In light of FIFA’s announcement of their World XI, our sports writers have produced their own Team of 2015, made up of World Cup winners and some of the best players of all time.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
A World XI would not look complete without the presence of this German giant. With a World Cup winner’s medal already in his locker, Manuel Neuer has gone from strength to strength, adding a third consecutive Bundesliga title to his already impressive collection. Walking with a swagger around the box, his confidence and mental strength adds a hint of serenity to his play, which clashes beautifully with his intimidating stature and muscular frame.
Right-back: Philipp Lahm
Despite playing as a centre-midfielder for Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, Philipp Lahm is still the best right-back in the world. Unlike most modern-day wing-backs, he laughs at the challenge of both offering a solid defensive performance and an attacking threat in wide areas, effortlessly gliding up and down the pitch for the full 90 minutes. His shrewd reading of the game helps, rarely leaving his side vulnerable. Few players make the position of right-back look easy; Lahm is certainly one of them.
Centre-back: Thiago Silva (Captain)
A leader of men, unfazed by the glitz and glamour of modern football, Thiago Silva is the heart of our beating defence. With strength and speed, he easily out-muscles every opponent he faces. Better still, he is renowned for making those last-ditch tackles that have saved his Paris St-Germain and Brazil side on more than one occasion. But without a doubt, the one aspect that separates Silva from the rest is his passion. He plays from the heart; he plays for the fans, he plays for the love of the game.
Centre-back: Gerard Piqué
A strong figure in a team full of egos, Gerard Piqué plays with a level head and has a natural gift for anticipating his opponent’s next move. These attributes, alongside his terrific physique, undoubtedly helped Barcelona to quell the attacks of Europe’s most prolific strikers on their way to picking up the 2015 Champions League trophy. Despite his popularity waning slightly with the Spanish crowds, he remains an integral part of the national team and will certainly be hoping to add another European title to his impressive collection this summer.
Left-back: David Alaba
Having spent the last decade learning from arguably one of Germany’s best defenders, David Alaba is wise beyond his years and has featured in Bayern Munich’s starting line-up for the last five seasons. At the tender age of 23, he already boasts a handful of Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and a Champions League medal under his belt. With pace to burn and an appetite for attack, his deliveries frequently whiz through the corridor of uncertainty. There is still plenty to come from this Austrian talisman.
Right Centre-midfield: Mesut Özil
The King of Assists is more than a fitting title for this German maestro. Mesut Özil has started shining in 2015 after a few uninspired seasons in North London. Although not the quickest player, his balance and poise allows him to pivot on the head of a needle and turn his opponents inside out. But undoubtedly, his pinpoint passing is what separates him from the rest. Özil sees the game like no other player and has the touch and raw ability to place the ball anywhere on the pitch. With 16 assists in 20 matches, and having just been named German Player of the Year, Özil’s limitless talent seems to be bearing fruit just when Arsenal and Germany would have hoped.
Centre-midfield: Paul Pogba
The success of Juventus over the past few years has much to do with the flair, drive and physical presence of Paul Pogba in their midfield. Failing to make a name for himself under Sir Alex Ferguson, Pogba’s move to Italy seems to have sparked his career into life. His physical presence and mesmerising touch makes him a handful for any opponent. Whether he is bullying midfielders off the ball, spraying passes all over the pitch or peppering the goal from outside the box, he takes hold over every game and dominates right from the start.
Left Centre-midfield: Ivan Rakitić
Not particularly fast and certainly not the biggest player on the pitch, Ivan Rakitić seems to constantly find himself in acres of space. This is of course no accident. His intelligence on a football pitch is undeniable. Combined with the precise touch that characterises every Barcelona team, he is able to effortlessly escape from even the tightest corners. Having won a Champions League title in his first season at the Nou Camp, at this point, Rakitic’s career can only be heading in one direction.
Right-wing: Neymar Jr
Very few 23-year-olds enjoy the hero-status that Neymar does in Brazil. The poster-boy of their World Cup in 2014, his impressive performances and fearless attitude carried a mediocre team to the semi-final. Although things did not turn out quite as planned, Neymar has grown from the experience, and now makes up a third of arguably the most formidable attack force ever in the history of football. Each week, he stuns the crowd at the Nou Camp by pushing boundaries and demonstrating a level of flare only previously attributed to the immortals of football. He is fearless; he plays with freedom; he plays on the right for our World XI.
Centre-forward: Lionel Messi
This little genius needs no introduction. Lionel Messi will undoubtedly go down as the most naturally gifted footballer of all time. His statistics are terrifying to read; indeed the 9 goals and 4 assists in 13 games of the current season is actually one of his more tame periods of form. He glides past the world’s best with ease and makes a mockery of almost every defensive system that he comes up against. Having just picked up a prestigious fifth Ballon D’or trophy, the only thing separating him from the Gods of football is a World Cup winner’s medal.
Left-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo
Currently consumed by a never-ending battle for supremacy with Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo completes our team, playing on the left-hand wing. No other sight strikes as much fear into the hearts of a defence than that of Ronaldo dribbling at full speed towards them. With a terrifying amount of pace and the physique to rival any athlete, his desire to be the best has elevated him to the top of the Champions League’s All-time Top Goal-scorer list. Like many of the world’s best, he plays without fear, perfectly treading the line between pure genius and petulance. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe Cristiano Ronaldo.