Thursday, November 23, 2006


World Player of June

It’s around this time of the year that football forums the world over are crammed with speculation regarding FIFA’s top individual bauble, the World Player of the Year award. Football’s governing body has now narrowed the list down to thirty.

And, to the surprise of no-one, twenty-nine of them competed at the World Cup.

A World Cup year always tends to skew the award towards players who have excelled at the tournament. Let us remember, however, that in the World Cup a player can play a maximum of seven games, as opposed to about fifty in European club competition, domestic or external, throughout the year.

I can’t pretend to follow European football with the same enthusiasm or regularity as I do the local game, but I would have thought the outstanding Daniel Alves of Sevilla was worth a nomination. Ludovic Giuly, perversely omitted from the French World Cup squad, is another significant omission. And Juninho Pernambucano, the subtle architect of Lyon’s continuing success, is not there…presumably because he was only a bit-part player at the Big Event.

Fabio Cannavaro is the hot favourite for the top award after his superb World Cup, but he has made a decidedly mixed start at Real Madrid. In Tuesday’s Champions League match he was made to look an absolute tyro by the mercurial John Carew.

Conversely, Ronaldinho, winner of the award in 2004 and 2005, appears to be lagging behind Cannavaro in the polls, largely because his own World Cup was surprisingly poor.

It’s an unwritten law that a player must have played at the World Cup to gain the award in a World Cup year. But, if the award is to have any genuine credibility, there should be some balance.

May I suggest a candidate who had a fine World Cup, but also helped his erstwhile side to a league triumph, and has been one of the most consistently impressive players in Europe? He made the original shortlist, but has disappeared from the top thirty.

He’s a defender, which is a big black mark against him to start with, but what the heck.

His contributions are so rarely acknowledged that he was actually a makeweight in one of the more high-profile moves of the European summer.

He is one of the fastest defenders in the game, excellent on the ground, efficient in the air, and capable of scoring the odd goal.

He is pleasingly adaptable, functioning effectively both in central defence and at left-back.

He has been one of my favourite European players for many years, and I feel that recently he has been at his peak. But few seem to have noticed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the World Player of the Whole Year, not just June. Mr. William Gallas.

Good choice Mike. Makalele's a decent shout as well for similar reasons, for mine...
Interesting piece mikey. People don't even regard him as France's best current defender, I reckon. He's very, very consistent, but is he perhaps so much so/in a way that he's not as noticeable as he should be to many?
Mike, for me there's something not quite right about an award which recognises the best player of the calendar year.

It should recognise the best player of each European season (I know that's a little unfair on the South Americans and other parts but the concentration of the worlds best is in Europe), and if that was the case, Ronaldinho wins hands-down for his outstanding stuff for Barca at home and in the champs league last season.

But an award for 2006 needs to take into account his poor WC and relatively slow start to this season (he's been doing reasonably well in LaLiga but been quiet in champs league), which is why I don't understand why it's not an award for Aug-May.

As for Gallas, he has another unabashed fan in me. I have long rated him as one of the best defenders going around, so quick on the ground, fearless in the tackle and decent coming forward from either left or right. Indeed, when he was struggling to get into Mourinho's first 11 last season, I was baffled, and was so hoping Liverpool would snap him up (boy could our central defence of this season do with his quality).

Alas he has gone to the Gunners. Never been a doubt about Wenger's ability to see quality, and good luck to both of them, two quality operators
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