FIFA 22 Team of the Year: Bruno Fernandes, Kante, Pedri among midfielders nominated for Ultimate XI

Leagues

The first set of nominees for the EA Sports FIFA 22 Team of the Year have been announced as some of the biggest names in men’s football vie for a place in the final XI.

A total of 80 of the best players across Europe’s top leagues over the past 12 months are in the running for inclusion, with fans voting to decide which of the stars on the long-list make the cut.

Those who make it into the XI will also have their performances and achievements celebrated by being given special TOTY player items in-game, including boosted stats to reflect their status.

This time last year, the big news surrounding the FIFA 21 TOTY vote was the shocking omission of Lionel Messi, who missed out on a place in the Ultimate XI for the first time despite scoring 27 goals and providing 19 assists in 48 appearances for Barcelona and Argentina in 2020.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar will be hoping to rectify the situation this time around, along with teammate Neymar, who also fell short of making the Team of the Year last time out.

The first batch of nominees revealed for FIFA 22 are the attackers, with a clutch of crack goal scorers from across the continent looking to seal their place in the Ultimate XI.

The midfielders will be announced on Saturday, with the defenders and goalkeepers completing the long-list of nominees on Sunday. The online vote will open Monday with the Ultimate XI revealed on Jan. 20.

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ATTACKERS

Benzema scored 38 goals in 2021 — the best return of his career over a calendar year — and played a direct role in over half of his team’s league goals with 41 involvements in the 80 Los Blancos scored in LaLiga last year. Reinstated to the France national team, the veteran striker also scored four goals in as many games at Euro 2020, going on to end the year with nine goals in 13 games for Les Bleus — more than any other player in that period.

One of Italy’s breakthrough performers at Euro 2020, scoring two goals in the knockout phase en route to lifting the trophy, Chiesa also celebrated becoming the youngest Italian player in all of Europe’s big five leagues to both score and assist at least five goals in 2021. The Juventus man scored eight goals and provided six assists in Serie A alone, with a grand total of 15 goals and seven assists in all competitions.

Not a name as immediately familiar as some of the other strikers on the shortlist, David has been a sensation for Lille, scoring 27 goals in just 41 starts for the Ligue 1 champions over the course of 2021. In December, at 21, the Canada international became the highest-scoring CONCACAF player in the history of the French top flight when he scored his 24th goal for Lille, surpassing the 23 goals Julio Dely Valdes of Panama scored for Paris Saint-Germain during 1995-97.

A relatively low-key start to life as the Premier League’s most expensive footballer should not overshadow the numbers that Grealish has put up in 2021, including the 56 chances he’s created for his teammates from open play (roughly 2.5 every 90 minutes). Only Kevin De Bruyne has a higher average (2.7 per 90). Grealish was also fouled on average 3.5 times per 90 minutes in the Premier League last year, which is more than any other player in the league to have been on the field for 500 minutes or more.

The numbers say it all: Haaland scored his 50th Bundesliga goal in November, making the Dortmund striker both the youngest (21 years and 129 days) and fastest (50 games) to reach a half-century in Germany‘s top flight. However, the year didn’t go entirely to plan for the Norwegian, who missed out on Euro 2020 and World Cup qualification before seeing Dortmund eliminated from the Champions League group stage as the year spluttered to an underwhelming, injury-strewn end.

No Italian scored more goals in Europe’s big five leagues in 2021 than Immobile, who netted 27 times for Lazio last year. He was also one of only three Serie A players to amass 30 or more goal involvements (26 goals and four assists) in 2021 as well as registering more involvements with the Italian national side (five goals and three assists) in the same calendar year than any of his compatriots.

A pint-sized bundle of energy on his day, Insigne loves to get involved in buildup play and as a result played a direct hand in more attempted shots (247) than any other player across all of Europe’s big fives leagues in 2021 — that’s 163 shots for himself and 84 chances carved out for his teammates. He also got more shots away (19) than any other player at Euro 2020, as well as having more touches of the ball in the opposition box (32) than anyone else at the tournament.

Despite hardly being a vintage year for the Spurs striker by his own high standards, Kane scored 18 goals in the Premier League in 2021, with Mohamed Salah of Liverpool the only player to score more (24). Kane also maintained an impressive goals-per-game ratio for England over the course of the year, netting 16 in 16 games (four of which came on the run to the Euro 2020 final) which is more goals than any player has ever scored for the Three Lions in a single calendar year.

Arguably the greatest out-and-out striker of the modern age, Lewandowski once again proved his chops by scoring more league goals (43) than any other player in Europe’s big five divisions in 2021, setting a new single-season Bundesliga record as he went. He may have been cruelly deprived of a likely Ballon d’Or win last January due to the 2020 award being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps the prolific Poland captain can find some comfort in knowing that he averaged more than a goal a game (1.3 a game, to be precise) in the year that followed.

