FIFA and FIFPro announced their annual World XI in Zurich, selecting an outfit predictably filled with Barcelona and Real Madrid players plus a representative from Juventus and Bayern Munich.
The front three are hard to argue with; Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez secured the La Liga title with the former scoring the most goals in 2016 and the latter winning the Pichichi and Golden Shoe, while Cristiano Ronaldo deserved all the accolades that came his way after a dream 2016. His accomplishments with Real Madrid and Portugal, which included winning the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and European Championship, were rewarded with individual honours in the form of the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Player of the Year. His inclusion is mandatory.
As for the rest of the side, the talent is obvious and unquestioned. The major criticism with the award, however, is the perennial selection of Barcelona and Real Madrid players. Nobody can argue that Andres Iniesta isn’t deserving of a spot, it’s just that it becomes tiresome when the same names are always included; he hasn’t missed out on a FIFA/FIFPro XI since 2008.
There are other perpetual inclusions that cannot be avoided, though, like the selections of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The pair have taken up two thirds of the front three since 2008, and if you happen to have watched any football since then you’d know that their reappearance in the list is an accurate representation of real world events.
Is the constant selection of Barcelona and Real Madrid players merited? To play devil’s advocate, what side have been as constantly menacing both in their domestic and European competitions in recent history as the La Liga giants? Sure, it was nice to see Leicester City win the English Premier League and have players like Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante amongst the 55 nominees, but can they really be placed above the likes of Luka Modric and Luis Suarez?
Juventus (7 nominees), Bayern Munich (9 nominees) and Paris Saint-Germain (5 nominees) are the clubs that come to mind to rival the heavily favoured Real Madrid and Barcelona selections, while one must wonder how differently Atletico Madrid (only 2 nominees) would have been represented had they taken out the Champions League after coming so close.
Manchester City (4 nominees) were the best represented Premier League team. No Premier League player has made the final XI since David Luiz in 2014, though his inclusion was perhaps more based on his exploits in the World Cup and form with PSG in the second half of the year after a lucrative move away from Stamford Bridge.