In the second edition of this annual feature, we at Outside of the Boot aim to unearth the best performing footballers from each of the 5 primary Confederations. Rebranded as ‘The Best Series’, we champion football’s top individuals based on performances in the past calendar year.
10. JOHN BROOKS
23 // United States of America // Hertha Berlin
The 23-year-old American International has enjoyed a terrific 2016, the best year he has had as a footballer. The fact that the American was on Bayern Munich’s radar in the January transfer window before the panic purchase of Serdar Tasci on loan, shows how much the he has improved as a central defender. Brooks also played a crucial role in USMNT’s Copa America campaign this summer. The defender was the man of the match against Paraguay which helped the USMNT qualify for the quarter finals. Domestically, he also played the key role in helping Berlin achieve the 4th most solid backline of the 2015-16 season. Solid at the back, not many ruthless, tall and active defenders are available in the market currently and Hertha will find it hard to hold on to him if he keeps playing the way he has in 2016.
Written by Alankrith Shankar
9. BRYAN RUIZ
31 // Costa Rica // Sporting CP
The Costa Rican international had a tough time before his move to Sporting CP with Fulham in England, and of course PSV. He made the move to Sporting in July 2015 being one of the first signings for Jorge Jesus. The club had a good season, garnering 86 points, and finishing in second place behind their fierce rivals. Ruiz had a good year too, chipping in as a creative player behind the main striker.
Ruiz has been deployed in multiple positions by his manager, mostly either in the wide areas, or just behind the main striker. His technical prowess has never been in doubt, and his creativity has come to the fore during his time at Sporting. The Costa Rican captain has managed to make it into double figures for assists this year, meaning he’s doing a good job for Jesus. Sporting CP fans will be looking for more of the same in 2017!
Written by Vishal Patel
8. HECTOR MORENO
28 // Mexico // PSV Eindhoven
The Eredivisie title race went down to the last day. Sitting in 2nd place, Héctor Moreno’s PSV side needed help from 17th placed De Graafschap. The side which would go on to get relegated duly obliged, holding Ajax to a 1-1 draw whilst PSV won at PEC Zwolle.
This gave Moreno his 2nd Eredivisie title in 2 years with the Eindhoven club. Mirroring his first season in the Netherlands, Moreno was key to PSV’s victory, and was one of the most consistent performers in the Eredivisie.
Moreno has also been mainstay in the defence of Mexico throughout 2016, whilst his defensive partners were often rotated by coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Performances with the national team haven’t always been as impressive as with his club side, partly due to Osorio’s rotations and formation changes, but Moreno still had a solid year with El Tri.
Written by Thomas Harrison
7. ORIBE PERALTA
32 // Mexico // Club America
Oribe Peralta proved that he’s still one of the best strikers in Mexico, scoring plenty of goals in 2016.
His 9 strikes in the Liga MX Clausura (2nd half of the season), put him in joint 2nd place on the top scorer’s chart, an impressive achievement for a 32-year-old.
El Cepillo (The Brush) also showed that his all-round game has developed recently. Peralta appears to be better at linking-up play and creating chances than at any other stage of his career.
Chances with the Mexico national team have been limited recently, due to Oribe being behind Javier Hernández and Raúl Jiménez in the pecking order. But Peralta was selected as one of the 3 overage players to go to the Olympics. This unfortunately ended in a disappointing group stage exit, but Peralta was one of Mexico’s best players at the tournament.
Written by Thomas Harrison
6. FABIAN JOHNSON
29 // United States of America // Borussia Monchengladbach
This certainly is not a season to remember for German-born American international Fabian Johnson. After coming off a very successful campaign with Gladbach in 2015-16 under Andre Schubert where he netted six goals and four assists in the Bundesliga while putting together a string of influential performances, Johnson has markedly regressed this season where Gladbach have truly struggled.
Under Schubert, Die Fohlen have failed to continue the brilliant attacking football we saw from them last season, and Johnson falls prey to that same criticism. Though perhaps a victim of circumstance, the inconsistencies both tactically and in regards to team selection exhibited by Schubert this campaign have undoubtedly affected the fifty-time capped American utility man. We all know the qualities he does have – an excellent engine, good vision on the pitch, a good strike from range, and seemingly an ability to fit into many different roles when required – perhaps that has become more of a hindrance than a solution. Because he is viewed as a multi-purpose player, Johnson has featured in five different positions in eighteen appearances this campaign, seven of those coming as a substitute. Surely it is difficult to find a rich vein of form when your task on the pitch is consistently changing, but Johnson can bounce back if he can get a run of matches in the side with a clear defined role that will not change from appearance to appearance. Once viewed as one of the potential saviors of the USMNT, Johnson will be looking to regain the form that helped Gladbach to a lofty fourth place finish last term.
Written by Sami Faizullah