'Ibra at 25? Where is Balotelli?' – Readers react to Goal 50

Carlo Garganese and Kris Voakes stepped up to the plate to defend the make-up of this year’s selections during a heated Q&A session on Monday

By Mark Doyle

They say that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Well, nowhere was this better demonstrated than during the predictably lively debate prompted by the release of this year’s Goal 50.

Lionel Messi pipped Franck Ribery to top spot to land the prestigious accolade for the third time, after a poll of over 500 journalists across the footballing world. That was a contentious enough result as far as many of our readers were concerned but what really seemed to grate with some people were the (perceived) low rankings of players of the calibre of Juan Mata and the omission of illustrious names such as Mario Balotelli.

Consequently, Goal staged a LIVE! Q&A session at lunchtime on Monday, with Carlo Garganese and Kris Voakes agreeing to face the wrath of a few seriously annoyed readers.

It was the latter who stood up to the plate when Mauricio Bockin Valdes got in touch to say that he was horrified on behalf on a certain Swedish superstar. “The fact that Ibra isn’t in the top 10 is just pathetic,” he fumes, before concluding, “Worst list ever!”

However, Kris felt that Zlatan’s positioning at 25 was more than justified.

“Practically everyone above him in the Goal 50 delivered on a major occasion when necessary, but… Ibrahimovic is one year closer to finishing his career thinking ‘what if?’ in terms of the big European honours.”

Carlo, meanwhile, had to deal with an enraged Tony Pedroso, who was bewildered by the fact that Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben (fifth) had ranked 27 places above Chelsea attacking midfielder Mata.

Carlo, though, argued that the gap between the two was entirely explicable.

“There are a number of key factors we took into account when deciding the list,” he stated. “These include form over the course of the season, the big occasion, team honours and legacy. Mata may have registered an incredible number of assists, but these kinds of statistics only tell part of the story.

“The Spaniard played a whopping 64 games for Chelsea last season, which already skews the numbers. The Confederations Cup disappointment played only a minor part in our decision to not place Mata higher.

“Robben ticks all the boxes with the exception of his consistency over the whole season, and was the outstanding player in the Champions League knock-outs from the quarter-final stage.”

Manchester United fans were also up in arms, given that Robin van Persie was the only representative from the Red Devils, a statistic that Sanjay Sundarjee claimed robbed the award of “all credibility”.

However, Carlo countered: “Winning your domestic league isn’t enough to guarantee you a swarm of inclusions in the Goal 50. Barcelona and Juventus also romped to the Spanish and Italian leagues, respectively, and only have two players each in our list. And unlike United, Barca and Juve were more impressive in the Champions League and went further in the competition. Also, we must recognise that 2012-13 was one of the weakest Premier League seasons for a number of years.

“While the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Rafael and Michael Carrick were considered, there were superior alternatives. To make the Goal 50, an exceptional league campaign often isn’t enough.”

The placing of the much-maligned Fred at No.13 also infuriated, with many feeling that his inclusion was the most obvious example of the Confederations Cup having had far too great an influence on our voters. But Carlo was having none of it.

“Fred is not in 13th place just because of his Confederations Cup exploits,” he insisted. “This was no knee-jerk decision. He is there because he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2012-13 for both club and country. His domestic heroics are the reason he even finished above Neymar.”

That Fred made the list at all was controversial, though, given that there was no room for everyone’s favourite striking enigma, with William_McInnes exclaiming: “Balotelli?? Definitely in the top 50 players in the world!!!”

                    No half measures | Mario Balotelli missed out because he barely played before January

However, Carlo pointed to the fact that Balotelli had been largely inactive for half of the year in explaining this undeniably surprising admission.

“If the Goal 50 was decided from January until July, then Mario Balotelli would not only have made our list but he would have probably walked into the top 15, maybe even the top 10,” he revealed. “Unfortunately, he barely played prior to his January transfer to AC Milan.”

While there were plenty of contentious exclusions, Tsukhoon was just generally baffled by the make-up of the top 50. “Why are there so many that I have never heard of?”

However, as Carlo so wonderfully put it, “This is the beauty of the Goal 50. We have a worldwide team of experts and editors situated on every continent – 36 different editions – that cover every blade of grass.

“Consequently, the Goal 50 doesn’t only reward European-based players, as other awards are often guilty of.

“We hope that the Goal 50 will also serve to educate fans on the hidden gems in Africa, Asia and the Americas who deservedly sit alongside more celebrated stars.”

Click HERE to see the full list for the Goal 50 for 2012-13.

Weidenfeller: Beating Bayern was crucial

The BVB goalkeeper is delighted with the DFL-Supercup victory and believes it was important to dent the Bavarians before the start of the new season

Roman Weidenfeller has stressed the importance of Borusssia Dortmund proving Bayern Munich are beatable following their 4-2 DFL-Supercup victory on Saturday.

