Posted by: mdegeorge | January 2, 2011

Starting XI Points: Serie A team of the year

‘Tis the season to be jolly…and to try and encapsulate 12 months of footballing history into a selection of 18 players who captured our attentions on the pitch in 2010.

So without further adieu, here’s my Starting XI from Italy’s Serie A in 2010.

Bildnummer: 04119961 Datum: 26.11.2008 Copyright: imago/IPA Photo..Maicon Photo via Newscom

Goalkeeper: Julio Cesar. When you backstop a treble winner—especially from a league in which defense is elevated to an art form, there’s not much to argue against your inclusion. Cesar has been a constant in net for i Neriblu, and with the health issues of Gianluigi Buffon, has ascended to role of standard bearer in Italy and perhaps the world.

Right back: Maicon. The Brazilian is a special kind of player with a knack for clutch goals and expert interventions at just the right moment. He assisted on 11 goals last season for Inter, is a constant marauding presence up the flank, and a responsible yet gritty tackler on the defensive side of things.

Center back: Lucio. The large and agile Brazilian has been a mainstay for club and country. In addition to captaining an excellent defense on the blue side of Milan, he also contributes offensively by jump-starting attacks with his ability to run at defenders.

Center back: Leonardo Bonucci. The Juventus defender finally bucks the trend for those of you worried this was just a restatement of Inter’s and Brazil’s preferred starting squad. The partnership between Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini could bear tremendous fruits for years to come. It’s Bonucci’s work last season with Bari, playing ever single Serie A minute for the newly-promoted club en route to an impressive tenth place finish. Their dip in form to the foot of the table upon his departure is indicative of his importance.

Left back: John Arne Riise. Seven goals out of the Norweigan with the cannon of a left foot last season earns him a spot this list. He’s been more limited this season, but played a large role in the ability of i Giallorossi to stabilize a poor start to last season and mount an unlikely late-season charge at il Scudetto.

Central midfielder: Esteban Cambiasso. The Argentinean is the heartbeat of the Inter midfield, controlling the middle of the pitch and acting as a conduit for action headed both ways. His rapid transitions from offense to defense made the Inter counterattack lethal last season.

Central midfielder: Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder’s season will be most remembered for his exploits in a Netherlands shirt during the summer. But that was merely the crescendo of play all season in which he got steadily more comfortable in Italy after a late-summer arrival. His intensity and free-kick ability make him a game-changer in the nip-and-tuck Serie A.

Bildnummer: 04043067 Datum: 23.10.2008 Copyright: imago/IPA Photo..Antonio Di Natale (Udine, re.) erzielt gegen Torwart Heurelho Gomes Photo via Newscom

Attacking midfielder: Antonio Di Natale. He just flat out scores goals. At age 33, his pace hasn’t slowed a bit. He bagged 29 goals last season for Udinese, best in the league by a full seven, while setting up six others. Di Natale sits tops in the league again this season tied with Edinson Cavani with 10 strikes at the halfway point. His instinct for goal, if not his other tools, is on par without just about anyone in the world.

Attacking midfielder: Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian midfielder just keeps getting better, and at 23, he’s got plenty more growing to do. He tallied 12 goals and five assists last season as the stir that stirs Napoli’s drink; he’s bagged seven already this season in keeping i Partenopei near the top of the table.

Forward: Diego Milito. Milito has struggled this season to find his form, but his Inter owes a great deal of its treble win last season to his prolific goal-scoring. He had 22 in the league last season, as well as both goals in the Champions’ League final win over Bayern Munich that earned him man of the match honors. His partnership with Samuel Eto’o was one of the most successful and intimidating in all of the Europe.

Forward: Alessandro Matri. Where would Cagliari be without Matri? The simple answer is Serie B, where it not for the 13 goals he scored and six assists he tallied in leading them away from relegation and into 16th place. Matri, the latest in the recent trend of dynamic young players to come off Sardinia that includes David Suazo and Robert Acquafresca, has found the back of the net a further eight times in the fall and has i Rossoblu comfortably out of the relegation zone in 13th.

Bench

Goalkeeper: Julio Sergio. Were it not for Julio Cesar’s Champions’ League and international exploits, the spot on the first team easily could have gone the way of Roma’s Brazilian backstop.

Chelsea FC. goalkeeper Petr Cech (1) fakes AC Milan Thiago Silva (33) Chelsea FC defeated AC Milan 2-1 in the World Football Challenge Tour at M&T Bank Stadium Friday July 24, 2009. Photo via Newscom

Defender: Thiago Silva. Silva has emerged as one of the premier defenders in the world, an ideal blend of strength and speed. Both he and suddenly healthy partner Alessandro Nesta are worthy of inclusion in the squad.

Defender: Federico Balzaretti. A great defender from Palermo? What a revolutionary idea. The fullback has nine assists over the last season and half to go along with two goals and plenty of stingy defense.

Midfielder: David Pizarro. Playing along side the feisty Daniele De Rossi has freed up the Chilean playmaker, who was fourth in the league in assists with eight last season as part of the late-season renaissance of i Giallorossi.

Midfielder: Andrea Cossu. Everything Cagliari does offensively goes through Cossu. He was second in Serie A last season with 12 assists; this season he leads the way with nine. His call-up to the Italy squad was well deserved.

Midfielder: Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan playmaker looked out of sync at the World Cup, but has been in great form for club. He finished 10th in the league with 13 goals last season for Palermo, and has continued to produce at Napoli with a co-league leading 10 goals.

Forward: Sergio Pellissier. There are those with more impressive goal totals among the striking ranks of Serie A, but his 11 goals last year and six this season seem to come at very big times and have a lot to do with Chievo’s survival.

Forward: Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian’s 15 goals and seven assists in 47 matches don’t sound overly impressive. But his nine goals this term have almost single-handedly kept Inter in touch at the top of the league.

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