UEFA Football Team of the Year 2008

After 3.3 million votes cast by 256,000 online users (slightly less than last year), the uefa.com Team of the Year 2008 was revealed earlier this week.

As can usually be expected with these things, this starting eleven will please many and disappoint others (especially those whose favorite player was not selected) but this being said, there’s quality oozing all over in this team. I personally prefer the journalist choice of L’Équipe’s Best 11 Soccer Players of 2008, but “the people have spoken” as they say…

Nevertheless, feel free to give your 2 cents (and fire away your insults) in the comments section.


Uefa.com “Team of the Year” concept

Uefa.com - Europe's football websiteThe first uefa.com users’ Team of the Year poll was launched on 12 December 2001. The criteria for Team of the Year concept was straightforward and presented in simple terms: “Naturally, there were many fine individual displays too [in 2001], and rather than impose our own “expert” selections of the top players of the year, uefa.com is asking the real experts, the site’s users, to vote for their Team of 2001.”

The users responded with a cumulative poll of over 3 million votes before the first uefa.com “Team of the Year” was announced on 3 January 2002. Since then the concept has been the same: uefa.com writers have come up with 60 nominations and the uefa.com users have selected the eleven players and one coach to make up the final selection. The first such selection reflected was not dominated by any one club, with UEFA Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and Valencia both having two players chosen, while UEFA Cup winners Liverpool had one player and one coach in the dream dozen.

In total 53 individuals have been selected on the 8 uefa.com users’ Team of the Years. By far the most successful player has been French forward Thierry Henry. He was selected on the first four teams, missed out by a mere 1,000 votes on the Team of 2005 before garnering his 5th selection in the 2006 team. Zinedine Zidane was selected in the first 3 teams, while Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluigi Buffon, Carles Puyol, Ronaldinho and Jose Mourinho have also all appeared in 3 selections.

The official website of the award can be found here.


Team of the Year 2008

More than 3.3 million votes were cast by about 256,000 users, whose resulting dream team features six members of the Spain side that conquered Europe last summer. Iker Casillas is the goalkeeper, playing behind two international team-mates in right-back Sergio Ramos and centre-back Carles Puyol. The continental champions strongly influence the central sphere of operations, with Xavi Hernandez being the pick in the middle of the park and Cesc Fabregas handed the role of attacking midfielder. Fernando Torres lines up in attack.

The Spanish flavour continues with the deployment of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi alongside Torres. That makes the current Liga leaders the best-represented club, with three players. Together with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich have two representatives thanks to the inclusion of left-back Philipp Lahm — a EURO finalist with Germany — and winger Franck Ribery. English football can point to the nominations of centre-half John Terry and winger Cristiano Ronaldo, both protagonists in the UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United. Overseeing this talented blend is the winning coach from Moscow in May, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Xavi gets the captaincy.


