My Top 50 Favourite Players (50-41)

Ah the big one. Football is full of all sorts of different players. Different fans like different players. Some prefer strikers who score the simple goals, and some others like those silky dribblers in midfield. I’m no different. I like players for all sorts of reason. Either it’s reasons due to their ability on the field, off the field, or some other reason. I usually attempt to stay very objective. While some choices will be here for that very reason, some will not. So let’s get straight into it.

50. Alexandre Lacazette

To start things off, let’s go with a player who is currently playing at the top of his game. The Arsenal forward is an absolutely tremendous player. Not only is he an amazing goal scorer, he also offers so much off the ball. His movement and pressing of the defenders is incredibly useful. I was so happy when Arsenal signed him. He was just brilliant at Lyon, and after 3 seasons of goalscoring, he finally earned that move. While Lyon are now a great club for young players and attackers in general, back then they were very reliant on Lacazette to lead the line. His last season at Lyon was arguably his most prolific. He scored 28 in 28 starts, and was the only Lyon player to score over 10 goals in Ligue 1. He’s also a really good creator. In that season he had 3 assists, but created 1.7 chances a game. He was exactly what Arsenal needed and is now doing the same there. He is just an amazing goal scorer and watching him on the pitch is just so enjoyable. However my love for Lacazette comes from Fifa out of all things. For 3 games (15-17), he was that elite striker you’d always sign for a top club because of his potential and amazing stats. He was fast, strong and so good in front of goal. He was worth all the money you’d spend, and sometimes you could resell him for over £100m. He was one of the best players on the game and gave me so many fond memories. Thank you Laca.

49. Edin Dzeko

I’ve spoken about my love for the guy before on Heroes and Zeroes, but let’s go through it again with maybe more detail. I never truly thought about him when he was playing for Man City. Of course I disliked him for the soul reason of playing for my rivals, but I only knew he was good in the air and was a perfect alternative to Sergio Aguero, however my attention wasn’t drawn until his move to Roma. Roma at the time weren’t exactly full of goal machine’s. I always have an issue with any side that sign Seydou Doumbia. It almost tells me you’re desperate for goals and have no other option. I thought Dzeko was a good choice. There was proof of his time at Wolfsburg that he can carry a team’s goals, and learnt more link play skills while in England. He was ready to lead the line for a side on his own. To say he’s been a success at Roma is a huge understatement. While his first season wasn’t exactly prolific, only scoring 8 in 31. He offers so much in link up and trouble for defenders that he’s always justified his occasional small goal numbers. But after that he has truly been incredible. He scored 29 in the 16/17 season, and was a huge player for Roma’s huge 91 point season. His goals have decreased in the league since then, but he was amazing in the Champions League. He scored 8 in 12 last season, and is now on 4 in 5 this season. Why I love Dzeko is he is the blueprint for a dying art, the target man. The Bosnian can do everything you want from a huge number 9. He is so good in the air and always has been. It’s an ability that no matter how old you get, you never lose that effectiveness. He’s now 32 and is still incredible at winning the ball in the air. However is best feature is circumstance. It’s a weird feature, but let me explain. He is playing in a side full of wide talent. Under, Kluivert and El Shaararwy are all good players, but still need to start showing consistency. Having a player like Dzeko, who is so effective in giving space to teammates and giving them good chances to score. He is benefitting more than just himself, and that selflessness is why I love him as a player.

48. Saul Ñíguez

Saul is an amazing midfielder. My love began after his incredible solo goal against Bayern Munich back in 2016. Thanks to that solo goal, that I assume Alaba, Vidal and Alonso have still not recovered from, it turned into a name I would not forget. After looking more into him, I then realised he also scored that incredible over head kick against Real Madrid in 2015. It almost sums up why I love him. He is a hard working player who puts in good tackle and interception numbers, yet is capable of these crazy moments of magic. He’s your classic don’t judge a book by it’s cover player. I think the assumption made about him comes from playing for Diego Simeone. Before recent huge signings like Lemar and Martins, his team were a hardworking unit that were great at winning the ball high up and using their physicality to their advantage. From the way he plays, he is quite similar to a Gabi, Koke or Turan, but he’s more than that. He can be relied on in tough moments and is capable of those quality moments. I love him for these moments and has made me gasp multiple times with some of his goals.

