Goal.com 50: Felipe Melo (23)

Goal.com's countdown of the 50 best players of 2008-09 continues, and at No. 23 is the midfielder with the heart and lungs of gold, Felipe Melo...

24. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United & England)

23. FELIPE MELO (Fiorentina & Brazil)

22. Carles Puyol (Barcelona & Spain)

The 2008/09 season was a big test for Felipe Melo and he passed it with flying colours. Fiorentina signed him on June 8 2008 in an €8million deal and he went on to wear the number 88 jersey. The number 8 has proven to be Melo's lucky charm as he enjoyed an almost faultless season as a central midfielder in the humble surroundings of the Artemio Franchi.

Melo enjoyed a luckless start to his Viola career in Serie A as he got off on the wrong foot in every sense. His debut came against Juventus on the first day of the season. Famed for his tough tackles and combatitive spirit, Melo overstepped the mark against the Bianconeri. He earned his first yellow card just 34 minutes into his new adventure in Tuscany for a fly-kick challenge on Zdenek Grygera. Less than an hour later, he was sent off for a second yellow after a two-footed lunge on Christian Poulsen. It was not the best of starts from a player who carried so much on his shoulders.

The early teething problems began to clear though, and he enjoyed a relatively trouble-free season overall. He picked up 13 yellows and a further red card towards the end of the campaign. Despite his turbulent displays, the former Almeria man started an impressive 29 games, he was never substituted by coach Cesare Prandelli, a fact which underlines his prowess and natural ability in the middle of the park.

There were great expectations and he certainly did his best to meet them. He was the Viola's focal point in midfield, helping his side charge towards the Champions League places. The Brazilian made his Champions League debut on September 17 during a 2-2 draw with Lyon. It wasn't long before he showed his qualities as he kept Karim Benzema, Juninho and Toulalan under control for most of the game. Despite starting six group games for his side, the Viola crashed out of Europe's elite competition. Nevertheless, those impressive displays paid the dividends for the Brazilian with regard to his own future both at club and international level.

Outstanding | Melo took the Confeds Cup by storm

Brazil coach Dunga handed him his international debut in February during a friendly against Italy. Melo continued to show his mettle in Serie A as he stamped his authority both on the pitch and on opposition players.

The campaign ended just as badly as it had begun for the Volta Redonda-born ace as he was sent off in the penultimate game against Lecce. Nevertheless, it meant little to his or the club's season as they had already mathematically clinched a Champions League place.

The ace was then called up by the Selecao as a reward for his outstanding campaign in Tuscany. He did not disappoint in the Confederations Cup either. He was the thorn in Italy's side during the 3-0 group stage win as he commanded the midfield, making players like Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi look anytthing but deft. He scored Brazil's opening goal of the tournament against the USA too as he really stamped his hallmark on the international stage.

Melo played in all five matches in South Africa and he lifted the trophy at the end. His biggest trophy was, perhaps, sealing a move to Juventus. The Bianconeri wasted no time in signing him from Fiorentina, paying triple than what he was worth last year such is the impact he had in Serie A.

A great season then for Melo, and he can look forward to climbing the Serie A ladder further next term as another exciting season awaits him.

2008-2009 HONOURS

Confederations Cup 2009

Salvatore Landolina, Goal.com

24. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United & England)

23. FELIPE MELO (Fiorentina & Brazil)

22. Carles Puyol (Barcelona & Spain)