A double by Marco Reus, an Ilkay Gundogan strike and an own-goal from defender Daniel Van Buyten ensured the Bavarians were defeated at Signal Iduna Park in Pep Guardiola’s first competitive match for the club.

BVB goalkeeper Weidenfeller is convinced it was important to demonstrate that the treble winners can be stopped ahead of the start of the 2013-14 Bundesliga campaign.

“It was important that we demonstrated that Bayern are beatable,” he told Bild. “If we lay down a solid plan, we have a chance against any team.

“Against Bayern, we pressed very aggressively from the beginning. They attacked us early as well, but we did well to free ourselves and make the switch into attack with our fast players.”

Jurgen Klopp’s men kick off their Bundesliga season with a trip to Augsburg on August 10.

Robben: Bayern have no reason to panic

The Dutchman feels his side’s 4-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday was due to simple errors which can easily be corrected

Arjen Robben feels Bayern Munich have no reason to panic after their somewhat surprising 4-2 German Supercup loss against Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.

The reigning Bundesliga champions failed to win their first trophy under new coach Pep Guardiola as Jurgen Klopp’s side put in a clinical display against Bayern’s fragile-looking defence, but Robben has stressed that the defeat was a mere blot on their record and not a warning sign of things to come.

“We should have a good look at our performance, but there’s no reason to panic and absolutely zero reason to worry,” Robben told TZ.

“All credit to Dortmund. They deserved their win. But it was more a matter of us losing the game than them winning it.

“I don’t think that we conceded four goals because of our attacking style of play. We shouldn’t read too much into it. We should learn from our mistakes.

“We will keep on going and there are still a few more trophies to win this season. It was a good test for us against a strong opponent.”

Bayern open their Bundesliga campaign at home against Greuther Furth on August 10.

Bayern and Brazil dominate the new-look €827m Goal 50

Lionel Messi came in first in the sixth annual vote, but his triumph tells only part of the story as a host of debutants also make the full list of 50 global superstars

By Kris Voakes

Lionel Messi has been announced as the winner of the Goal 50 for 2012-13, scooping the individual accolade for the third time since its inauguration in the summer of 2008.

Goal’s global team of editors picked their best 50 footballers from around the world using a points-based voting system, and it was Messi who claimed the crown without being a European champion, following on from his 2009 and 2011 successes with Barcelona’s Champions League winners. His remarkable feat of scoring in consecutive fixtures against every La Liga side added yet another record to his recent list of achievements, with his 91-goal calendar year of 2012 also helping to lift him ahead of the challengers.

But dig deeper and the Goal 50 revealed a great deal more about the best players in 2012-13 – here, we pick through the fascinating trends.

A total of 42% of the players in the Goal 50 are midfielders by trade

The Goal 50, like any other major individual award in football, generally finds its list dominated by attacking players. However, there was something of a sea change in 2012-13, with midfielders outnumbering forwards in the final list.

This season’s half-century counts eight more midfielders among its number than this time last year, overhauling strikers, of whom there are four less than in 2011-12. The most notable drop comes in defence though, with only eight per cent of the 50 making their names in the back line compared to 18% last term.

The vastly differing numbers to previous years could be at least partly explained by the change in approach of some of the world’s most effective outfits. With an increased emphasis on a high pressing line has come a greater need to be ever-involved as a midfield player, while defenders have largely been left with more comfortable lives than has previously been the case when teams have been allowed longer on the ball in other areas of the field.


Germany & Brazil have the most representatives in the Goal 50 with seven each

The rise of Germany’s top two clubs in the Champions League and the success of Brazil at the Confederations Cup has seen a heavy swing towards players of those two nations in the Goal 50 standings.

Bayern Munich’s victory over Borussia Dortmund in the European final at Wembley helped to showcase the Bundesliga’s finest talents, while the Selecao‘s triumph at the World Cup curtain-raiser ensured that their players’ abilities stayed in the memory when our panel came together. As ever, there is a fair smattering of Spanish players, while Colombia’s footballers continue their rise by coming in fourth.

Bayern have nine players in the list – more than twice that of any other club

Bayern’s phenomenal treble triumph is reflected by the inclusion of no fewer than nine Roten players in the Goal 50. Dortmund’s Mario Gotze has since joined Bayern this summer also, sending the European champions into double figures as they head for 2013-14.

In fact, Franck Ribery’s achievement of becoming the first Bundesliga player ever to make it to the podium is backed up by the placings of Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben in fourth and fifth respectively, with skipper Philipp Lahm coming seventh and Bastian Schweinsteiger rounding out five FCB team-mates in the top 11. Not since Barcelona in 2009 has one club dominated so heavily in the upper echelons of the award.

With Bayern having overcome Barca with such ease in the Champions League semi-final, becoming the first German side to win the treble and clinching the Bundesliga by a massive margin, they have clearly won over the Goal panel both individually and collectively.

