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Lionel Messi lifting the Ballon d’Or baffled none, but the same cannot be said about the FIFA World XI which threw in quite a few surprises writes Aditya Bajaj...

 Aditya Bajaj
 Comment l Ballon d'Or Follow on

One thing is for sure.

I would like to admit an allegiance in the argument that there were a few skeptical choices and a couple of debatable surprises in last night's prestigious FIFA's Annual Gala at Zurich.

If the initial list of 50 for the prestigious Ballon d’Or wasn’t already baffling enough - though we all knew who would win in it in the end and he did - the FIFA/FIFPRO World XI list went one better.

Lionel Messi made it four in a row and that wasn’t surprising. Obviously when you score 91 goals in a calendar year and manage to leave behind the second by a margin of 30, the award is just a formality.

BALLON D'OR ROLL OF HONOUR | Winners of past five years
YEAR WINNER
CLUB
COUNTRY
2012 Lionel Messi Barcelona Argentina
2011
Lionel Messi Barcelona Argentina 
2010 Lionel Messi Barcelona Argentina 
2009 Lionel Messi Barcelona Argentina 
2008 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United Portugal

However, moving on to the other parts of the Gala ceremony, when you officially call out the best XI of a calendar year and leave out one of the top three midfielders to have played during that period, it surprises you.

Andrea Pirlo’s inclusion in that list was as mere a formality as Messi winning the coveted Golden Ball. Just that, what the Italian did last year somehow did not cut it amongst the 50,000 players who voted for the line-up of the year gone by.

Xabi Alonso was good, and deserves to be praised and mentioned as being among one of the best players of 2012. He was instrumental in Real Madrid’s title winning season and the semi-final run in the Champions League and was one of the protagonists of Spain’s European Championships winning squad of last summer.

Not here, but Pirlo certainly was a better player and had a better year. No doubt about that!

If not deserving enough to be amongst the top three for the Ballon d’Or, he was and should have been an automatic choice for the World XI.

Moving on to the defense, even Marcelo would have been surprised to see his name up there amongst the best defenders of 2012. He had a good first half but by no means is he a ‘full back’ who can be trusted when on the back foot. What’s more is that he has barely featured this season due to an injury.

Even Jordi Alba, would have been a better choice perhaps. But the name of Germany captain Phillip Lahm rings a bell or two.

CASILLAS
REAL MADRID

DANI ALVES
SERGIO RAMOS
PIQUE MARCELO
BARCELONA REAL MADRID
BARCELONA REAL MADRID

XABI ALONSO
XAVI INIESTA
REAL MADRID
BARCELONA BARCELONA

MESSI
FALCAO CRISTIANO RONALDO
BARCELONA ATLETICO MADRID
REAL MADRID

The Bayern Munich full back definitely deserved a place, thanks to his brilliant season with Bayern Munich and a run with Germany in the Euros which was ended by a moment of brilliance by Mario Balotelli.

This season itself, Bayern are perhaps only second to Barcelona when it has come to form and the little defender has been instrumental. Certainly worth a mention, probably even ahead of Dani Alves who’s been on a decline from his previous seasons at Camp Nou.

As for Gerard Pique amongst the best two centre-backs, it high time someone noticed that the former Manchester United defender though brilliant when fit, barely featured for Barcelona last year.

In a time when players are making over 60 appearances a year for their clubs alone, the centre back started just about 38 matches throughout 2012 both for club and country! Perhaps, his biggest claim to fame was that brilliant summer in Poland and Ukraine, where the Spanish National Team created history by lifting their third major international trophy in a row, but Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas have done well to represent that defense.

Vicente Del Bosque’s team was so good that perhaps even Raul Albiol would have looked good at the centre of everything.

Germany International and Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels got a lot of eyes rolling last year with his rock-solid performances both for club and country and perhaps deserves more acclaim than the Barcelona stopper. 

Mats Hummels & fellow German Phillip Lahm certainly deserved a spot in the World XI

And who says, you have to play the traditional system with a back four anyway?

The highlight of 2012 was the re-birth of the three man defense and with the dying breed of full backs that could have been used an option.

Andrea Barzagli was phenomenal for Juventus and so was Simone Pepe, not to forget that both enjoyed a good summer with their respective national teams as well.

While there cannot be even an iota of complaint about the inclusion of the rest, probably Didier Drogba deserved the nod.

Yes, he only sparked into form post-March after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, but what he did for Chelsea in those couple of months probably was the difference between the Champions League winners and the rest. That’s what you want from a centre-forward.

Having an impact striker in any lineup is a major boost, and certainly the Ivory Coast International was second to none.

A 3-4-3 would have found space for the heroics of Didier Drogba alonside Messi and Falcao

While FIFA cannot be criticized for the World XI as it is voted by some 50,000 players from all around the globe, a 3-4-3 rather than a 4-3-3 would have been just as it would have helped accommodate some of the more deserving candidates who missed out like Hummels and Barzagli in defense and with Ronaldo moving onto the wings would have featured the mouth watering trio of Messi, Drogba and Falcao supported by Pirlo, Iniesta, Xavi alongside the Portuguese behind them.

All in all, it would have summed up last year, and rightly so, with all the elements that made the headlines, be it then the three man defense or the importance of an impact centre-forward or in that case also the death of the natural full back.

Such things are always debatable, especially when the selection procedure allows players to vote for their favourites regardless of whether they are deserving enough or not and this World XI is going to be  one such topic that will be argued upon for some time to come.

It might be official, but for someone who’s an outsider to the beautiful game, it sends out a wrong message that the La Liga houses the best XI on the planet.

Here’s hoping things would be better around the same time next year.

As far as this Gala is concerned, perhaps the only thing more surprising than the FIFA/FIFPRO World XI list was little Messi’s birthday suit.

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