2021 is ending and it is the right time, now that football is giving us a break, to evaluate the best players of the year. After 12 months full of goals, luxuries and emotions, ESPN.com decided to face the always difficult task of choosing the ideal formation for the soccer planet. In addition, 12 substitutes are included to complete a roster of 23 and so that the controversial welcome is fired about who deserved to be among the starters and who should not be forgotten.
Without further ado, this is the ideal team ESPN.com in 2021:
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
He came from Rennes almost a stranger and, within a couple of months, he was already one of the best archers in the world. An athletic figure, with a voice of command and leadership. This 2021 was his year, they scored 25 goals and he had the same number of games without going to look for the ball in the nets. In the Champions League, he equaled the record of 9 goalless games. His consecration was the final against City, where he put the padlock to lift the Orejona. Tuchel’s defensive bolt begins and ends on him.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
2021 was strange for the English, but his call in this XI is a reward for his talent and, above all, his resilience. The year started badly. Personally, he lowered the level and lost ground in the National Team. Collectively, Liverpool let the Premier escape. After a shower of criticism, he was once again that decisive side, with speed and panorama, fundamental in a Red saga always in spare time. With his improvement, the team also grew. In a great final sprint they qualified for the Champions League. After the frustrations of the Euro, this season Alexander-Arnold started strong, again. He has already scored the same goals (2) as all of 2020-21 and it seems that in 2022 he will once again be the engine of Klopp’s Liverpool.
Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
The Portuguese center-back showed that he was up to the challenge. He arrived at the City at the end of 2020 and by mid-2021 he was installed as the best center on the planet. His even performance, attentive on the mark, neat at the start, allowed Guardiola’s team to develop their offensive game with their backs covered. He was the City’s best chosen of the season and the best Premier League player they won. In the Champions League he lost the final but he was still chosen the best defender of the tournament. With Portugal he had less luck and his presence in the 2022 World Cup will be defined in a playoff that is expected to be very complicated.
Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
The veteran Brazilian central defender arrived for free from PSG with one goal in mind, to win the Champions League, and he accomplished it. He brought experience behind Chelsea and established himself as the lynchpin of their 3-man defense. His outstanding performances against Real Madrid confirmed that he is still a top center back. The stain in this glorious year was the injury in the Champions League final, but his teammates completed the job. In Brazil, although they lost the Copa América to Argentina at home, they had a good year. He is the benchmark in a team that always led the Playoffs and qualified for Qatar without complications.
David Alaba (Real Madrid)
More experience for this training. The Austrian came from an incredible 2020 with Bayern and in 2021 he decided to go for more. After a difficult departure from the Bavarian giant, he arrived at Real Madrid free to confirm his validity. The task was complicated, he had to replace the gap left by Sergio Ramos. He took over and put on the shirt he left behind, number 4. In a short time he became the defensive reference of the leader of Spanish football. As always, he brings good coverage, excellent passing and intelligence to disarm rival attacks. In addition, in his first classic against Barcelona he made his scoring debut. They already idolize him in the White House.
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
The tireless French half closes 2021 as the heart of the European champion. He was key throughout the Champions League for Tuchel’s team, especially against Atlético and Real Madrid in the decisive series heading to Porto. His memorable performance in the grand final, against City, was above the above. The figure of the match in which he won his 1st Champions was chosen. Also, of course, they chose him the best midfielder of the tournament. This season, yet another, propels Chelsea to dominate in England and Europe.
Kanté does not work alone. Together with Jorginho they make up the best half court in the world. The nationalized Italian was chosen as the best player in the Champions League for his accurate pass, his punctual location and his ability to dictate the time of the game. Both were also among the 5 most voted for the Ballon d’Or, but Jorginho was 3rd, behind Messi and Lewandowski. In addition, with Italy he won Euro 2020 and was in the ideal XI of the tournament. Although, now the ticket to the World Cup will be played in a very difficult playoff.
Kylian Mbappé (PSG)
The most explosive striker of all this year also stood out as a lethal scorer and could not be absent from this team. In 2021, for the 3rd time in a row, he was the top scorer in the French League with 27 goals. He finished the year with another record, 100 goals for a single French club (PSG) before his 23rd birthday. His great individual level, with that enormous ability at high speed, contrasts with the collective frustrations of his team. PSG lost the League and did not even reach the Champions League final. When there is little left until his contract ends, Messi’s arrival in June seeks to get the cups that would be necessary for him to stay. If this season they do not crown with the Orejona, everything seems to indicate that Mbappé will seek to triumph, collectively, elsewhere.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern)
The endless Polish striker, again, is in contention to be considered the best player of all. He completed an extraordinary 2020 winning the Club World Cup in January and winning the sextet. His numbers in 2021 also highlight him. Last season he was the Bundesliga scorer again (6th time in a row) with 41 goals, surpassing Gerd Müller’s 1972 record. With 48 goals in 40 matches in all competition, he secured his first European golden boot as a continental scorer. He closed 2021 with another record, scoring 43 goals in the German League in the calendar year. So much goal made that in the last Ballon d’Or election he was chosen as the best striker. However, he was 2nd in the general vote, not without controversy, behind Messi.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Man. United)
It may seem like it wasn’t a great year, but CR7 never stops producing. He started 2021 surpassing 600 goals. In May he won the Italian Cup and completed the showcase to be the first player in history to win all the major titles in England, Spain and Italy. He was the top scorer in Serie A but, seeing that Juve was losing prominence, he decided to look for new goals in old places. His return to United revolutionized the club and filled it with expectations again. From the re-debut he showed that his goals are present. It remains to be seen if the team can give him the trophies he seeks. With the National Team it was also a successful 2021 personally. He became the highest historical goalscorer in the Euro, and the highest scorer at the national and European level with the most international matches. But collectively, it did not achieve its objectives either. He has a tough repechage ahead of him to reach the World Cup in Qatar.
Lionel Messi (PSG)
Tears define this emotional 2021 for the Rosario star. From crying with joy for winning the Copa América, his first major title with Argentina, to crying for leaving Barcelona, the team of his entire life. In hindsight, the beginning of the year was a farewell tour. In January he was expelled for the first and only time in Barca. In March, PSG eliminated him in the 8th of the Champions League and complicated the club’s financial future. Likewise, Lio continued to score goals, the record of 20 or more for the 13th season in a row, and history, surpassed Xavi as the player who most wore the Barcelona shirt. His goal in the loss to Celta in May was his last, although no one knew it. After the well-known novel he came to PSG to recover the lost cups. For now, try to fit in, with more passes than you enjoy, in a machine full of talent but still in development. Contrary to what was his career, he finally achieved collective success with his Selection. With 40 goals in the year and as champion of America in Brazil, Messi closed 2021 receiving his 7th Ballon d’Or. Again, at the top of football.
GOALKEEPER: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan / PSG), the best goalkeeper in the Ballon d’Or and European champion.
DEFENDERS: Marquinhos (PSG), the wall of Parisian offensive power; Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus) is the Italian Euro champion; Joao Cancelo (Man. City) the winger with the greatest projection in 2021; Achraf Hakimi (Inter / PSG), the most powerful winger in the world.
MEDIA: Kevin De Bruyne (Man. City), the brain of Pep’s team; Joshua Kimmich (Bayern), Bayern’s structural pillar; Bruno Fernandes (Man. United), United’s crack runner-up in England.
FORWARDS: Luis Díaz (Porto), the revelation wing of the year; Neymar (PSG), always a phenomenon slowed down by injuries; Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), the eternal goal guarantee; and Romelu Lukaku (Inter / Chelsea), the scoring powerhouse of two champions.