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FIFPro puts the eleven best players of 2011 in the spotlight. They have all been selected for the 2011 FIFA FIFPro World XI by their fellow professionals throughout the world. This article looks at the defenders.

 

The following goalkeeper and defenders have been chosen:

Iker Casillas

Daniel Alves
Marcelo
Gerard Piqué
Sergio Ramos

 

Iker Casillas
In the opinion of all professional footballers in the world, there is not much doubt: Iker Casillas is the best goalkeeper on the planet. The captain of both Real Madrid and the national team of Spain enjoyed a successful 2012, winning three important titles.

 

Firstly, Casillas and his teammates at Real Madrid won the Spanish championship. Then the goalkeeper lifted the Henri Delaunay Trophy after Spain won the European Championship in July. At the start of the current season, Real and Casillas also won the Spanish super cup.

 

Casillas proved to be of great importance for both Real and Spain. With some fine and crucial saves he helped his team and country capture both championships. At Euro 2012, the 31-year old goalkeeper only conceded one goal and kept five clean sheets in six matches.

 

His colleagues worldwide noticed: almost 44 per cent of the participating players selected Casillas as the goalkeeper of the 2012 FIFA FIFPro World XI. The Spaniard comfortably beat his competition: Joe Hart (Manchester City, England) came in second with 12 per cent of the votes.

 

For Casillas, it is the fifth consecutive time he has been chosen in the World XI.

 

Daniel Alves
Daniel Alves is a unique player, because it is very rare that a defender is mostly known for his exploits in attack. The 29-year old right wingback had another great year at Barcelona, even though his team ‘only’ managed to win one trophy: the Spanish cup.

 

The thing that makes Dani Alves stand out amongst his colleagues is the huge amount of assists he delivers. During the past two seasons he produced at least 20 assists: 20 goals scored directly from a pass from the Brazilian player. An incredible number, especially for a defender.

 

For Dani Alves, it is the third time that he has been included in the FIFA FIFPro World XI. He was also selected in 2009 and 2011.

 

In 2012, the former Sevilla player received the most votes of any defender. In total, 44.0 per cent of all professional footballers picked Dani Alves as one of the four defenders of the FIFA FIFPro World XI. He narrowly beat Sergio Ramos, who was mentioned on 43.5 per cent of all ballots.

 

Marcelo
Marcelo is the next name in what appears to be a Brazilian specialty: the attacking wingback. The Real Madrid player is the fourth Brazilian wingback to make the World XI since its introduction in 2005, eight years ago.

 

Marcelo follows in the footsteps of Cafú, Dani Alves and Maicon, three wingbacks who impressed football fans not only with their defensive skills, but also with their ability to ignite their team’s offensive play. Marcelo fits the mould. When given the opportunity, the left footed defender surges forward, flies past opponents and tries to deliver a dangerous cross or a shot on goal.

 

Predecessors such as Paulo Maldini and Robert Carlos praised the 24-year old Brazilian, who captured two titles with Real Madrid in 2012 (Spanish league and super cup). He lost the final of the 2012 London Olympic Games (to Mexico) with the Brazilian Olympic team.

 

Marcelo is the eighth Brazilian player in history to make the World XI. In this election, he ranks fourth on the list of defenders, beating teammate Pepe for the fourth and final spot in the back line: Marcelo received 25.9 per cent of the votes, Pepe 23.5 per cent.

 

Gerard Piqué
For the third year in a row, Gerard Piqué finds himself among the best eleven players in football. The defender of Barcelona and the national team of Spain has once again earned a FIFA FIFPro World XI award.

 

How important is Gerard Piqué? At Euro 2012, the central defender played every minute of the tournament, which ended in Spain capturing the European Championship title. When Spain won the FIFA World Cup in 2010, Piqué also played every minute of the tournament. He was the only Spanish outfield player to play every minute of both tournaments. That’s how important Piqué is.

 

In 2012, Piqué added the Spanish cup (with Barcelona) and the European championship (with Spain) to his honours.

 

Even though Piqué has not appeared in many games during the current season, many of his colleagues worldwide consider him to be one of the four best defenders in the world. Only Daniel Alves and Sergio Ramos received more votes than Piqué (31.1 per cent).

 

Sergio Ramos
The defensive heart of the FIFA FIFPro World XI is the same as that of the reigning World and European champions, Spain. Sergio Ramos joins countrymen Iker Casillas and Gerard Piqué in this elite team.

 

Ramos received his third award as a member of the FIFA FIFPro World XI. In 2008 the defender of Real Madrid got his first trophy, in 2011 he returned to the team, chosen by all his colleagues worldwide. He and Daniel Alves (Barcelona and Brazil) are the defenders who are mentioned on most of the ballots, with Ramos just missing out on the top spot (respectively 43.5 and 44.0 per cent).

 

Ramos recaptured the Spanish league title with Real Madrid and helped Spain extend its reign as best team in Europe. He also won the Spanish super cup. He was named best defender of the Spanish league and is one of three players to play each minute of Spain’s three tournament finals (Euro 2008, FIFA World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012). Xavi and Iker Casillas are the two other players.

 

Still only 26 years of age, he is closing in on his 100th appearance in the national team (98). His hair might be shorter, but his passionate play on the pitch is still there. In defence, Ramos is a master in containing opponents. In attack, Ramos is extremely dangerous with his headers.