2009-10 was a dream season for Wesley Sneijder. His Inter Milan team were champions of both Italy and Europe, winning their first Champions League title since 1965. Then he and the rest of the Netherlands national team went to South Africa for the World Cup and came agonizingly close to winning it all, only losing in the final match to Spain. A scudetto, a European Cup and a World Cup runner up medal. Not a bad year. Sneijder has been a vital player for both Inter and Holland, always dangerous in open play and absolutely deadly from free kicks. He will turn 30 just before the start of the 2014 World Cup, so he may get another shot to go that one step further in the world’s biggest sporting event.
Pato – The Duck. Not exactly a menacing name, but it’s the one that most fans know Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva by. The young Brazil and AC Milan forward has become known for his speed, cleverness and creativity on the ball, and looks to be a big part of the future plans for both club and country. He was one of the players controversially not selected by head coach Dunga for the 2010 World Cup, but returned to the national team frame in late 2010 with three goals in three friendly matches for Brazil. Whether it’s in Milan or Rio, Pato is always worth watching.
Carlos Tevez hasn’t been in England all that long, having arrived in 2006 to play for West Ham, but he’s spent nearly his entire Premier League career in the headlines. First, he almost single-handedly kept West Ham in the top flight, even as allegation swirled about his involvement with Sports Media Investments and the ever-shady Kia Joorabchian. Then he made the move to a top club that everyone in England expected of him, going to Manchester United in 2007. He gained the appreciation of the Old Trafford faithful for his work rate and for scoring important goals. All of this made his subsequent move to cross-town rivals Manchester City all that much more painful for United fans. He is now captain at Man City, and a consistent presence on the talent-packed Argentina national team.
Tevez wears Nike Tiempo Legend III football boots.
A workhorse for both club and country, Dirk Kuyt has spent much of his career as an under-appreciated player. But after scoring important goals for the Netherlands at every level, he has gained a bit of the respect he deserves on the world stage. Liverpool fans have the pleasure of seeing Kuyt week in and week out at Anfield, and they will need him to climb out of the club’s current problems.
We started noticing Samir Nasri when he was just a youngster, as one of our “Names to Remember”. But now, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in France, or London, or much of the rest of the football world, who hasn’t heard of Samir Nasri. The fast, clever Frenchman currently plays his club football for Arsenal, and is quickly becoming one of the stars of the Premier League.
David Villa is one of the best pure strikers in the world. He has proven that at both the club and international level, though most readers know him best for his exploits in a Spain shirt. Villa was top scorer in Euro 2008 when Spain took their first major title in 40 years, and then tied for top scorer at World Cup 2010, the first world championship for Spain. He has spent most of his club career at Valencia, scoring a phenomenal 108 goals in 166 appearances for the club. Now, with a move to Barcelona, he has a team around him that can compete for any club title.
A standout attacking player for both the Champions League and World Cup runners up, Arjen Robben has had an amazing few years. With Bayern Munich, he scored 23 goals last season, and was voted the Footballer of the Year in Germany, the first time a Dutch player has won that honor. With his country, he has scored 16 goals in his first 51 appearances, playing a large part in the Dutch side making the World Cup final and earning himself a nomination for the World Cup Golden Ball. At the age of 26, he has won domestic titles in four different countries, and shows no signs of stopping.
Maicon is quite simply one of, if not the single, best right backs in the world. Born Maicon Douglas Sisenando, the Brazil and Inter man is the classic Brazilian back – always looking for a way forward. He started his career in his native Brazil, for Cruzeiro, before moving to Europe first with Monaco then Inter. He scored six goals in 62 appearances for Brazil, including one of the goals of the tournament at World Cup 2010, when he took what looked like an impossible angle and turned it into a vital goal. For both his attacking and defending prowess, he was chosen as Brazil’s only entry on the World Cup 2010 all star team.
One of the stars of Germany’s 2010 World Cup run, Mesut Ozil has gone from local star in the German Bundesliga to worldwide prominence. His club in Germany, Werder Bremen, tried their best to keep him, but in the end it was Real Madrid that won the bidding war over the talented young midfielder. His pace and vision are impressive, and the world will be watching to see how he fits into Jose Mourinho’s plans in Madrid. Chances are, either way, we’ll be seeing a lot of Ozil in the Champions League and big international tournaments for years to come.
Javier Hernandez Balcazar, better known as Chicharito, is one of the biggest stories of the 2010 summer transfer window. He moved from Mexican club Chivas to become the first Mexican player to play for Manchester United, and has made an immediate impact at the club. He scored on his competitive debut for United, in the Community Shield victory over Chelsea, and is already popular with United’s fans. The young Mexican starlet (who is 22, despite often being thought of as younger) has a bright future for United, as well as being a regular starter for Mexico with 17 caps and an impressive 10 goals. He scored against both France and Argentina in the 2010 World Cup, and will be a danger man for Mexico for years to come.