47. Joe Allen

As mentioned before, this is very much a personal list. These are players who may contain a great memory and it’s why I have an affection towards them. Joe Allen might be the epitome of that. A player who never really achieved much at club level, thanks to his disappointing time at Anfield. However that is not important. I am Welsh, and thanks to his incredible performances at the 2016 Euros, I will never forget him. The current Stoke midfielder was an important player in that side. Ramsey is a disaster positionally and Joe Ledley only recovered from an injury while the tournament was still going. Allen had a lot of work to do, and he was amazing. He controlled the midfield and he also protected the defense well. It was strange to see such an average manager in Chris Coleman figure out how to finally get Allen playing well consistently. He was so good that he was actually in the team of the tournament. He has a nickname in this country, the Welsh Pirlo, because of his similar haircut. However in that summer, he turned into Pirlo and was a key reason why my country had their most successful tournament since Pele was playing. Thanks Joe!

46. Pepe

Quite the controversial player, but effective in his own way, Pepe is an incredibly memorable player. He used to have the title as the dirtiest player in Europe, with memorable horror challenges on Messi and against Getafe’s captain at the start to life at Madrid. However after that indefensible incident, he changed as a player. He said that he was considering his future in football after lashing out in 2009, and after a few years of continuing the bad reputation, he truly turned it around. After that sending off in a 2011/12 El Classico, Pepe has not received a single red card at club level (he did receive one at the 2014 World Cup however). Why I love him does come from this. He kicked out the ugly side of his game, and turned into an incredible defender. His performance at the 2016 Euros could possibly be the best seen from a defender at a major tournament. He made 3.2 interceptions, won 3.8 aerial duels and commited under a foul a game. Pepe’s transformation is why I have such a fondness to him. He went from a joke into one of the best around. A player who knew the dark side of the game and knew how to exploit it. A real winner.

45. Moussa Dembele

While he has dropped off a cliff in the last couple of seasons, no one can argue that when Dembele was in his peak, he was one of the most useful and wanted midfielders to have in Europe. Dembele has never been a spectacular midfielder, like a Kroos or Thiago, but he filled a hole in a side that everyone wanted. He was so good at winning the ball back and a brilliant dribbler. Between 2012 and 2016, he was arguably the best dribbling central midfielder in Europe. He was so powerful and quick that it was nearly impossible to dispossess him. He even did plenty of defensive work too. When Spurs were at their best, it was because they had an incredible midfielder who did the most wanted role in anyone’s midfield. It’s similar to why I have such a liking towards him. It could be out of sheer jealousy, since my side does not have a player similar to peak Moussa Dembele. He’s everything I want a midfielder to be. A well rounded player who should have earned so much more praise than he got.

44. Diego Forlan

While my memories of him at Manchester United aren’t exactly vast, his performances in La Liga and at the 2010 World Cup is what made me love the forward. He put in performances that made him one of the best strikers in the world at Atletico Madrid and Villarreal. He could take set pieces, penalties and was a machine in front of goal. He was also a pretty good creative forward. He was the blueprint for what a forward in the modern game should be. He also scored against Liverpool at Anfield. If any player does that, they are worshipped at United. In fact his name was chanted by United fans when they were playing Sunderland in 2017, making José Mourinho ask the valid question “why are they singing his name?” I truly hate Liverpool, and any player who causes them misery makes me extremely happy. While that is always great, it’s South Africa in 2010 that is my fondest memory of him. It’s the first world cup I religiously watched and he was by far the most memorable part of the whole tournament. Uruguay were not tipped to reach the semi finals, yet still got there and it was all thanks to Forlan. He won the Golden Boot and did that by scoring some absolutely stunning goals. It could be down to the terrible ball used in the tournament, but he still deserves plenty of credit. That volley against Germany, which he hit against the ground to take Neuer the wrong way, was pure genius. It’s a shame I wasn’t old enough to remember him in his earlier days, but I still loved what I saw.

43. Edwin Van Der Sar

I think Van Der Sar might be the best goalkeeper United have had in the Premier League era. While Schmeichal is always remember fondly by United fans for his incredible and aggressive personality in goal, Van Der Sar was just incredible. Replacing Schmeichal took an extremely long time to do for a club of United’s size. His lack of an adequate replacement is why United’s early 2000s weren’t great. Fergie was under a lot of pressure, due to Arsenal looking the real deal and Chelsea with their new oil money. While Rooney and Ronaldo were signings that would eventually turn United into the best team around, Van Der Sar was an immediate fix that just took too long to happen. He was signed from Fulham for only 2 million. In reality he probably should have been signed soon as his time in Turin was coming to an end. Soon as he arrived in Manchester, Ferguson’s winning machine was back to its best. My favourite memory of the Dutchman is easily the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow. It’s the first and only time I saw my team win the biggest trophy in club football, and it was thanks to Van Der Sar making that save. The entire side running and screaming in happiness to see their veteran keeper making the most important penalty save in his career. He was truly the best.

