FC Barcelona: Picking Barcelona's Best XI

Jasper Juinen

As we get ready to approach the "business end" of 2012-2013, I take a look at Barcelona's season so far, utilising the community player ratings to select Barcelona's "Best XI"

The "business end" of the season is fast approaching, and Barcelona are in an excellent position to not only secure the La Liga title, but also challenge on the European front. A sensational 4-0 win over AC Milan booked the Blaugrana’s place in the quarter-finals – where they will face nouveau-riche Paris Saint-Germain – and it also reinforced a widespread belief that David Villa is part of Barcelona’s "Best XI". Certainly, no-one can argue with his goal-scoring record and Villa is one of Barça’s most popular signings – but does that warrant a place in Tito Vilanova’s strongest XI?

Over the course of the season we have been polling you, the Barça Blaugranes community after each and every match; asking you to rate the Barcelona players on a scale of 0-10 based on their performance in that given match. While not every match rating has been disclosed on the site, records have been kept and based on that data, just who would start in Barcelona’s so-called "Best XI"?

Victor Valdés 6.34
Friendlies Avg. Rating6.77
La Liga Avg. Rating6.53
UCL Avg. Rating6.19
Cups Avg. Rating4.40

Appearances35
Goals Conceded41
Clean Sheets8

MOTM Awards1

It’s been a difficult season for Victor Valdés who looks set to miss out on the Zamora trophy for the first time in five seasons. After a rocky start (who can forgot that mistake against Angel Di Maria?), Valdés was heavily criticised by his own fans – to such an extent that some were pleased when he announced his intention to leave Barcelona upon the expiry of his contract. However, Valdés has won the majority of the fanbase back with a string of steady performances, culminating in an impressive performance for Spain against France; now, all of sudden Culés want Valdés to stay – and with good reason too: he remains an integral part of the team.

Best Performance?

9.0 vs Levante

Worst Performance?

2.8 vs Real Madrid (Spanish Supercopa First-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Dani Alves 6.53
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.25
La Liga Avg. Rating6.51
UCL Avg. Rating6.35
Cups Avg. Rating6.76

Appearances35
Goals1
Assists8

MOTM Awards0

Similar to Valdés, Dani Alves has taken more than his fair share of criticism this season – personally, I think that average rating is a little low. Despite being linked with a summer switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Alves reiterated his commitment to the Catalans – although to think that anyone ever could is absurd. The Brazilian full-back gives it his all each and every time he takes to the field and while Martin Montoya is talented, there will never be another player quite like Dani Alves. Does he make errors? Of course; but has he really been Barcelona’s 14th best player in 2012-13?

Best Performance?

8.2 vs Deportivo La Coruna

Worst Performance?

4.3 vs Real Madrid (La Liga)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Gerard Pique 6.73
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.17
La Liga Avg. Rating6.89
UCL Avg. Rating6.42
Cups Avg. Rating6.53

Appearances32
Goals3
Assists0

MOTM Awards0

The game-by-game breakdown really illustrates the story of Gerard Piqué’s season: he may have suffered an early blip, but he didn’t let it ruin his season. Instead he rediscovered his form and has been one of the first names on the team-sheet ever since. Piqué needs just one more goal to match his personal record for goals scored in a single season (last achieved in 2010-11 when Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League if anyone’s curious) and overall, while he has room for improvement, I think this will go down as a successful year for Gerard Piqué.

Best Performance?

8.1 vs Athletic Bilbao

Worst Performance?

3.6 vs Real Sociedad

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Carles Puyol 7.05
Friendlies Avg. Rating6.80
La Liga Avg. Rating7.22
UCL Avg. Rating6.93
Cups Avg. Rating6.72

Appearances22
Goals2
Assists0

MOTM Awards1

Isn’t it ironic? There are some supporters who think that Puyol’s time at the top has come to an end, but over the course of the season, Carles Puyol has been voted as Barcelona’s best defender – and deservedly so. A beacon of consistency, Puyol rarely has an "off-night" at the heart of defense – and lest we forget that Puyol got the Tito Vilanova era off to an excellent start with a third-minute header against Real Sociedad. Now, if only we could find a way to keep Puyol injury-free...

Best Performance?

8.2 vs Benfica

Worst Performance?

4.2 vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Jordi Alba 7.01
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.55
La Liga Avg. Rating7.15
UCL Avg. Rating7.17
Cups Avg. Rating6.33

Appearances35
Goals5
Assists5

MOTM Awards1

Signing of the summer? With little competition from Alex Song – who cost the equivalent of 1.35 Jordi Alba’s – it’s clear that Alba has established himself as not only the signing of the summer, but possibly of the decade so far (at least from a Barcelona perspective). Maybe it took him a little longer to settle into the side than we expected, but who can argue with the results? Five goals and five assists in 35 appearances at left-back; Barcelona are definitely better off with Jordi Alba in their starting XI.

