When FIFA announced its World XI earlier this year it featured a number of surprises. Although a number of countries weren’t represented in the team of the year, many found it surprising that there wasn’t a single English player in the mix. Moreover, despite the Premier League being lauded as the greatest in the world, only one player in the World XI currently plays in the English league.
Although this fact won’t come as a disappointment to many outside of England, it’s certainly an interesting point to note given the Premier League’s status within the game.
In contrast, the bulk of talent in this year’s World XI came from Spain. Although the German and French leagues had a strong showing, it was La Liga that offered up the biggest names. Indeed, from Ramos and Luiz to Ronaldo and Messi, Spain’s top league was able to nurture the game’s finest last season.
With this in mind and there only being a few gaps in the current set-up, we thought we’d remove all other league representatives and form a dream team made up entirely of La Liga talent. Hopefully something of a tribute to the Spanish system, our fantasy eleven will take an objective look at the leading La Liga lights from last season.
Diego Alves: The Brazilian keeper may have suffered a knee injury in the final game of the season but his performance up to that point was superb. Conceding just ten goals at home to ensure Valencia lost just once there. Moreover, his 13 clean sheets throughout the season helped make him the leading keeper in the league without doubt.
Sergio Ramos: Part of the World XI, Ramos has been one of Spain’s leading defenders for a number of years and proved that again last season with another impressive selection of stats. Aside from helping Real Madrid go on a 12-game unbeaten run last year, the veteran defender also scored eight goals.
Nicolas Otamendi: Although he’s just signed for Manchester City, many feel Otamendi was the best defender in La Liga last season. Much of this praise came because of his six goals and his help ensuring Valencia lost just once at home in 2014/2015.
Gerard Pique: The Barcelona defender had another strong season in 2014/2015 and that showed in his team’s overall performance. Just 11 goals conceded at home and ten away made the side a tough prospect for anyone to beat. Add to this five goals and that’s why he’s in the dream team.
Michael Krohn-Dehli: A veritable bargain for Seville, Krohn-Dehli may have only managed a single goal last season, but his power on the ball was his main strength. Indeed, despite being 32-years-old he played 36 matches in La Liga and formed an integral part of the backline.
Andres Iniesta: Barcelona’s senior figure, Iniesta was once again part of the World XI thanks to his consistency and discipline. Over the course of 43 games last season (domestic and international), Iniesta was only booked three time yet helped Barcelona win 30 games and lose just four.
Toni Kroos: A typically strong German player who also made it into the World XI, Real Madrid’s Kroos may have only managed two goals and seven assists last season, but it was his defending that stood out. In fact, his prowess with the ball in the middle of the pitch led to him being fouled 111 times as players tried to disarm him.
Tiago: The Atletico Madrid midfielder may be 34-years-old, but his workman likes performance season earned him a place among La Liga’s finest. Although he notched up nine yellow cards, his defensive style meant his team only concede 19 goals but scored 60 in the 30 games he played.
Lionel Messi: Arguably the best striker in the world (so good people can’t work out how to stop him), Messi was a banker to be in the World XI and our La Liga dream team. Although he just missed out on the Ballon d’Or, he did score an astonishing 67 goals (domestic and international) in 69 games, set up a further 30 goals and have 165 shots on target.
Cristiano Ronaldo: If it wasn’t Messi capturing the headlines last season it was Cristiano Ronaldo. Another Ballon d’Or title, a place in the World XI and an impressive 66 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal helped secure those honours. Add to this 350 shots (157 on target), 22 assists and 99 fouls committed against him and it’s easy to see why many consider the world’s best.
Neymar Jr: Completing the attacking line-up is Neymar Jr. The Brazilian notched up an incredible 55 goals in all competitions and set up ten. However, it was his shots to shots on target ratio that was most impressive. From just 214 attempts, Neymar Jr was able to test the keeper 111 times.
La Liga’s history of Quality
So how does the La Liga XI stack up against the FIFA World XI? In relative terms, it compares extremely well. Of course, there could always be some improvements, but that could be said of any league.
A tweak to the attacking line could create a dream team that would stand the test of time. Indeed, by swapping out Lionel Messi for the legendary Ronaldo, you’d not only give kit men a real headache, but bring in one of the leading strikers of all time. A total of 309 goals in all competitions, plus a World Cup winner’s medal make him an ideal addition to the squad.
Not only that, but Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr all have another synergy. All three strikers are avid poker players and have competed in tournaments around the world. In fact, at the poker table the three PokerStars representatives are also known as something of a poker dream team.
Which of these players is best at the poker table? According to previous form it would be Ronaldo as he’s been a player for the longest. However, there’s no doubt Cristiano Ronaldo has the ability to make it big.
When asked what his best traits at the poker table would be, the confident pro told PokerStars fans that he’ll be bringing the same “intensity, flair and determination” to the game as he does to the football pitch. Of course, this passion could also blow up in his face, but if he can show the same sort of form that earned him a place in the latest World XI as well as La Liga’s finest, then few would bet against him.
In fact, although Neymar Jr and Ronaldo may be keen to argue that they are the best, the football stats don’t lie and if they’re replicated in the coming months then it should be Cristiano who is captaining the football-poker dream team. However, regardless of how Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar Jr performs at the poker table, both players are certainly worthy of a place in our La Liga XI and will likely maintain their sporting dominance for many years to come.