Team: UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2013
"Nice honour," tweeted Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus after logging onto UEFA.com on Wednesday to discover he had been named in the 2013 edition of UEFA.com's annual users' Team of the Year. "Thanks to all the fans."
There has been more interest in this latest team than ever before, with over 6.3 million votes cast before the 9 January deadline. Reus was one of the newcomers to the squad, but while Cristiano Ronaldo features for an unprecedented seventh time in a row, he has his first new strike partner since 2007, with Zlatan Ibrahimović picked ahead of Lionel Messi.
Player: Domenico Berardi (US Sassuolo Calcio)
"A day I will never forget," concluded 19-year-old Sassuolo forward Berardi after becoming the first player to score four Serie A goals in a single game, with his four strikes in the space of 32 minutes against AC Milan on Sunday giving his side a 4-3 home win.
Oddly, Berardi owes his success to a happy accident: four years ago he was invited to play in a futsal match while visiting his older brother at university in Modena, and did so well he was sent for a trial with Sassuolo. He made his first-team debut in August 2012, netting 11 times as the Emilia-Romagna club gained promotion to Serie A last season – and has already equalled that tally in 2013/14. Next stop Brazil?
Goal: Alessandro Florenzi (AS Roma)
Roma's unbeaten start to the campaign ended with defeat at Juventus on 5 January, but they roared back into gear with a 4-0 home success against Genoa CFC last weekend, local boy Florenzi setting the tone at the Olimpico with a perfectly executed bicycle kick after 25 minutes. "I stay back for a few minutes after every training session to practise strikes like that with my team-mates," smiled the 22-year-old Italy midfielder.
His 37-year-old captain Francesco Totti was in awe. "If I had scored that, I would retire," he noted, adding of the acrobatic execution: "Mind you, I probably wouldn't be able to stand up after that."
"In one word, it's the magic of football."
Technically it is more than one word, but president Ziad Fakhri could be excused after fourth-tier AS Cannes – the amateur side where Zinédine Zidane and Johan Micoud began their careers – eliminated Ligue 1 AS Saint-Étienne on penalties in a French Cup tie this week.
Petr Čech kept his 209th Chelsea FC clean sheet when the west London team won 2-0 at Hull City AFC last Saturday, breaking Peter Bonetti's club record. "I really do value this record – it's a large number," the Czech Republic goalkeeper, 31, said. "It's definitely something I'll be putting on my CV." His captain Frank Lampard showed his appreciation, saying: "One of the downsides of being as consistent as him is maybe people get used to you being that good. We're very lucky to have him."
Lifeguard: Kevin Kuranyi (FC Dinamo Moskva)
A damsel in distress was fortunate to have Kuranyi on hand in Rio de Janeiro last week, with the 31-year-old former Germany striker leaping into the sea to help rescue a swimmer who had got into trouble.
"She was elderly, a bit overweight and probably had not properly estimated her strength," said the Dinamo Moskva player after he and a friend helped haul the woman ashore. "I am no hero. I couldn't have managed it on my own." With Kuranyi struggling with injury for much of the campaign so far, Dinamo fans will hope he can help drag them up from fourth in the Premier League to the UEFA Champions League spots when the Russian season resumes.
In a spin: ADO Den Haag
Staff and players at Dutch side Den Haag have been getting plenty of fire drill practice in recent weeks, with normal days at their new Forepark Stadion frequently interrupted by automated loudspeaker announcements telling them to "leave the stadium in an orderly way". The problem, it emerged, was the Eredivisie team's washing machines.
Since moving from their old Zuiderpark home, Den Haag have been training at Forepark, with the club's old laundry equipment being brought along – and playing havoc with the new venue's wiring. "Since all training sessions are now held at Forepark, all the kit gets washed here too," said a sheepish ADO spokesman. "Suddenly there were many more machines at work at the same time, so periodically a fuse would blow and trigger the alarm."
Holiday romance: Miguel Escalona (AEK Larnaca FC)
Unattached Spanish keeper Miguel Escalona got more than he bargained for after flying to Cyprus for a two-week winter break. The 30-year-old former Athletic Club and Logroñés CF shot-stopper had gone to visit his friend, AEK Larnaca defender Ander Murillo, and ended up joining him at the Cypriot club despite not having played since 2012.
"Miguel knew Ander from their time together at Bilbao," AEK general manager Evmeos Efthymiades told UEFA.com. "While he was here, he asked if he could train with us just to stay fit because he was unattached. At the same time we had to let our second-choice keeper go due to financial restructuring, and Miguel asked us if we would be interested. It turned out that we were!"
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