made the World XI? Did FIFA get it right or wrong? Let us know in the comments below.
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