While his return to Chelsea may have hit the buffers recently when his comments in an interview led to him being dropped, Lukaku has still enjoyed a prolific 2021. The striker scored 22 goals in 44 games overall, while reaching double figures for Belgium in a calendar year for the third time. Split between stints at Serie A title-winners Inter Milan and Chelsea, Lukaku had a direct hand in 27 league goals (18 goals and nine assists) in the space of just 36 appearances, underlining his influence.

As well as scoring 23 goals in 51 games with Inter, Martinez can also boast having won more games in Serie A (30) than any other outfield player in the Italian top flight in 2021. The Nerazzurri striker was also in devastating form for his country, scoring six goals for Argentina in the year of their Copa America win and only being outscored on the national team by Messi.

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)

A truly prodigious attacking talent, Mbappe became the youngest player ever to score a century of goals in Ligue 1 in March 2021. Then just nine months later, the PSG forward also became the youngest player ever to score 100 goals for a single club courtesy of his match-winning brace in a 2-0 victory over Monaco. Mbappe was also directly involved in 14 goals in the Champions League with PSG (10 goals and four assists) in 2021, which is more than any other player in the competition.

Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)

While you might argue that 2021 wasn’t a vintage year for Messi. The Argentina captain still managed to end the year as Barcelona’s top goal scorer in all competitions (scoring 13 more goals than anybody else) despite leaving the club to sign for PSG midway through the year. Messi finally secured the first major international honour of his career with victory at the 2021 Copa America (where he topped the charts for both goals and assists), and his performances were still good enough for him to win a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.

Now well into his second spell with Villarreal, Moreno scored 31 goals in all competitions in 2021 — 11 more than any other Spanish player in all of Europe’s big five leagues. Indeed, of all the players plugging away in the continent’s major divisions, the 29-year-old striker was ranked the ninth-highest goal scorer in all competitions last year, and even played his way to a first ever Ballon d’Or nomination as a result after helping the Yellow Submarine win the Europa League.

It may not surprise you to learn that of all the players to play at least 1,000 minutes in Ligue 1 in 2021, Neymar attempted the most dribbles, averaging 9.7 per 90 minutes. Reduced to just 33 appearances for PSG over the course of the year, Neymar still chipped in with a fairly healthy 11 goals and eight assists.

In scoring 16 goals in 46 games for La Real, Oyarzabal marked the fourth successive year in which the 24-year-old has scored 10 or more league goals for the club. He also was among Spain’s more effervescent performers at Euro 2020, scoring his nation’s fifth and final goal against Croatia in a pulsating 5-3 win.

Payet has become a talismanic figure since returning to Marseille, with the French side winning 43.2% of the Ligue 1 games the attacking midfielder has featured in during 2021 as opposed to just 25% of those he’s missed. The former West Ham favourite is also the only player in Ligue 1 to hit triple figures for the number of chances created, having teed up his teammates for exactly 100 attempts last year.

Such is his phenomenal strike rate, Ronaldo still managed to finish 2021 as Juventus’ highest goal scorer, with 20 goals in all competitions, despite leaving to rejoin Manchester United in August. The Portugal captain scored 34 goals in 51 club games last year; the year in which he became the highest-scoring player in the history of men’s international football by breaking a record previously held for 15 years by Iran legend Ali Daei, and in which he registered his 800th senior career goal for club and country.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)

One of the most consistent goal scorers in world football, Salah scored 24 Premier League goals in 41 games for Liverpool in 2021, six more than any other player in the division. He was also involved in a total of 35 league goals for the Reds thanks to his 11 assists, with that combined tally 11 higher than the next competitor on the list. Just to cap it off, between Aug. 28 and Dec. 16 the Egypt international either scored or assisted in 15 consecutive Premier League appearances, equaling a record set by Jamie Vardy during Leicester City‘s 2015-16 title-winning season.

Let go by Barcelona in the summer of 2020, Suarez responded by proving his worth all over again at Atleti in 2021, winning his fifth LaLiga title in his first season at the Metropolitano. The evergreen Uruguay international, who turns 35 later this month, was directly involved in 24 goals for Diego Simeone’s side across all competitions last year (21 goals and three assists), which was four more than any of his teammates.

Tadic assisted 29 league goals for Ajax in the Eredivisie in 2021, which is more than any other player in the top 10 European leagues. As well as scoring 17 goals in 54 games, the nimble Serbia international created 150 chances in the Dutch top division in that time frame, which is a whopping 61 more than any other player in the competition.

Averaging a goal every 113 minutes for Fiorentina, 21-year-old Vlahovic was the second-highest scorer (behind Lewandowski) in Europe’s big five leagues in 2021, pitching in with 33 goals. The young Serbian also became only the third player in Serie A history to score 30 or more league goals in a calendar year, and the first since Antonio Angelillo passed the milestone for Inter back in 1958.

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