Even though Lionel Messi bagged a record 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta, the main talking point to come from the Ballon d’Or Gala in Zurich last night was the controversial FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
All eleven players in the team, which was voted for by over 5,000 professional footballers, came from La Liga.
Now that of course has sparked a huge debate over whether La Liga really is the best league in the world. Given the Spanish league also supplied all three finalists for the Ballon d’Or it is safe to assume they have the best individuals, but how would they fare against a team made up of Premier League players?
Interestingly, statistics released by a Spanish newspaper this week show that Premier League games have more shots, goals and passes than their Iberian counterparts, so surely the English players have a chance? Of course there has been a heavy English presence in Champions League finals in recent years as well.
So GMF have decided to host the ultimate showdown to see which league could produce the best XI. We’ve taken the all Spanish line up put forward for the FIFA/FIFPro XI last night and pitted them against a specially selected Premier League XI with the aim of answering one question; which has the best team?
Iker Casillas v Joe Hart
While Iker Casillas has hit the headlines thanks to being dropped by Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid recently, it is easy to forget that not too long ago he was being put forward as a genuine contender for the Ballon d’Or.
Joe Hart has been somewhat underwhelming this term compared to his stellar form last season, although he has excelled in the Champions League and shown true character in defeat.
Winner: Iker Casillas
Marcelo v Ashley Cole
One of the more contentious selections in the World XI, most people would have had either Jordi Alba or Ashley Cole as the world’s best left-back.
Either way, Marcelo got the nod but it is hard to look past Cole as right up their with the very best; he remains incredibly consistent and is equally adept going forward as he is at the back, something that can’t always be said about the Brazilian.
Winner: Ashley Cole
Dani Alves v Branislav Ivanovic
Dani Alves’ reputation has taken a knock over the last 12 months, with Adriano challenging him for a first team spot at club level.
However there is no doubting the Brazilian’s prowess in attack - his partnership with Lionel Messi is something to behold. Ivanovic has shown his worth at Stamford Bridge but can’t quite produce the fireworks that his South American rival is capable of.
Winner: Dani Alves
Gerard Pique v Vincent Kompany
Now this is a tough battle. Kompany was immaculate for Manchester City last season as they won their first league title in 44 years but has let his standards drop a little this term.
Pique meanwhile has grown into his role as one of Barcelona’s leaders with Carles Puyol struggling so badly with injury and has taken his game to the next level.
Winner: Gerard Pique
Sergio Ramos v John Terry
Another close one with very little to chose between the pair, Sergio Ramos has evolved to become the rock of Real Madrid’s title winning team.
Terry blew his chance to write his name into Chelsea’s history books after being sent off in the Champions League semi-final, while he was embroiled in more than his fair share of controversy away from football over the last 12 months.
Winner: Sergio Ramos
Andres Iniesta v David Silva
Both of these players excelled in Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 campaign, with Iniesta being named the best player of the tournament in the end.
Silva was perhaps the best player overall in the Premier League last time round alongside Robin van Persie, although he faded badly towards the end of the season. Both players can excel from the left hand-side, although Iniesta seemed to struggle there against Chelsea in the Champions League.
There are few better players in the world than David Silva, but one just happened to be Andres Iniesta.
Winner: Andres Iniesta
Xabi Alonso v Yaya Toure
Two very different players who occupy roughly the same position on the field; Alonso triggers most of Real Madrid’s lethal counter attacks with his wonderful range of passing while Toure can rip an opponent apart with his pace and power.
It’s difficult to chose between two players so different but, Toure’s outstanding form over 2012 gives him the edge.
Winner: Yaya Toure
Xavi Hernandez v Juan Mata
Another mis-match in terms of styles. Xavi, the epitome of Barcelona’s passing style, had an up and down campaign as an Achilles injury limited his impact at times while he struggled to reach his best with Spain.
Mata meanwhile was among the top performers in the Premier League last season and has been even better this time round.
Based on that (and completely ignoring the fact that Mata would have to play in a deeper midfield role in this team and that he can’t get near the Spanish team at the moment) on form the Chelsea man has it. His performances have been just too good when put head to head against Xavi.
Winner: Juan Mata
Cristiano Ronaldo v Gareth Bale
The master v the apprentice; if the rumours are to be believed Bale is being lined up by Madrid as a replacement for Ronaldo should he chose to leave Spain at the end of the season.
It is easy to imagine a time when these two players are equals; Bale has all the qualities and more to be a genuine world class player. But Ronaldo’s goals and consistency put him just beyond the reach of the Spurs man.
Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo
Radamel Falcao v Robin van Persie
The battle of the ultimate goalscorers. Both men have been in sensational form this season and have emerged as the two best finishers in Europe.
These two are in the team purely to put the ball in the back of the net so it only seems fair to give the spot with the best goalscoring record in 2012. It’s a close one but Falcao edges it with 44 goals in 47 games compared to Van Persie’s 41 in 57.
Winner: Radamel Falcao
Lionel Messi v Wayne Rooney
Lionel Messi has proved he is one of the greatest players of all time by claiming a record 4th Ballon d’Or, so it is unsurprising to see he gets the spot ahead of Wayne Rooney.
With the Englishman it is hard to shake the feeling his natural flair and aggression has been curbed in order to make him a more effective, but less spectacular team player. His drop even further deeper into midfield means goals will be hard to come by, something that can’t exactly be said of Messi.
Winner: Lionel Messi
So there you have it, it’s an 8-3 split in favour of the La Liga players – but numerous positions could have gone either way. Disagree with the way we have called it? Leave your combined Premier League/La Liga team below!
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