A former winger, Mustafa Denizli is the only coach to have won Super League titles with Istanbul's big three of Galatasaray AŞ, Fenerbahçe SK and Beşiktaş JK. He also guided Turkey to the UEFA EURO 2000 quarter-finals and, at 63, remains an avid follower of the game.
Denizli's Team of 2012 selection has been designed as a 4-3-3 with Mesut Özil supporting the two forwards from the right. "This team is all about freedom, but within this approach, the players have individual responsibilities," said Denizli, who has just taken charge of Çaykur Rizespor. "As you can see, behind Messi and Ronaldo we have the best midfielders in the world, who can perform attacking and defensive roles perfectly. There are no players who can head goals except Ronaldo, but we hardly need that because this would be a real passing team with a high tempo. They would create a minimum 15 goalscoring chances a game."
View Denizli's choices below and submit your own lineup before 12.00CET on Friday 4 January.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern München)
Neuer has made the greatest strides of all the Team of 2012 goalkeepers within this period. He gives confidence to his coach with his physical presence and ability to read the game.
Defender: Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München)
Lahm is a very consistent player for Bayern and Germany. He can operate down either flank to effect. He may not have exceptional skill, but he is the type of player any coach would seriously consider when picking his team. Lahm's performance never dips below 70%.
Defender: Pepe (Real Madrid CF)
I like Pepe as a player because he knows the art of defending, is fast and is good in the air. He likes to go forward and that adds colour to his game. It goes without saying that he doesn't like to lose. He is determined and ambitious.
Defender: Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain FC)
Thiago Silva's displays have been improving fast since his days at AC Milan. His strength and stamina are eye-catching. He has played well in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League. Maybe he hasn't reached Sergio Ramos's level yet, but that's not important. Thiago Silva will keep improving.
Defender: Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona)
Alba has exceeded expectations since coming to Barcelona. He is doing well for Spain too. I have followed him this year. He has missed a few games through injury, but he is very consistent.
Midfielder: Yaya Touré (Manchester City FC)
Touré is an indispensable player for the English champions. I picked him because he could organise my team's defence along with Xavi Hernández. Some might select Xabi Alonso in this position but I prefer Touré because he thinks fast, uses the ball well and always looks to go forward.
Midfielder: Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona)
Together with Iniesta, he is currently one of the two best midfielders in the world.
Midfielder: Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona)
Iniesta uses the left wing and the middle of the pitch. His presence means Cristiano Ronaldo would have some cover. If you see Real Madrid, there's no such player behind the Portuguese. I bet that if Iniesta and Ronaldo played in the same team, Ronaldo would be even better.
Midfielder: Mesut Özil (Real Madrid CF)
People who don't follow the Liga might not select him. He is a winger, without doubt. At some point José Mourinho seemed to doubt Mesut and was on the lookout for an alternative but then he embraced him again. Mourinho won't find better than Mesut. Most of Ronaldo's assists were provided by him.
Forward: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Messi is the type of player that makes football beautiful. He appeals to the aesthetic side of the game.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF)
Ronaldo's talents are obvious. What I like about him nowadays is that he is getting less selfish day by day.
Mustafa Denizli was talking to Türker Tozar.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.