- Festive Fundown
Football: Player of the Year
Christmas season is upon us, so in the build-up to the big day itself we at ESPN Towers will be picking out a host of top-five moments, and then asking YOU to vote for your favourites.
What was the goal of 2012? Who are the top five bad boys of the past 12 months? Who had years to forget? Come back each day for a new topic and cast your vote to pick the winners of each category…
Robin Van PersieVan Persie completes 2012 having been the most important player to both clubs he has played for. His goals for Arsenal were the crucial factor in returning a previously listing ship to an automatic Champions League place. The stats show he is the third-most crucial goalscorer for his team in Premier League history. He has been no less important for Manchester United after they broke their transfer policy to pay £24 million for him. They have been rewarded with a series of goals to keep them in the hunt for a 20th Premier League title. While other departments are failing and are in need of repair, United now possess a truly world-class striker - and he scored the winner in a Manchester derby to boot.
Vincent KompanyThe most important goal in the race for the 2011-12 Premier League title was undoubtedly that of Sergio Aguero. However, it would not have been possible without the header from City's skipper that wrested the title into Blue hands when United were defeated at Eastlands two weeks before. Kompany was the dominant force in City's revival from an eight-point deficit, and proved himself a true leader in the finest tradition. Alan Hansen, who knows a thing or two about organising a title-winning defence, said: "He is on course to become the best defender of the Premier League era."
Juan MataIt has been another year for Spanish dominance, and the Champions League winners had Mata as their creative hub. He began the year as a ray of light amid the growing darkness of Andre Villas-Boas' Chelsea regime, before being granted a central role by Roberto Di Matteo. There, hard work was married with Mata's eye for a killer pass, and Chelsea were transformed into European champions. He began the next season at the heart of some of his club's most exciting attacking of the era, before continuing to be influential while the Rafa Benitez regime faltered. He could also add a goal in Euro 2012's final to complete a personally marvellous year.
Andres IniestaMata was only a substitute for Spain at the Euros, and that is because he is competing to be a starter with one of the finest midfield units to ever grace the game. While Xavi struggled with his form until dominating the final, his Barcelona partner was at his imperious best, and was eventually given UEFA's Player of the Tournament for an unmatchable and consistent excellence. For his club he remains as important as ever, and Tito Vilanova's successful succession of Pep Guardiola has been helped by the midfielder continuing to hit heights that make him one of the finest players of his generation.
Lionel MessiHis collecting of personal accolades is almost as prolific as his goalscoring exploits. On Sunday he went past another milestone to become the greatest scorer of goals in a calendar year - his two strikes against Betis on Sunday taking to 86 an beyond a 40-year-old record set by Gerd 'Der Bomber' Muller. Just when you think he can no longer improve, he does something that seems impossible. Barcelona may have had to satisfy themselves with a mere Copa Del Rey title as Real Madrid won La Liga title and Chelsea denied them a Champions League but Messi remained as peerless as ever.
Cristiano RonaldoHe clearly does not like having to be around at the same time as Messi but he could content himself with another remarkable year of achievement. That seems unlikely in the light of his low mood for much of the second part of this year though even then, his goalscoring feats have continued to have been almost a goal a game. By the end of 2011-12, he had broken La Liga's all-time season record with 46 goals as Real won the title. His 60 goals in a season beat Alfredo Di Stefano's historic club record too. And another thing he could hold over Messi was performing on the international stage. Euro 2012 saw him take Portugal to the brink of the final, with a truly destructive individual showing against the Czechs the highlight.