Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the Ballsy Banter Roll of Honour 2011.
At the end of every year, our presenters and bloggers will tell you who and what they think was the best of the best over the past 365 days. They have carefully chosen from every kick of the ball and player to cross the white line on the planet to show you who they think deserve to be on this illustrious list.
Okay – it was decided over a pint of beer and a few messages on Facebook, but the first one sounds better.
The categories this year are:
Player of 2011
Goal of 2011
One to watch in 2012
So, here are our thoughts on the year in football, two thousand and eleven.
Player of 2011: Mario Gomez
There is another Super Mario in world football you know. A man who has scored a half century of goals in a calendar year cannot be sniffed at. After a so-so first season at Bayern, scoring just 10 goals in 29 appearances, 2011 became Mario’s redemption,bagging 38 goals in the 2010/2011 and netting three braces and two hat-tricks in the start of this years Bundesliga. He has also netted six times in just five games in the Champions League for Bayern, showing his pedigree on a wider skill. A lethal finisher, an all-round complete striker and I feel one of the best forwards in the world today. Euro 2012 looks to be his apex, if the past year is anything to go by. The scary thing is, it looks like he is only going to score more in 2012.
Goal of 2011: Kevin Prince-Boateng: AC MILAN vs Barca
This boy has come on leaps and bounds since joining AC Milan, and this superb goal highlights his skills in a classic Champions League tie. Beautiful trap down, flick between the legs to lose the defend and drilled near-post finish. Never mind that this is against Barcelona, and it’s in the Champions League. A great world-class finish in a world-class game.
Player to watch in 2012: Christian Eriksen
When a 19-year old is named Dutch football talent of the year and Danish player of the year in the same year, you know he is something special. Christian Eriksen has been lighting up the Eredivisie and only the second player to gain the dutch honour alongside Jon-Dahl Tomasson in 1996, voted on by a panel lead by Johan Cruyff (high praise indeed). He was influential to Ajax’s league title win last season, and has kept the form up since. He has also recently scored his first goal in the Champions League and although his team are now in the Europa League, I will be looking to the game at Old Trafford for Eriksen to announce himself on the world stage as a great striker and push on in 2012.
Player of 2011: Yaya Toure
I’m going to stay away from the Messis and Ronaldos because they go without saying, but the person that has really impressed me this year is Yaya Toure of Man City. For me he has been instrumental for city’s development into a great team, and he really commands the centre of the field like no other. He is great at attacking as well as defending, tall strong and good in the air, and this makes him practically a comeplete central mifefielder. He even pops up with about important goal or two. When city play without him, for me, they lack that commanding presence in the centre, despite having an array of talent as backup. Yaya plays the central to defensive role the best and he has a knack of reading an opposing attack and organizing to clear his lines. He’s had a great year, not for goal scoring, but for everything else.
Goal of 2011: Wayne Rooney: MANCHESTER UNITED vs Manchester City
As a Man Utd fan it was hard not be biased for this one, and i wouldnt be suprised if someone else picks this too. For me it was Rooney’s overhead kick against City. It was a great goal with some brilliant tekkers, but it was (back then) what the goal meant that made if even better. It was the winning goal in a thrilling Manchester derby and it is one that will be in all it’s and City fans memories for a good while.
Player to watch in 2012: Sergio Aguero
I’m gonna try and be slightly different with my choice by saying Sergio Aguero. Now I know he is already an established player, but I think he could do great things at City. His first game for city against Swansea showed what unbelievable talent he has, being involved in all 4 goals, and going on to be an integral part of City’s strike force. it was a close race for me though, because I will also be watching Mario Balotelli (it’s really not hard to follow what he does anyway) as he is always in the right place at the right time (on the pitch anyway) as well as scoring key goals in key games. City have a bright future. Annoyingly.
Player of 2011: Robin Van Persie
Plenty of choices I could have gone for but at the end of the day you can’t argue with the facts and Robin Van Persie’s goalscoring in 2011 has been nothing short of outstanding. But this is not the main reason why I’m giving the Dutchman the title to my player of 2011.
I never saw Robin Van Persie as a captain, but he proved me wrong, he has became a leader. Looking at ex-Arsenal captains the likes of Tony Adams and Patrick Viera are natural born leaders, something I didn’t think RVP had in his locker. But he has seemed to become more vocal and has developed as the perfect example of how a Premiership footballer should be, on and off the pitch. It’s been tough times for Arsenal loosing so many vital players and in some big games they have had to rely on younger players, whom Van Persie has helped develop.
With transfer rumours flying around after his impressive year, it is clear that Robin Van Persie is up there as one of the best Premiership players at present.
