Khel Now’s overachievers World XI 2021: Who made the cut?
These players exceeded expectations by a mile and stole the show with their remarkable displays.
2021 was riddled with important milestones in world football. Lionel Messi won his record seventh Ballon D’or, while also overtaking Pele for most goals scored for a single club (672). Cristiano Ronaldo also set new standards, as he became the all-time top scorer in football (802 goals) and international competitions (115 goals). While these names are synonymous with records and titles, a lot of other players also made commendable progress.
Let’s take a look at Khel Now’s Overachievers World XI in 2021:
Goalkeeper: Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal)
Rulli has been one of the quintessential performers for a sub-par Villarreal side. The 29-year-old Argentinian shot-stopper was key for Unai Emery’s team when he guided them to the UEFA Europa League title in 2020/21.
Though the final saw both Manchester United and Villarreal score goals aplenty in penalties, Rulli stepped up to save David De Gea’s decisive spot-kick. He also has a save percentage of 71.6% (per 90 minutes) and a PSxG-GA (Post Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed) of +0.03. All this makes Rulli the goalkeeper of our Overachievers World XI of 2021.
Right-Back- Jeremiah St.Juste (Mainz 05)
You have to be doing something right if you have been one of the fastest defenders in your league consistently. Dutch and Mainz 05 centre-back St.Juste has been on the list since 2019, as he came close to Alphonso Davies’ record of 36.51 kmph. This season, however, he has been the fastest player so far, having clocked a mind-blowing 36.63 kmph against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Moving on to defensive actions per 90, he has managed a commendable 1.7 tackles and 2.2 on interceptions. The versatile player has also been employed at right-back and defensive midfield.
Centre-Back: Sven Botman (Lille)
Sven Botman has become the talk of the town after Newcastle United expressed serious interest to sign him in January. He has already been scouted by the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. This was following his title-winning season with LOSC Lille in 2020-21.
With 2.4 headers won on average over 16 appearances, his aerial dominance is matched by few. Botman also has an impressive pass completion rate of 85.9%, which can be seen in his ability to string together multiple short passes during build-up. A meteoric rise in 2021 adds him to our Overachievers World XI of the year.
Centre-Back: Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
The hulking German center-back has been transformed into a complete player under Thomas Tuchel’s mentorship. His no-nonsense defending led Chelsea to the UCL and UEFA Super Cup trophies in 2021. He has been fielded as a left-sided center back in both Tuchel’s system and in the Euros, under Joachim Loew.
This change has not only seen him become more rapid, but it has brought about a miraculous improvement in his ball-carrying abilities. His surging run against Manchester United in their 1-1 draw on 28th November was a witness to this, as his thunderous strike stung De Gea’s gloves to be turned out of play. Averaging 1.2 tackles and 1.9 aerial balls won per game, he has turned himself into a defending stalwart.
Left-back: Reinildo Mandava (Lille)
Reinildo Mandava was one main elements Christoph Galtier’s Ligue 1 and French Supercup winning Lille side last season. Solid performances against the likes of PSG and RB Salzburg brought out his best as he became a more consistent performer for his team. He has been pivotal in this Lille team as they conceded the least number of league goals in 2020-21 (23).
Right midfielder: Pedro Goncalves (Sporting CP)
Pedro Goncalves has already been compared to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo. This is because he equaled the former’s record in the UCL. He joined Ronaldo as the only other Portuguese to score two or more goals in back-to-back games in Europe’s elite competition. Additionally, he has scored a total of 27 goals in the Primeira Liga since 2020-21. Currently, he has accumulated an average of 2.1 key passes with 3.4 SpG(Shots per Game) and he is showing no signs of slowing down. He also earned both the titles for player of the season and top scorer in 2021. He also led Sporting Lisbon to the domestic treble.
Centre midfield: Oscar Trejo (Rayo Vallecano)
Rayo Vallecano captain Trejo is currently top of the assists chart in La Liga this season. The 33-year-old Argentinian also has an xA(expected Assists) rating of 2.14, dictating how influential he is for his team. Trejo operates as a trequartista and often as a false forward while using his ridiculous passing range. Vallecano are 4th in the table, above last season’s winners Atletico and have played some good football this season. Playing in one of the most underlooked teams, he has shone brilliantly so far and can go further.
Centre Midfield: Joao Palhinha (Sporting CP)
Portugal’s Euro breakthrough star Palhinha has already proved himself to be a combative ball-winner in midfield. A 10-second clip of him dispossessing Kante, before going on to nutmeg Pogba in the Euros, paints the perfect picture in this context. He is more of a tackling machine as his average of 3.5 tackles per game . However, his in-possession game is not at all bad as his 86% pass percentage denotes. He was also part of Sporting Lisbon’s trophy-winning campaign in 2021 and Pedro Goncalves’ teammate.
Left midfield: Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
Tadic has seemingly broken the record for most assists in one calendar year (37 assists). The record for 36 assists, held previously by Messi for a stupendous 10 years has been surpassed by the Ajax star. Despite claims from multiple media outlets that this stint is false, Tadic has personally had a great year.
Ten Haag’s attractive brand of football has seen him rediscover his UCL-2019 form. He has been named man of the match four times this season. A staggering 4.1 Key passes on average have also been crucial to his team as they won the Eredivisie and KNVB cup last season.
Striker: Sebastien Haller (Ajax)
West Ham “flop” Sebastien Haller made a vow to redeem himself after joining Ajax and has since fulfilled it. The Ivorian striker only managed to score three goals for the Hammers but has scored 35 times for the Dutch champions. His rejuvenated form saw him clinch 10 goals in only six games in the UEFA Champions league; faster than any player in history. Those goals include his four-goal haul and some incredible strikes against Sporting CP on matchday 1.
His penalty against the same opposition on matchday 6 also helped him equal a club record that stood for 40 years. Soren Lerby is the only other player to score 10 goals for Ajax in a single season of the Champions League/European Cup. Additionally, he also helped Ajax to win the Dutch cup and league title last season.
Striker: Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina)
Touted as a one-season wonder, Dusan Vlahovic carried his form into this season to disappoint doubters. Having scored 21 times for club and country last season, the young center forward has retained his consistent streak. So far, he has scored 18 goals and registered dour assists across all competitions.
Following this, many clubs have entered the fray to land the striker as he refused to extend his contract for Fiorentina.
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