The World Footballers’ Association along with FIFA have announced their shortlist of the best players for the 2017/18 season.
La Liga’s big three clubs – Real (11), Barca (10) and Atletico Madrid (3) – have 24 representatives on the list, which has been accumulated following the voting process conducted by 25,000 players across 65 countries.
Barca have Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Yerry Mina (now at Everton), Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (since retired), Ivan Rakitic, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho on the list.
At Madrid the candidates are Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric; Isco, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now at Juventus.
Surprisingly there is no Gareth Bale, who finished last season at a high level and scored two crucial goals in the Champions League final.
Thibaut Courtois is also on the list and he will do battle with his club-mate Navas.
Last season’s FIFPro World XI was: Gianluigi Buffon, Dani Alves, Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar.
London is the venue for the announcement of the 2018 FIFPro FIFA World XI, to be held on September 24.
Below are the nominations for each category:
Gianluigi Buffon – Italy, Juventus/Paris Saint-Germain; Thibaut Courtois – Belgium, Chelsea/Real Madrid; David De Gea – Spain, Manchester United; Keylor Navas – Costa Rica, Real Madrid; Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Germany, Barcelona.
Jordi Alba – Spain, Barcelona; Dani Alves – Brazil, Paris Saint-Germain; Dani Carvajal – Spain, Real Madrid; Giorgio Chiellini – Italy, Juventus; Virgil van Dijk – Netherlands, Southampton/Liverpool; Diego Godin – Uruguay, Atletico Madrid; Mats Hummels – Germany, Bayern Munich; Joshua Kimmich – Germany, Bayern Munich; Dejan Lovren – Croatia, Liverpool; Marcelo – Brazil, Real Madrid; Yerry Mina – Colombia, Barcelona/Everton; Benjamin Pavard – France, Stuttgart; Gerard Pique – Spain, Barcelona; Sergio Ramos – Spain, Real Madrid; Thiago Silva – Brazil, Paris Saint-Germain; Kieran Trippier – England, Tottenham; Samuel Umtiti – France, Barcelona; Raphael Varane – France, Real Madrid; Sime Vrsaljko – Croatia, Atletico Madrid/Inter Milan; Kyle Walker – England, Manchester City.
Sergio Busquets – Spain, Barcelona; Casemiro – Brazil, Real Madrid; Philippe Coutinho – Brazil, Liverpool/Barcelona; Kevin De Bruyne – Belgium, Manchester City; Eden Hazard – Belgium, Chelsea; Andres Iniesta – Spain, Barcelona/Vissel Kobe; Isco – Spain, Real Madrid; N’Golo Kante – France, Chelsea; Toni Kroos – Germany, Real Madrid; Nemanja Matic – Serbia, Manchester United; Luka Modric – Croatia, Real Madrid; Paul Pogba – France, Manchester United; Ivan Rakitic – Croatia, Barcelona; David Silva – Spain, Manchester City; Arturo Vidal – Chile, Bayern Munich /Barcelona.
Karim Benzema – France, Real Madrid; Edinson Cavani – Uruguay, Paris Saint-Germain; Paulo Dybala – Argentina, Juventus; Antoine Griezmann – France, Atletico Madrid; Harry Kane – England, Tottenham; Robert Lewandowski – Poland, Bayern Munich; Romelu Lukaku – Belgium, Manchester United; Mario Mandzukic – Croatia, Juventus; Sadio Mane – Senegal, Liverpool; Kylian Mbappe – France, Paris Saint-Germain; Lionel Messi – Argentina, Barcelona; Neymar – Brazil, Paris Saint-Germain; Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal, Real Madrid/Juventus; Mohamed Salah – Egypt, Liverpool; Luis Suarez – Uruguay, Barcelona.
The Azzurri take on the European champions in Lisbon, with Nice striker Balotelli set to miss his first game since being brought back into the fold by Mancini when he took over last May.
Lorenzo Pellegrini has also been left out along with Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, Juventus defender Daniele Rugani and Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo.
Mancini confirmed Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa would start after the 20-year-old proved pivotal when he came on last Friday, along with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Balotelli came under fire for his performance in their Nations League opener against Poland on Friday, where they were held 1-1.
The 28-year-old was substituted with a muscular problem, with Mancini conceding his fitness level was a problem.
But the former Manchester City boss defended his player from criticism.
“A player knows when he has played well or badly,” he said.
“I think Mario knows full well what his performance against Poland was like. Criticism is part of the game.
“We are only at the beginning of this journey and will change several players from the Poland game, also to look after the lads.
“We are ready and know it can be a very important match. I won’t say it’s decisive, as there are another two to go, but we are facing the reigning European champions.”
Italy have won six games to four against Portugal in previous meetings, but the Azzurri have not won a game in Lisbon in 31 years.
Mancini took charge of the national team after the four-time World Cup winners’ failure to qualify for Russia.
Balotelli has played in all four games so far under Mancini, scoring in a 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia. Mancini’s other two friendlies were a 3-1 defeat to World Cup winners France and 1-1 draw with the Netherlands.
Balotelli has made the trip to Portugal with the squad as Mancini considers him to be a central figure in the team he is trying to rebuild.
Balotelli’s place could be taken by either Andrea Belotti or Ciro Immobile.
Olivier Giroud‘s thumping volley earned world champions France a 2-1 Nations League win over the Netherlands in Paris.
The Chelsea striker, who failed to score during the World Cup in Russia, met Benjamin Mendy’s left-wing cross with a fierce first-time finish in the 75th-minute.
Jasper Cillessen in the Holland goal got a hand to the shot, but could not keep it out as Didier Deschamps’ men won for the first time in Group A1.
Kylian Mbappe, one of the stars of the World Cup triumph, had set France on their way after 14 minutes, tapping home at the far post from a Blaise Matuidi cross after Quincy Promes’ horribly misplaced header had sent the Juventus man clear.
But Holland stunned the home fans in the 67th minute when, moments after Georginio Wijnaldum dragged a glorious chance wide, Ryan Babel poked home a pin-point low cross.
Wales were brought back down to earth following their 4-1 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland as Denmark, back at full strength, cruised to a 2-0 win in Aarhus.
Christian Eriksen, one of the senior players to return to the squad following the resolution of the players’ image rights row, which had led to a team of lower-league and futsal players taking to the field in the 3-0 friendly defeat to Slovakia on Wednesday, was on target twice in the Group B4 clash.
He produced a smart low finish off the side of a post in the 32nd minute and sealed the victory with a 63rd-minute penalty after Ethan Ampadu was harshly adjudged to have handled Viktor Fischer’s cross.
Ukraine earned a 1-0 win at home to Slovakia in Group B1 thanks to an 80th-minute penalty from West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko.
In Group D1, Georgia also struck late as a 77th-minute penalty from Tornike Okriashvili finally broke Latvia’s resistance to earn a 1-0 win for the hosts.
Bulgaria were also 1-0 winners at home, Radoslav Vasilev’s second-half goal seeing off 10-man Norway, who lost Haavard Nordtveit to a second yellow card in the 88th minute of the Group C3 match.
In the same group, Petar Stojanovic’s own goal in the 89th minute earned Cyprus a 2-1 home win over Slovenia.
Robert Beric had put the visitors in front before Pieros Sotiriou levelled.
Ezgjan Alioski with a penalty and Goran Pandev were on target in a 2-0 Group D4 win for Macedonia over Armenia.
In the same group, Liechtenstein won 2-0 at home to Gibraltar thanks to goals from Dennis Salanovic and Sandro Wieser.