Mbappe, Salah, Benzema: The world's best XI in 2021/22

  • Kobe Tong
Benzema scores for Real Madrid.

The 2021/22 season is officially coming to a close.

While Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain might have wrapped up the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 titles, there are still plenty of major titles to play for across Europe.

Will Manchester City or Liverpool lift the Premier League trophy? Will AC Milan or Inter Milan conquer Italy? Will Liverpool or Real Madrid be crowned champions of Europe?

Reflecting on the 2021/22 season

These are the questions on the lips of football fans across the continent right now, but although we don’t know the answers to them quite yet, there is one debate that we can settle ahead of time.

As with the conclusion of any campaign, the footballing world looks back on the last nine months of chaotic action and decides who the best players, managers, goals and more really were.

And the 2021/22 campaign is no different with GIVEMESPORT looking to draw the curtains on a dramatic year of football action by naming what we consider to be the standout male XI.

In other words, yes, the team of the season.

Naturally, it’s a completely subjective exercise and there are no wrong or right answers, so be sure to let us know your opinion on the best XI of the 2021/22 season once you’ve looked over ours.

Messi, Mbappe and Neymar.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group A – Manchester City v Paris St Germain – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – November 24, 2021 Paris St Germain’s Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar looks dejected after Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scored their first goal Action images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Nevertheless, while it ultimately comes down to the opinion of yours truly, rest assured that the selections will be informed by statistics, the eye test and relative importance to their team overall.

Oh, and yes, we’re completely ripping up conventional tactics to go for an outrageously attacking 4-4-2 formation because, well, we just couldn’t leave out anyone from a quartet of sensational forwards.

World football’s best XI in 2021/22

Got it? Right then, in which case, be sure to check out GIVEMESPORT’s picks for the best male XI of the 2021/22 season down below:

GK: Alisson Becker (Liverpool)

No doubt. The 2021/22 campaign marked the return of Alisson to his world-beating best with the Premier League’s joint-most clean sheets and countless vital saves on the way to a potential quadruple.

Liverpool's Alisson warms up.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Liverpool v Everton – Anfield, Liverpool, Britain – April 24, 2022 Liverpool’s Alisson during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Another no-brainer. With no less than 17 assists and as many Premier League clean sheets, the Liverpool magician has reclaimed the ‘world’s best right-back’ throne with Carabao Cup and FA Cup glory to boot.

CB: Joel Matip (Liverpool)

We promise that the whole team isn’t going to be comprised of Liverpool players, but we all need to wake up and appreciate just how superhuman Matip has been at the heart of the Reds’ defence.

While he might not be a superior centre-back to Virgil van Dijk, period; we’re inclined to think that he’s outperforming his more high-profile partner in 2021/22 as the unsung hero of Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering side.

Matip lifts the Carabao Cup.
Soccer Football – Carabao Cup Final – Chelsea v Liverpool – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – February 27, 2022 Liverpool’s Joel Matip celebrates with the trophy after winning the Carabao Cup REUTERS/David Klein

CB: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

The centre-back positions were amongst the hardest to fill in the entire line-up with everyone from David Alaba to Aymeric Laporte and Eder Militao to Nico Schlotterbeck coming to mind.

However, we’ve decided to plump for Koulibaly on the back of one of his finest seasons at Napoli and captaining Senegal to Africa Cup of Nations glory, once again attracting keen interest from across Europe.

LB: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

What a baller. If it wasn’t for the next player in our XI, there’s good reason to think that Cancelo would be the Premier League Player of the Season with his jack-of-all-trade displays on either defensive flank.

Man City's Cancelo on the ball.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group A – Manchester City v Paris St Germain – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – November 24, 2021 Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo in action Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

RM: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Yes, things might have fizzled out in recent weeks, but we can’t allow recency bias to let us downplay a truly stunning season from Salah which has harvested no less than 30 goals and 15 assists.

CM: Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)

Ah, everybody’s favourite new darling of the statistics, but for good reason because Nkunku – who plays as more of a second striker – has romped his way to a breath-taking record of 34 goals and 14 assists.

Nkunku scores for RB Leipzig.
Soccer Football – Bundesliga – RB Leipzig v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany – April 10, 2022 RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Annegret Hilse DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO.

CM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

We told you that the formation wasn’t big on balance, but for all the impressive displays from Rodri, Joshua Kimmich and Casemiro this season, we just kept coming back to Muller further up the pitch.

We really are taking for granted just how creative the Bayern icon has become in his new playmaking role, pulling the strings with no less than 22 assists, which can’t be topped by any midfielder in 2021/22.

LM: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

Are we crowbarring him into the team away from his natural position? Yes, yes we are, but it just had to be done when you consider that no player in Europe’s top competitions has amassed more goal contributions this season.

Make no mistake that Mbappe is in the Ballon d’Or hunt having amassed 36 goals and 26 assists at just 23 years old to leave everyone else in Europe playing catch-up.

Mbappe scores in the Champions League.
Soccer Football – Champions League – Group A – Paris St Germain v Club Brugge – Parc des Princes, Paris, France – December 7, 2021 Paris St Germain’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

ST: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Like, duh. With 44 goals in 44 games and an unassailable tally of 14 Champions League strikes, Benzema might just be the player in the world right now and could easily conquer Europe just as he has Spain.

ST. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

If anything, we’ve all become numb to just how outrageous Lewandowski’s goalscoring statistics have become in recent years and we can’t allow that to mean he’s overlooked in 2021/22 XIs.

The simple fact of the matter is that Bayern’s star man is once again in Ballon d’Or contention on the back of scoring 50 goals in just 46 games and closing in on yet another European Golden Shoe.

Bayern's Lewandowski celebrates.
Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Bayern Munich v FC Augsburg – Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany – May 22, 2021 Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring their fifth goal Pool via REUTERS/Christof Stache DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video.

Do you agree?

Do you see why we went for such an attacking XI?

It might give the tactical purists amongst you a migraine that we have Salah and Mbappe playing in right and left midfield, but we just didn’t have it in us to leave either one of them or the front two on the bench.

Besides, they really are the standout performers in a line-up that gave us more headaches than anticipated with the Premier League unexpectedly standing head and shoulders above the rest in defence.

And something deep down inside of us couldn’t help freaking out at the shocking reality that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo really came in with a hope of making the cut.

Ronaldo and Messi in El Clasico.
Football Soccer – Barcelona v Real Madrid – Spanish La Liga Santander- Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona, Spain – 3/12/16. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action during the “Clasico”. REUTERS/Sergio Perez (SPAIN – Tags: SOCCER SPORT)

But who knows, maybe they do for you? Picking the best XI for the 2021/22 season is no easy task with so many players performing at such a high level, so be sure to let us know your line-up across our various social channels.

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