By Chris Myson
There is a distinct lack of Premier League players and English stars in the upper echelons of the Goal.com 50, but in Ashley Cole, the British game has a deserving leading light.
The Chelsea and England defender finished at No.8 in our rankings for the 2011-12 campaign, just ahead of Yaya Toure and narrowly behind Xavi, making him the highest-placed player from these shores.
Despite the illustrious company, Cole should feel at home alongside the global stars of the game in the top 10 after yet another fantastic campaign, in which he again underlined his world-class status.
May's Champions League win did not just represent Chelsea finally succeeding in their search for the Holy Grail; it was also a first European triumph for Cole, meaning that he has completed his club medal set, winning every trophy that is up for grabs.
Speaking on the pitch after victory in Munich, he confidently declared that none of his critics "could say anything to him anymore". And, when it comes to footballing matters, he is right.
| THE GOAL.COM 50: POSITIONS 50-4
|Our definitive countdown of the finest players from 2011-12 has commenced. Click here to view our slideshow of the stars who ranked 50-4 in our list!|
In the first leg at Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea denied Barca a vital away goal, he made a decisive goal-line clearance to cap a display in which he had looked a cut above any of his direct opponents - and this was a match against one of the best sides in football history.
Cole always produces in the biggest games and against the toughest opponents. His ability to deny Cristiano Ronaldo any sort of joy became a trademark in clashes between Manchester United and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in years gone by. His superb performances when it mattered were no different this year.
This was also a campaign in which he picked up a remarkable seventh FA Cup win. The scale of that achievement should not be underestimated – it drew him level with Liverpool, one of the game's biggest clubs, in the all-time list – a staggering feat.
|2011-12 GOAL.COM 50 WINNER:
|The Portuguese superstar has topped our definitive countdown of the finest players from 2011-12. Click here to view our slideshow from 50-1!|
The one medal remaining is a major international tournament and Cole suffered more England heartbreak at Euro 2012, where he was the villain of the shootout defeat by Italy in the quarter-finals. That may have cost the defender an even higher placing.
However, Cole is consistently one of the Three Lions' best performers and the fact that he is within touching distance of joining the select group of players with 100 caps to their names proves that he has been at such a high level throughout his career.
There are very few instances where you can say that there is a clear leader in world football when looking at the best player for each position, but at left-back there are fewer fans with every passing year who doubt Cole's status as the world's No.1 in that role.
There are numerous modern full-backs who have pace, flamboyance and attacking prowess and many others who are solid, reliable customers whom wingers have a tough time getting past.
Cole, though, is one of the very few in the modern game who can combine those two pivotal aspects, giving him the perfect skill-set and showing why he could get into any team in football.
At 31, he still has a few years left as a top-level defender and it would not be a surprise to see him continue starring in the Goal.com 50 next year and beyond.
Whether he makes the top 10 again will depend on his team's success – inevitably, trophies won will always play a part even in individual awards – but Cole's ability to measure up to the game's greats should not be doubted.
In a year in which we have seen Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and David Silva weave their magic in the Premier League and excellent stoppers like Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart come to the fore, it is Cole who still stands above the rest, a world-class performer who keeps on producing.
Follow Chris Myson on