Julian Bennetts, Hayters news agency, England.
"Lionel Messi has officially been named the best player in the world once again, which is enough to take the title here this week as well. There is little left to say about the Argentine, but there were some fine performances elsewhere in Europe, with Mauro Icardi the star as 10-man Sampdoria stunned Juventus, while Edinson Cavani and Antonio Di Natale were among the goals in impressive wins for their sides, and Xabi Prieto scored a hat trick at the Bernabeu in vain after a crazy match with Real Madrid."
Orfeo Suarez, El Mundo, Spain. "Cristiano Ronaldo changed the match in the Bernabeu after (coach Jose) Mourinho's controversial decision about the goalkeepers and the red card for Adan (Garrido). Ricardo Carvalho, after a long time out, played a good match, too. Icardi, a young star, appeared against the leader in the Calcio. Look out for him in the future. Demba Ba scored in his first match for Chelsea, an interesting development for Benitez."
Will Tidey, The Bleacher Report, United States. "Manchester United's elegant assassin Robin van Persie has been the difference in the Premier League title race so far. He scores when he wants, and usually when it really matters. Edinson Cavani's perfect hat trick against Roma (right foot, left foot, header) served only to heighten the speculation of a possible January move away from Napoli. Cristiano Ronaldo, you either love him, or hate him. However you feel about Ronaldo, it won't stop him winning football matches for Real Madrid. It was business as usual as Barca swept aside Espanyol 4-0, making it five wins in a row and moving them 11 points clear atop La Liga."
James Porteous, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong. "Robin van Persie gets my nod for top player, having almost single-handedly ensured United had a very happy festive season, then keeping them in the FA Cup with another superb goal against West Ham. Messi and Ronaldo picked up where they left off before Spain's winter break, both scoring ahead of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony, and Kevin Boateng gets in my top five, not for his performance in Milan's 2-1 win over Siena, but for taking a stand against the racists among Pro Patria's fans in last week's friendly. As for the teams, among the usual suspects I've included Sampdoria, who shocked Juventus, Brighton for the impressive FA Cup win over Newcastle, and third-tier French club Epinal, who stunned Lyon in the Coupe de France, knocking out the holders and seven-times French champions on penalties."
Paolo Condo, Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy. "The science fiction-style start for Barcelona continues into the New Year, and it's impossible not to mention it, also as an indicator of happiness at (coach Tito) Vilanova's comeback. An incredible victory from Sampdoria in the Juventus stadium, 2-1 with a double from the young pupil of Leo Messi, Icardi, surely a star of the next generation. But between the players I think that Edinson Cavani — a hat trick in the key match of Serie A — deserves the title of big gun of the week. And in the hardest night for Mourinho, two of the men of his inner circle, Carvalho and Ronaldo, are his saviors."
Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, United States. "Milan — Good for them. Change will never come about unless teams take drastic measures against racism. AC Milan was perfectly within their rights walking off the field against Pro Patria. It is really the one and only way to punish fans — deprive them of their gladiatorial entertainment."
Tom Timmermann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, United States. "I'm not sure at this point how many matches Barcelona would have to lose before I drop them from the top spot. (I suppose if they got knocked out of the Champions League, that might do it.) If everyone was in one league, Barca would be up by 10 points. In the last poll, I had Juventus second and Bayern Munich third, but with Juve's loss, I didn't want to promote Bayern up for doing nothing, so Manchester United gets the nod, even with a draw in its most recent match. The newcomer in my top 10 this week is Tottenham Hotspur. To get them in, I had to drop world champ Corinthians. They've got a chance to get back in once they start playing again. One rule of thumb I have is to rank someone who had two good games in a week over someone who had one good game (unless that game was simply amazing). So that puts Van Persie atop my list, for his two goals on Tuesday and then his master strike in stoppage time to salvage an FA Cup tie against West Ham. In the absence of Lionel Messi this week — one goal, from a penalty is the best he could do? — Van Persie seems the player most likely to be at the top of my list. Icardi's two goals at Juventus were also exceptional, and it certainly justified him not being allowed to go home to play for Argentina's under-20 team."
Mike McGrath, Wardles news agency/The Sun, England. "Manchester United's seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League is down to Robin van Persie's goals and he kept them in the FA Cup with a stunning strike, too. He increasingly looks like the key man in the title race."