[dropcap]W[/dropcap]elcome to Part 3 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.
Whilst Part 1 and Part 2 featured an eclectic mix of players from all corners of the globe – including those power-houses with a tradition for producing talented number 10s – a few ‘golden oldies’ also made the grade.
Part 3 showcases a mixture of relative new stars on the block, with those who are enjoying perhaps the best periods of their careers.
Remember, this is not a ranking list (see selection process), but 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 4 coming soon.
Brazil & Liverpool
Games: 13 Goals: 3 Assists: 5
If this feature would have been created prior to January 2013, in all likelihood, the then Inter Milan playmaker wouldn’t have made the cut, such was his limited impact in Serie A and the disappointment surrounding a player hailed as ‘the future’ of the Nerazzurri.
However since swapping the unstable environment of the San Siro for Anfield during last winter’s transfer window, the young Brazilian has set the Premier League alight; settling instantly, Liverpool’s new tormentor-in-chief has created dozens of opportunities and could (perhaps, should) have scored double the amount of goals.
Devastating. Inch-perfect. Perfectly-weighted: just some of the descriptions attributed to the sublime through-balls Coutinho has produced during his short time in England.
Question marks still remain over whether he can produce the goods against the league’s tougher opponents, however if Coutinho applies this and continues his outstanding form for the Reds on a consistent basis, he’ll be a real candidate for Brazil’s number 10 shirt come next summer’s World Cup.
Brazil & Corinthians
Games (2012): 24 Goals: 5 Assists: 2 / Copa Libertadores (2013): Games: 8 Goals: 1 Assists: 1
Is it a surprise that a man given a moniker in homage to Zinedine Zidane finds a place in the Top 50?
ZiDanilo, as fans of former club, São Paulo, christened him, embraced his role as Corinthians’ number 10 over the last 12 months, culminating in adding the Club World Cup – at the expense of Chelsea – to the historic Copa Libertadores success last summer.
“Somewhat of an unsung hero for much of his career, Danilo seems to have found his calling in Tite’s Corinthians side. The departure of Alex midway through 2012 confirmed Danilo’s place as his team’s first-choice creator, and he rewarded that faith with a string of fine performances, not least in Corinthians’ Club World Cup success. Two-footed and cunning, he makes up for a lack of pace with an impressive ability to drift into dangerous areas, scoring goals and making a nuisance of himself.” – Jack Lang (Brazilian football correspondent)
Russia & CSKA Moscow
Games: 24 Goals: 7 Assists: 9
It was the beginning of last summer that the prodigious youngster from Beslan announced himself to a wider audience during Russia’s initially impressive opening to Euro 2012.
Three goals during that tournament alerted some of Europe’s glamour clubs, however despite being heavily linked with a Premier League switch, Dzagoev remains with CSKA.
Reasons for this are still up for debate, suffice to say his temperament, which has been called into question during the ensuing months, may have been a contributing factor.
The words ‘temperamental’ and ‘playmaker’ conjure thoughts of some of the greats to have worn the sacred number 10 shirt over the years and whilst he still has a lot to prove and achieve to get anywhere near that status, there’s no doubting the raw tools he possesses – passing range and selection, set-pieces, dribbling and close control at high-speed – could turn promising, into greatness.
France & Rennes
Games: 37 Goals: 11 Assists: 6
The French playmaker has always created goals. But last season he added scoring to his impressive repertoire, hitting double figures for the first time in his career.
Despite only making his top-flight debut at the age of 26, the now 31 year old has impressed enough at the clubs he’s graced to be closely considered for the French national team, with many feeling he deserves a chance to win his first cap.
“Feret is the sort of player that fans of Ligue 1 adore. He will never ever leave France but anyone that has seen him play will only have praise for this wonderful playmaker. Beautiful to watch when on the ball, he glides past players with ease, changes direction like a delicate breeze drifting through the Stade de la Route de Lorient. This season has been one of his most effective, finding the net 11 times and creating 6 in the process. Last season’s goal at home against Evian remains a top highlight.” – Andrew Gibney (France Football Weekly)
Slovakia & Napoli
Games: 38 Goals: 11 Assists: 14
Despite losing star forwards Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi during consecutive summers, the creative element of Napoli’s one-time ‘holy-trinity’ remains – and their fantasista has no plans to leave anytime soon, recently telling reporters that he ‘wants to become Napoli’s Totti.’
The Roma legend’s immense goalscoring record may be out of reach, but having just turned 26, if he continues to score and create at his current rate, there’s no reason why Hamsik can’t attain the same type of adulation from the Partenopei faithful come the end of his career as Totti enjoys in Italy’s capital.
Slovakia’s captain produced yet another outstanding season, helping Napoli finish runners-up in Serie A and achieving a fantasista10 ‘perfect 10’ for goals and assists. Now ready to be the focal point with which Rafael Benitez will build his new team around, Hamsik will be looking to go one better this season.
