The first of FIFA.com's two Have Your Say debates last week targeted who users thought was the best player at the recently concluded CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. Amid Egyptian euphoria surrounding the Pharaohs' 1-0 win over Cameroon in the final, scorer and man-of-the-match Mohamed Aboutrika of Al Ahly drew more than just passing attention from respondents.
While most users were conflicted about who to pick due to the sheer amount of individual class on display in Ghana, Aboutrika and team-mate Hosni Abd Rabo were singled out early and often. FIFA.com user Adelwz of Egypt remarked: "Aboutrika is the best player of the African Cup of Nations. He is a creative playmaker with excellent passing and shooting ability and sharp all-around skills."
Othata of Botswana, though impressed with Aboutrika's silky touch, preferred the grit and graft of Abd Rabo. "Undoubtedly Hosni was the trump card for the Egyptians. He is not a flashy type of player but rather a box-to-box man who goes about his job quietly...Everything went through him."
Striking sensation Amr Zaki and Mohamed Zidan of Hamburg also captured the hearts of many fans.
The Egyptians, predictably, drew much of the acclaim, but a host of outstanding performers from the other nations were mentioned as well. Recent Manchester United recruit Manucho of Angola, Mali's reigning African Footballer of the Year Frederic Kanoute, Chelsea's Ghanaian star Michael Essien and his club-mate and Didier Drogba of Côte d'Ivoire were just a few of the names bouncing back to FIFA.com from every corner of the globe.
"Sulley Muntari, hands-down," said animalfreak of Belgium, highlighting the minority vote in favour of the hosts' Portsmouth ace. Gilberto1 of England saw the influence of Guinea's Pascal Feindouno as critical for the upstart West Africans. "He was pivotal in securing Guinea's qualification and his team collapsed when he was suspended. He has stature, skill and an amazing presence on the pitch."
The Ghana 2008 debate received more than 300 responses from all over the world and was a lively conversation about one of football's true hotbeds.
The invisible hand
The week's second topic was another fascinating one that sparked some thoughtful responses dissecting the nature of success in football. The question was: Which players don't get their due?
Whether midfield grafters, supporting strikers or hard-nosed centre-backs, FIFA.com wanted to know which players you think fail to get the credit they deserve on the basis of their on-field contributions. While the Cristiano Ronaldos and Lionel Messis of the world tend to hog all the attention, this debate focussed an eye on those who rarely get the plaudits.
The proverbial unsung heroes poured in from all over, from United Arab Emirates' creative engine Ismail Matar to Chelsea all-rounder Essien to AC Milan duo Andrea Pirlo and Kakha Kaladze.
Perhaps predictably, a number of Egypt's home-based Pharaohs popped up. "The light is always focussed on Europe and the other parts of the world get ignored, so I would like to say Mohamed Aboutrika is vastly underrated," wrote zoooooo of Egypt. Canada's Karuma went Egyptian as well: "There is only one name: Mohamed Zidan!"
"Xavi, and [Andres] Iniesta are players in Barcelona that don't get enough credit for the great things they do," said navil547490. "Everyone keeps talking about the 'fantastic four', but Xavi was the hero for Barça for the last two weekends. Iniesta is just a big help in the midfield and full of class."
A number of Arsenal players were cited, including Emanuel Adebayor and Alexander Hleb. "I think that Hleb never gets any recognition despite being one of Arsenal's best. He controls the ball very well, beats defenders and creates great plays with sublime passes," said ArsnlInvncbl of the USA.
Young striker Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid, Juninho Pernambucano of Lyon, Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes and even old Nigerian favourite Augustine 'Jay-Jay' Okocha figured in the debate as FIFA.com's global users gave the players in need a well-needed and richly-deserved dose of acclaim.
FIFA.com would like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed to making these debates so intriguing. Now it is time to turn your attention to another subject: Who will win the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League?