Since Pep Guardiola took the reins at Manchester City, the team has been widely considered one of the best in world soccer.
Opposition head coaches will regularly declare during their press conferences that City is the best team in the world, and coming up against them is seen one of the biggest tests the game has to offer.
The head coach of their Premier League rivals, Jürgen Klopp of Liverpool, reaffirmed this as recently as last weekend when asked about City’s 8-0 win at home to Watford.
“I’ve said it before, they are the best team in the world,” said Klopp after his own side was made to work hard for a victory of its own at Chelsea.
Last season, City won a domestic treble, and even though this was overshadowed somewhat by other clubs’ progress in Europe, with the Champions League and Europa League producing all-English finals not involving City, its domestic feats cannot be overlooked or ignored.
This was the first time an English club had won all three domestic competitions since Arsenal Women in 2007, and the only time a men’s team has done so.
But City and its players were overlooked when it came to this year’s Fifpro awards, and seeing as winning trophies appears to be weighted heavily in the voting for such individual gongs, then it’s a wonder players from “the best team in the world” were absent following their historic feat.
Cristiano Ronaldo somehow made the top three players of the year, and also the team of the year. This might be because his Portugal side won the UEFA Nations League, and international honours in the previous year are often favoured even if these players weren’t necessarily the best overall.
But this international weighting doesn’t seem to apply to City.
Attackers Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez both won international tournaments in 2019, as Brazil and Algeria came out on top in competitions which are arguably more difficult to win than the Nations League—the Copa America and Africa Cup of Nations.
Sporadic appearances with their club may have cost them individual recognition, though, and even though there are few better players in the Premier League than Mahrez in the early part of this season, you might say the exclusions of himself and Jesus are understandable.
Even so, it seems the weight of international competition hasn’t been applied in their case, and in that of Jesus’ City team-mate and compatriot Fernandinho, while it has for others.
Also conspicuous by his absence is one of the few world class center-forwards in world soccer, Sergio Agüero.
As an Argentine, Agüero struggles similarly to Lionel Messi when it comes to these things as people ask ‘where are your World Cups?’
Brazil won the Copa America this year, defeating Argentina in the semi-finals, so even in continental competition Argentina are failing to impress.
Not that any of the best Brazilian players at the tournament, such as another of the world’s top center-forwards, Roberto Firmino, featured in the Fifpro awards, either.
Ronaldo featured heavily at the ceremony in Milan despite not even being the top scorer in Serie A, with Fabio Quagliarella, Duván Zapata, and Krzysztof Piątek all ahead of him last season.
Argentina’s performances seem to be affecting Agüero, who didn’t receive a single nomination from the captains, coaches, and media representatives who each get to choose three players.
But remember that domestic treble. Does such a feat count for nothing?
All of these are minor omissions compared to that of Bernardo Silva.
Not only did Bernardo win the domestic treble, but he also won the Nations League which, presumably, is what artificially catapulted Ronaldo into the top spots.
Bernardo is without doubt one of the best midfielders in the world. He was one of the reasons City didn’t really miss Kevin De Bruyne as the Belgian spent much of last season out injured or recovering from those injuries.
The Portuguese’s work rate can be matched by few players, but then despite running himself into the ground he’s still one of the most skilful, composed, intelligent, and technically gifted players when the ball arrives at his feet.
The best players are often encouraged to conserve their energy to make sure they are fresh when they receive the ball in order to cause optimum damage, but not Bernardo, he contributes in all areas of the game.
De Bruyne has returned to the side this season and is already showing his 2018/19 form which made him one of the best around, but in his absence Bernardo raised his own game to these levels.
Like Agüero, Bernardo failed to receive a single vote from the captains, head coaches and media when those trusted with this task named their top three.
Given that there are over 500 people involved in this voting, you would think that their names would appear at least occasionally on the list, but there is no sign of any City players. Even England’s best, Raheem Sterling, is nowhere to be seen despite reaching double figures for goals and assists last season.
At least Bernardo was voted the sixth best midfielder in the world by his peers when they selected the Fifpro World XI, but this still wasn’t enough to make the final XI which contained Luka Modric, last year’s Ballon d’Or winner who has been nowhere near his previous level this season; Eden Hazard, who is a forward, not a midfielder; and the young former Ajax, now Barcelona player, Frenkie de Jong who, for all his potential, wasn’t as good as Bernardo last season, but is perhaps the most deserving of his place in the team.
Another City player, Aymeric Laporte, who is one of the best center-backs around, is only the 17th best defender in the world according to these votes.
Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos, good though he is in many areas of the game, even if not necessarily as strong in 2019, was considered the second best defender in the world ahead of the likes of Andy Robertson, Kalidou Koulibaly, Joshua Kimmich, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Laporte.
Players’ opinions of each other are often used as evidence or proof of how good a footballer is, but their voting in these awards suggests this shouldn’t be the case.
Manchester City, and Bernardo Silva in particular, can feel particularly hard done to following this recent event, but it’s also important to remember that these awards don’t really matter, and concentrating too much on individual accolades could be detrimental to a team.
City is bookies’ favourite for the Champions League this season despite having never won the competition or even made it as far as the semi-finals under Guardiola.
This shows how highly thought of the team and its players are by organisations who could lose money if they get these things wrong, even though they are not yet rated by their peers.