UEFA Soccer Team of the Year 2008


Iker Casillas
Real Madrid
Votes: 122,941
• January: starts year with brilliant individual display as Real Madrid beat Zaragoza 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu.
• January: Named in uefa.com users’ Team of the Year for 2007.
• January: sets new personal milestone of going 572 consecutive minutes unbeaten for Madrid in La Liga.
• February: signs new contract with Madrid keeping him at club until 2017 – effectively the remainder of his career.
• April: keeps three successive clean sheets in La Liga as Madrid close in on title.
• May: Real retain title with 2-1 win at Osasuna – his fourth with club; he wins ‘Zamora’ prize awarded to goalkeeper with best goals conceded per game average – misses last two matches to protect his ratio.
• June: skippers Spain to UEFA European Championship glory – first goalkeeper to captain a winning side in the competition; concedes just two goals in five games and none in three knockout games; saves two penalties in quarter-final shootout v Italy; named in UEFA Team of the Tournament.
• September: begins his tenth successive UEFA Champions League campaign with Madrid.
• October: sets new national team record of 717 minutes without conceding a goal – finally beaten by Belgium’s Wesley Sonck in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Brussels; in 87 appearances for Spain he has kept 46 clean sheets.
• October: nominated for 2008 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award.”
Other nominees: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), René Adler (Bayer Leverkusen), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Edwin Van der Sar (Man Utd)
Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid
Votes: 120,886
• March: his absence through suspension keenly felt as Real Madrid lose at home to Roma and go out of the UEFA Champions League in first knockout round. • May: provides assist for Gonzalo Higuaín’s late winning goal at Osasuna that confirms Real as Spanish champions.
• May: scores twice in final league game of season – 5-2 at home to Levante UD – to take his total for campaign to five goals in 33 starts.
• June: starts five of Spain’s six matches in their Euro 2008 triumph; one of only two Madrid players in Luis Aragonés’s squad (Iker Casillas is the other).
• August: wins Spanish Super Cup with Real Madrid, 6-5 on aggregate against Valencia; scores crucial goal in 4-2 second-leg win at Santiago Bernabéu.
• September/October: selected from start in first five matches of new Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque’s reign, stretching his run in national side to 20 of last 21 matches (he was rested for the final group game against Greece at Euro 2008).
• October: among 30 players shortlisted for 2008 Ballon d’Or.”
Other nominees: José Bosingwa (Chelsea), Aleksandr Anyukov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Maicon (Inter Milan), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
Carles Puyol
Central defender
Votes: 49,756
• April: skippers Barcelona through to UEFA Champions League semi-finals after two 1-0 wins over Schalke 04.
• May: wins 60th cap for Spain – first Catalan player to reach that milestone.
• June: helps Spain to victory at EURO 2008, starting five of six matches and remaining on field from first whistle to last in all three knockout ties, in which Spanish defence concede no goals; selected in UEFA Team of the Tournament.
• September: makes 400th first-team appearance for Barcelona in UEFA Champions League group game at home to Sporting Clube de Portugal.
• September/October: leads Barça to three straight wins in new UEFA Champions League campaign.
• September/October: ever present under new Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque as team win opening four 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
Other nominees: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Tomas Ujfalusi (Fiorentina/Atl.Madrid), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Carlos Marchena (Valencia)
John Terry
Central defender
Votes: 61,755
• February: returns from foot injury to captain Chelsea in League Cup final but Tottenham win 2-1 at Wembley.
• March: scores winning goal away to Sunderland (1-0) – his first Premier League goal since August 2006.
• May: leads Chelsea in UEFA Champions League final but misses crucial penalty in shootout, slipping on wet turf and striking post.
• May: scores his fourth goal for England to open the scoring in 2-0 win over the United States at Wembley.
• August: confirmed as England captain for forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.
• August: voted UEFA Defender of the Year at awards ceremony in Monaco.
• September: receives straight red card – for first time in career – at Manchester City but punishment is rescinded after video review.
• October: heads in winning goal for Chelsea in UEFA Champions League tie at home to Roma – his first goal in competition since March 2005.
• October: included on FIFA World Player of the Year shortlist.”
Other nominees: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Tomas Ujfalusi (Fiorentina/Atl.Madrid), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Carlos Marchena (Valencia)
Philipp Lahm
Bayern Munich
Votes: 83,052
• March: stars as Bayern Munich win 5-0 away to Anderlecht in UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie.
• April: plays full two hours as Bayern defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 after extra time in German Cup final.
• May: absent through injury as Bayern seal Bundesliga title with 0-0 draw at Wolfsburg.
• May: ends rumours of impending transfer to Barcelona by signing new contract that will keep him at Bayern until 2012.
• June: prominent figure as Germany reach final of EURO 2008; scores brilliant late winning goal – his first at international level since 2006 FIFA World Cup opening match – in semi-final v Turkey (3-2), for which he earns Man of the Match award; injured in final and substituted at half-time; selected for UEFA Team of the Tournament.
• August: scores first Bundesliga goal for two years as Bayern claim maiden league win under new coach Jürgen Klinsmann – 4-1 at home to Hertha Berlin.
• September: returns to UEFA Champions League with Bayern after a year’s absence in 1-0 win away to Steaua Bucharest.”
• September: wins 50th international cap as Germany draw 3-3 with Finland in Helsinki in World Cup qualifier.
• October: stretches unbroken sequence of international starts for Germany to 17 in World Cup qualifier against Wales.”
Other nominees: Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Patrice Evra (Manchester Utd), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow)
Cristiano Ronaldo
Right midfield
Manchester Utd
Votes: 138,356
• January: scores first hat-trick for Manchester United in 6-0 home win v Newcastle.
• January: scores both goals in 2-0 win v Portsmouth including outrageous ‘goal of the season’ free-kick.
• March: appointed United captain for first time and celebrates with both goals in 2-0 home win against Bolton.
• May: wins ESM Golden Shoe with 31 Premier League goals, the last of them at Wigan (a penalty) securing second successive English title for United.
• May: voted FWA Footballer of the Year as well as PFA Player of the Year in England.
• May: scores his 42nd goal of an incredibly prolific season to give United lead in UEFA Champions League final v Chelsea; later misses his penalty in shoot-out but United take trophy.
• June: low-key EURO 2008 for Portugal; scores 21st international goal in 3-1 win v Czech Republic but hampered by ankle injury that later requires operation.
• August: declares intention to remain at United after summer flirtation with Real Madrid.
• August: voted UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in Monaco.
• September: returns to action after quick recovery from ankle operation.
• October: voted FIFPro Footballer of the Year; also nominated for Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of Year.
Other nominees: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
Xavi Hernández
Central midfield
Votes: 149,496

