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Goal.com's countdown to the greatest player of 2008 continues with the inclusion of Werder Bremen midfield sensation Diego. The 23 year old has been handpicked by Pele himself to overshadow the Brazilian legend as one of the greatest to grace the game.

50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
48 - Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahçe, Super Lig - Score: 1089
47 - Juninho Pernambucano - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 1083
46 - Juan Román Riquelme - Boca Juniors, Argentine Apertura - Score: 1077
45 - Luca Toni - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1064
44 - David Silva - Valencia, Primera Division - Score: 1060
42 (T) - Thierry Henry - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
42 (T) - Daniel Alves - Sevilla, Primera Division / Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
41 - Antonio Cassano - Sampdoria, Serie A - Score: 1028
40 - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie / Real Madrid, Primera Division - Score: 1027
39 - Ricardo Carvalho - Chelsea, Premier Division - Score: 1025
38 - Samuel Eto'o - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1017
37 - Philipp Lahm - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1009
36 - Javier Mascherano - Liverpool, Premier League - Score: 1008
35 - Julio Cesar - Internazionale, Serie A - Score 1000
34- Robinho, La Liga/Premier League- Score: 970
33- Diego - Werder Bremen, Bundesliga- Score: 955

Diego’s quick pace on the ball and control has allowed him to be the single defining characteristic in a struggling Bremen side this season.

Born Diego Ribas da Cunha on February 28, 1985 in São Paulo, Diego signed with Werder Bremen in 2006 from then European champions FC Porto. While being haled by Pele during his time in Portugal as the most likely to succeed him as the world’s best, the 23 year old attacking midfielder may have not lived up to the hype, but never the less, has added a great deal to not only Bremen’s successes, but also to that of the Bundesliga itself.

Having finished in second place at the end of last season, Bremen’s current form has left a sour taste in the mouths of many supporters.  While defeating the likes of the top two - Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim - early on, Bremen’s lack of consistency has cost the Green-Whites dearly thus far.

The same could be said for the play of Diego himself. While netting an impressive 16 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions - one more than the previous season - he has had a mixture of both brilliant performances and those he’d rather forget.

Having began 2008 in rather disappointing form with a home defeat to lowly VfL Bochum, Diego expertly followed that up with an early goal away to Bayern Munich, allowing for a much deserved draw.

Unfortunately for the Brazilian youngster, the 2007-08 campaign came to an all too familiar lacklustre end. While missing a number of matches through a mixture of injury and suspension, a disappointing four goals were all that he had to show as a response to a well played first half. Mimicking Werder’s season almost exactly, the performance ratings have waxed and waned to the tune of a broken record, which has continued to play well into the start of this new season.

Fortunately, as the 2007-08 season came to a close, he was more than happy to entertain the notion of his inclusion in Brazil’s Olympic squad in Beijing. Joining fellow Bundesliga regulars Rafinha and Breno, Diego made regular appearances for the Latin American giants, however only scoring 1 goal, being the match decider in the bronze medal game against a surprise Belgian side.

Werder Bremen conversely, were by comparison, somewhat more “enthusiastic” about his leaving for Beijing, as he escaped the fate that awaited the return of Rafinha, that being in the form of a €700,000 fine. However it was more than evident that enthusiastic in this sense is not to be taken quite so literally, while Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs maintained that his leaving for the games was a breach of contract.   

Appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport were sent by both player and club, however it seems both sides were able to reach a very tenuous agreement only after his return.  

That return however, as previously stated, has been one of slight disappointment. Trainer Thomas Schaaf’s inclusion of the feisty midfielder amid the swirling rumors of his impending move to either Real Madrid or Juventus, have come to symbolize Schaaf’s solidarity with the Brazilian. Missing only the first two matches due to the Olympics and one through injury, it would seem as if, for now, his spot his fairly secure at the Weserstadion.

Thus far, Diego, who is currently second on goals scored with eight (behind Claudio Pizzaro’s ten), has been an absolute pleasure to watch and arguably a greater element of contentment to play with.  His grace on the ball, though being compared to the antics of Cristiano Ronaldo, have added major flair to the often dull league.

Scoring from seemingly every possibly angle, his finesse, grit and determination, have allowed him to make a name for himself and renew his image as the new face of the Auriverdes.

Team Awards
:
Bronze Medal- Beijing Olympic games 2008 (Brazil)

Individual Accolades
:
None

Peter Herrnreiter, Goal.com

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