FIFA have released their 55-man shortlist of contenders for the 2019 FIFPro World XI and, no matter who you support, you’ll be a bit disappointed.
Regardless of who is selected, there will always be players who appear to have been hard done by and supporters are invariably quick to point out glaring omissions. Still, it’s a pretty phenomenal group – good luck predicting which of the chosen 55 make it into the final lineup.
Will it be the strongest in the history of the awards? It’s doubtful. There have been some mouth-watering teams over the last 15 years.
Here, 90min ranks the six best FIFPro World XIs in history.
XI: Casillas; Alves, Terry, Vidic, Evra; Xavi, Iniesta, Gerrard; Messi, Ronaldo, Torres.
Don’t laugh, Fernando Torres was unplayable a decade ago. With Steven Gerrard pinging inch-perfect balls his way, the quicksilver striker swiftly became one of the most potent forwards in the Premier League era.
Add a blossoming Lionel Messi and the already-ridiculously-good Cristiano Ronaldo to the attack and you know you’ll be scoring for fun, especially when Xavi and Andres Iniesta are orchestrating play from deep.
The defence looks solid as a rock. John Terry and Nemanja Vidic were tenacious, uncompromising centre-backs with a clear understanding of the game, whilst Patrice Evra was almost infallible and Dani Alves was like an auxiliary winger.
Can’t complain in the goalkeeping department either. One World Cup, two European Championships, three Champions Leagues and 167 caps for Spain; Iker Casillas must have been doing something right.
XI: Casillas; Alves, Ramos, Pique, Marcelo; Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta; Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao.
We have a similar scenario three years on. There is a distinct Catalan feel once more, with six Barcelona stars included. And if they weren’t playing at the Nou Camp, they were at least plying their trade in La Liga.
The midfield metronome of Xabi Alonso kept things ticking over in the centre of the park, whilst Sergio Ramos was well on his way to becoming – and forgive me for saying this – the best centre-back on the planet.
Radamel Falcao spearheads the frontline and that would have been a terrifying prospect in 2012. In his final season with Atletico Madrid, the Colombian hit 34 goals in 41 appearances, though that is somehow still 57 short of Messi’s tally for the calendar year…
XI: Buffon; Thuram, Cannavaro, Terry, Zambrotta; Pirlo, Zidane, Kaka; Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Henry.
That midfield unit oozes class and would control proceedings in any match, no matter the opposition. Three playmakers, each with different styles of play – other sides wouldn’t stand a chance.
Prime Ronaldinho was a nightmare to defend against given his unpredictability and Samuel Eto’o had a blistering turn of speed to skin would-be tacklers. Oh, and there’s also the finest finisher in Premier League history playing as a striker.
Gianluigi Buffon is an undisputed legend of the game, Fabio Cannavaro led an Italian charge to World Cup glory, Lilian Thuram is one of the most accomplished defenders of any generation and
XI: de Gea; Alves, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kante, Modric, Hazard; Messi, Ronaldo, Mbappe.
He may be putting in some diabolical displays at present, but David de Gea used to be a brick wall in goal. With a centre-back pairing like Ramos and Raphael Varane standing in front of him, you can guarantee a fair few clean sheets.
N’Golo Kante is so good at what he does that they should rename the ‘Makelele Role’ in his honour and it would have been a travesty if the Frenchman had been overlooked. His defensive nous allows the creativity to flow freely from virtuoso talents such as Eden Hazard and Luka Modric.
Hello Messi and Ronaldo, I see you’re both selected again – wonder why that is?
We will never see another duo compete for supremacy like they have.
However, we may soon witness one single man dominate the world of football. The sky is the limit for Kylian Mbappe. 93 goals in his first 162 professional club games is just ridiculous, regardless of the fact he’s in France.
XI: Dida; Cafu, Terry, Nesta, Maldini; Makelele, Zidane, Lampard; Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Shevchenko.
Cafu may well have been the greatest right-back to ever lace a pair of boots and Paolo Maldini may well have been the greatest left-back to ever lace a pair of boots. In terms of all-round ability, it’s hard to argue there have been any better in their position.
Claude Makelele is everything an attacking midfielder wants in a partner and he screens a backline that – let’s be honest – doesn’t really need the extra help.
We know the stellar quality Eto’o and Ronaldinho provide, with Andriy Shevchenko still at his peak during this time. At Milan, the Ukrainian was absolutely lethal.
XI: Neuer; Alves, Ramos, Silva, Lahm; Xavi, Iniesta, Ribery; Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic.
Before his form fell off a cliff, Manuel Neuer was a faultless goalkeeper, almost robotic in his on-field demeanour. Bayern Munich teammate Philipp Lahm was a consummate professional and a nuisance for opponents to deal with.
Die Roten’s third player in this lineup was Franck Ribery, a man who was capable of single-handedly shredding defences when in the mood. Put him in a team with Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and Ronaldo and you have a melting pot of deadly talent.
Of course, Ibrahimovic had to be in the greatest XI. After all, it is Zlatan. Whether it be gravity-defying kung fu moves or 30-yard bicycle-kicks, the Swede has a taste for the spectacular and is more than deserving of a starring role in this side.