Dutch and Italians rule CNN rankings (1 Viewer)


Bedpan racing champion
Jul 25, 2001
Dutch double in best XI

LONDON (SI.com) -- Italian defenders and Dutch strikers dominate the third annual edition of the World Sport XI, a ranking of the best players in the world at their respective positions during the 2002-03 season, as determined through voting at CNN's World Sport show and SI.com.

Serie A's reputation as the home of the world's best defenders is validated by the selection of AC Milan duo Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini in front of Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Meanwhile, the double Dutch forward line pairs Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy with Roy Makaay, now at Bayern Munich after impressing last season with Deportivo Coruna.

Real Madrid's French playmaker Zinedine Zidane is the only player to appear on the list for the third year in a row while Brazilian club teammate Roberto Carlos retains his place at fullback from the 2002 list. Nesta and Sammi Hyypia, a Liverpool and Finland defender, both return to the World Sport XI after missing out last year.

Gianluigi Buffon displaces Oliver Kahn as the world's best goalkeeper after winning the Italian title with Juventus and helping the Turin side reach the final of the Champions League. The 25-year-old appeared in 32 of 34 league matches, conceding a league-low 29 goals.

In the Champions League, Buffon kept four clean sheets in 15 matches. Italy's first-choice keeper since last year's World Cup, Buffon has played in all five of the Azzurri's Euro 2004 qualifiers so far, keeping three clean sheets.

Roberto Carlos' repeat selection follows another dynamic season at Real Madrid, where the Brazilian has patrolled the left side since 1996. The 30-year-old played in 37 of 38 league matches as Real claimed the Spanish title, logging more minutes on the pitch than any teammate other than goalkeeper Iker Casillas. In the Champions League, Roberto Carlos missed just one match in 16 as Real advanced to the semifinals.

Paolo Maldini brings even more experience to the right side of the World Sport XI defense, making his first appearance at 35 after captaining AC Milan to its sixth European Cup and the Italian Cup.

Maldini, who will celebrate his 20th year at Milan in 2004, was part of a defense that conceded just 15 goals in 19 Champions League games, beating Juventus on penalties after a goalless final. It was Maldini's fourth success in Europe's premier club competition. In Serie A, Maldini played in 29 of 34 matches as Milan finished third.

Maldini is joined in defense by Milan teammate Alessandro Nesta. The 27-year-old quickly settled in the Rossoneri defense after joining from Lazio at the start of the season. Nesta missed just three matches en route to Milan's Champions League success and converted one of the penalties to beat Juve in the final. Nesta also played in 29 league matches and all five of Italy's Euro 2004 qualifiers.

Hyypia rounds out the defensive quartet, returning after previously being selected to the 2001 list. The 29-year-old led Liverpool to victory in the League Cup final against Manchester United in an otherwise disappointing season for the English side.

Hyypia played in 36 of 38 league games and scored three goals as Gerard Houllier's side finished fifth in the Premier League. Liverpool also lost in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup to Celtic, but Hyypia remained a fearsome defensive presence throughout the season. For Finland, he also scored two headed goals in six appearances in Euro 2004 qualifying.

Cosmopolitan midfield
The midfield has a truly cosmopolitan feel with four leagues represented.

Resuming playmaker duties for the third year in a row, Zidane continues to pull the strings for Real Madrid and France. At 31, Zidane's powers remain as potent as ever, as demonstrated in a number of match-winning performances for Real in Champions League and La Liga. Zidane played in 33 of 38 matches as Real claimed its 29th Spanish title, scoring nine goals and creating countless more.

In the Champions League, Zidane dazzled in Real's quarterfinal win over Manchester United, only to suffer semifinal defeat against his former club Juve in the semifinals.

Pavel Nedved, who replaced Zidane at Juve and orchestrated the Turin giant's Champions League win over Real, is rewarded for his efforts with a place in midfield. The Czech playmaker, one of the world's most complete players, steered Juve to its 27th Italian title with his tireless and spirited play, scoring nine goals in 29 appearances.

In the Champions League, Nedved scored one goal and created another in Juve's 3-1 win over Real in Turin. But a clumsy tackle on Steve McManaman resulted in his second yellow card of the competition, and Nedved sat out Juve's defeat in the final.

Robert Pires' spectacular return from a cruciate ligament tear earns Arsenal's Frenchman a place on the left of midfield. Arsene Wenger's side may have surrendered its Premier League title to Manchester United but the stylish 29-year-old, who makes everything look easy, at least gave Gunners fans plenty to cheer, scoring 14 goals in 26 league matches and scoring the only goal of the game as Arsenal beat Southampton 1-0 to lift the FA Cup.

Andres D'Alessandro, the youngest player on the list and the only player from South America's leagues to merit inclusion, makes up the midfield quartet.

The 22-year-old playmaking wizard scored six goals in leading River Plate to Argentina's Clausura title before swapping Buenos Aires for Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, which paid a club record US$10.2 million for his services. Wearing the No. 10 shirt, D'Alessandro can inevitably expect comparisons with Diego Maradona, while a handful of friendly appearances for Argentina suggest he can shortly expect to play a key role for the national side.

Dutch up front
Roy Makaay's Golden Boot-winning season for Deportivo Coruna has already earned the Dutchman a US$21.2 million move to German champion Bayern Munich. After four quiet seasons in Spain, the 28-year-old couldn't stop scoring, finding the net 29 times in the league for third-place Deportivo. In the Champions League Makaay scored nine times in 11 appearances, including four in two matches against Bayern.

Makaay's international strike partner Ruud van Nistelrooy rounds out the World Sport XI following a stunning season for English champion Manchester United. Scoring records tumbled as the 27-year-old, a rare and enviable combination of strength and finesse, found the net 44 times in all competitions.

Van Nistelrooy topped the Premier League scoring charts with 25 goals as United won the title. His 12 goals in 14 Champions League matches was a record for a single season in the competition, while Van Nistelrooy became United's all-time leading scorer in November after just a year and a half at the club. For the Netherlands, Van Nistelrooy has scored twice in four Euro 2004 qualifiers so far.

Roberto Carlos is the only one of four World Cup-winning Brazilians in last year's selection to keep his place. Despite being the highest-profile players to change clubs over the summer, neither David Beckham (Manchester United to Real Madrid) or Ronaldinho (Paris Saint Germain to Barcelona) get a look in.

By nationality, Italy has the biggest representation this year with three players, ahead of France and the Netherlands with two players apiece. Italy's Serie A also has four selections, while Spain's Liga and England's Premier League both have three. AC Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid have two representatives each.


Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United & Netherlands)

Roy Makaay (Deportivo la Coruña/ Bayern München & Netherlands)


Robert Pires (Arsenal & France)

Pavel Nedved (Juventus & Czech Republic)

Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid & France)

Andres D'Alessandro (River Plate/Wolfsburg & Argentina)


Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid & Brazil)

Paolo Maldini (AC Milan & Italy)

Alessandro Nesta (AC Milan & Italy)

Sammi Hyypia (Liverpool and Finland)


Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus FC & Italy)

Taken from www.cnnsi.com

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Senior Member
Dec 16, 2002
Not a bad list, but Hyppia, and D'ale?
Other than that it was pretty good pick.:).
C.Vieri, Gattusso, Thuram, should have been included. Hyppia instead of Thuram?:howler:.

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