Posted by: mdegeorge | May 28, 2011

Starting XI points: Serie A team of the season

A champion has been crowned, a trio of unfortunate clubs have been relegated. It’s all over by the crying, as they say, in Italian Serie A this season. The crying, and the bestowing of team-of-the-year honors.

That brings us to my team of the year, the unspeakable honor that every player trains and sweats for. I’ll be going with a 4-4-2 formation and, I know, It’s not a formation that accommodates a trequartista.

Marek Hamsik. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Christian Abbiati: The Milan goalkeeper kept a league-high 20 clean sheets in 35 starts, all while back-stopping an aging defense that featured instability in the center and a fullback-by-committee approach for much of the campaign. He surrendered only 24 goals, the lowest total in the league by a full 15 goals en route to the championship.

Christian Maggio: The right-winger played most of his matches this season in the midfield for Napoli, so we’re fudging him into a backline role that is now only a part-time position. Maggio provided a lot of bite in the midfield of gli Azzurri, along with four goals and five assists, perfectly complementing Napoli’s creative attackers.

Thiago Silva: The rock of the Milan defense emerged this season as one of the world’s premier defenders and is many people’s players of the year pick. He paired with a multitude of partners, both aging and inexperienced (Alessandro Nesta, Mauro Yepes, Sokratis, Daniele Bonera) and even deputized in a defensive midfield role at the height of injury crisis. His combination of size and speed is simply sublime.

Christian Zapata: I see a first-name pattern developing here. But seriously, the 24-year-old Colombian defender is one of a large contingent of players responsible for Udinese’s Champions League appearance, and one they’ll be hard-pressed to hold onto. Zapata played 35 matches this season, anchoring one of the stingiest defenses in the league.

Stephan Lichsteiner: While technically a right back, Lichsteiner warrants inclusion on the other side of the backline thanks to his consistency. He appeared in 34 matches for the second-most stingy team in the league while also providing marauding runs forward with attacking guile belied by his paltry offensive totals (0 goals, two assists).

Marek Hamsik: The Slovakian midfield is the engine that drives Napoli’s creativity. It’s no shock then that the team’s tremendous season earning a Champions League bid coincided with yet another stellar campaign from the 23-year-old. He managed 11 goals in league play plus six assists while being the focal point of Napoli’s attack.

Kevin-Prince Boateng: The financial peculiarity of Boateng’s arrival in Italy – he was bought by Genoa which immediately loaned him to Milan – is what turned heads, not his potential tactical significance to i Rossoneri. But the once inconsistent Ghanaian has benefit under Massimo Allegri’s system arguably more than anyone else. His freedom to run at defenders translated into three goals, two assists and a constantly menacing presence.

Hernanes: The Brazilian is proving a wise investment for Lazio, as he was a large part of the ability of i Biancoelesti to shake recent struggles and challenge for European qualification. Hernanes notched 11 goals and five assists (the same total as Javier Pastore), but the performance of Hernanes’ squad gives him the nod over the Palermo man.

Alexis Sanchez: The Udinese winger could be one of the hottest commodities in soccer. It’s difficult to argue with that assessment. He had 12 goals and six assists in 31 matches and seems to have another gear he can kick it into once he gets around the box. He’s the crown jewel in the Tiffany’s of young talent that the lineup of i Zebrette.

Antonio Di Natale: Speaking of Udinese, it would seem that at some point we would have to stop heaping praise on Di Natale. But like a fine Italian wine, he seems to get better with age. He followed up a 29-goal season at age 32 with a 28-goal performance at age 33 to lead Serie A poachers. His age means he’s probably the most likely of Udinese’s many talents to remain with club for next season’s Champions League campaign.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The silky Swede leads a trio of Milan strikers with 14 goals each in the league. But unlike Alexandre Pato and Robinho, Ibra also has 11 assists to his credit, which gives him the slight edge. Granted a variety of suspensions, mostly through his own stupidity, limited him to just one goal from February on, his early-season performances were so dominant as to stake i Rossoneri to an early buffer in the standings they would never relinquish.

Edinson Cavani: A lackluster showing in the World Cup didn’t have any lasting effects on the Uruguayan, who finished second in the league with 26 goals and added six assists. A steal from Palermo, Cavani is near the top of that list of valuable young commodities; the refinement of his killer instinct near goal this season is a large part of that promise.

Bench

Stefano Sorrentino: Chievo finished 11th in the league despite allowing the fourth-least goals, thanks in large part to Sorrentino’s 151 saves, well above the total of any of the goalies on the teams ahead of him in the table.

Andrea Cossu: The Cagliari playmaker accounted for four goals and 13 assists, solidifying his reputation as one of the Italian game’s most effective playmakers.

Milos Krasic: A rare bright spot in a sea of bad acquisitions too deep to itemize her, the Serbian’s six goals and six assists in his debut season places him in select company as a Juventus player to build around.

Javier Pastore: The young Argentine has pledged his future to Palermo; his ability to create offense (11 goals, five assists) with little assistance should make i Rosaneri very grateful for that signature.

Clarence Seedorf: The evergreen Dutchman went from bit player to indispensible cog in a championship rotation, recording four goals and six assists as the stabilizing presence of Milan’s attack.

Alessandro Matri: He just scores wherever he goes. He holds the distinction of leading both Cagliari (11) and Juventus (nine) in scoring in Serie A this season.

Francesco Totti: There was little good to tease out of a season in which Roma allowed the fourth-most goals in the league. Still, Totti’s resurgence (15 goals, eight assists) at age 34 is great for the game.

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