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3 Stars Overlooked in the FIFPro World XI

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Mendy for Donnarumma

Despite having an excellent year, Gianluigi Donnarumma taking the goalkeeping spot in the World XI is a bit contentious, especially considering Edouard Mendy was named FIFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year. Much like countryman Leonardo Bonucci, Donnarumma’s inclusion is more than likely down to his impressive Euro’s campaign, with the Italian taking home a winner's medal whilst being named Player of the Tournament. In terms of club football, while Donnarumma enjoyed a fine year with AC Milan, Mendy arguably had a better season with Chelsea, as the Blues lifted the Champions League and secured a top four finish.

Signed under Frank Lampard, Mendy was an unknown quantity coming into 2021/22, however, he quickly showed why he had been chosen as fellow goalkeeper Kepa’s replacement, regularly making saves that seemed destined to find the net. Mendy has continued his fine through all of 2021 as an integral part of a formidable Chelsea backline having kept 29 clean sheets throughout the year.

Following the cancellation of AFCON, originally scheduled for the summer of 2021, Mendy was robbed of the chance to represent Senegal at Africa’s Euros equivalent. With Senegal amongst the favourites for the tournament, this may have given Mendy the chance for the international glory that has likely seen Donnarumma edge him for a spot in this XI with the Senegalese shot-stopper our choice, and FIFA’s, for the best keeper of 2021.

Salah for Ronaldo or Haaland

Undoubtedly the most surprising exclusion, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah may well have been in disbelief not to be named in the FIFPro World XI. Salah had a truly remarkable 2021, scoring 24 league goals and assisting a further 11 times and although starting the year slowly, this season the Egyptian has been unplayable, contributing to 25 goals in just 20 league appearances. Not only has Salah produced excellent numbers, but the quality of his goals are sublime, with potentially future Puskas Award-nominated goals against Watford and Manchester City in back-to-back fixtures in October.

Looking at the inclusion of Erling Haaland and Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s hard to see how either forward has made the team at Salah’s expense, with the Egyptian shortlisted alongside PSG’s Lionel Messi, and eventual winner Robert Lewandowski for the best player in the world. This alone seemed to make his inclusion a certainty leaving many left scratching their heads as to how Liverpool’s star man has missed out in this XI.

Cancelo for De Bruyne

Rather than using the industry standard 4-3-3, FIFA opted for a 3-3-4 formation which, for obvious reasons, has likely never seen the light of day on a football pitch. This more than anything else may be why Cancelo has missed out on a spot in this team, as the Portuguese star is well equipped to play full-back on either flank.

Although he doesn’t put up astronomical numbers, Cancelo is integral in progressing the ball up the pitch centrally and is an excellent crosser of the ball when coming from wide.

Alongside Ruben Dias, who was named in the XI, Cancelo was a mainstay in a league and cup winning defence, not to mention helping City to their first-ever Champions League final, so his exclusion could also have been down to a choice of one or the other when it comes to City defenders.

Nevertheless, Cancelo received consistent praise last year, and in our opinion, deserves to be in the team in place of David Alaba as although the Austrian had a good year, we feel the City man had a bigger impact on his side’s successes than Alaba, or just get rid of Kevin De Bruyne, who was not even in City's top three best players last campaign.

Rudiger for Alaba

Another questionable omission from the defence is Antonio Rudiger, who was a key part of Thomas Tuchel’s instant success with Chelsea and their Champions League triumph. Rudiger has been ever-present in the Chelsea side since Tuchel’s appointment, and much like Cancelo, is skilled at transitioning the ball from defence to attack, often making surging runs forward with his pace and power, contributing heavily at both ends of the pitch.

Alongside Thiago Silva, the German was a leader throughout Chelsea’s surprise Champions League victory, with the Blues conceding just two goals in the knockout stages of the competition as Rudiger started every game. The Germans fine form continued at the start of this season as until recently, the London club were in a three-horse race with Liverpool and City for the title with the Blue’s astute defence largely to be attributed to that.

Rudiger looks set to depart Stamford Bridge come the end of the season and will undoubtedly be a big miss for Chelsea, however, we feel with his contributions in London over the past year, he should be left with a place in the FIFPro World XI to his name.