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Zlatan Ibrahimović, FC Barcelona top AP soccer rankings

Zlatan Ibrahimović (Claudio Bresciani/AP)
Zlatan Ibrahimović (Claudio Bresciani/AP)

LONDON (AP) — Goal of the decade. Best goal of all time. Goal of the century. 

The Associated Press' global panel of soccer voters agreed on one thing: Zlatan Ibrahimović's four-goal spree for Sweden against England last week and his amazing 25-yard overhead kick goal made him the overwhelming choice to top the AP Global 10 soccer rankings. 

The Paris Saint-Germain striker collected an astonishing 199 points - out of a possible 200 - from the panel of 20 journalists around the world. Each voter awards 10 points for his choice of the best player and team of the week, falling to one point for 10th place. 

"It's hard to look beyond Zlatan after his virtuoso performance and video game 'golazo' for Sweden against England," said Will Tidey of the San Francisco-based Bleacher Report, referring to Ibrahimović's bicycle kick. 

Added panelist Christian Schaetzle of German blog derfussballblogger.de: "Four goals in the 4-2 victory over England, plus the bicycle kick from 25 meters for one of the greatest goals of all times." 

Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also had no doubt. 

"How can you not go with Ibrahimović?" Timmermann said. "As much as (Lionel) Messi did, I'll never get another chance to vote for something like that. Messi gets my vote 24 out of 25 weeks. This time, I salute a tremendous effort, and a pretty good game regardless." 

Messi, who usually tops the rankings, trailed far behind Ibrahimović in second place with 138 points despite scoring twice in Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza. Liverpool forward Luis Suarez was third with 75 points. 

"Messi was his usual excellent self," James Porteous of The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong said, "making one and scoring two against Zaragoza as he homes relentlessly in on Gerd Müller's record of goals scored in a calendar year." 

AC Milan striker Stephan El Shaarawy was fourth after scoring twice to earn his team a draw against Napoli and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema shone in a 5-1 victory, earning him fifth place. 

Barcelona jumped back into the top spot in team rankings, three points ahead of Italian club Fiorentina, which won praise from panelists after it moved into third place in Serie A with a 4-1 victory over Atalanta — featuring two goals from Alberto Aquilani. 

Aquilani's goals saw him garner seventh place in the players' poll, his first appearance. 

"In Italy it is hard not to think of Fiorentina as a coming force as they moved into Champions League contention," said Julian Bennetts of Britain's Hayters news agency. 

Real Madrid is third after its 5-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao, ahead of Premier League champion Manchester City and French club Rennes in fifth. 

Egyptian club Al Ahly received its reward for winning a seventh African Champions League title and was voted into ninth place, even with Arsenal. Al Ahly, the only non-European team in the top 10, has overcome a terrible year in which the club could not play domestic football for nine months because of unrest in Egypt. 

AP Global Soccer Rankings for week ending Nov. 18 

(Previous week's rankings in brackets)

Players 

1. Zlatan Ibrahimović, 199 points
2. Lionel Messi, 138 (1 first-place vote)
3. Luis Suarez, 75
4. Stephan El Shaarawy, 70
5. Karim Benzema, 66
6. Santi Cazorla, 48
7. Alberto Aquilini, 46
8. Federico Marchetti, 42
9. Sergio Agüero, 33
10. Carlos Tévez, 26 

Teams

1. Barcelona 102 points (5 first-place votes)
2. Fiorentina, 99
3. Real Madrid 96 (8 first-place votes)
4. Manchester City 91 (9 first-place votes)
5. Rennes, 75
6. West Bromwich Albion, 74
7. Norwich, 50
8. Borussia Dortmund, 49
t-9. Al Ahly, 44
t-9. Arsenal, 44

Simon Haydon The Associated Press
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