Goal of 2011: David Luiz: CHELSEA Vs Manchester United
et me take you back to the 1st March, a bitterly cold Tuesday night when the league champions, Manchester United came to Stamford Bridge. A packed stadium in which I was amongst the 40,000 odd sporting my Chelsea winter wear. The atmosphere was unreal as I took my seat in the Matthew Harding Lower stand. But that atmposhere was about to be turned up a notch or two over the next 90 minutes. Especially when I saw my goal of 2011.
Now it wasn’t a fantastic team goal, or a 40-yard volley but it was a great finish and the moment when that goal went in I was on top of the world.
This is how it happened. The ball is with Michael Essien about half way in his own half, he crossed it in for Branislav Ivaonvic, he fails to get a clean head on the ball. The ball is now bouncing in the box towards an unmarked David Luiz, who patiently waits for the ball to drop and hits the ball as sweetly as you like into the bottom corner. The stadium erupts. I love watching this goal back. I love the fact that camera is shaking so much – it just begins to show you how much that goal meant to the Chelsea faithful and the atmosphere inside the Bridge at that point.
Player to watch in 2012: Phil Jones
The reason why I’ve gone for Phil Jones as my player for 2012 is because I think he is going to become an integral player for both club and country. Euro 2012 is coming up this summer and I think if Phil Jones keeps progressing the way he is then he is going to become vital for England this summer in Poland and Ukraine.
I also feel that if Manchester United don’t win the league this season, they will come very close and I think at the end of the season people will be looking at the consistent performances of Phil Jones as one of the main factors for the success of Manchester United.
This summer I predict the first of many big performances on the biggest stage of them all – a major international tournament. I know he gets talked about a lot and this may be quite an obvious choice, but I think 2012 will see a future England captain shine.
Player of 2011: David Silva
My player of the year is David Silva. The popular choice, Robin van Persie, has been a goal machine this year, but it is already a common belief that he is the difference between Arsenal being a good team and a great team. Silva, on the other hand, has made himself indispensible to Manchester City in 2011, becoming one of the best players in the Premier League and even forcing his way into a Spain squad which he stayed firmly out of during last year’s World Cup. He is the archetypal creative playmaker that other top teams covet, and City simply look a lot more complete with Silva in the team. Definitely player of the year for me.
Goal of 2011: Fredy Guarin: PORTO Vs Maritimo
Looking outside of the Premier League for this one brings me to Portugal in January, with Porto’s Colombian star Fredy Guarin launching a 40 yard rocket into the top corner against Maritimo. Guarin has been linked with Chelsea this year, and it’s no real surprise when he can score like that. A goal from the very top drawer, even he can’t believe it.
Player to watch in 2012: Roberto Soldado
David Villa’s long-term injury means that Spain will have to rely on another striker for their Euro 2012 campaign, and this opens the doors for several Spanish strikers to take his place. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres has really lost his way of late, and so player such as Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo could have their chance to make a name for themselves. This could also be the chance for the relatively prolific Roberto Soldado of Valencia to make his name on the international stage and become a better known name. More akin to Spain’s style than the larger, stronger Llorente, Soldado has been an odd omission from Spain’s national team despite his 40+ goals in the last three seasons and could use 2012 to stake his claim.
Player of 2011: Scott Parker
For this one I could look no further than one man, Scott Parker.
I have a lot of time for this guy, understandably, and it broke my heart to see him leave West Ham on deadline day in August. Clearing that from my eye line though, this man has absolutely stolen the show in 2011.
Many people say to me now: ‘Scott Parker, what a player!’ – something I could have told them at least two years ago.
The Football Writer’s player of the year (an award won at a club who finished bottom of the league – unheard of achievement) broke back into the England fold in February, and following performance after solid performance, he just hasn’t looked back. The first name on everyone’s National team sheet, and a lynch pin (sometimes even wearing the captain’s armband) in Tottenham’s current charge of form. He is quite simply for me, a no-brainer of a choice for this accolade.
Goal of 2011: Robin Van Persie: ARSENAL vs Everton
I feel that there are only two real contenders for this one, but my heart told me that Robin Van Persie Vs Everton takes gold.
Of course for many Wayne Rooney’s belting bicycle kick against Manchester City back in February would be the winner. Not me. Although a earth-shattering effort, the deflected cross and hint of shin in the finish is left in the shadows by RVP.
Wow. What a goal at the Emirates. Couple Alex Songs pin-point delivery, along with the hottest striker on the planet’s blistering volleyed strike, which sizzled with just such power and precision into the far bottom corner. Then add in a bit of ‘in-off-the-post magic’, and it just sends shivers down the spine. A goal I could watch all day, he knew the exact spot he was putting that ball before even struck. With echoes of the Best Goal Premier League History courtesy of a certain Mr. Di Canio (and yes, only echoes, let’s not get carried way), for me it takes the prize this year.
