By Adrian Harte
None of the uefa.com writers who selected their teams of 2002 matched the one chosen by 900,000 uefa.com users as their Team of the Year 2002. Indeed, it would not be stretching the point too much to suggest that few of those fans' own selections matched the final 12.
Picking a team of 2002 was always going to be tough task, with the FIFA World Cup a significant complication. The summer showpiece effectively split the calendar year into three, with few players excelling at the end of the last season, during the World Cup and at the start of this campaign.
Perhaps the exception was Michael Ballack. The midfield player shone as Bayer 04 Leverkusen reached the final of the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League, was the outstanding outfield player as Germany reached the World Cup final and was voted the best player in the first half of the current 1. Bundesliga season for FC Bayern München. He claimed almost 40 per cent of the vote in the central midfield category.
Few other players would have made it into most people's teams of the year. Roberto Carlos was brilliant for both Real Madrid CF and Brazil, Zinedine Zidane was the star of Madrid's Champions League triumph and significant in virtual absentia in the World Cup, while Thierry Henry hit 36 goals in the calendar year. The first two picked up the highest voting percentages while Henry was voted the top striker.
Goalkeeper Rüstu Reçber was one of those players chosen due to his World Cup displays. The Fenerbahçe keeper claimed over 33 per cent of the vote compared to Oliver Kahn's 28 per cent in a two-horse race for the number one jersey.
The inclusion of Ballack excepted, Leverkusen's superb if ultimately unsuccessful 2001/02 season was largely overlooked. Chief victim of the collective amnesia was defender Lucio, who misses out despite also having a brilliant World Cup, while right-sided midfield player Bernd Schneider, who also excelled in the Far East, was also overlooked.
Lucio's absence means that Romanian Player of the Year Christian Chivu has been selected to partner Alessandro Nesta at centre-back with Rio Ferdinand just missing out. Roberto Carlos with FC Barcelona and Spain star Carlos Puyol edging the Brazilian's World Cup winning team-mate Cafu on to the substitutes' bench by six per cent.
The midfield quartet produced two surprises with Clarence Seedorf and Damien Duff selected alongside Ballack and Zidane. Shoehorned into the right-midfield slot, Seedorf garnered 34.88 per cent to finish well ahead of second-placed Joaquín Sánchez of Real Betis Balompié. Duff emerged as the outstanding winger in the World Cup and also won the English League Cup last season with Blackburn Rovers FC. He got just over 35 per cent of the vote to finish just ahead of Freddie Ljungberg, Hasan Sas and Juan Valerón in a very close poll.
No such surprises in the forward category with Henry taking 19.33 per cent to top the poll. Ronaldo's eight goals in the World Cup saw him see off Ruud van Nistelrooij for the second striking place. The Dutchman lost out by less than 700 votes out of a total poll of 144,000.
Some 319 votes were all that separated first and second in the coach category. Senol Günes's achievement in guiding unfancied Turkey to the last four of the World Cup, not to mention three wins out of three in their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign, saw him triumph over Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque.
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