Best Performance?

8.6 vs AC Milan

Worst Performance?

5.2 vs AC Milan and vs Real Madrid (La Liga)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Sergio Busquets 6.87
Friendlies Avg. Rating6.67
La Liga Avg. Rating6.97
UCL Avg. Rating7.02
Cups Avg. Rating6.33

Appearances37
Goals1
Assists2

MOTM Awards0

6.87? Isn’t that a little low? Aside from the "main three", Sergio Busquets has probably been Barcelona’s best player in 2012-13 and without his talents, the Blaugrana probably wouldn’t be in such a commanding position. It might not be evident from looking at the statistics, but Busquets is perhaps one of the most important parts of the Barcelona machine – just ask Alex Song.

Best Performance?

8.4 vs Espanyol

Worst Performance?

4.9 vs Real Madrid (Spanish Supercopa Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Xavi Hernández 7.37
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.27
La Liga Avg. Rating7.63
UCL Avg. Rating7.20
Cups Avg. Rating6.69

Appearances37
Goals6
Assists9

MOTM Awards1

Xavi is reportedly injured, and could miss next week’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain. You don’t need me to tell you that’s bad news. Just look at what he did to AC Milan (in what was his best performance of the season so far); this wasn’t some relegation-threatened team struggling for form, this was one of the best teams in Europe; and Xavi made them look ordinary. The game-by-game breakdown hints at a recent dip in form (almost certainly caused by this troublesome thigh injury) – but even so, we have no-one who can even come close to replacing Xavi in midfield; it comes as no surprise to see Xavi in Barcelona’s "Best XI".

Best Performance?

9.0 vs AC Milan

Worst Performance?

4.6 vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Cesc Fàbregas 6.86
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.35
La Liga Avg. Rating7.02
UCL Avg. Rating6.32
Cups Avg. Rating6.75

Appearances36
Goals9
Assists12

MOTM Awards2

However, can we say the same about Cesc Fàbregas? A divisive figure amongst Culés; some notable Barcelona fans are huge fans, others make their disdain for Fàbregas clear; but whether you like him or loathe him there is no denying that Fàbregas is an excellent player. Statistically, he is one of Barcelona’s best players and while there are question marks over his consistency, Fàbregas remains a crucial part of Tito Vilanova’s strongest XI.

Best Performance?

8.9 vs Rayo Vallecano

Worst Performance?

3.9 vs AC Milan

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

David Villa 7.11
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.80
La Liga Avg. Rating7.19
UCL Avg. Rating6.58
Cups Avg. Rating7.40

Appearances31
Goals14
Assists6

MOTM Awards4

Ultimately, Barcelona failed to produce when it mattered last season, crashing out of the UEFA Champions League and losing the La Liga title to bitter rivals Real Madrid. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders whether it would have played out differently if David Villa hadn’t broke his leg in the Club World Cup. El Guaje made a triumphant return with a goal against Real Sociedad and he hasn’t looked back; notching 14 goals in 31 appearances this season. At face value, it isn’t a particularly good record – at least by Villa’s high standards – but when placed into context it means that Villa averages a goal every 111 minutes; easily enough to secure a place in Barcelona’s strongest XI.

Best Performance?

8.9 vs Celta Vigo and vs Cordoba

Worst Performance?

2.8 vs Real Madrid (Spanish Supercopa First-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Lionel Messi 8.02
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.97
La Liga Avg. Rating8.27
UCL Avg. Rating7.74
Cups Avg. Rating7.36

Appearances43
Goals55
Assists16

MOTM Awards23

55 goals and 16 assists in 43 appearances; you know, I’m not sure whether Messi really deserves a place in Barça’s "Best XI"... All joking aside, Messi picked up exactly where he left off last season and if he can lead Barcelona to a historic double, we will have witnessed the best individual season in the history of the sport.

Best Performance?

9.7 vs AC Milan

Worst Performance?

4.6 vs AC Milan

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Andrés Iniesta 7.56
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.47
La Liga Avg. Rating7.61
UCL Avg. Rating7.32
Cups Avg. Rating7.60

Appearances35
Goals5
Assists20

MOTM Awards6

Rounding off the starting XI we have the Best Player in Europe – as voted for by 53 UEFA journalists. Iniesta has been in exceptional form all season long; creating goal after goal for his teammates – including a jaw-dropping haul of three assists (and a goal) against Levante back in November. Forget Cristiano Ronaldo, this has been the season that Andrés Iniesta secured his place as the second best player on the planet.

