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With the majority of the continent now on a break until the New Year, Goal.com selects the best XI from Europe during the first half of the club campaign

 European

Team Of The Season So Far



2011-12
GOALKEEPER

Manuel Neuer
Bayern Munich

Indomitable is perhaps the best single word to describe the presence of Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal this season. The custodian has certainly lived up to expectations since his move from Schalke, at one point going 1,147 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions. Although Neuer was edged out of the Bundesliga Team of the Season so far, his brilliant form in the Champions League was not taken into account for that selection. With Bayern topping the Group of Death ahead of Napoli, Man City and Villarreal, Neuer is the European No. 1.
DEFENDERS

Ledley King
Tottenham


Paolo Cannavaro
Napoli


Ezequiel Garay
Benfica

Some say you can't argue with statistics and those of Spurs centre-back Ledley King are largely impressive. Despite playing in just 11 Premier League matches, Harry Redknapp's side have won nine of those, drawing the other two, and staggeringly have only been trailing for a total of 15 minutes in the 2011-12 campaign when the oft-injured player is on the pitch.

Despite Napoli's inconsistency in Serie A - and the tendency for people to keep their eyes on attacking trident Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Marek Hamsik - Paolo Cannavaro arguably deserves just as much of the acclaim. However, the club captain has saved his best displays for Europe this season, fighting tooth and nail (not unlike his older brother Fabio at World Cup 2006) to ensure the Partenopei qualified from Group A in the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City.

Another side to cause a shock in the continent's top competition were Benfica, as they topped Group C and Manchester United went tumbling down to the Europa League. Ezequiel Garay played all six group games for the impressive Portuguese side and they have also been in excellent form on the domestic front courtesy of some fine performances from the former Racing Santander stalwart. His club sit joint top of the table with Porto and maintain an undefeated record.

MIDFIELDERS

Toni Kroos
Bayern Munich


Xavi
Barcelona


Andrea Pirlo
Juventus

 
David Silva
Man City

Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes recently suggested Toni Kroos has unlimited potential and the 20-year-old is quickly becoming a household name in Germany with his key contributions in midfield. With two goals and four assists, the rising star showcased his immense talent in the Champions League but has also chipped in with a goal and five assists in Bundesliga action.

Meanwhile, Xavi continues to be Barcelona's maestro. The playmaker's ability to preserve possession in the centre of the pitch is second to none and he has also, unusually, been in amongst the goals in 2011-12, with eight in total. As masterful as ever, his superb passing technique remains a joy to watch and he put in two virtuoso performances against Champions League rivals AC Milan, helping the Catalans to beat AC Milan to first place in Group H.

Another man known for his ability to assert himself in the middle of the field is Andrea Pirlo. Despite being picked up on a free transfer in the summer, the Italy international has revolutionised Juventus and seems to be at the heart of all their play. So integral to Antonio Conte's style of play, the former Rossoneri star has started all but one match (missing the clash with Cesena due to suspension) in Serie A and even played through injury.

Despite all the star power above, David Silva need not feel inferior to any of them. The Manchester City midfielder has set the Premier League alight with some memorable moments, including several in the 6-1 demolition of Manchester United that many believe has signalled a shift of power in the city. Mazy dribbles, sensational strikes, and glorious passing - six goals and nine assists in total - have propelled the ex-Valencia man to idyllic status at the Etihad Stadium.

FORWARDS

Lionel Messi
Barcelona


Robin van Persie
Arsenal

 
Cristiano Ronaldo
  Real Madrid

A striking trio many no doubt dream of make up our three-man line up front. First of all, it would be impossible to omit two-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi. The way he's going this season, you wouldn't be against him winning the prestigious award a third time either - 17 goals in La Liga, plus being tied for top scorer in the Champions League alongside Mario Gomez with six goals, and a starring role in the Club World Cup demolition of Santos - his sensational play for Barcelona has once again left us in awe.

Robin van Persie has outdone all other Premier League forwards by striking 16 times already this season - recently equalling the Gunners record of 34 goals in a calendar year set by Thierry Henry and with two matches left in 2011 he can still reach Alan Shearer's all-time EPL record of 36. The Dutchman has provided many highlights already, including a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge and a brace versus Borussia Dortmund. What more can you ask for from your main attacking threat?

Finally, last year's historic Pichichi record-breaker Cristiano Ronaldo could even better that significant goal-haul of 40 in 2011-12, having amazingly already struck 20 domestic league goals in only 16 matches. Jose Mourinho's crown jewel in his star-studded Madrid squad, Ronaldo also helped the team to a perfect record in the Champions League group stage as they won six out of six against Lyon, Ajax, and Dinamo Zagreb.

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