An unprecedented 4 million votes were cast to form the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2006 as European champions FC Barcelona and FIFA World Cup winners Italy dominated the selection.
Barcelona had four players in a side coached by Frank Rijkaard, the man who guided the Catalan giants to glory in the UEFA Champions League and Spanish Liga in 2005/06. Carles Puyol and Samuel Eto'o were retained at centre-back and forward from the 2005 XI, while Ronaldinho returned to the lineup after receiving three-quarters of the nominations for left midfielder.
Gianluca Zambrotta, a €14m summer recruit from Juventus, completed the quartet in recognition of his key role in Italy's World Cup triumph in Germany. He scored and set another up in the quarter-final win against Ukraine but the Azzurri's strength was, as ever, at the back as they conceded just two goals in seven games. Centre-back and skipper Fabio Cannavaro, plus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, also garnered Team of the Year selection and came one and two in the Ballon d'Or.
Another World Cup star, Germany's Philipp Lahm, was chosen at left-back after helping the hosts reach the last four and Thierry Henry of beaten finalists France made his fifth appearance in six editions in attack. Henry scored 35 goals in all competitions in 2006 but ended the year empty-handed, with Arsenal finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
Teenage club-mate Cesc Fàbregas was named in central midfield alongside a third English-based player, Liverpool FC's Steven Gerrard. AC Milan maestro Kaká completed the side as he took the attacking midfield berth. One of five newcomers to the selection, Kaká had scored five goals as the Rossoneri eased through the UEFA Champions League group stage, the start of a campaign that would culminate in the club's seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup.
UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2006
GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy)
RB: Gianluca Zambrotta (Juventus/FC Barcelona & Italy)
CB: Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid CF & Italy)
CB: Carles Puyol (FC Barcelona & Spain)
LB: Philipp Lahm (FC Bayern München & Germany)
RM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC & England)
CM: Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal FC & Spain)
AM: Kaká (AC Milan & Brazil)
LM: Ronaldinho (FC Barcelona & Brazil)
FW: Thierry Henry (Arsenal FC & France)
FW: Samuel Eto'o (FC Barcelona & Cameroon)
Coach: Frank Rijkaard (FC Barcelona)
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