On 12 September, and in keeping with tradition, FIFA Ballon d’Or holder Lionel Messi cast the first vote in the process that will decide which players will line up in the 2013 FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
Since then FIFPro, the global professional footballers’ union, has been busy collecting the votes of Messi’s fellow professionals around the world, having sent out nearly 50,000 ballot papers in 68 countries. From Denmark to Zimbabwe and from Chile to Russia, the pros all have the chance to vote.
Among the voters is Cristiano Ronaldo, a fixture in the side for the last six years. “Obviously I’ll be voting again this year for the World XI,” said the Real Madrid ace. “For your colleagues to think you’re the best or that you deserve a place in the best team in the world for all the work you’ve done is the greatest honour we can have as players. Nobody’s opinion counts more than that of the players.”
Yet even a footballer of Ronaldo’s class has had problems in selecting his top 11. As well as consulting with his team-mates, he even sneaked a look at Iker Casillas’ card.
And the Portuguese star has not been alone in finding it hard to pick a team. After much head-scratching, Danish midfielder Lasse Schone was one of the last members of the Ajax dressing room to fill his card in. “The thing is, I never watch what defenders do,” he joked. “The hardest thing for me, though, is to choose the midfielders.”
Jokes and good humour have been the order of the day since voting began, though when it comes to actually naming their teams, the players take things very seriously. After all, no one knows better than they just how difficult it is to play at the top level. And with that in mind, they try to be as fair as possible in selecting the best players in each position.
Receiving more name checks than most are Germany’s leading players, including a goalkeeper who has enjoyed quite a year. “I like the Borussia Dortmund keeper but I don’t know how to spell his name,” admitted Gonzalo Villagra, who plays for Chilean club Union Espanola, with a laugh.
The custodian in question is Roman Weidenfeller, who got himself noticed during Dortmund’s run to the UEFA Champions League final. Reflecting on his vote, the self-effacing German shotstopper said: “We have a lot of options but nobody knows who’s going to be in the World XI.”
And nobody will know until the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala takes place in Zurich on Monday 13 January 2014.
Between now and then the names of the finalists in each category will be revealed. On 2 December the five goalkeeping candidates will be announced, followed two days later by the 20 defenders that will vie for one of the four places on offer to them. On 6 December the 15 players up for the three midfield slots in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI will be revealed, to be followed three days later by 15 forwards, who are also opting for three places in the all-star line-up.
The players of Roma, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid are just some of the many who have already made their minds up, and the excitement is mounting as the voting deadline nears.
So who would you vote for? Members of The Club at FIFA.com will have the chance to answer that question when the FIFA/FIFPro World XI Predictor game, which went down very well with users last year, opens for business on 2 December.
There are some great prizes on offer, among them a shirt signed by all 11 of the players who will make up the 2013 star team. Predict the line-up voted for by the pros of world football, and you might just get your hands on it.