Soccer  

Real Madrid, PSG dominate XI

With over 10 million votes pouring in from around the world and a shortlist of 100 nominees being whittled down to just 11, the FIFA 23 Team of the Year is officially upon us.

EA Sports has announced the names of the players included in this year’s select XI with big hitters such as Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema and Kevin De Bruyne earning themselves a spot. Indeed, it was Kylian Mbappe who garnered the largest share of the global poll among attackers with 23% of voters picking the Paris Saint-Germain striker.

Elsewhere, De Bruyne emerged top in the midfield voting (21%) while Achraf Hakimi proved the most popular defensive pick (15%). Meanwhile, Thibaut Courtois was No. 1 on the teamsheet after garnering a huge 56% majority among the goalkeepers.

Of course, the biggest name to miss out is Cristiano Ronaldo, who not only failed to make it into the FIFA 23 TOTY but wasn’t even named on the preliminary 100-name shortlist — the first time the Portugal captain has missed the cut since the Team of the Year was introduced for FIFA 09.

Other prominent names included on the shortlist but absent from the final XI include Erling Haaland (despite scoring 46 goals for club and country in 2022), Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, Neymar, Pedri, Toni Kroos, Manchester United midfield duo Casimero and Bruno Fernandes, Alisson and Argentina’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Here’s the full lineup of the EA Sports FIFA 23 Team of the Year.

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Despite 10 excellent goalkeepers being included in the TOTY shortlist, Courtois collected more than half of the votes which is fitting given that he won the 2021-22 Champions League with Real Madrid having kept more clean sheets (5) than any other keeper in the competition.

RB: Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain/Morocco)

Hakimi enjoyed a highly successful year in 2022, having won the Ligue 1 title and the Trophee des Champions with PSG after playing his way into the Africa Cup of Nations Best XI with Morocco back in February. The full-back then repeated the feat at international level with a string of excellent performances at the World Cup as the Atlas Lions defied expectation by reaching the semifinals in Qatar, with Hakimi scoring the winning penalty in the round-of-16 shootout against Spain.

Despite being comparatively young, 25-year-old Militao proved himself to be a sturdy and reliable presence at the heart of the Real Madrid defence, winning the Champions League and becoming entrusted as one of the prestigious Spanish club’s first-choice centre-backs.

Van Dijk is becoming an ever-present in the Team of the Year with his FIFA 23 inclusion marking a fourth-straight appearance for the graceful Netherlands centre-back. His strong form in early 2022 was vital as the Reds won both the League Cup and FA Cup last season while also taking the Premier League title race to the wire and reaching the Champions League final.

After struggling to find a foothold at Real Madrid, a transfer to Milan has seen Hernandez emerge as one of the Europe’s best left-backs. His dynamic overlaps helped the Rossoneri claim the Scudetto in 2021-22, pitching in with four goals and three assists over the course of the calendar year. He also helped France reach the World Cup final, and he has even been nominated for the Puskas Award.

At the tender age of 19, Bellingham has already established himself as one of the most able and composed central midfielders in European football. In 2022 alone, the youngster excelled for Dortmund in the Bundesliga, finished second in the Golden Boy award stakes and became an essential part for the England national team at the World Cup.

An elder statesman who is still capable of running matches from start to finish, Modric is rightly heralded as a modern great. The 37-year-old Croatian (almost twice the age of Bellingham) won his fifth Champions League with Real Madrid in 2022 and ended the calendar year with an average pass accuracy of 92%.

ACM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium)

One of the great maestros, De Bruyne has been pulling strings for City for many years and still shows no sign of his passing prowess beginning to wane. The creative powerhouse won the 2021-22 Premier League title with his club and contributed 13 goals and 16 assists in the league in total over the course of 2022.

RF: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain/Argentina)

Messi consolidated his claim to being the greatest of all time by finally winning a World Cup with Argentina at the fifth time of asking. This came after the 35-year-old superstar had already added the Ligue 1 title, Trophee des Champions and the CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions (also known as the Finalissima) to his enormous trophy collection.

CF: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/France)

It’s fair to say that 2022 was a vintage year for Benzema, who finished top scorer in both LaLiga (27 goals) and the Champions League (15) while winning both competitions as well as the 2022 Ballon d’Or for good measure — only the second player not named Messi or Ronaldo to do so since 2008. Who knows what might have happened if he had been fit and able to join the France squad at the start of the World Cup.

LF: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain/France)

Already one of the elite game’s most prolific talents, Mbappe won the Ligue 1 title with PSG before being named Player of the Season after finishing top of the goal and assist charts. The 24-year-old forward also came close to claiming his second successive World Cup winner’s medal in December — winning the Golden Boot and becoming the first man since 1966 to score a hat trick in the final — only for a certain Argentine club teammate to spoil the fun.

12th man

As in previous years, fans will have the opportunity to add a 12th man to the FIFA TOTY collective with three players who narrowly missed out on a place in the final XI afforded the chance to be added via a secondary vote.

The trio of players vying for the 12th man spot in the FIFA 23 TOTY are as follows: Erling Haaland (Manchester City), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) and Joao Cancelo (Manchester City).

Voting for the 12th man position (which was won by Ronaldo in 2022) will take place in-game within FIFA Ultimate Team from Jan. 23.