Pitchside Europe

European Team of the Season

Pitchside Europe

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As the dust slowly begins to settle on a momentous 2011-12 campaign, Pitchside Europe selects a team of the season composed of players who ply their trade outside the Premier League.

(Formation: 4-1-3-2)

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

After making only 16 appearances due to injury in the previous campaign, Buffon rediscovered his best form to provide the foundation upon which Juventus built their Serie A success. There was one high-profile blunder, in the 1-1 draw with Lecce that allowed Milan back into the title race, but in the main he was outstanding, conceding just 16 goals in 35 appearances (a rate of 0.46 goals per game) and helping Juventus finish the season with the best defensive record in Europe's five major leagues.

Right-back: Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

An indefatigable presence on the right side of the Dortmund defence, Piszczek started all but two of his side's league matches and chipped in with some key goals, including a last-minute winner at Mainz in September that kick-started the champions' season and a fine equaliser in the 2-1 victory at derby rivals Schalke in April that took Juergen Klopp's side to the brink of the title.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

The unflappable leader in the Dortmund defence, Hummels was an imperious figure during the title run-in and even got on the score-sheet in the 5-2 humiliation of his former club Bayern Munich in the German Cup final.

Centre-back: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona)

It is rare for an established international player to undergo a significant positional change at the age of 27, but that is what has happened to Mascherano, who has transformed himself from a tenacious holding player into one of the classiest centre-backs in the game. With Carles Puyol frequently injured and Gerard Pique dogged by irregular form, it was left to Mascherano to marshal the Barcelona defence. Whether playing in a back three or a back four, he did so with impressive assurance.

Left-back: Henri Bedimo (Montpellier)

A 1.5 million euro signing from relegated Lens, Cameroon international Bedimo typified Montpellier's unlikely title triumph with his bold incursions down the left flank and was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year by his peers.

Central midfield: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)

Ably supported by Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, Pirlo provided the metronome by which Juventus orchestrated their attacks and finished the season as the top provider of assists in Serie A with 13. He averaged 86.4 passes per game — second only to Xavi in Europe's five major leagues — and produced more accurate long balls per game (11.2), on average, than any other outfield player.

Right wing: Eden Hazard (Lille)

Lille may have fallen short in their bid to retain the Ligue 1 title, but Hazard could not have scripted his farewell season more carefully. With 20 goals and 16 assists, he was the only player in Europe's top five leagues apart from Lionel Messi to register more than 15 goals and 15 assists, and the effervescence of his play was a joy to behold.

Attacking midfield: Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund)

After missing the second half of Dortmund's 2010-11 title success with a broken foot, Japanese international Kagawa came to the fore this season, stepping into the breach when Mario Goetze was sidelined by a pubic bone injury in January and finishing the campaign with 13 goals and eight assists as BVB secured the first domestic double in their history.

Left wing: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

He may have been pipped to the Pichichi by Messi, but Ronaldo had the last laugh by spearheading Madrid's first La Liga success since 2008. He proved that he is no mere flat-track bully by netting a crucial and coolly dispatched winner in the Clásico at Camp Nou on April 21, and ended the season with 60 goals from 55 appearances.

Striker: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Fifty goals in La Liga, a world-record 72 in all competitions, a third consecutive Ballon d'Or, and the title of Barcelona's leading all-time goalscorer at the age of just 24. Ironically, Messi's finest season to date coincided with Barca relinquishing their grip on both the Spanish league title and the Champions League, but there can be no debate that — in terms of ability alone — he bears comparison with anyone who has ever played the sport.

Striker: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic enjoyed his most prolific season to date with Milan, Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez plundered goals with remarkable consistency, and Falcao shot Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory, but Huntelaar outscored them all. The Dutchman's sparkling partnership with Raul fired Schalke to Champions League qualification and with 29 goals, he trailed only Messi, Ronaldo and Robin van Persie in the running for the European Golden Shoe.

All statistics courtesy of Who Scored?

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