After another domination from La Liga in the conclusion of the team of the year, we look at one element that surprised us most, the defense. A good case could be made for many others that weren’t included, which is exactly what we are going to provide.
He was an example of all things good about Juventus last season. He was sadly missed as a tensely anticipated Champions league final approached without him on the team sheet. With all due respect to Barzagli, the team was not the same without the rock at the back. Chiellini glorified himself in success helping the old lady win the Serie A and Coppa Italia whilst also guiding them to the Champion’s league final. His inspiring performance in the semi final match against Real Madrid showed his determination and guile to battle for his team. With his head bandaged courtesy of a clash with Gareth Bale he soldiered on liberating the Bernabueu. The mighty Italian made more interception, clearances and blocks per game than Sergio Ramos did in the Champions League as well as making fewer defensive errors than the Spanish international. His performances in Europe’s highest level of football is why he deserved a place in that team. (As well as the fact he deserves some compensation for getting the brunt of Suarez’s fangs).
Very similar to Giorgio Chiellini, Diego Godin provided a valiant year of football and was pivotal to the defensive record set by Diego Simeone’s side. It was a farce that he wasn’t included in last year’s team of the season after scoring one of the most important goals in the clubs history. He’s built on his excellent performances last season and out of the defenders discussed made the most interceptions and won the most duels in league football. He led by example as a new backline emerged without Coutouis and Felipe Luis who were pivotal to the title success of last season. Athletico conceded just eight more than Barcelona which is impressive when you consider the amount of time the front three relieve for Barcelona.
Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique
I feel as though Barcelona haven’t been fairly reflected for their achievements within the defensive area of the team of the season. They won the triple last season and integral to their success was their defensive performance. Conceding just 21 goals in the league, the second least across the top five European Leagues. The pairing of Gerard Pique and Mascherano was a big part of this. Mascherano made the most tackles out of anyone on this list and to prove he’s made the transition from midfield to defense successfully he didn’t make one defensive error that led to a goal unlike his teammate Gerard Pique with two.
He’s a very well rounded versatile player that shone this year. Despite winning the Austrian player of the year award for the fifth time in a row, we believe he deserved more. He was an important part in a defense that leaked just eighteen goals in the league and were crowned league champions ahead of nearest rivals Wolfsburg. The opinion to put Alaba in front of Marcelo was an opinion shared by many. 68% of users who voted on the UEFA website believed Alaba should have been included (this was the second highest percentage behind Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi).