Featuring XI players who have been in pre-season action for Premier League clubs who you might be forgiven for forgetting. Like N'Zogbia, Boyata, Obertan and...
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The PFA Premier League team of the season was announced this weekend, with some inclusions more surprising than others. Luis Suarez, who won the player of the year award, and Eden Hazard, who picked up the young player's gong, were joined by two teammates apiece, while two from City, two from Southampton and one from Everton completed the XI.
It got us thinking how many of those would make the European team of the season over the top five leagues? The answer? Just two. The following is the best XI from the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 combined, based on ratings from WhoScored.com.
Goalkeeper - Marc-Andre ter Stegen (7.20)
It's little surprise that Barcelona have lined up young German shot stopper Ter Stegen as a replacement for the outward bound Victor Valdes. The Gladbach keeper has had another excellent campaign, picking up nine clean sheets thus far, having made the most high claims (79) and third most saves (128) in the Bundesliga.
Full-backs - Dani Alves (7.45) & Ricardo Rodriguez (7.96)
Barcelona's Brazilian right back-cum-right forward Dani Alves has had a typically impressive campaign. The 30-year old has made 3.1 tackles per game this season, which is bettered by only one teammate, whilst also providing the attacking threat that he is renowned for. The former Sevilla man has averaged 1.2 shots, 1.4 key passes and 1.3 dribbles per game in La Liga.
Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez has been one of the real emerging talents of the current campaign. At just 21 he has excelled at left-back, attracting widespread interest across Europe, with a number of big clubs set to be watching the young Swiss at the World this summer. The forward-thinking defender has scored five goals and picked up eight assists this season, averaging 2.5 dribbles per game without shirking his defensive responsibilities (2.9 tackles per game).
Central defenders - Loic Perrin (7.73) & Mehdi Benatia (7.63)
While Saint Etienne captain Loic Perrin may have seen his junior teammate Kurt Zouma earn a big-money move to Chelsea this season it's the 28-year old that has truly impressed for les Verts. The Frenchman has won 74% of his 188 aerial duels in the league thus far (with 4.5 per game a league high), as well as leading Ligue 1 for clearances per match (11) and netting four times at the business end.
Joining Perrin is Moroccan Mehdi Benatia, whose move from Udinese to Roma was one of the signings of the season on the latter's part. He too has proven to be a real goal threat, registering on the scoresheet five times in Serie A, whilst averaging a team high of 2.8 interceptions per game at the opposite end and finding a teammate with 88.6% of his passes.
Central midfielders - Steven Gerrard (7.70) & Paul Pogba (7.64)
He may have made a costly slip in the Premier League title race this weekend but few can doubt the impact that Steven Gerrard continues to have on Liverpool. The Reds have been exceptional this season and their captain has 13 goals and 10 assists to his name from a deep position, averaging 2.8 tackles per game to break up play in front of his back four.
It's truly a case of the one that got away for struggling United, with Paul Pogba pulling up trees during his time in Turin with Juventus. At just 21 the all-action midfielder is likely to play an important role for France at the upcoming World Cup. The youngster has scored seven goals and picked up six assists this season, averaging two shots, two dribbles, 1.3 key passes and 2.4 tackles per game in one of the strongest midfields in European football.
Wingers - Gareth Bale (7.75) & Cristiano Ronaldo (8.29)
For those that felt that Gareth Bale would struggle under the weight of his world-record price tag at Real Madrid, the doubts or fears have been allayed. The Welshman has had a few niggling injuries along the way but they have not prevented him from contributing to 26 league goals in 25 appearances. His 12 assists are perhaps most impressive, gelling with his new teammates almost instantaneously, with only three players in Europe having managed more.
Having won last year's Ballon d'Or it's hardly surprising that Cristiano Ronaldo makes the best XI, despite stiff competition from a plethora of left sided stars (Ribery, Reus and Hazard to name three). The Portuguese pips them all having scored 30 goals in La Liga this season, as well as registering eight assists, and while Bale has settled in superbly at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo still rules the roost.
Forwards - Lionel Messi (8.50) & Luis Suarez (8.49)
With 27 goals and 10 assists in 28 La Liga appearances, Lionel Messi continues to amaze. With an average of 4.5 dribbles and 2.5 key passes per game, the Argentine has improved from the previous season (up from 1.4 and 3.8 respectively) and while his goal tally has dropped, he's creating more chances for teammates in the current campaign.
Completing our XI is Luis Suarez, whose performances this season have undoubtedly been up there with Messi, Ronaldo and co. The Uruguayan has contributed to more goals (42) than any other player in Europe's top five leagues (30 goals, 12 assists), averaging 5.5 shots, 2.7 key passes and 2.8 dribbles per game as well as 1.1 tackles per game, with his tireless play helping Liverpool's somewhat surprising title bid.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.
Is Steven Gerrard a major religious figure? He's been good, but he's not been *that* good.- slowgraffiti