While names such as Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez headline the impending World Cup, there are numerous world class players who will be sitting at home, watching the action from the comfort of their living rooms. Naturally, a lot of media focus was put on the fact that either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic wouldn’t make it to Brazil with Portugal meeting Sweden in the final play-off game. With some wider thought however, here is my full XI of players who won’t have the chance to feature this summer.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
Highly experienced Chelsea stopper Petr Cech has been one of the very few mainstays in the Chelsea side in the Abramovic era, which is testament to not only his world class ability, but his consistency too. As well as winning many club medals, Cech also holds numerous goalkeeping records such as fewest games to reach 100 Premier League Clean Sheets (180), and the Chelsea club record of 220 clean sheets in all competitions. While it looks like Cech could begin to be preceded next season by returning loanee Thibaut Courtois, the Czech will no doubt remain a key figure on and off the pitch at his spiritual home.
Right Back: Seamus Coleman
Even with all of the attacking talent on show, one of the standout players in the Premier League last season was Everton’s Seamus Coleman. His breakthrough season under new manager Roberto Martinez saw the Irishman score 7 goals and have 2 assists in all competitions from his relatively free Right Back role. A clear strength of Coleman’s game is his endless stamina, allowing him to charge up and down the right side of the pitch all game. Key to Everton’s success this season, he will no doubt hope to test himself in the Champions League sooner rather than later.
Centre Back: Mehdi Benatia
Experienced Centre Back Mehdi Benatia has enjoyed a fantastic first season at the Stadio Olimpico with Roma. The France-born Moroccan international now looks to have been a bargain at £12million, having almost doubled in value in less than a year. While Benatia was a major factor in Roma’s record of 2 goals conceded in the first 12 Serie A fixtures, incredibly he also went into the New Year as Roma’s joint top scorer. The Defender is one of the most sought after player this summer, after reported interest from Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG and Barcelona. It is unfortunate that a constantly improving player coming into the peak of his career will not feature at the World Cup. Maybe he will rue his decision to represent Morocco instead of France, even if it just for this summer.
Centre Back: Branislav Ivanovic
Branislav Ivanovic, much like Petr Cech, has become a Chelsea fan favourite in his period with the London club. His power and defensive quality puts him among the Premier League defenders you’d rather not face up against in a 1v1 situation. Ivanovic was instrumental to his club in their Champions League campaign that saw them lift the prestigious trophy in 2012, and also scored a late winner the following year in the Europa League Final to pip Benfica, and secure back to back European titles. He is now Serbia’s 6th most capped player, and hopes to be back on the major international tournament scene with Serbia in the European Championships in 2016.
Left Back: David Alaba
Despite only being 21 years of age, David Alaba has already made 86 appearances for his club side Bayern Munich, and is seen as one of the top Left Backs in European football. Previous experiences playing in centre midfield and on the left of midfield mean he brings composure from the left back position, and regularly acts as an extra attacker in the superb Bavarian unit. The Austrian is his country’s youngest ever player internationally, and has gone on to make 31 caps since then. Despite impressively ending Austria’s World Cup Qualifying campaign as top scorer, he could not quite guide his side to the World Cup Finals. While it is little conciliation, he will surely have plenty more opportunities to play in a World Cup before his career ends.
Right Wing: Gareth Bale
A difficult start to his La Liga season left many Real Madrid fans questioning the world record price tag that Florentino Perez splashed on the welsh wizard. However, it is testament to his character and self belief that Gareth Bale went on to have the superb season he did. After becoming the first La Liga player to do the ‘Double Double’ (reach 10 goals and 10 assists for the season), Bale went on to score 22 goals in all competitions as well as getting 19 assists in the process. Maybe in the 2018 World Cup will we see Wales and Gareth Bale step out on the biggest stage in world sport.
Centre Midfield: Christian Eriksen
In a disappointing season for Spurs, Christian Eriksen, in his first season in English football, stood out as one of the few positives to take into next season. With his Ajax contract running down, £11million was enough to bring him to White Hart Lane, after a battle with Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund for his signature. The versatile attacking midfielder scored 7 and created 8 Premier League goals in only 25 appearances, keeping Spurs in the Top 4 hunt for much longer than their team performances may have deserved. He has made 44 International appearances for Denmark already, and will remain as a key player for his country going forward.
Centre Midfield: Aaron Ramsey
It looked at one point that Aaron Ramsey would be on his way out of Arsenal, but this season has seen a massive resurgence in the Welshman’s career. A highly impressive start to the season began by winning four consecutive Arsenal Player of the Month awards between August and November before a thigh strain ruled him out for a total of three months around the critical Christmas and New Year period. Ramsey returned in April, and picked up exactly where he left off – helping his side secure 4th place from Everton. He eventually finished the season with 16 Goals and 10 assists, and in turn won the Arsenal player of the year award at the end of the season with 58% of the votes.
Left Wing: Arda Turan
Turkey’s classy winger Arda Turan was a key part of Simeone’s workmanlike side who brought home the La Liga title in stunning fashion this season – so much so that he has been linked with countless clubs around Europe since the club season officially ended. In 9 Champions League games, Turan scored 4 goals and got an assist too, bringing Atletico to the brink of a famous double. What could have been the peak of Turan’s career in the Champions League Final otherwise finished in heartbreak however, after missing the final because of a pelvis problem, and the team losing 4-1 to Real Madrid after Extra Time. Turkey disappointed in World Cup Qualifying, finishing 4th in the six team group that was topped by Netherlands.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan missed out on the chance that may well have been his last World Cup as a player, after falling to a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal in the final playoff game. The big Swede scored 8 goals in Qualifying, and is showing no signs of deterioration despite being a few months off 33. Ibrahimovic is never shy about speaking his mind, and was recently quoted as saying “The World Cup will not be worth watching without Zlatan.” We’re not exactly sure about that Zlatan, but we wouldn’t say it to your face!
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
What a gem Borussia Dortmund found in Robert Lewandowski. £4million was all they paid Lech Poznan back in 2010, and got a return of 103 goals in only 4 seasons. Lewandowski propelled Dortmund to the brink of their first Champions League title since 1997, only to be shot down by a late Arjen Robben goal in the final. Despite being a fan favourite at Dortmund, Lewandowski signed a pre contractual agreement with Bayern Munich, and will join Pep Guardiola and his new teammates in July. Even with a finisher like Lewandowski in their side, Poland disappointed in World Cup Qualifying, finishing 4th in the six teams group that was eventually topped by England.