Players I Thought About In 2012

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Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d write about some of the things I thought about in 2012.  Lots of stuff actually happened in the volleyball world in 2012 but I know nothing about nearly all of it because it happened in beach volleyball or women’s volleyball.  That’s not to say I never thought about beach volleyball or women’s volleyball, I just didn’t follow them.  So everything that follows will be male and indoor centric.  I think I’ll split them up into two or three posts.  I’ve already written about TEAMS.  This one is about (male indoor) PLAYERS

In a conversation about who are the players of the year, what you are really getting at is who was the best player in the world over the past year.  I think that this year above all others that is an extremely difficult question.  The reason is because of the problems of comparison.  Let me go on…

I think the most obvious four candidates are Murilo Endres, Maxim Mikhaylov, Dmitriy Muserskiy and Osmany Juantorena.  And now we compare.  Murilo was the MVP of the Olympics and was best and most consistent player of the team that came within one point of winning the Olympic Gold Medal.  But that team didn’t win the Olympic gold medal, Mikhaylov’s team did.  Mikhaylov was the Top Scorer and Best Spiker of the Olympics, and probably the best opposite in the world but it turns out that he might not even be the best opposite on his own team.  Muserskiy did nothing less than change the course of an Olympic final when he switched seamlessly from middle to opposite and quietly scored 16 points in one set (33 for the match).  A friend who has watched him a lot described him as having ‘infinite talent’.  But none of them actually had to compete against Juantorena in that tournament.  Other friends have told me that despite Trento being the best drilled and prepared team in the world, they actually win a large number of matches just because of Juantorena imposing himself at the decisive moment.  So what is the actual answer to the question ‘Who was the best player in the world in 2012’?  Just for the sake of argument, I will say Juantorena over Mikhaylov.  But 2013 is another year…

That was not the only player related topic that I thought about.  I also thought nostalgically as two of the absolute greats of the game announced their retirements from international volleyball after the Olympics.  Giba was a shadow of Giba we remember in his fourth Olympics but he was still the emotional centre of his team and I bet there was not one single spectator watching who didn’t expect him to change the match when he came on.  Those expectations are what he has earnt for his last 14 years with the national team and three Olympic medals (one gold, two silver).  As disappointed as many volleyball fans would have been that Giba missed out on the gold in his swansong, none would have been disappointed that Sergey Tetyukhin won one in his.  In his fifth Olympics, Tetyukhin won his fourth medal and his first gold.  For no player would it have been more fitting.  In a sense they were the reflection of each other in their respective volleyball cultures.  Neither was ever the best at anything in particular, but both were the best at playing volleyball (a surprsingly underrated ability) in their generation and both set standards that are almost impossible to match.  Both players will be missed.

The last question that vexed me over the last twelve months was ‘Who is the best setter right now?  No, really, I mean it. Who is it? I can’t think of one.’  None of the teams at the Olympics were really sure of their setters.  Brazil brought back Ricardo as a backup because they weren’t convinced Bruno could do the job.  Russia went back and forth between Butko and Grankin without ever really deciding on one.  Travica played a good tournament for Italy, without ever inspiring anyone.  Zydaglo was nothing more than solid for Poland and it was surprising to many that Zagumny didn’t play more.  Argentina’s De Cecco looked out of shape and uninspired.  And so on and so forth.  Raphael of Trento is perfect for Trento, but isn’t even on the Brazilian team roster which must count for something.  Grbic is still good but wasn’t playing in any big moments with club or country.  Ball is retired (again).  Which leaves only one…  actually it leaves plenty, but I digress… the best performance I saw from a setter this year was from Valerio Vermiglio in the Champions League Final Four.  I’ve talked about this at clinics since then but these two matches, especially the final were works of art from both a tactical and technical perspective.  Just a wonderful performance.

And the last player I thought about in 2012… Ivan Zaytsev.  I’ve just finished watching him score 25 points (including five aces) on the losing team in the Italian Cup final playing part of the match as a passing-opposite!  I have a feeling we may be talking about him in the future.


  1. i watched the video of the Zenit Kazan v Belchatow game from the clinic again recently. those last three side outs are just amazing. On the sets to Mikhaylov and Berezhkov, you can see the Belchatow outside blockers committing on the first tempo, blocking their middle from even getting to the block! Just superb


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