It has come down to this. Welcome to the final installment of the Top 50 Serie A players of the 2010/2011 season. Over the past five days we have been building up to the final ten and as the season closes today here are the final results. Here is a reminder of the list between 50-11. You can also find the words about each player in past posts by clicking on the Serie A top 50 category at the top of this piece.
50. Dejan Stankovic
49. Stephane Lichsteiner
48. Javier Zanetti
47. Stefan Radu
46. Domenico Criscito
45. Davide Astori
44. Mauro Zarate
43. Sebastian Giovinco
42. Claudio Marchisio
41. Kwadwo Asamoah
40. Antonio Cassano
39. Andre Dias
38. Milos Krasic
37. Kevin-Prince Boateng
36. Mattia Cassani
35. Cristian Zapata
34. Felipe Melo
33. Marek Hamsik
32. Esteban Cambiasso
31. Emiliano Viviano
30. Mauricio Isla
28. Samir Handanovic
27. Alberto Aquilani
26. Cristian Ledesma
25. Alessandro Matri
24. Marco Parolo
23. Morgan De Sanctis
22. Josip Ilicic
21. Alexandre Pato
20. Alessandro Nesta
19. Federico Balzaretti
18. Francesco Totti
17. Andrea Cossu
16. Clarence Seedorf
15. Christian Abbiati
14. Wesley Sneijder
13. Christian Maggio
12. Stefano Mauri
11. Gokhan Inler
This list is the result of 12 minds who have watched as much Serie A as their lives have allowed them to this season. Twelve minds from around the world who were asked to supply their own list of their top 25 players of the Serie A season. Not the best 25 players in Serie A today, but the best 25 players of the season. Once the lists were submitted the players were marked off the ballots by the following points system:
1st – 50 2nd – 40 3rd – 35 4th – 32 5th - 30 6th – 28 7th – 26 8th – 24 9th – 22 10th – 20 11th – 18 12th – 16 13th – 15 14th – 14 15th – 12 16th – 10 17th – 9 18th – 8 19th – 7 20th – 6 21st – 5 22nd – 4 23rd – 3 24th – 2 25th – 1.
Over 70 players in total appeared on the ballots. Joining James Sharman and myself were 10 established football writers whose work I’m sure you are more than familiar with:
- Gabriele Marcotti is World Football Correspondent for The Times and host of The Game podcast (available on ITunes). He can also be heard on the BBC and is a frequent contributor ESPN’s Soccernet Press Pass. He also writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal online, Sports Illustrated.com, the Sunday Herald and Calcio Italia magazine and contributes to the Melbourne Age, Champions magazine and Titan Sports. He is the author of three books: Paolo Di Canio: the Autobiography, The Italian Job and Capello: Portrait of a Winner. http://twitter.com/Marcotti.
- James Horncastle is a European Football Writer with articles published in the Guardian, Blizzard, Champions, Four Four Two, OSM + WSC. Also Guest Podder on Guardian Football Weekly. http://twitter.com/JamesHorncastle
- Paolo Bandini covers Italian football for guardian.co.uk and Astro SuperSport, as well as The Score. http://twitter.com/Paolo_Bandini
- Adam Digby is a freelance Italian football journalist and founder of the Il Tifosi blog where you can find links to his various columns. http://twitter.com/Adz77
- Giancarlo Rinaldi has been writing about Italian football for 20 years since founding the fanzine Rigore! His work can currently be found at footballitalia.net, Calcio Italia magazine, Serie A Weekly and his own blog http://giancarlorinaldi.tumblr.com/. http://twitter.com/ginkers
- John F. Molinaro is a senior reporter for CBCSports.ca. A long-time Serie A fan and observer, John has written about soccer for over 10 years and has covered some of the game’s biggest tournaments, including last year’s World Cup in South Africa. http://twitter.com/JohnMolinaro
- Lorenzo Vicini writes for Serie A Weekly at www.serieaweekly.com and blogs about Palermo Calcio for the Palermo Offside (http://palermo.theoffside.com). In addition to that, he provides English translations to articles and interviews on Mediagol (www.mediagol.it) – the largest Italian news site dedicated to Palermo Calcio. He is a Serie A fanatic who is enamored with all things Palermo while professing the beauty of Italy and Serie A. http://twitter.com/PalermoOffside
- Matthew Barker is a freelance journalist who writes about Italian football for a number of titles, including Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes, Esquire, GQ, ITV’s website, the Observer and the occasional Italian mag. He divvies his time up between south London and Italy. A large selection of his WSC articles can be read on the magazine’s website (wsc.co.uk). http://twitter.com/matthew_barker.
