Circling the world to build a team: SB Nation Best XI

Jasper Juinen

Picking the best 11 players in the world is boring. We wanted to make picking our team of the year more challenging.

By now more or less everyone has their lists. The best team of 2012 isn't exactly a difficult subject to come up with, nor are the teams especially unpredictable. So we decided to do things with a bit of a twist -- not only does our side have to be plausible as a football team (we chose a 4-2-1-3) but we've restricted ourselves to a maximum of one player from each league.

That makes selection ... somewhat more difficult. But, without further ado, let's dig in.

Serie A -- Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

Gianluigi Buffon can perhaps no longer make a serious claim to be the world's best goalkeeper, but rest of Europe's elite netminders ply their trade in leagues with far greater depth than Serie A, who've suffered a huge outflow of talent of late. Let's be honest -- taking Buffon over Andrea Pirlo or Stephan El Shaarawy (Edinson Cavani is out for Lionel Messi-based reasons) is a much easier choice than, say, Manuel Neuer over Toni Kroos or Mats Hummels.

Also considered: Manuel Neuer, Petr Cech, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Scottish Premier League -- Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic)

Fun fact: The world is unbelievably short on good left backs. Jordi Alba is phenomenal, but with Messi in the team, he can't be chosen. Is Leighton Baines the next choice? Not at the expense of Yaya Toure. The best left back in the world might actually be Philipp Lahm, who doesn't even play the position. So what do you do in such a situation? Go to Scotland, of course. That might sound silly, but that is what we're doing, plucking the excellent Emilio Izaguirre from Celtic, where he only still plays because he broke his ankle last season. After his Champions League performances in the fall, though, expect the Honduran to move to a new, bigger, not Scottish club. In the meantime, this team will suffice.

Also considered: Domenico Criscito, Leighton Baines, David Alaba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bundesliga -- Dante (Bayern Munich)

Arriving at Borussia Monchengladbach after being driven out of Florence when the Black Guelphs seized power (details are sketchy here), Dante has quickly become the anchor of Bayern Munich's back line. The athletic Brazilian central defender has remained a consistent presence through injuries to Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber, and is one of the biggest reasons why Bayern look vastly improved from last season.

Is he the best player in the Bundesliga? No, probably not, but Yaya Toure, Lionel Messi and Neymar keep out the league's biggest stars. Europe's mid-tier leagues are also loaded with attacking talent and light on great defenders, so picking the Bundesliga's strongest central defender from 2012 wasn't a tough choice.

Also considered: Vincent Kompany, Mats Hummels, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ligue 1 -- Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain)

One of the world's elite centre backs now finds himself plying his trade in Paris Saint-Germain. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic, obviously, is PSG's star player, Thiago Silva's probably their prime asset -- the number of central defenders even approaching him in quality can be counted on one finger, which there are a glut of elite attackers in world football at the moment -- and so he gets picked over Ibrahimovic here.

Also considered: Same as Dante.

Ukranian Premier League -- Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Thank you Darijo Srna. Most of the world's better fullbacks play for already elite teams in leagues full of talent. All but one, in fact. While Shakhtar are an excellent side, it's not difficult to find better options than the likes of Fernandinho, Willian or Henrikh Mkhitaryan higher up the pitch, but Srna's long been one of the best right backs going, and that makes him a very easy call.

Also considered: Philipp Lahm, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

English Premier League -- Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

Although England and Manchester City especially are choc full of elite talent, it's Yaya Toure who wins out here over the likes of Robin van Persie and Vincent Kompany. His ability to control the game in its entirety, not just one end of it, gets him the Premier League's spot in this side, and, more importantly, helped lead City to their first-ever Premier League crown.

Also considered: Axel Witsel, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Primeira Liga -- Joao Moutinho (Porto)

Since his proposed deadline day deal to Tottenham Hotspur failed to go through, Joao Moutinho has continued his brilliant form from last season and from Euro 2012 into the current season, helping to guide Porto to the Champions League knockout stages and the top of the Portuguese Liga. His calmness on the ball and distribution from deep in midfield makes things flow for his club and national team, and he'll be the glue in our midfield.

Also considered: Kevin Strootman, Andrea Pirlo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Eredivisie -- Siem de Jong (Ajax)

Christian Eriksen has long been the Ajax golden boy, but guess who is only 23 years old and actually better than him at the famed Amsterdam club? Yep, Siem de Jong. The Dutch midfielder, who plays just in front of Eriksen, is in incredible form right now, while Eriksen's has dipped over the last nine months. In a league chock full of creative players, de Jong stands out. Just ask Manchester City, who de Jong put three goals past in Ajax's two Champions League matches against the defending Premier League champions.

Also considered: Christian Eriksen, Toni Kroos, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Brasileirao -- Neymar (Santos)

From now until he moves to one of Europe's biggest clubs, the question will be asked whether or not Neymar could dominate at the highest level of the game. It's not entirely clear, but there's not much question that he'd be a very good player in any league, and that he absolutely destroys the competition he does face on a regular basis. While Santos' Copa Libertadores defense and Brazil's Olympic final were disappointing, Neymar had an all-around ridiculous 2012, scoring 43 goals in 47 games for Santos, nine goals in 11 games for Brazil and four goals in seven games for Brazil under-23.

Also considered: James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

La Liga -- Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Also considered: Pie, Cookies, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Russian Premier League -- Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow)

Injuries and the form of other players made 2011 a rough year for Keisuke Honda, but he's re-emerged as one of the most important players for CSKA Moscow and Japan. He's currently in the top-5 in both goals and assists in the Russian Premier League, and has four goals in 2012 for Japan, who will likely become the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. His combination of athleticism, finishing skills and dead ball striking ability make him a versatile weapon who can play in virtually any attacking or midfield position, with any kind of teammates.

Also considered: Since Messi could conceivably be selected as a No. 10 (which he is for Argentina) or a wide forward (which he was for years), let's say Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani. And, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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