Bayern Munich's Ribery celebrates scoring with Alaba during their Champions League soccer match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester

Who should make the FIFA Pro team of the year? Top 50 players shortlisted

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Folks, get a piece of paper and a pen ready, it’s time to starting scribbling down your team of the year.

Alongside FIFA making the shock announcement (not really) that the three finalists for the Ballon d’Or award are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery, they also revealed which players are being considered for the FIFA Pro team of the year.

So many top players adorn this expansive list of nominees, it makes it hard to sift through names and imagine them not being included in soccer’s current best XI.

But that’s the reality we are facing. On January 13, 2014 in Zurich FIFA’s best XI will be announced and it will be an incredible achievement for all of the players honored with a selection.

Up top the list is especially stacked with 15 forwards selected and the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi all included. If you want to try and separate the plethora of fantastic attacking midfielders, then good luck! Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, Frankc Ribery and Gareth Bale are a fee of the choices

At the back, there are plenty of surprises with the likes of Leighton Baines and Nemanja Vidic shortlisted to be in the side. In goal, the usual suspect are around as Gigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Petr Cech are mainstays on this list.

So, with the thought of being ridiculed by you all I’m going to name my starting XI  in a 3-4-3 formation and see if you all agree with it.

If you don’t, tough luck. But you can also have a go yourself and put together a starting lineup in the comments section below.

Here we go…

JPW’s FIFA Pro team of the year (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Manuel Nuuer

Defenders: Thiago Silva, Mats Hummels, Gerard Pique

Midfielders: Franck Ribery, Andres Iniesta, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Gareth Bale

Forwards: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao

Here’s the complete list of nominated players below, who stand as the Crème de la Crème of world soccer

5 goalkeepers:

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain), Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Republic), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany), Víctor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)

20 defenders:

David Alaba (Bayern Munich and Austria); Jordi Alba (Barcelona and Spain); Dani Alves (Barcelona and Brazil); Leighton Baines (Everton and England); Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich and Germany); Ashley Cole (Chelsea and England); Dante (Bayern Munich and Brazil); Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany); Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea and Serbia); Vincent Kompany (Manchester City and Belgium); Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany); David Luiz (Chelsea and Brazil); Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil); Pepe (Real Madrid and Portugal); Gerard Pique (Barcelona and Spain); Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain); Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain and Brazil); Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France); Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United and Serbia); Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City and Argentina)

15 midfielders:

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid and Spain); Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur/Real Madrid and Wales); Sergio Busquets (Barcelona and Spain); Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and England); Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain); Isco (Malaga/Real Madrid and Spain); Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid/Arsenal and Germany); Andrea Pirlo (Juventus and Italy); Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund and Germany); Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich and Netherlands); Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich and Germany); Yaya Toure (Manchester City and Ivory Coast); Arturo Vidal (Juventus and Chile); Xavi (Barcelona and Spain).

15 forwards:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina); Mario Balotelli (Manchester City/AC Milan and Italy); Edinson Cavani (Napoli/Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay); Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid and Spain); Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal); Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua/Galatasaray and Ivory Coast); Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid/Monaco and Colombia); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden); Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund and Poland); Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich and Croatia); Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina); Neymar (Santos/Barcelona and Brazil); Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England); Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay); Robin van Persie (Manchester United and Netherlands).

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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