42. Kevin Prince Boateng

While his younger brother might be the superior player, Kevin Prince Boateng is a personal favourite of mine. Whether it’s choosing to play for Ghana over Germany, and constantly moving clubs, there’s just something unique about him. Boateng has played for a lot of clubs, 10 in fact, ranging from unsuccessful spells in England for Tottenham and Portsmouth, to playing for AC Milan and Genoa, to playing for Schalke and Frankfurt. He’s been around to say the least. What can truly be loved about the Ghanian is his versatility. From starting as a number 10 to moving further back, to playing as a striker for Las Palmas. He has proven to be a shot machine throughout his career, which is why with age, he was moved further up the pitch. The reason why I like him as a player is out of pure fascination. He never stayed longer than 2 seasons at a club and constantly moved around. It’s as if he was trying to see as much of the world as he could, and experience all the different clubs out there. Of course there is probably a more genuine reason why he has never stayed at a club for long, but that’s what I’d love to believe.

41. Ronaldinho

Oh where to begin with him. The king of the samba style of football has to be here. For anyone who grew up in the 2000s and obsessively played the Fifa Street games, there is nothing but love for tricky Brazilian. While I could go incredibly in-depth to how he probably inspired a sub category of FIFA games just because of his the pure entertaining way he played football, I’ll just stick to his game. The Balon d’Or, Champions League, La Liga, Serie A, World Cup, Copa America and Confederations cup winner is among one of the best players in history on pure ability. No other player in the start of the Millennium could move, dribble and beat opponents in the same way he could. He famously earned a standing ovation at the Bernabeu for putting in one of the best individual performances in history, scoring 2 incredible goals that must have embarrassed every defender on the pitch that day. On his day he was unplayable. He played the game in his own vision, with a huge smile on his face and just loved to show off. He played football like he lives life, to enjoy himself.

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Team of the Year 2016 Without a Single Player from the FIFA Team of the Year

The FIFA Team of the year was a very disappointing one. It was just full of Barcelona and Real Madrid, in a year when it was clearly shown there were better players than the players selected, especially in defence. I wanted to prove there can be a team made of players who could match the players selected by numerous players and managers, to show how the constant selection of players from the same 2 clubs needs to end. At the end of each pick, I’ll quickly add if they should replace the FIFA Team of the year players or the original selection is fine. The team will be made in a 3-5-2 formation.

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak

I’ve decided to go with the Athletico Madrid stopper. Athletico Madrid easily had the best defence in Europe in 2016 only conceeding 16 goals in the previous season and making their way to the Champions League final by only conceeding  11. Even though their defence is unbelievable, their goalkeeper does have to take a lot of credit. In one season he showed himself to be one of or the best goal keepers in Europe. Neuer being picked just isn’t interesting anymore, even 38 year old Buffon should of been given a shout. But goalkeepers are judged on how many goals they conceed, and Oblak conceeded the least and showed himself to be the best. There isn’t anyone else who should be goal.

Decision: Should replace Manuel Neuer

Left Centre Back: Pepe

Pepe is that player we all love to hate. He has had this reputation of being an extremely dirty player, which is true. But in 2016 he reminded everyone we should pay more attention to his defending, because he was outstanding. Pepe stood out during Madrid’s run to the final, playing his part in keeping likes of Aguero and Draxler from scoring past Los Blancos, and especially Torres and Griezmann in the final. Sergio Ramos got the headlines for his goal, but Pepe was just as good as he was in that game. Even though he was good in the Champions league, it was Portugal’s run to the final where he really stood out. Portugal never should of got to where they did in the Euros, because finishing third in a group should not be rewarded. But saying that, Pepe stayed very consistent through out the tournament. And putting in a man of the match performance for again, keeping Griezmann quiet. Pepe did deserve some recognition for his performances and being picked over Marcelo is the best way to show how good he has been

Decision: Should replace Marcelo

Centre Back: Diego Godin

I was speaking about how good Athletico Madrid’s defence was last season, and Godin is a huge reason for that. He was a consistent starter for Athletico Madrid last season, with his defensive partner usually being switched between Savic and Giménez. Godin was a major reason why Athletico were in the title race for as long as they were. Being aggressive and staying consistently solid in the big games, like the game against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Each year he seems to be improving, and even though he was unlucky not to get a Champions League medal or to kiss that La Liga trophy, he still deserves a lot of credit for keeping Athletico Madrid a constant threat for any team going against them. I still have no idea how Pique got into that team over Godin and the my next pick, but Godin easily replaces him

