The fantasista10 Top 50: 2013 – Pt 2

playmaker Ozil number 10

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]elcome to Part 2 of the fantasista10 Top 50 for the 2012/13 season, paying homage to the playmakers we feel have been at the top of their game over the last 12 months from all corners of the globe.

Part 1 featured established giants of the number 10 world from Argentina and Brazil, with a few members from the next exciting generation of playmaking stars mixed-in, making up an eclectic mix of countries ranging from Armenia to Japan.

Part 2 features an equally talented 10 (remember, this is not a ranking list – see selection process) and despite the difficulties in whittling down the list, we believe the players included fully justify their place – do you? Let us know in the comments section below, or via our Twitter @fantasistaTEN.

Enjoy, and keep a lookout for Part 3 coming soon.

Santiago Cazorla
Spain & Arsenal
Games: 38 Goals: 12 Assists: 11


Following in the equally dazzling footsteps of David Silva and Juan Mata in making the journey from La Liga to the all-singing and dancing Premier League, perhaps the biggest surprise about Cazorla’s early performances at Arsenal was his portrayal as a relative unknown by the mainstream British media, who belatedly confirmed what most already knew: Cazorla was an exceptionally talented attacking midfielder.

Adapting instantly to the faster pace of the English domestic scene, his swiftness, two-footedness and superb technique – attributes he’d been demonstrating in Spain for over 5 years with Villarreal and Malaga – left little doubt that the Gunners had captured a real gem.

Achieving a fantasista10 ‘perfect 10’ season (scoring over 10 goals and creating over 10 assists), Santi excelled as part of Arsenal’s fluid attack which helped him attain his most productive season to date.

All hail Spain’s best-known, best-kept secret!

Christian Eriksen
Denmark & Ajax
Games: 33 Goals: 10 Assists: 17

Ajax Denmark Playmaker

Another playmaker to achieve a fantasista10 ‘perfect 10’ season, the Dane is one of the hottest transfer properties on the market this summer, particularly as he enters the final year of his contract at Ajax, having been strongly linked with the likes of Liverpool, AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund (before they opted to sign Henrikh Mkhitaryan).

Forever likened to another classy playmaking Dane, Michael Laudrup, Eriksen has become accustomed to dealing with the hype surrounding his talents from an early age, and now looks set to make the step up to one of Europe’s tougher leagues.

Giovani dos Santos
Mexico & Mallorca
Games: 28 Goals: 5 Assists: 7

Mexico Mallorca playmaker

The Mexican’s talents and fine form were not enough, in the end, to keep Mallorca afloat, but that’s no slight on the player who was once unfairly labelled as a ‘poor man’s Ronaldinho’.

His form over the past year has helped banish the nightmare seasons endured after his forgettable move to Tottenham Hotspur, and the subsequent loan deals.

Now with his seventh club in just five years, Gio will be hoping to make a bigger splash as he begins a new journey with the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal.

“He may sound an odd choice given Mallorca were relegated, however he’s been head and shoulders above his team mates. Time and time again he came up with something brilliant to give them a half-chance, whether from a free-kick or providing an out-ball and creative presence, and I was certain he’d get a move to another top flight club. This has been his most consistent season, and he has to be commended for that given he was largely written off as yet another promising youngster who failed to deliver, not so long ago.”Lee Roden (Spanish Football Writer)

Josip Ilicic
Slovenia & Palermo
Games: 31 Goals: 10 Assists: 2


Despite succumbing to relegation with Palermo, the Slovenian trequartista gave a more than passable impression of a footballing Superman when trying to fight off his team’s eventual slide into Serie B during the latter part of the season.

Yet this form highlighted his inconsistencies on a football pitch perfectly; the end of season near-heroics which garnered positive headlines in the likes of Gazzetta dello Sport, had been preceded by his own fans booing his name as team-sheets were read out, prior to kick-off – the support believing he wasn’t pulling his weight.

However, finishing the campaign with double-figures enhanced his reputation and it’s doubtless he’ll remain in top-flight football – with Fiorentina, current favourites.

Quite unorthodox-looking for a playmaker in a trequartista role, the Gazzetta dello Sport eloquently described him as a “ballerina with a boxer’s physique.”

Brazil & São Paulo
Games (2012): 35 Goals: 5 Assists: 9 / Copa Libertadores (2013): Games: 9 Goals: 4 Assists: 3

Brazil Playmaker

The additional pressure of another playmaker arriving at the club, in the form of Ganso, only served to inspire São Paulo’s current number 10, who proved consistency and versatility in adapting his role.

Indeed, Jádson has regularly outshone his younger rival over the last 12 months, and it is he who looks the more likely to be included in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup squad – ahead of the former Santos prodigy.

