5. Francesc Fabregas –
Perhaps the most versatile player on the planet along with Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas has already made 400 appearances for club and country at the age of 26.
The former Arsenal captain started his career with the Catalan giants Barcelona. He was another one of those many extremely prodigious La Masia products, who left the club early to make a name for themselves. At Arsenal, he propelled onto the world stage and tempted his boyhood club to bring him back at Camp Nou.
What sets Fabregas a cut above the rest is his range and flexibility. He plays in the centre of midfield in the absence of Xavi; he plays on the left wing all the time without a hitch and also does a fine job filling Lionel Messi boots upfront when he is absent. The fact that he has scored 8 goals already this season despite playing in midfield attributes his credentials well.
He might be slightly underrated among the fans, but his teammates know exactly what he is capable of. Two desperate failed bids from a club as big as English champions Manchester United duly sum up his reputation in the game.
4. Xavi –
He’s has been the central figure of the most successful national and club sides for a decade now, but still at 34, the impact of Xavi Hernandez in Spanish football fails to recede.
Ever since Xavi started playing, he was touted to become something very special. He proved to be the fulcrum for the ‘golden generation’ of the Spanish national team. His amazing passing and layoffs set him apart from any midfielder in modern football. Add to it his mind-boggling passing accuracy which refuses to fall below 90%.
2013 may have not been the greatest year for Xavi as a player or captain, but still his footballing acumen does just enough to flatter even the greatest of players. He is called the ‘machine’ by his teammates, thanks to his relentless tenacity and drive to compete on the football pitch.
World Cup 2014 may prove to be his last major tournament with Spain, but he will still contribute heavily towards making his beloved Barcelona side better. Some have suggested him to coach the Catalan giants in the future. That would be something very special.
3. Sergio Busquets –
He may not be your ideal ‘wallpaper material’ footballer, but he definitely is one of the most special footballers you would ever see play.
Some people will be shocked to see Sergio Busquets making the list, but believe-it-or-not, the 25-year-old has every right to be on it. Forget his rare yet unusual on-field antics; he is one heck of a footballer when scrutinized fairly. Who doesn’t have a few cons? The fact is that he is Barcelona’s most important player after 4-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
His anticipation of opponent’s moves, his quick reading of the game and ever-so-well timed interceptions helps Catalans giants’ awkwardly mediocre defensive wall massively. Not to forget his crisp, no nonsense passing which gives likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta some space to play those worldly assists upfront.. 2013 arguably saw him rise to his very best as his contributions drew deserving applauses.
Cesar Menotti sums him up well – “He’s one of the greatest talents that has been given to Spanish football. This is a discovery. The first time I saw Busquets playing; I called a friend and said: ‘I saw a player from an extinct species’. He’s a star.”
2. Andres Iniesta –
He probably has the most extra-ordinary feet in world football, he might be the greatest playmaker in world football, but every time you look at Andres Iniesta, you’ll feel modesty piercing your eyes.
To anybody who follows top-flight football or only watches the football world cup once in four years, Iniesta will be no stranger. His teammates call him a ‘magician’ and the fans regard him as a god. His world cup winning goal is still celebrated by every football loving Spaniard. But what draws more affection and attentions are his skills on the pitch.
Iniesta is considered to be the wiliest midfielder in world football and there’s a good reason to it. The way he moves the ball is no less than enchanting. His first touch is beyond belief to some. Add to that his gorgeous turn and cutting through balls. 2013 saw Iniesta rack up an impressive 24 assists and 10 goals.
Extremely humble as he is, the 29-year-old donated a hefty sum of £420,000 to save his childhood club Albacete from going bankrupt in 2011. He later donated £240,000 more to help them retain their players.
1. Lionel Messi –
Cristiano Ronaldo might have got the better of him in calendar year 2013, but that does not take away the fact that he is the greatest player to have ever played the game.
The 4-time Ballon d’Or winner had an underachieving last season with his Barcelona team, but individually, he yet again managed to pop out a few eyeballs. He scored 46 goals in La Liga last time around and won the golden boot despite the hamstring injury he sustained towards the end of the season, which prevented him from breaking his own record of 50 goals.
Lionel Messi is a technical maestro of the game. Everything he does is poetically perfect. Be it his deft touch of the ball or his remarkable robustness, the 26-year-old makes sure he does it perfectly. His left foot is no less than a magic wand; he gave dribbling a new standard; he chips the balls ever-so-profoundly and never fails.
Whenever he gets the ball, there is this air expectation and inevitability that surrounds the atmosphere. His precisely crafted runs, uncanny vision and sublime finish only get you one thing – a plethora of goals.
He might have been outplayed by the ever-so-zestful Cristiano Ronaldo this year, but the month-long injury has been one of the reasons that kept the Argentinean captain statistically so far away from his fellow Ballon d’Or nominee.
New Year will hopefully bring him better fortune. But does the footballing ‘messiah’ need fortune? You decide.