Real Madrid’s Dominance and The Return of the Premier League: Everything We Learned From UEFA’s Team Of the Year for 2017
This week, the administrative body for association football in Europe, released it’s 17th annual team of the year selection, an XI drawn from the votes of over 8million football fans on UEFA.com
While this team physically reflects the highest quality and talent in Europe’s top flight leagues, it also has hidden between the lines, facts and figures that separate it from previous annual selections
Where are the figures, What are these facts?
Again, Spain Dominate, But This Time, Real Madrid are Running The Show
In the last five years, Spanish top flight football has had the most representatives in every selection, around an annual average of at least 50% of it’s players make it into every squad
Not surprising, given that the last four Champions league trophies have been shared between Real Madrid and Barcelona, while two of those finals have been all Spanish encounters (Real Madrid and Atletico -2014, 2016)
However, while the 2017 UEFA Fans team of the year retains that La Liga flair, there are more players from Real Madrid than from any other league on the planet
Sergio Ramos, Marcelo Vieira, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo make up arguably the highest number of players from a single club in the history of the selection
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne Lead The Return Of the Premier League
From 2012 till the last time, no Premier league player had made the squad, a clear indication that the English top flight was lagging behind as the La Liga and Bundesliga continued to shuffle dominance
The two newcomers, Hazard and De Bruyne, no doubt deserve their place in the squad, but the freshers have also put smiles on the faces of Belgians, as they are also the first Belgium internationals to make the prestigious XI
While Eden Hazard’s sensational performances during the European qualifiers (six goals and five assists in eight games) strongly influenced his selection, Kevin De Bruyne, came into the squad as the first ever Man City player to make the selection
Cristiano Ronaldo is The XI, The XI is Cristiano Ronaldo
As the record scorer in UEFA club competitions, Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to be the one to hold the record number of appearances; if the fire consumes the roof, you can’t keep the smoke outta the living room.
The Portugal ace, one of five Real Madrid players in the XI, has made the selection for 12 years running, and with his incredible run in the Champions league this season, it would take a brave man to bet against a 13th appearance for the Real Madrid man
PS: While Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record for most appearances, his team mate, Sergio Ramos, received the most votes with 588,315.
The Neymar Snub Continues
In the 2016 selection, the Brazilian playmaker didn’t make the XI as the final verdict from the pool of 7.15 million votes had the likes of Griezmann and Iniesta in his natural playing position(s)
Haven left Barcelona for greener pastures in Paris, the dazzling forward was one of Barcelona’s best players prior his departure and already has 20 goals for Les Parisiens in his debut season, even then, fans on UEFA.com didn’t think he had done enough
However, with his impressive campaign thus far, and the World Cup looming large, the Brazil captain will probably not miss out the 2018 selection.
Don Gigi, Real OG.
In the 2016 XI, aged 38, the veteran goalkeeper made the squad as the oldest player in it’s history after Juventus had another triumphant domestic campaign under Massimiliano Allegri.
12 months later, Gianluigi Buffon extends his own record, thanks to the Bianconeri’s impressive run in the Champions league en route a disappointing defeat to Real Madrid in Cardiff.
Buffon has now been picked five times, one selection behind his fellow veteran, Iker Casillas.