What an exciting season of football it has been across Europe this year. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Juventus all won their first ever league titles in years, while Montpellier won the Ligue 1 for the first time in their history and Dortmund made it two in two years in the Bundesliga. Chelsea shocked the footballing world by winning the Champions League against all odds and Atletico Madrid defeated their Spanish rivals Athletic Bilbao to win the Europa League in Bucharest.
As we draw to an end to league football across Europe for the season and as we move closer to the European Championships in Poland & Ukraine in the summer, we look at the eleven best players and one manager who form our European Team of the Season 2011/12.
Gianluigi Buffon (GK) – Juventus
He has been a loyal servant to the Bianconeri having stayed at the club through the Calciopoli Scandal and the relegation to Serie B in 2006/07. At 34-years of age, many thought he was past his peak but he has proved everyone wrong. Except for that one blunder against Lecce, the 2006 World Cup winner was back to his best and with 21 clean sheets and just 16 goals conceded, he has to be the best keeper around Europe this season ahead of the likes of Iker Casillas, Joe Hart or Manuel Neuer.
Lukasz Piszczek (RB) – Dortmund
The Poland international has been sensational for Dortmund this season as they went on to do the domestic double by winning the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal. The 26-year-old has had an outstanding season for the Bundesliga champions this year and he comes in this team ahead of the German captain Philipp Lahm and Barcelona’s Dani Alves. Piszczek has been very good both offensively and defensively for his side and he is the leading goal scorer as a right back this season with 4 goals.
Mats Hummels (CB) – Dortmund
He is the second Dortmund and Bundesliga player in this team and truly deserves his place. Hummels has been a rock in the defence for the Bundesliga champions this season and his partnership with Nevan Subotic in center of that Dortmund defence, has conceded just 25 goals this season. He is in the team ahead of the likes of Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol and Thiago Silva and is there for a good reason as he has been able to stop Bundesliga’s top strikers like Mario Gomez, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lukas Podolski, Raul, Claudio Pizarro and Marco Reus from scoring any goals against BVB this season.
Vincent Kompany (CB) (C) – Manchester City
What a season this man has had. He led City to their first ever league title in 44 years and also scored the most important goal against Manchester United in the Manchester derby at the Etihad stadium which decided the title. Like Hummels, Kompany has been a rock in that City defence and the Premier League champions have missed him badly whenever he was injured or suspended. The Belgium international who has scored three goals and created one this season is also Premier League’s Player of the Year. He has been a true leader on and off the pitch and has also been an inspiration for his City team-mates and that’s why he is also the captain of this team.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Valencia
This year has been a dream year for Jordi Alba. The left back who came through the ranks at La Masia has been in form for Valencia this season, making the step up to the national team to become Spain’s first choice left back. With 2 goals and 5 assists, Jordi Alba has been a key member of the Valencia team that finished third for the third time in a row. With his performances attracting interests from the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona, dont expect him to be around at the Mestalla next season. The young Spaniard is in the team ahead of Philipp Lahm, Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra.
Andrea Pirlo (CM) – Juventus
For me Pirlo has to be Serie A’s Player of the Season. Many thought the Italian international was past his prime and finished when he left Milan for free last summer and joined Juventus. But like Buffon, he has answered his critics by the performances on the field. The veteran was a standout in his debut match against Parma as he put in an outstanding performance in 4-1 win and as the season progressed he got better and better. With 13 assists and 3 goals to his name in 37 league appearances this season he has proved everyone that he is far from finished and is surely a player to watch at the Euros this summer.
Yaya Toure (CM) – Manchester City
David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero got all the praise for guiding Manchester City to their first ever league title in 44 years but Yaya Toure has played a key part as well. He play like what Patrick Vieira use to play during his times at Arsenal and is the driving force in the heart of the City midfield. The Blues missed the Ivorian badly when he was on international duty during African Cup of Nations but ever since his return he has been inspirational in their bid for the title. He also scored the two important goals for City at Newcastle in penultimate game of the season that got them one step closer to the title.
Mesut Ozil (CAM) – Real Madrid
For an attacking midfielder with an advanced role Mesut Ozil doesn’t score enough goals but has been a vital part of Real Madrid team this season as they went to win their 32nd La Liga title. The German international has just 7 goals in 52 appearances this season but has created 23 goals which is only second best to Lionel Messi (28). His movement off the ball is one of the best in the world at the moment and has been consistently the best attacking midfielder for the last two years for both club and country. He is in the team ahead of David Silva because he guided Los Blancos to the semi finals of the Champions League and also created the goal for Cristiano Ronaldo against Barcelona which handed the league title to Jose Mourinho’s men.
Cristiano Ronaldo (RW) – Real Madrid
The Portuguese failed to win the Golden Boot or the Pichichi Trophy this season as he ended just four goals behind Lionel Messi but it was Ronaldo who had the last laugh as Real Madrid went on to win their first ever league title since 2008. With 46 goals in the La Liga and 60 in all competitions, the former Manchester United player has played a pivotal role in helping Mourinho’s men win their 32nd La Liga title and also reaching the semi finals of the Champions League this season. The 27-year-old’s winner against Barcelona at Camp Nou guaranteed that the league title will be heading back to Madrid.
Lionel Messi (LW) – Barcelona
It hasn’t been a good season for Barcelona as they finished second behind Real Madrid in the league and were knocked out by eventual winners Chelsea in the semi finals of the Champions League but on a personal note it has been Messi’s best season as he continued to break more records. He went on to become the club’s all-time highest goalscorer this season with 252 goals in all competitions and also set a new record of goals in a European season with 72. He also created a new record of most number of goals scored in the league with an incredible number of 50 goals.
Robin van Persie (ST) – Arsenal
The Dutcman has single-handedly carried Arsenal on his shoulders and guided them to a third place finish in the Premier League after having one of their worst starts to the season. He scored 30 league goals this season and those goals consisted of both stunning striker and poacher like finishes which proves what a complete striker he is. The PFA Player of the Year and the Premier League Golden Boot winner has been a true leader for the young Arsenal side on the pitch and has brought them back from the dead too many times this season. He is the key to any future success that is in store for Arsenal and the Gunners must do everything possible to keep him at the club.
Antonio Conte (Manager) – Juventus
It was a tough choice to choose between Conte and Jose Mourinho as both led their clubs to league success after many years but in the end it was Italian for me. The former Juventus fan favourite was appointed as the new coach at the start of the season and did a tremendous job in his first season by lead the Bianconeri to their first ever Scudetto title since 2006. In the process Juventus stayed unbeaten in the Serie A through out the season, winning 23 and drawing 15 games. Conte also guided the Zebras to their first ever Coppa Italia final since 2004 only to be beaten by Napoli 2-0. The Italian who joined in May last summer has now signed a new contract which will see him stay at the Juventus Stadium for the next three years.
Petr Cech (Chelsea), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).