Spain & Barcelona
Games: 30 Goals: 2 Assists: 15
The Spanish genius which all other Spanish geniuses bow down to, Iniesta was devastatingly excellent for Barcelona during the season, yet somehow, there was an apparent stealthy feel to it all.
Perhaps it was a lack of a dramatic last-minute winner in a high-profile match, or the way in which Barcelona ever so nonchalantly wrapped up La Liga (effectively, by Christmas), however despite the lack of goals, Iniesta still finished as the campaign’s highest assister, as well as being voted the World’s 3rd best player – behind the usual suspects.
Even when held in comparison to those two, there’s still something magical in the way Iniesta controls, dribbles, escapes and evades the number of opponents sent out to stop his fluid and natural grace on a football field.
“There was a notable dip in his performances towards the end of the season, but then, that was the case across the team. I think for the majority of the season he was outstanding, and has probably outshone Xavi significantly, the first time I can remember him doing so, so clearly. One thing that’s been particularly evident about his game last season, and something that is often overlooked, is how frequently he won the ball back cleanly then created a goal-scoring opportunity as a result. In the first half of the season he also played better as a ‘falso extremo’ (sort of wide man) than he ever has for Barça really. Probably their best player in the league, behind Messi.” – Lee Roden (Spanish Football Writer)
Argentina & River Plate
Games: 26 Goals: 8 Assists: 2
Whilst la joya in River Plate’s crown is yet to demonstrate consistently that he is worthy of such a grandeur moniker, there is still sufficient evidence to show he could become a jewel in Argentina’s crowded playmaking landscape.
Perhaps a little hastily christened, as is usually the norm when a young Argentine breaks onto the scene and glistens just a little in the number 10 role, it’s easy to forget that Lanzini is still only 20 years old, having already tasted top-flight football in both his homeland, and Brazil, where he was loaned during the 2011-12 season – winning a title with Fluminese.
One must also remember that the flashes of brilliance which have become more sporadic are still justifiable (to some extent), and even, to be expected, from a player his age – especially when encountering other difficulties such as being played out of position for large periods of his fledgling career.
The next 12 months are massive for Lanzini. He is no longer the youngest starlet to wear number 10 on the Argentine domestic scene and he is in danger of becoming another forgotten man – his time to shimmer has ended. He now needs to shine.
Holland & PSV
Games: 31 Goals: 7 Assists: 5
The Moroccan-born midfielder has been the creative heartbeat of AZ Alkmaar for the past two seasons, but will now look to make the expected ‘next step-up’ in his young career, taking on the added pressure that comes with signing for one of Dutch football’s big three – PSV.
This sign of natural progression comes as little surprise for a man who has demonstrated talents credible enough to earn comparisons to Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta, and one who, despite the disappointment of being left out of Holland’s 2012 squad, has subsequently began winning caps for his chosen country, under the old Dutch master, Louis van Gaal.
Whilst Maher is versatile enough to play in a variety of positions across the midfield, many believe he’s more effective when utilised as a traditional 10. With Wesley Sneijder’s star on the wane, PSV’s new boy could become the country’s stand-out playmaker just in time for the 2014 World Cup.
Spain & Chelsea
Games: 35 Goals: 12 Assists: 12
As pointed out in a recent article on fantasista10, Juan Mata has been quite exceptional over the last 12 months.
In fact, he’s been quite exceptional since 2010. So it is beyond us how there are certain noises coming out of Stamford Bridge which indicate that he may not be the central figure in Jose Mourinho’s plans. Are those famous mind-games being employed by Chelsea’s new (old) boss, in the hope of coaxing even more out of their special number 10?
No player created more goals in the Premier League last season, but despite those impressive stats (achieving a fantasista10 ‘Perfect 10’), recent quotes suggest his role may be altered during the new campaign.
Time will tell if this has a positive or negative impact; just at a stage when it seems his national team are finally starting to fully realise his talents deserve to be utilised on a consistent basis, regardless of their other riches in that position.
Rafael van der Vaart
Holland & Hamburg SV
Games: 27 Goals: 5 Assists: 9
Van der Vaart was back to his creative best last season, coinciding with a return to the Bundesliga, with former club, Hamburg SV.
Perhaps the place (other than Ajax) where he has felt truly appreciated, Van der Vaart has often suffered at other clubs who haven’t known how to really get the best out of his almost maverick playing style.
It is because of this however, that Van der Vaart is capable of producing something so spectacular that few other players could even dream of, let alone execute.
“Off-field drama aside, this year was a true homecoming for a player who never quite felt 100% comfortable in England. Van der Vaart’s return to Hamburg coincided with the club’s pick up in form and thanks to his efforts, Hamburg went from fighting relegation to just three points off Europe by season’s end. He reinvigorated Hamburg’s dulled attack and really got the best out of Heung-Min Son. All the while, he embraced his leadership role, taking the captaincy at the end of the season, and rallied the team around him like all the best No. 10s of the past.” – Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)