Decision: Should replace Gerard Pique

Right Centre Back: Leonardo Bonucci

2016 was the year of Bonucci. For a while now Chiellini and Barzagli always got the credit for Juventus having an amazing defence, but Bonucci has proven that he is the best out of the three. He reads the game so much better than the other two, and even though he isn’t exactly the most calm centre back, he has shown he isn’t afraid to put the team first, with his constant tactical fouls and and aggressive play. Sergio Ramos has finally deserved a team of the year place, but it’s a shame, because the three centre backs here have shown they have been a better defender than him. And even though he has scored in the big games to save Madrid points, he won’t be keeping his place

Decision: Should replace Sergio Ramos

Right Midfielder: Gareth Bale

What a 2016 Gareth Bale had! Not only did he play really well in the final of the Champions League, he helped lead Wales to a Euro Semi Final and now earns over €750.000 a month at Real Madrid. Bale is a perfect winger, having the pace, the shooting ability and the ability to run at defenders. Dani Alves didn’t have a stand out 2016 so it does confuse me why he got a place in the team again, so Bale will slot nicely ahead of him.

Decision: Should replace Daniel Alves

Right Centre Midfielder: Miralem Pjanic

Bet you didn’t see this coming. I never understand why this guy doesn’t get more credit for what he gets each season, because he is the best midfielder in Serie A by a long shot. Last season he scored 10 and assisted 12 last season. Those are amazing numbers for a creative midfielder. He then made a controversial move to Juventus and continued his fine form, scoring 5 and assisting 5 this season already. He is one brilliant player who deserves more recognition for how good he is. But should he replace Toni Kroos? No he shouldn’t. Pjanic is an amazing player but Kroos is that next level. Even though he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, he still isn’t better than Toni Kroos.

Decision: Shouldn’t replace Toni Kroos

Left Centre Midfielder: N’golo Kante

To understand why he automatically gets into this team, In the entire 2016, he earned more points than any other team in the premier league. He only lost 4 games in the entire 2016. Kante had a better 2016 than most other teams, just to show how successful he is. I’ve never been able to understand why players like Kante aren’t considered to be the best midfielder in the world. He was a big part in why Leicester shocked the world by winning the Premier League, he played great for a very mixed French side and then joined Cheslea and is now the reason why their system works. I can never stop talking about this guy, and I think he is one of the best midfielders in the world. But does he get ahead of Modric? Of course

Decision: Should replace Luka Modric

Left Midfielder: Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann was robbed. He was third in the Ballon d’or and still didn’t get a place in the team. Yes Suarez did score a lot of goals. But he plays for Barcelona. It isn’t hard with players like Iniesta, Messi and Neymar around. Griezmann is in a team that scored less than 40 goals in the entire La Liga season and has an involvement in most of them. He scored more than half their goals and got into the Euro’s team of the tournament too. He is an amazing player in a very good team. He just doesn’t get the credit he deserves for a team who do not score many goals. I love the guy as a footballer and would love his brother to stop with the Man United rumours. It’ll be the end of me! But does he take Ronaldo’s place? No, based on the fact Ronaldo deserved the Ballon d’or so no one can go ahead of the guy who came first. But if he was against Suarez, then he would definitely take his place.

Decision: Shouldn’t replace Cristiano Ronaldo

Attacking Midfielder: Marek Hamsik

Another player who doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. Napoli have one of the most exciting attacking line ups right now. And Hamsik is a huge part in why they are so good. He, like Bale, can run at players so quick and so direct. He has a quality very similar to Mhkitaryian, being able to run at players and make other teammates play the way he wants to play. He was a stand out player in the Euros. Being the vocal point from a very unknown Slovakia side. I think he should replace Iniesta. I love the guy but he shouldn’t be anywhere near a Team of the year in 2016. 

Decision: Should replace Andres Iniesta

Left Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan had a memorable 2016. Not only carrying PSG to another title, he also signed for Man United for free and is carrying them to top four. He is like fine wine, improving with age. People said he should of came to the premier league years ago, but I disagree. He’s better than he has ever been right now, and the experience he has gained from the different leagues he has played in has turned him into the player he is now. He will go down as one of the games legends after he eventually retires. If he ever does. My pure hatred for Suarez and love for Zlatan is the reason why he gets into this team.

Decision: Should eplace Luis Suarez

Right Striker: Pierre Emerick Aubamayeng

Aubamayeng has become one of the best strikers around in 2016, using his blistering pace to ruin defenders. He is an amazing player in a good Dortmund side, and even though he is denying the rumours, I do believe he will eventually leave. So Dortmund might as well embrace his talent as long as they can. So does he replace Messi? Of course not. Messi is the best player to ever play the game. No one goes near Messi’s place in this team.

Decision: Shouldn’t replace Messi

I can imagine many would disagree with some of these picks, but it’s all subjective. If you disagree with some of my replacements, then tell me who I should of chosen in their place