Best Performance?

9.6 vs Levante

Worst Performance?

5.4 vs AC Milan

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

SUBSTITUTES

Pedro Rodriguez 6.68
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.10
La Liga Avg. Rating6.90
UCL Avg. Rating6.26
Cups Avg. Rating6.39

Appearances37
Goals7
Assists11

MOTM Awards1

It all started so promisingly; just what happened to Pedro? As his international form demonstrates, Pedro is just as talented as he ever was, but for one reason or another, he simply hasn’t been able to consistently deliver the goods for Barcelona. There have been notable exceptions – his brace against Espanyol, the goal and assist against Real Sociedad, and to a lesser extent, his performance in the first-leg of the Supercopa – but for the most part, this season has been a largely forgettable experience for Pedro and as a result, his starting place may be under threat.

Best Performance?

8.9 vs Espanyol

Worst Performance?

4.2 vs AC Milan

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Adriano Correia 6.53
Friendlies Avg. Rating6.30
La Liga Avg. Rating6.74
UCL Avg. Rating6.65
Cups Avg. Rating5.68

Appearances27
Goals6
Assists2

MOTM Awards1

He may be injury-prone, but Adriano has been in impressive form this season – even pushing Dani Alves for his place in the starting XI. With six goals to his name, Adriano is one of the club’s top-scorers and a valuable member of the squad.

Best Performance?

8.8 vs Atletico Madrid

Worst Performance?

2.5 vs Real Madrid (Spanish Supercopa Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Thiago Alcantara 6.52
Friendlies Avg. RatingN/A
La Liga Avg. Rating6.63
UCL Avg. Rating5.70
Cups Avg. Rating6.36

Appearances26
Goals2
Assists6

MOTM Awards0

Thiago may have missed pre-season with a shin injury picked up prior to last season’s Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Bilbao, but he has been in good form this season, displaying glimpses of his tremendous potential. The second-leg of Barcelona’s tie with Cordoba was voted as Thiago’s best performance of the season, although his impressive return against Getafe deserves a mention. With Xavi struggling for fitness and Fàbregas struggling for form, the time has come for Thiago to take centre-stage.

Best Performance?

8.7 vs Cordoba

Worst Performance?

4.3 vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

OVERALL/MANAGEMENT

The Team 7.31
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.65
La Liga Avg. Rating7.56
UCL Avg. Rating6.89
Cups Avg. Rating6.94

Record (W/D/L)35/5/6
Win Ratio76%

The statistics on the right-hand side say it all – Barcelona were good in pre-season, have been excellent in La Liga, but their form in the UEFA Champions League and cup competitions could be/have been better. On the other hand, virtually no team in World Football can boast such an enormous win ratio; and as they demonstrated against AC Milan, Barcelona remain the team to beat on the European stage.

Best Performance?

9.4 vs AC Milan

Worst Performance?

3.7 vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Tito Vilanova 7.29
Friendlies Avg. Rating7.20
La Liga Avg. Rating7.76
UCL Avg. Rating6.68
Cups Avg. Rating6.87

Tito Vilanova has already won the most important battle this year; it’s simply a bonus that he may also return to lead Barcelona to glory. You know what they say: "absence makes the heart grow fond" and it’s perfectly applicable here – Tito hasn’t received the highest marks this season, but after a lengthy spell away it’s safe to say that everyone has realised just how important he is to this team.

Best Performance?

8.7 vs Real Sociedad and vs Espanyol

Worst Performance?

4.5 vs Celtic

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Jordi Roura 6.49
Friendlies Avg. RatingN/A
La Liga Avg. Rating6.52
UCL Avg. Rating6.10
Cups Avg. Rating6.15

Heavily (and unfairly) criticised during his time in charge, Jordi Roura will be relieved to move back into his role as assistant coach; although I think he deserves a higher rating than the 6.49 he ultimately “earned” in his time in charge.

Best Performance?

8.5 vs AC Milan

Worst Performance?

2.9 vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey Second-Leg)

CLICK HERE FOR A GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

MAN OF THE MATCH BREAKDOWN

MOTM - Lionel Messi 50%

Awards/Games23/46

Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi has received the most "Man of the Match" awards this season - more than all other Barcelona players combined.

Motm_graph_medium

Of course, we can't forget about the efforts of the rest of the squad either, who have all performed to the best of their abilities - sometimes without significant game-time. Here are the average ratings of each squad member (provided they have made at least one competitive appearance) in order of "best" to "worst". (Click to embiggen)

All_players_graph_medium

What do you think: is this Barcelona's "Best XI"?


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