• February/March: finds the net four times in six league games for Barcelona — most prolific scoring run of his career. • March: scores only goal of game as Barça defeat Celtic 1-0 at Camp Nou (and 4-2 on aggregate) to reach UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
• May: on target in Barça’s 6-0 home win v Valencia — his seventh goal of the league campaign, a career-best tally.
• June: consistent brilliance for Spain at EURO 2008 earns him official Player of the Tournament honour; scores opening goal v Russia in semi-final and caps outstanding performance in final v Germany with assist for Fernando Torres’s winning goal.
• September/October: takes international cap tally to 68 as he starts first five matches under Vicente Del Bosque, all of them victories.
• September-November: helps Barcelona qualify for last 16 of UEFA Champions League after four group games; scores in 3-1 win at home to Sporting Clube de Portugal and 5-0 victory away to Basel 1893.
• October: named among nominees for Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year.
• November: scores two goals in a club game for very first time as Barcelona go top of table with seventh successive Liga win, 4-1 away to Málaga.”
Other nominees: Marcos Senna (Villarreal), Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Zenit St. Petersburg), Konstantin Zyrianov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Mehmet Aurélio (Fenerbahce/Betis)
Cesc Fàbregas
Attacking midfield
Votes: 91,713

• January: ends lengthy goal drought by finding net for Arsenal in 3-0 win at home to Newcastle.
• March: scores brilliant long-range goal to cap masterful individual performance as Arsenal eliminate holders AC Milan from UEFA Champions League with 2-0 win at San Siro.
• April: named PFA Young Player of the Year.
• May: voted Arsenal Player of the Season for second successive season.
• June: helps Spain to EURO 2008 victory; comes off bench to score first international goal in group game v Russia, convert decisive penalty in quarter-final shoot-out triumph v Italy, and set up two goals in semi-final victory over Russia; starts final v Germany; selected in Team of the Tournament.
• September: starts his fifth successive UEFA Champions League campaign, aged 21.
• October: scores stoppage-time equaliser for Arsenal at Sunderland (1-1).
• October: nominated for Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year.”
Other nominees: Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Luka Modric (Dinamo Zagreb/Tottenham)
Franck Ribéry
Left midfield
Bayern Munich
Votes: 108,931

• February: scores penalty in last minute of extra time to knock Bayern’s local rivals 1860 München out of German Cup.
• April: wins German Cup with Bayern after extra-time victory in Berlin final against Borussia Dortmund.
• April: scores two goals in a Bundesliga match for the first time as defending champions Stuttgart are routed 4-1.
• May: seals Bundesliga crown at end of scintillating debut season for Bayern.
• June: France’s most eye-catching player at EURO 2008 but ends tournament on stretcher after rupturing ankle ligaments in final group game against Italy.
• August: voted Germany’s Footballer of the Year by landslide margin, receiving 224 of 766 votes cast – almost twice as many as runner-up Michael Ballack; only second foreigner to claim the award.
• October: nominated for Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of Year awards.
• October/November: back from injury and inspires Bayern to timely winning run in Bundesliga, scoring in successive victories against Wolfsburg (4-2), Eintracht Frankfurt (2-1) and Arminia Bielefeld (3-1).”
Other nominees: Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Valencia), Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), Arjen Robben (Real Madrid)
Lionel Messi
Votes: 88,966

