users' team of 2003
The composition of the uefa.com Team of 2003 suggests that the
status quo has returned to European football. The big names
are all included in a star-studded selection chosen by almost
1.5 million votes from users of the official UEFA website.
Monday, 12 January 2004
the Team of 2002 included players from Fenerbahçe, Ajax and
Blackburn Rovers, the Team of 2003 is dominated by Real
Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Porto. Last year, World Cup form
was a key factor in users' deliberations - this year, club
form was crucial.
Crucial but not paramount, uefa.com e-electorate showed that,
in football at least, familiarity breeds respect. Thus, four
Madrid players made the team despite the Spanish side
relinquishing their Champions League title in 2002/03, with
Roberto Carlos polling some 63.14 per cent of the vote in the
left-back category. And voters deemed Madrid's midfielders the
best of the season. Luís Figo was selected on the right,
David Beckham in the middle and Zinedine Zidane was chosen as
best attacking midfielder for the third year in succession.
Zidane, who polled 43 per cent of the vote to see off a strong
challenge from Porto and Portugal star Deco with 38 per cent,
shares that accolade with compatriot Thierry Henry. Despite
Arsenal relinquishing their Premiership title and failing to
reach the latter stages of the Champions League, Henry polled
over 44,000 votes to top the forward category.
His fellow English-based striker Ruud van Nistelrooij finished
fewer than 600 votes back to take the second forward position
after missing out on the team last year by just 700 votes.
European champions Milan have to content themselves with just
two places. Fittingly, for a team which won the Champions
League on penalties after a scoreless draw, the two places are
in central defence. Alessandro Nesta topped the voting in the
centre back position with over 50,000 votes to make the team
for the second successive year, while veteran Paolo Maldini
earns the accolade for the first time.
Juventus, the team Milan defeated in the Champions League
decider, also take two places in the Team of 2003. Pavel
Nedved, recently named European Footballer of the Year, breaks
the Madrid monopoly in midfield with his selection on the
left, securing the highest share of the vote in any category,
with his 64.54 per cent seeing off Ryan Giggs, Rafael van der
Vaart and last year's incumbent Damien Duff.
Nedved's team-mate, Gianluigi Buffon, already voted Most
Valuable Player in the Champions League by UEFA in 2003, took
the honours in the goalkeeper section, finishing well ahead of
Stuttgart record-breaker Timo Hildebrand.
However, despite the presence of so many familiar names, there
was still room for some surprises, as Porto's UEFA Cup success
was rewarded by the selection of José Mourinho as best coach
and Paulo Ferreira in the right-back category. Mourinho, who
also guided Porto to a Portuguese league and cup double in
2002/03 as well as the last 16 of the Champions League this
term, polled over 100,000 votes to comfortably top the voting
in the coach category.
Ferreira's selection was arguably the greatest surprise. Only
in his third season of top-flight football, the 24-year-old
took over 37 per cent of the votes to emerge ahead of Lilian
Thuram and Javier Zanetti. -