- Rocco Cammisola is a football blogger who focuses on Italian football. He has written for The Guardian, ITV and Football Italia among many others. He is always keen for a return to a 3 man defence and has a penchant for the under appreciated sides. You can find more of his work at The Football Express (http://www.thefootballexpress.co.uk/). http://twitter.com/rcammisola
Top 50 – 10-1.
10. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli) - The 23-year-old made the top 10 comfortably, scoring 80 points more than Gokhan Inler in 11th after being named on nine of the 12 ballots. The Argentine was picked 4th by Adam Digby and Paolo Bandini, who states: ” Lavezzi’s pace and willingness to run at defenders is so important to making Napoli’s counter-attacking game work. Their struggles without him in recent games are telling.” Rocco Cammisola, who placed Lavezzi the highest on anyone’s list at third, adds: “This has been a huge season for him, his Uruguayan strike partner’s introduction has helped relieve the pressure and his incredible work rate and humble space creating runs have enabled Cavani to score the amount of goals he did this term.”
9. Marco Di Vaio (Bologna) - Without him, Bologna would be playing Serie B football next season. Simple as that. When he scored they won 8, drew 6 and lost 2. When they didn’t (heading into the final game) they won 3, drew 6 and lost 12. However, it was more than just a football season for the Bologna skipper. ” Nominated Bologna’s unofficial ‘President’ by Bologna fans for his efforts both on and off the pitch to keep the club afloat, Di Vaio revealed himself to be that rare species of a footballer with a social conscience, ” said James Horncastle who put Di Vaio sixth on his top 25. The 34-year-old scored 233 points after appearing on 11 ballots and was incredibly placed between 8th and 10th on eight of them. 9th it is then.
8. Javier Pastore (Palermo) – On the morning of Sunday November 14th in Sicily the home crowd made their way to the Renzo Barbera in anticipation of the derby game against Catania. Morale was not high, however, after 3 losses in 4 games. That would soon change as they would get to see the Javier Pastore Show. A beautiful hat-trick that included a goal with his head, right foot and left foot and 90 minutes later a star in this league was born. Matt Barker, who named him 2nd on his ballot, raves: “all deft, on-his-toes menace and poised focus, he’s had a brilliant first season da titolare, even if Palermo have sadly failed to build on all that promise from just a few months ago. Now within touching distance of being very, very good.” Pastore, named on 11 of the 12 ballots, scored 239pts.
7. Hernanes (Lazio) – Another player to be named on 11 of the 12 ballots, Hernanes scored 244 points on the back of seven members taking him in the top eight. Giancarlo Rinaldi was one of two who took him at his highest spot in fifth: “He’s been a real happy revelation in Rome and has made the Laziali tick throughout the season and turned them into serious top four contenders once again.” Gabriele Marcotti adds: “Makes everything look easy, a bit like Manuel Rui Costa in his day but also displayed character when times got tough, something some didn’t believe he had in him.”
6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan) – The first player to be named on all 12 ballots, Ibrahimovic was a difficult case for the panel to determine. If such a poll had been taken in January then the Swede may well have been number one after scoring 13 league goals in a 19 game stretch between the end of September and the end of January. Since then, though, he has picked up more red cards (2) than goals (1). One man who concentrated on the positives was Rocco Cammisola who picked the striker second: “His important goals throughout the autumn and winter provided the solid foundation with which Milan used to go onto win the title. A team player, able to hold the ball up magnificently and bring team mates into play.” Named in the top five by six members in total, and never lower than 15th on the ballots, Ibra scored 319pts.
5. Thiago Silva (AC Milan) – Winner of the 2010/11 Armando Picchi award for the league’s best defender also captures such a title in this list, and by some margin. The Brazilian centre-back narrowly edged his team-mate for 5th place after being named on all 12 ballots and scoring 325pts. Incredibly similar to Ibrahimovic, he also received six top five votes and none lower than 15th. James Horncastle felt he was the 2nd best player he saw this season: “Anointed the best defender in the world by Paolo Maldini, the Brazilian with a jump like a cricket also drew comparisons with Marcel Desailly this season when performing a role as a midfield anchor to great effect.” Giancarlo Rinaldi adds: The bedrock of the Rossoneri’s return to the Scudetto. Headlines may have been grabbed by others but the Brazilian defender has been outstanding.”
4. Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan) - Bucking the trend is something Samuel Eto’o has been used to since he went to Real Madrid from the Kadji Sports Academy in Cameroon. At a time when the world’s best players struggled to start this season in top form after playing at the World Cup, Eto’o was in electric form. At a time when many struggled to adapt to Rafa Benitez’s style at Inter, Eto’o simply kept scoring. His form in 2011 hasn’t been the same but eight panelists picked him inside their top five with five of them putting him in the top three to help him get to 331pts. Matt Barker looks back at his season: ” He was a constant threat in an Inter side that has often been anything but. I was really impressed and surprised by his ability and willingness to adapt to various formation tinkering and changes in coaches (and still no sign of throwing the great diva strop we’ve all been holding out for).”
3. Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) – The league’s leading goalscorer for the second year in a row edges a tight race for third spot on the list after scoring 334pts, just three more than Eto’o, nine more than Silva and 15 more than Ibrahimovic. After scoring just two goals in his first 10 games, the 34-year-old has played 26 Serie A matches in the last six months and scored 26 goals including two breathtaking hat-tricks and six multi-goal games in total. Named in the top five on six ballots including that of Lorenzo Vicini, who said: “Turned down a move to Juventus before the season began and it paid off in buckets as his impact in Torino would not have been the same as it was in the Friuli. The Udine captain inspired the zebrette to the brink of Champions League qualification and Totò has proven to be a deadly force in Serie A despite his age. With a supporting cast of great talent around him, Di Natale’s leadership has been just as important as the goals he scored.”
2. Alexis Sanchez (Udinese) – In round three of the season, Alexis Sanchez was withdrawn from a match against Juventus with his team down 3-0 at home. They would go on to lose 4-0 and the Chilean wouldn’t start another game for a month. However, Francesco Guidolin knew he had to get Sanchez involved and eventually switched him to a central role behind Di Natale, in a 3-5-1-1 system. It made a major difference. In 16 appearances from August to December he scored just two goals. After the winter break, Sanchez scored 10 goals in the next 12 matches and was the league’s best player for the first three months of 2011. Such explosive form was enough for three panelists to name him number one and three more to put him second, much to the surprise of Paolo Bandini who felt the ‘Wonder Boy’ was the league’s best this season: “What more is there to say about him? I’ll be surprised if this isn’t a unanimous choice.” Matt Barker, who also put Sanchez first, added: “Udinese are the team I most enjoyed this season and, within that side, Sanchez has easily my favourite player to watch… Wingers are precious beasts to be treasured and Sanchez, with his resourceful flair, perilous pace and that almost retro-style dribbling is always a treat.” In the voting he scored over 100 points more than Di Natale thanks to three 1st’s, three 2nd’s, a 4th, three 5th’s, a 6th and a 7th. Fitting though that they were next to each other in the final vote.
1. Edinson Cavani (Napoli) - Welcome to the Il Matador Roundtable. Twelve men waxing lyrically about a wonderful individual season from the Uruguayan, eight of which opted for him to be at the very top of their list. The other four really cannot argue either, all picking him in their top three. “We all knew he was good, but nobody really suspected he would be THIS good. His goals, runs and perceptive attacking play have been absolutely breathtaking,” recalls Giancarlo Rinaldi. “He does seem a genuinely happy soul who has quickly built a bond with such a fiercely devoted public,” says Matt Barker. “And popped up at the key moments late in games with staggering regularity,” added Paolo Bandini.
Cavani, who scored goals in the 93rd & 97th minute in Europe for Napoli this season, scored league goals in the 81st, 83rd, 86th twice, 88th twice and 93rd twice this season. John Molinaro raves: “Cavani couldn’t stop scoring on a Napoli team that won admiration from neutrals for its swashbuckling style and fearlessness.” Michael Cox agreed: “prolific in front of goal, showed good build-up play, and had a couple of superb individual displays.” Rocco Cammisola talked about his rise this season: “Transformed from a pigeon footed wide forward into what you might like to call a complete centre forward by Walter Mazzari” and Lorenzo Vicini added: “Cavani perfectly embodies the ‘team player’ always running, everywhere on the pitch, for the full 90 minutes. Napoli’s breakout season is vastly owed to his late minute heroics and league leading goal scoring tally. Serie A player of the season.”
And that is that. I would like to thank each member of the panel who provided their insight and professionalism and the readers who have taken the time to leave comments and contact us all over the last week to provide their feedback. On Tuesday’s radio show/podcast we will talk with some of the panelists and look in more detail at the final 50. Please feel free to leave questions below and we’ll do our best to answer them.