• February: scores twice as Barcelona inflict rare UEFA Champions League defeat on Celtic in Glasgow, winning 3-2 – his fifth and sixth goals of the campaign.
• February: plays 100th official match for Barcelona in Spanish Cup tie against Valencia.
• March: tears thigh muscle against Celtic and put out of action for six weeks.
• April: gives outstanding performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford but in vain as home side win 1-0 to knock Barça out of UEFA Champions League.
• May: scores tenth league goal of the season, from the penalty spot, as Barça hammer Valencia 6-0 at Camp Nou.
• August: in sparkling form at Olympics in Beijing as Argentina defend their title, defeating Nigeria 1-0 in final; scores in earlier wins v Ivory Coast and Netherlands.
• October: comes off bench to score two goals, including stoppage-time winner, as Barça come from behind to beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 away in UEFA Champions League.
• October: scores tenth goal for Argentina at senior international level to help his country to 2-1 home win over Uruguay in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign; maintains ten-match ever-present record in competition by appearing against Chile four days later.
• October: nominated for 2008 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year.
• November: scores fourth goal in three UEFA Champions League games, in 1-1 draw at home to FC Basel, to send Barça through to last 16.”
Other nominees: David Villa (Valencia), Daniel Güiza (Mallorca/Fenerbahce), Sergio Agüero (Atletico Madrid), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Karim Benzema (Lyon)
Fernando Torres
Votes: 51,569

• February: scores hat-trick – his first in Premier League – as Liverpool beat Middlesbrough 3-2 at Anfield.
• March: grabs another hat-trick in 4-0 home win against West Ham.
• March: his winning goal against Inter Milan takes Liverpool through to UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, 3-0 on aggregate.
• April: scores stunning goal to help Liverpool overcome Arsenal in UEFA Champions League classic at Anfield (4-2).
• April: sends UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea into extra time with his sixth goal of competition.
• May: equals Liverpool club record of scoring in eight consecutive home games; ends season with 24 goals – most ever scored by foreign player in Premier League debut season.
• June: scores two goals at EURO 2008, including delightful winner in final v Germany, as Spain take trophy; voted Man of the Match in the final and included in official Team of the Tournament.
• August: on target for Liverpool in Premier League opener at Sunderland (1-0).
• September/October: scores two goals in successive away games in Premier League – 2-0 against city rivals Everton and 3-2 v Manchester City.
• October: shortlisted for 2008 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year.
• October/November: misses both UEFA Champions League matches against ex-club Atlético Madrid after sustaining hamstring injury playing for Spain in FIFA World Cup qualifier v Belgium; Liverpool draw both games without him.”
Other nominees: David Villa (Valencia), Daniel Güiza (Mallorca/Fenerbahce), Sergio Agüero (Atletico Madrid), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Karim Benzema (Lyon)
Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester Utd
Votes: 109,408

• January: United win all four Premier League games without conceding a goal.
• February: dignified figure as United commemorate 50th anniversary of Munich air crash.
• February: United thrash Arsenal 4-0 in fifth round of FA Cup.
• April: takes United through to UEFA Champions League final after tight semi against Barcelona.
• May: celebrates his tenth Premier League title as United win 2-0 at Wigan to finish two points clear of runners-up Chelsea.
• May: wins UEFA Champions League for second time, with penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea (after 1-1 draw) in first all-English final.
• May: voted LMA Manager of the Year and also Premier League Manager of the Year for the eighth time.
• August: United defeated by Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Super Cup.
• September: buys Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham for club-record £30.75m (around €38m) fee.
• September: leads his team into 13th successive UEFA Champions League campaign (15th in all).
• October: United defeat Celtic 3-0 at Old Trafford, eliciting warm praise from Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, a former player of his at Aberdeen and in Manchester.
• November: reaches a half-century in football having made debut on 15 November 1958 for Scottish club Queen’s Park aged 16.”
Other nominees: Luis Aragonés (Spain), Dick Advocaat (Zenit St. Petersburg), Temuri Ketsbaia (Anorthosis Famagusta), Fatih Terim (Turkey)


Marco Pantanella is one of the Editors of Soccerlens, and the Author and Editor of the mCalcio blog

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