FIFA's absurd World XI shortlist shows footballers are no judges of talent

What with most of our sporting gazes transfixed firmly on the Ashes, you may have failed to notice that FIFPro (the global footballers' union) and FIFA yesterday announced the 55 players shortlisted for the 2010 World XI: the ultimate team of the past calendar year. From this list a final line-up will be announced at the Ballon d'Or shindig early next year.

Some 50,000 unionised players "in every continent: from Australia to South Africa, from Finland to Costa Rica, and from Russia to Argentina" pick their team of the year in a 4-3-3 formation, and those with the most votes are duly shortlisted. And it seems that rather than pick the best 55 players over the past year on form however, FIFPro and the FIFA committee members have picked the most famous players, the ones with the most marketing clout and the ones who play for the biggest clubs. 17 of the 55 ply their trade in the Premier League, just shy of the 18 who represent La Liga. 15 of the names on the list are employed in Serie A, which is gargantuan compared to a lowly four from the Bundesliga and just one single player from Ligue 1. So, according to Fifa, Premier League clubs may as well call off those international scouts right now: because not one player based outside Europe is actually any good at all.

The 55 players broken down by position:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Julio Cesar (Inter), Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Michel Bastos (Olympique Lyonnais), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Lucio (Inter), Maicon (Inter), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan), Pepe (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Walter Samuel (Inter), John Terry (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Javier Zanetti (Inter)

Midfielders: Esteban Cambiasso (Inter), Michael Essien (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Kaka (Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Inter), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona)

Forwards: Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Samuel Eto’o (Inter), Diego Forlán (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Diego Milito (Inter), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Ronaldinho (AC Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), David Villa (Barcelona)

As you can see, it's essentially a list of the 55 most famous player on the planet, many of whom have had a poor 2010. Dimitar Berbatov, listed among the forwards for the first time in his career, has scored a meagre 13 goals in 37 games over the past calendar year, and, was named on the shortlist the day after Sir Alex Ferguson shouldered the blame for the striker's poor form.

Talking of bad form, Bayern Munich - currently 8th in the Bundesliga, 14 points off the leaders, and with "too many players performing below their level" according to captain Philipp Lahm, provide all four German-based nominees, including Lahm himself.

Another mystery worth noting is the inclusion of Real Madrid's Pepe. Admittedly a very solid central defender, but a player who, up until mid-September had yet to play a competitive game for Madrid in 2010. He picked up an injury last December, made two appearances for Portugal at this summer's World Cup (where he was replaced both times) and has only played any significant football over the past two months.

Looking at the list I'm surprised David Beckham, Diego Maradona and Pele weren't included as well.

Based on form, here's my own World XI:

Iker Casillas - Lifted the World Cup for Spain. One of the best 'keepers of all time.

Maicon - Ripped a new one by Gareth Bale this season, but prior to that, absolutely pivotal to Inter's treble-winning season.

Lucio - See Maicon, above.

Carles Puyol - The Captain of the best club side of all time. 'Nuff said.

Ashley Cole - Imperious last season. The only England player to come out of the World Cup with any credit.

Xavi - Godlike Genius.

Wesley Sneijder - The best player in Europe's best team.

Mesut Ozil - Helped Bremen to 3rd place last season. The best young player at the World Cup. Settled in nicely amongst Madrid's Galacticos.

Lionel Messi - 53 games, 47 goals.

Diego Forlan - Second in last year's La Liga goal-scoring chart. Two Europa league final goals. World Cup Golden Ball winner.

Diego Milito - Top-scorer in Serie A last year. Also scored the winner in the Coppa Italia final, and both in the Champions League final. Criminally under-looked in the World Cup by Maradona.


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