Player to watch in 2012: Oriol Romeu
After seeing him in the flesh in a neutral visit to Stamford Bridge, I predict that Oriol Romeu will catch eyes in 2012, just like he did mine.
I’d heard of him before, anybody who is a product of the Barcelona academy will have their name floating about, but this lad really shone for me and actually showed why he’d come from where he had.
To come out as the top man in a game where your side beats Genk 5-0 is an impressive feat. Just the raw composure on the ball, the casualness in distribution and the way he has delicately slipped comfortably into the Chelsea midfield is outstanding.
He’s kept Frank Lampard on the bench at the times, and that truly does take some doing. Of course to then have frantic rumours hitting the surface the Barca want him back already (and they have first refusual), make this man quite easily the guy who you should not take your pupils off in the coming 12 months. A star of the future – remember the name.
Player of 2011: Mario Balotelli
It could only be Mario Balotelli, who has entertained us on and off the pitch. In a game taken ridiculously seriously it’s great to have a player who appears to coast through his football career nonchalantly. He doesn’t beat his chest and roar at the fans, he doesn’t really celebrate goals properly, he acts as though he’s above it all. He’s the Patrick Bateman of football, involved in it but not really part of it and just kind of doing whatever he feels like. Comparisons are being made already with Cantona and there are certainly similarities. Balotelli’s footballing talent is undeniable, he’s strong, fast, skilful and clever with the ball but that’s kind of not the point.
The only other player who could shrug in a goal is Berbatov and sure Berbatov is casual and cool and skillful, but would he dress up as Santa Claus and walk the streets of Manchester handing out money? Maybe Balotelli is a player who understands the absurdity of the money, the fickle fans and the short timespan of a footballers career. Maybe he’s a moody 21 year old who’s been given everything and is consequently a bit of an idiot. Either way he does it for the lols and feels more relevant in football than anyone else I can think of this year.
Goal of 2011: Neymar: SANTOS vs Flamengo
When I was thinking about my favourite goal of 2011 I immediately thought of long range shots, outrageous volleys and crazy curling freekicks. I love those goals but for me the best goals are either superb team goals or superb individual goals. Carlos Alberto’s finish from a 30 pass spell by Brazil and Maradona’s solo goal against England are among the best.
The goal I chose is Neymar’s third of a hattrick against Flemengo (Neymar’s team Santos went on to the lose the amazing game 5-4). I love these instinctive goals that seems to happen so quickly and out of nowhere, Neymar’s skill to beat the defender and put him through is just so fast but also accurate and intricate. It’s also a really great finish as the goalkeeper storms out giving him almost no time to chip the ball past him with the outside of his foot.
All the top teams in Europe are after the tricky striker and with individual goals like this one showing his undeniable talent I think we can all look forward to seeing more great goals from the 20 year old. Sign him up Everton.
Player to watch in 2012: Junior Hoilett
My player to watch for 2012 plays Blackburn Rovers and isn’t Reuben Rochina. No, it’s winger/auxiliary striker Junior Hoilett (otherwise known as ‘the only Canadian footballer anyone could name’. The 21 year old joined Rovers in January 2009 and I didn’t really see much of him until the later stages of the 10/11 season but I think he’s a real talent to watch out for (even if that does mean watching Blackburn play). The thing I really like about Hoilett is that he’s a winger but he’s got a lot more to his game than many other wingers in the league. It feels very much that the modern winger is either a speedster who is unable to deliver or a crossing specialist with no pace who is lost in midfield. Hoilett can operate effectively on either winger and is capable of coming inside and play in others through the middle. He can also finish well, scoring a great solo goal against Wolves last season (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3B8qzd7_UI).
There are rumours linking the Canadian with Spurs. While I imagine it must be frustrating for player being stuck in a team that is struggling, with a manager under pressure and a no communication from the board, I can’t help feeling joining Spurs would be a bad move for Hoilett. It’s hard not to look at talented players such Dos Santos, Kranjcar and Pienaar who’ve joined Spurs only to fall out of Harry’s favour and rot on the bench. At the rumoured 8 million price tag, Hoilett would certainly seem to fit the bill as one of these players, particularly if Spurs do well this season and Harry is given more funds in the summer.
I do believe that if Hoilett stays with Blackburn and their situation becomes more secure or if he joins a team that will play him and nurture his talent, he will be a very good player in the future.
What the really great thing is folks, is that none of the Ballsy Banter contributors discussed their choices with each other, making this a brilliant collection of the best of 2011. Enjoy!