The Bundesliga has 13 stars in the 50, more than La Liga and the Premier League combined

After five years of trailing other major European leagues in their representation in the Goal 50, the Bundesliga struck back with a bang in 2012-13.

With 26 per cent of the entrants coming from the German championship, they account for more than La Liga and the Premier League combined despite the Spanish and English leagues coming in second and third in the rankings. The presence of both Bayern and Dortmund in the Champions League final clearly helped to build such a statistic, but the Roten‘s league and cup form throughout the year made the German dominance all the more emphatic.

Brazil’s fourth-placed finish owed much to the success of the Selecao at the Confederations Cup with the gathering momentum which resulted in a 3-0 final victory over Spain helping to showcase the very best of the samba stars before the Goal 50 cut-off date.


Nearly half the stars on this year’s list transferred to another club in 2012-13

Modern football’s rapid shift away from the days of one-club men continues apace despite our winner Lionel Messi typifying the former way of things.

A sensational 20 of the 50 players were transferred during the course of the 2012-13 campaign, meaning 40 per cent of those listed have at some point dealt with the upheaval involved with a switch in clubs. However, no such player made the top seven, with only Thiago Silva and Robin van Persie reaching the top 10 after transferring.

The stats suggest that while some of the world’s best players have benefitted from the breath of fresh air that a new club has provided, to be at the very top of the pile takes consistency as well as considerable ability. In total the players on the list have commanded €827 million in transfer fees.


Aboutrika has won 24 senior honours in his career, more than anyone else in the Goal 50

In a list boasting over 400 senior honours it may come as a surprise to many that the most decorated player among the Goal 50 is Egyptian Mohamed Aboutrika.

The Al Ahly star, who was on loan to Baniyas during 2012-13, has racked up a fantastic 24 medals during his playing career. That tally includes the Gulf Champions League, which he won with his temporary club in May, scoring a vital goal in the second leg of the final. More predictable names sit just behind Aboutrika in the honours list, with Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi having racked up countless awards with Barcelona.

This tally of medals shows that to be considered as one of the best in the world by the Goal 50 panel, players must be winners at the very highest level, but at the same time thought is clearly given to individual additions too when it comes to separating one champion from another.

A total of 28 new faces appear on this year’s Goal 50 – only three have made the list every time

While Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta remain permanent fixtures in the history of the Goal 50, there was a massive influx of new players in the list in 2012-13.

The award’s reputation for recognising achievements from all over the world over the course of a season has been bolstered by the inclusion of 28 names who have never previously made the top 50. Of those, three of the highest-placed players were winners at the Confederations Cup with Brazil – Fred, Dante and Paulinho, who is the leading newcomer at 12th in the ranking.

So the Goal 50 again proves to take all factors into account. Messi, Ronaldo et al continue to rule the roost on the whole, but there is also great reward for players who have not had the consistency over a period of years. There is no discrimination against new names here!

Dante won a total of five medals in 2012-13, and only nine of the 50 finished empty-handed

While the Goal 50 is an individual award, there is obviously a huge pull towards players who have been part of a successful team during the season, and only 18 per cent of those in our half-century ended 2012-13 potless.

Dante led the way with a total of five trophies last season, adding a Confederations Cup triumph with Brazil to his four titles with Bayern Munich (including the DFL Supercup). His Bayern team-mates flood the Goal 50 having all been part of the quadruple-winning squad, while Paulinho – now of Tottenham – lifted the Paulista championship and the Club World Cup prior to his success with the Selecao in the summer.

Hummels: Dortmund showed Bayern are beatable

The centre-back has voiced his delight with last weekend’s DFL Supercup win and believes his side can challenge for top honours this term

Mats Hummels feels Borussia Dortmund’s 4-2 German Supercup win over Bayern Munich at the weekend showed that the reigning Bundesliga champions are not unbeatable.

Bayern are the sky-high favourites to retain their league title this term after strengthening their squad with the likes of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara after winning an historic treble last season.

Nevertheless, Hummels has insisted that BVB are determined to put up a fight and make life difficult for the Allianz Arena side – as shown by their thrilling win at Signal Iduna Park.

“Everybody knows that Bayern are favourites for almost everything this season as they have the kind of squad you don´t see that often,” Hummels told the official BVB website.

“But in 90 minutes against them, you can still try to beat them. And on Saturday, we did just that.

“We had to give 100 per cent, because that’s what it takes to beat Bayern. Especially Bayern’s constant shifting of position, which requires a lot of running.”

The centre-back then went on to stress that Dortmund can go a long way this term in the race for the Bundesliga title as long as they stay true to their own philosophy.

“If we play our kind of football as persistently as in the last four years, we are an outstanding team that can achieve a lot of things.”

BVB start the 2013-14 Bundesliga with an away game against Augsburg on August 10.