“While not the most magical of playmakers, Jádson is a study in consistency. His patient passing helped the Tricolor win the 2012 Copa Sul-Americana (South America’s Europa League equivalent), and his recent form earned him a call-up to Brazil’s squad for the Confederations Cup. São Paulo’s purchase of Paulo Henrique Ganso threatened to sideline the former Shakhtar Donetsk man, but instead he has proved his flexibility, playing on the right of the attack when required.”Jack Lang (Brazilian football correspondent)

Toni Kroos
Germany & Bayern Munich
Games: 24 Goals: 6 Assists: 8

Germany playmaker

Kroos was enjoying a incredibly impressive season before injury cruelly robbed him of a chance to participate in Bayern’s trophy-laden end to the campaign.

Dynamic, versatile, and efficient in his possession and recycling of the ball, Kroos typifies a modern-day playmaker who excels at both pass selection and execution. With him, nothing is ever done just for effect – it is done for effectiveness.

Which is why he should shine even brighter this year under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola; a proprietor of one-two touch, team-based football. And despite increased competition in the creative midfield areas (in the form of Thiago Alcântara and Mario Götze), we expect the Kroos trajectory to continue on its ascending course.

“Promised the No. 10 shirt just as he turned 17 by Bayern Munich years back. That’s how much promise and potential Kroos showed, and in the last two seasons he has fully lived up to them. This season included. He picked up a season ending injury with a couple of months remaining but before that Kroos was one of Bayern and the league’s standout players. His combination play and retention abilities are up there with the best in the world. His defense splitting passes and ability to read and anticipate the game ahead of others is almost second to none in German football. Many predict his future to be deeper in midfield but for now Kroos directs a team’s attack like a classic No. 10.”Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)

Mesut Özil
Germany & Real Madrid
31 Goals: 9 Assists: 13

Real Madrid number 10

An assist machine, Özil yet again created more goals than any other Real Madrid player; finishing second overall in La Liga (behind Andres Iniesta), following up his impressive haul of 17 from the season prior.

But whilst he only trailed the Barcelona magician by 3 in this particular stat, he averaged just under that figure in key passes per game – joint-first in the league – and scored 3 times as many goals.

Not only that, the German schemer is industrious and hard-working for his team, without having any particular stand-out defensive qualities, and can regularly be seen intercepting and tackling to win possession back.

One looks forward to seeing how he will continue to meld in with the many fellow German creative forces – such as Reus, Kroos and Götze – in midfield, at international level.

Andrea Pirlo
Italy & Juventus
Games: 32 Goals: 5 Assists: 7

Italy playmaker

The epitome of playmaking Italian cool, watching Pirlo dictate play from his central role harks back to a more graceful time when athletes were overshadowed by the artists on a football field (although the Chuck Norris beard and those free-kicks also help!)

Securing a consecutive Scudetto win with Juventus this season, Pirlo remains the creative hub for both club and country, starring in this summer’s Confederations Cup when even Brazilian fans cheered his every touch, appreciating a true number 10 at heart – which he is, despite his mid-career renaissance as a regista.

This coming season threatens to be his last, with a glorious swansong in Brazil 2014 beckoning – catch him while you can!

Juan Roman Riquelme
Argentina & Boca Juniors
Copa Libertadores (2012): Games: 13 Goals: 3 Assists: 4 / Copa Libertadores (2013): Games: 7 Goals: 2 Assists: 1

Argentina number 10

The wonderfully enigmatic Riquelme is still bewitching and bewildering both opponents and his beloved Boca Juniors, coming out of retirement to return for an incredible fourth stint at the club.

Part of the club’s run to the 2012 Copa Libertadores final (his fourth with Boca) where they were defeated (his first loss in the final) by Corinthians of Brazil, Boca’s legendary number 10 rejoined during this season’s cup run and acted out ultimate revenge in brutal fashion, scoring an absolute thunderbolt to knock the reigning Champions out of the competition.

Alas, the joy was short-lived as Boca were defeated in the next round, ending hopes of a semi-final glamour tie where Riquleme would have starred opposite Ronaldinho (and new Libertadores champions, Atlético Mineiro) in what would have been a dream ‘battle of the number 10s’.

Mathieu Valbuena
France & Marseille
Games: 37 Goals: 3 Assists: 12

Marseille playmaker

The tenacious attacker enjoyed yet another creative season with Marseille, and in doing so, has become an established regular at international level, making his most appearances for Les Bleus since making his debut back in 2010.

Domestically, he produced, on average, over 3 key passes per match – far more than any other player in Ligue 1 – whilst finishing second overall in the assists table.

Never the most prolific (he was primarily employed as a winger earlier in his career), goals now seem to be the only thing missing from Valbuena’s explosive repertoire.

“This has been an outstanding season for the Frenchman, not only did he manage a season high 12 assists in Ligue 1 but he made himself one of the first names on Dider Deschamps Les Bleus teamsheet. Combining his small and powerful frame with a low centre of gravity, Valbuena is excellent on the ball and one of the most dynamic players in the league.”Andrew Gibney (France Football Weekly)

Do you feel we’ve got it right? Who’s missing? If you think we are wrong, tell us why, so we can get some debates going! Your comments are truly welcome – we invite your thoughts and opinions so please be sure to add comments, or tweet us @fantasistaTEN.


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