Player: Diego Milito (FC Internazionale Milano)
Patience is a virtue, and Claudio Ranieri's perseverance with Inter striker Milito has paid dividends of late; the Argentinian scored both goals as the Nerazzurri beat FC Bayern München 2-0 in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, and was a club hero again at the weekend as his fourth strike in three league matches proved to be AC Milan's undoing in the city derby. The 32-year-old's resurgence has mirrored that of his club, as Inter have gone from their worst ever start in Serie A, which left them fourth from bottom at the end of October, to just six points shy of table-topping Juventus. Ranieri concluded: "I'm delighted for Milito because he never gave up even when he was missing incredible opportunities."
Goal: Paul Scholes (Manchester United FC)
Scholes' finish from six yards against Bolton Wanderers FC at the weekend was not quite as magnificent as some of his greats from years gone by: his volley direct from David Beckham's corner against Bradford City AFC or his thunderbolt against Middlesbrough FC. However, given that the 37-year-old retired last May, his opener in the 3-0 win against Bolton Wanderers FC was a marvel. Back at Old Trafford and back in the starting lineup, it took Scholes 45 minutes to vindicate Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to coax the Ginger Prince back into active service. "He has that instinct for goals that he has had since he was a kid," said Sir Alex, "and he did it again."
Team: UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2011
There was only one side that could clinch this week's top team – your team of the year. Over 4.5 million votes were cast, and the dream team of 2011 was chosen. Unsurprisingly FC Barcelona, the reigning European champions, led the way with five players, and another three came from Real Madrid CF as the Spanish Liga stole the show. The three remaining places were taken by three first-timers from three different leagues: Milan centre-back Thiago Silva, Bayern winger Arjen Robben and, perhaps the year's breakout star, Tottenham Hotspur FC's Gareth Bale. The significance of being the first Spurs player to appear in a Team of the Year – and the first Welshman – was not lost on Bale: "It's great to be recognised in such illustrious company," he said. "And the fact that it's voted for by fans across Europe makes it a special honour."
"Clemens Tönnies or Mr Putin don't live the life of Manuel Neuer. I live my life and I have to take decisions for my life. That's why I took that decision."
Bayern's Manuel Neuer explains why he had to disappoint Schalke president Tönnies and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin – a noted Schalke fan – in joining the Bavarian side.
Comeback: RCD Espanyol
Last week's Team of the Week, CD Mirandés, seemed to be on course to continuing their remarkable run in the Copa del Rey, before Espanyol battled back from the brink in stunning fashion in the first leg of the quarter-final. With just five minutes left on the clock and trailing to two Mirandés strikes, Espanyol looked set to become the third high-profile victims of the in-form third-tier team. Espanyol rallied, though, with goals from Vladimír Weiss (85) and Rui Fonte (87) tying the scores before Joan Verdú fired a dramatic 89th-minute coup de grace for Mauricio Pochettino's men. Taking two away goals into the second leg however, means the fairy tale may not be over for minnows Mirandés.
His place in the Barcelona backline may no longer be guaranteed, but the talismanic importance of club captain Carles Puyol remains undiminished. Barcelona's 2-1 comeback win against Real Madrid CF in the Copa del Rey this week made it an incredible 51 matches without defeat for the Catalan club's long-haired leader.
Rags to riches: Swansea City AFC
Exactly nine years before Swansea City lined up to face Arsenal FC in the Premier League last weekend, the Welsh side were rock bottom and the Gunners top of the 92-team English professional league system. They walked off the pitch just ten points below Arsène Wenger's men after outplaying and outscoring their opponents in a stylish 3-2 victory – further proof that their return to the top flight after an absence of 28 years may not be quite as temporary as many thought. The city received further good footballing news when local boy, and former Swans centre-back, Chris Coleman was unveiled as the new Wales manager.
North and South
There could be some very confused commentators in the Republic of Ireland's top flight next season when Dundalk FC play Sligo Rovers FC, if a certain player manages to successfully complete a trial with Dundalk. English-born striker Danny South has left non-league side Frickley Athletic FC to embark on a week-long trial with Dundalk, but one of his rivals for goals in the league in the 2012 season will be fellow striker Danny North, also an English native, who has just completed a close season move from St Patrick's Athletic FC to Sligo Rovers FC.
Blunder: Rocco Quinn (Ross County FC)
Ross County midfielder Rocco Quinn has had a week to forget after being arrested for breaking into his neighbour's house when he assumed he was forcing his way into his own. Having mislaid his front door key after a night out, Quinn decided to launch himself from the top of a wheelie bin into a house that actually turned out to be two doors down from his. The 25-year-old Celtic FC youth graduate was apprehended by police in an upstairs bedroom but he was not charged and was later allowed to return to his own house. He has since apologised to the owner and offered to pay for the damage caused by his blunder. "Nobody can believe what really happened," said one neighbour.
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