In light of FIFA’s Team of the Year, our Sport writers have racked their brains to produce their own World XI featuring some of the greatest players of all time.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
This ‘sweeper keeper’ has had a fantastic calendar year. The 6ft4in German added a World Cup winners medal, a DFB-Pokal Winners medal and another Bundesliga title to his already impressive collection. Conceding only four goals, making 25 saves and covering a staggering 38.5 km of ground during the World Cup in Brazil, Neuer is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in world.
Left Back- Philipp Lahm (Captain)
Consistency is the best word to describe this little genius. Captaining his German side to a World Cup win, Lahm’s elegance and composure on the ball makes the role of right back look easy. His surprising amount of pace and intelligent footballing brain has allowed him to sit comfortably at the top of world football for the last decade. This does not look likely to change any time soon.
Centre Back: Javier Mascherano
Although Mascherano’s natural position is in the centre of the pitch, recent seasons have seen him replace Carlos Puyol as Barcelona’s defensive rock. With incredible vision and an uncanny ability to read the game, he perfectly epitomizes the role of a modern centre back, controlling the tempo of every game in which he is involved. As the spine of the Argentine side, he drove his team to the World Cup final, narrowly losing out to a formidable German team.
Centre Back: Diego Godín
Godín was the heartbeat of arguably the strongest defensive line-up in recent history. As part of an impressive Atletico Madrid side that conceded only 26 goals in 38 La Liga matches during the 2013/2014 season, he has certainly established himself as one of the world’s most consistent defenders. Alongside collecting a La Liga winners medal, Godin’s highlight of the year would be scoring in the Champions League final against rivals Real Madrid.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos
Pace, ferocity and technical ability; Ramos possesses it all. Despite having had an extremely poor disciplinary record and a woeful World Cup, the Spaniard remains arguably one of the best defenders of his generation. Rocking the dishevelled-chic look these days, he is a lynchpin for his club, helping Real Madrid secure a tenth European Cup win in 2014. Any World XI without Ramos definitely lacks credibility.
Defensive Midfield: Nemanja Matić
Above all other years, 2014 was the year of the centre-defensive midfielder. Nemanja Matić exemplifies this. Returning to Stamford Bridge from Benfica for a fee of around £21 million, his composure on the ball and physical presence has provided the Chelsea back-four with some much-needed protection. Without a shadow of a doubt, Matić’s ability to break-up play and feed Chelsea’s lethal number 10s will undoubtedly put his team in a position to win the league.
Defensive Midfield: Toni Kroos
A different sort of player to Matic, but by no means less valuable, Kroos has proven to be an influential addition to any side. With incredible vision, he is able to thread the ball through the eye of a needle, opening up an opponent’s defence and creating countless scoring opportunities. Making 537 complete passes at the World Cup, Kroos was essential to Germany’s triumph in Brazil. He is a truly sensational player.
Centre Attacking Midfield: Lionel Messi
Nicknamed La Pulga (the Flea) in his youth, Lionel Messi needs no introduction. Three time winner of the coveted Ballon d’or and all-time Champions League top goal scorer with 75 goals in 92 appearances, it is a pleasure to see this 5ft7in magician dance past some of the best defences in the world. A living legend with the unique ability to conjure up a piece of brilliance from nothing, Messi will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest players of all time.
Left Attacking Midfield: Cristiano Ronaldo
Definitely the most physically fit and athletic footballer in the world, every ‘Team of the Year’ has to reserve a spot for Cristiano Ronaldo. With 36 goals in only 30 games, this maverick has continued his unbelievable goal-scoring record this season. As one of the most prolific attackers ever to play the game, it can be argued that Ronaldo’s greatest achievement has been to knock Lionel Messi off of the top spot. Armed with a can of fake tan, copious amounts of hair gel and fluorescent boots, he is a nightmare for any opponent.
Right Attacking Midfield: Eden Hazard
Despite a poor display in Brazil, Eden Hazard seems to be the only players capable of dislodging Messi and Ronaldo from their perch at the top of world football. His fantastic pace, balance and skill, allows him to regularly glides past the best defenders in the world, much to their embarrassment. The Belgian attacker is only 24-years-old and is surely set to win a few Ballon D’or trophies before the end of his career.
Striker: Diego Costa
With clinical finishing and an incredible ability to pester, Diego Costa heads the attack in our team. He has flown out of the blocks at Stamford Bridge, scoring an amazing 17 goals in only 19 appearances, elevating Chelsea to the top of the Premier League. He is the complete package; blessed with incredible heading technique and the capability to score with either foot, Costa is guaranteed to claim at least 30 goals a season.
Manager: Diego Simeone
Without a shadow of a doubt, Atlético Madrid were the stand-out team of 2014; and much of this was down to their manager, Diego Simeone. This fiery Argentine has raised Atlético to new heights, clinching a first La liga title since 1996 and narrowly losing out to a strong Real Madrid side in the Champions League final. Thanks to his wisdom and energy, Simeone’s team plays at an astonishingly high tempo, competing for every ball, every corner, every throw-in, every tackle. And above all, he remains one of the most stylish managers in world football.