The Top 50: Ricardo Carvalho (39)'s countdown to the greatest player of 2008 continues with the imperious Chelsea and Portugal central defender, Ricardo Carvalho. Despite a stop-start 12 months, the 30-year-old proved himself to be a vital commodity for both club and country in 2008...
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 League - Score: 1025

Miss You When You're Gone

It's been a relatively understated year for Ricardo Carvalho, with only 41 appearances in all competitions, but a sign of the esteem in which he is held that he has finished within the paramaters of the top 40 players on this list.

2008 began the way it ended for the 30-year-old central defender however; on the sidelines.

When Chelsea defeated Fulham in the west London derby on New Year's Day they did so in a predicament with which they would have to grow accustomed as the year went by - without their influential centre-back Carvalho.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the Pensioners conceded in his absence, as they did on a further 11 occasions throughout the calendar year; by contrast, the team have only conceded on four separate occasions when Carvalho has been in the line-up this campaign.

Second Is Nowhere

Under difficult circumstances, the Blues were taken to the cusp of glory on three fronts under Avram Grant - a point that has seemingly been obfuscated due to Manchester United's eventual double-haul in the Premier League and Champions League, and Spurs' triumph in the League Cup.

However, Chelsea were extra time at Wembley, an Emile Heskey equaliser in April, and the width of a post in the Champions League final in May away from bettering the Red Devils' achievement and Carvalho was to the fore as a promising season petered out.

Crucially, the Portugal international was voted the Chelsea Players' Player of the Year last season and also made it to number three on the list of Fans' Player of the Year, behind Joe Cole and Michael Ballack.

Quarter The Way There

After the triple set-back of three runners-up berths, Chelsea's stars jetted into Euro 2008 with their respective nations in the hope of bettering their domestic form on the international stage, and Carvalho was no different.

Portugal, a pre-tournament favourite, took their place in Group A alongside Turkey, Czech Republic and Switzerland and topped the group from the Turks by virtue of goal-difference.

The Iberian peninsula side were impressive in their opening matches, both of which were started by Carvalho.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's charges conceded only once in their first two games, with Carvalho in the line-up, before their second string were beaten by a pride-seeking host in the last group encounter.

A lack of plan B, something which has afflicted the big Brazilian coach during his time in the limelight with Portugal and Chelsea, affected the team in the quarter final against Michael Ballack's Germany as Portugal could not muster a sufficient response to three Teutonic strikes.

José Bosingwa and Pepe both took slots in the official Team of the Tournament, perhaps signifying the understated manner in which Carvalho carries out his business. As the Seleccao de Quinas found out against Switzerland, you don't miss him until he is gone.

Ricardo Goes, Stamford Woes

Since the end of the tournament however, the former Porto star has merited only a further nine appearances on the field for his club; twice in Europe and only seven to date in Premier League competition.

His club, who paid €20 million for his services after his Champions League winning campaign in 2004, have been deprived of his services for the most part this season, and experienced a noticeable dip in the standard of their home form in particular.

Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool, Burnley, Newcastle United and Arsenal have all plundered rewards at Stamford Bridge this season; only Spurs and Liverpool managed to score with Carvalho in the opposition ranks.

It is apparent that the manner in which Chelsea give generously at home has coincided with the absence of their elegant and resourceful lynchpin.

On his imminent return, take it as no surprise if the Bridge tightens up once more as the Blues chase rewards on three fronts in 2009. Should they take a tangible success this season, expect Ricardo Carvalho to be a little higher than 39th on the list next year; but don't expect much fanfare.

Team Prizes

Individual Accolades
Chelsea Player's Player Of The Year 2008

Peter Staunton,