With the TOTY vote now officially open, football fans from all around the world have been sharing their Ultimate XIs online.
Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has teamed up with Joel Beya and Stephen Howson to pick his Team of the Year... and there are some SHOCKERS in here!
FIFA TOTY Debate
Ex-England and Man United centre-back Rio Ferdinand, along with social media stars Joel Beya and Stephen Howson, has picked his Ultimate XI and shared the discussion on his YouTube channel.
You can watch the full debate here (word of warning - it gets pretty heated):
The debate is a great watch but it does last around 35 minutes, so, we're here to give you the full lowdown as well as our take on Rio's TOTY picks.
In net, Rio has gone for Chelsea's world-class 'keeper, Edouard Mendy. Here's what he had to say about the Senegalese international:
‘When I covered a lot of their games (Chelsea), in big key moments, he made big saves. I think that’s where you judge the goalkeeper position, all the nominees are great keepers, and they could all have their say to be in the team”
It's definitely a toss-up between Euro 2020 champion Gianluigi Donnarumma and Champions League winner Edouard Mendy, but we can't argue too much with this one given how impressive the Blues goalie has been this year.
Now, here's where we start to disagree with Rio's Team of the Year, as he picks Kyle Walker over Liverpool sensation Trent-Alexander Arnold.
“Right back, Kyle Walker. In the Euros it was one of the most dominant performances, especially man to man etc. Covering the ground, physically dominating every opponent. In the stadium, I was lucky to be there on a number of occasions and you could see players noticed they were up against him and turned away. They won the league and got to the Champions League final, for me Kyle Walker is my right back."
We feel the Red Devil may have been overcome with the rivalry he feels against Liverpool when picking his right back, as it's clear to see that Trent has been the best right-back in the world this year.
However, the ex England international has somewhat redeemed himself with his choice at left-back...
"My other full back will be Cancelo, the production that this guy puts out is phenomenal, I think he was involved in 16 goals in 2021, for a full back, phenomenal. He’s also had the most touches in the Premier League this season, dominating games from the full back position."
There's no doubt that Rio got his left-back pick spot on, but who did the once world-class centre-back go for at the heart of the defence?
"CB will be Rudiger, since Tuchel has come in I think he has been one of the best defenders around. Aggressive, dominates, demands from others, the crowd feeds off the way he plays. All round I think he has been tremendous and again, I think the element of a new contract has focused him as well. And I think whoever gets him will have a solid player. His partner in crime would be Ruben Dias, I’m going for a Premier League back 4 there, to be honest I don’t think anyone else has rivalled him in the CB position.”
Although Ferdinand is correct with Ruben Dias, he has REALLY missed the mark by picking Antonio Rudiger.
Though the German has excelled this year, his weaknesses are hidden in Tuchel's system of a defensive three at the back.
The likes of Marquinhos would have been the smarter pick here, in our opinion.
Rio said he came prepared for the TOTY debate, but we aren't too sure when looking at his midfield trio...
“Thomas Muller, Number one. Thomas Muller is in there. Because people may not watch on a regular basis let me just read out a couple of stats: No player in the big 5 European leagues has provided as many assists in a single calendar year in 2021, which is 24.”
There's more to football than numbers, and though this stat may be true, going with Thomas Muller over the likes of Euro 2020 and Champions League winner Jorginho is CRIMINAL.
Rio has clawed back some dignity with his next pick, as he went for Chelsea superstar N'Golo Kante in the midfield. Here's what he had to say about the Frenchman:
“Any team that gets picked here and Kante isn’t in it, I’m not having you. He basically single-handedly won Chelsea the Champions League. I think he won 5 or 6 MOTM awards on his way to winning the Champions League. All round I think he’s a great player, you want him in your team. For me, he’s one of the first names on the team sheet for any manager.”
Ferdinand completes the midfield three with Marco Veratti, who is a fair pick IF you include Jorginho in the final XI too.
The United fan-favourite went on to say some words about England youngster Jude Bellingham:
I think Jude has got time on his side, hell of an impressive player. What he has done this year is nothing short of remarkable. What he did at the Etihad, and I see Pep saying, “how old is he, how old is this kid”. Unfortunately, his team hasn’t won anything this year so that has to be considered as well. But he will be winning this, and I think he’s a Ballon d’Or winner at some point in his career.”
Rio kicked off his attacking picks by discussing his 2021 player of the year. Here's what he had to say:
"My guy and the player who should have won all the individual awards this year as the best player in 2021, was robbed in 2020. Is Mr Robert Lewandowski. There’s not enough I can say about this guy, he’s scored the most league goals of any player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. That’s enough, that’s all I need to say. There’s so many more stats I could throw out there. If all three of us haven’t got him in our teams it discredits any part of your teams!”
No one in their right mind would argue with this one - Lewandowski was simply outstanding in 2021.
Ferdinand has gone for another popular pick up top, with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah included in his Ultimate XI...
“Mo Salah, this guy. Premier league’s best player in 2021. He has been nothing short of remarkable. No player has scored as many goals as him in 2021. 6 more than any other player, directly involved in 35 goals, 11 more than the next closest player.”
The Manchester United came into play yet again when picking his third and final forward, though, as Rio went for Cristiano Ronaldo over the likes of Ballon d'Or winning Messi, Ligue 1 top scorer Kylian Mbappe and top talent Erling Haaland.
Though we'd love to see Ronaldo get an overpowered TOTY card in Ultimate Team, there's absolutely NO WAY he deserves a spot in the 2021 Team of the Year.