A lot of attention was placed on Manuel Neuer at the start of the 2014/15 season due to his tremendous performances at the World Cup finals. His brilliant keeping helped Germany to their fourth world crown and subsequently ended with him being shortlisted for the 2014 Ballon d’Or -- won by Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite the hype around the 29-year-old keeper, he managed to turn in equally impressive performances this season. Neuer’s reflexes, amazing shot stopping and command of his area make him the best goalkeeper around and well deserving of a place in our top XI.
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Dani Alves, Defender, Barcelona
The Brazilian was slow out of the blocks in the early part of the season, but his class shone through as the campaign progressed. Alves started 44 games for Barca and his marauding runs from right-back were key to the club’s success in La Liga and the Champions League. The 32-year-old -- who recently signed a new two-year deal to stay at Camp Nou -- defended valiantly this campaign, while his skilful technique provided 11 assists for his team.
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Giorgio Chiellini, Defender, Juventus
Chiellini was at the heart of the best defensive unit in world soccer last season, notably his performances in the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid stick in the memory. The Italian -- infamously bitten by Luis Suarez at the 2014 World Cup -- was part of a Juve defense that only conceded 24 goals all season in Serie A. His hard work and vocal leadership were never missed more than in the Champions League final, as The Old Lady succumbed to Barca.
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John Terry, Defender, Chelsea
John Terry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this man oozes defensive class. In 2014/15 he captained Chelsea to a fourth Premier League crown since joining the club as a boy. He was the Premier League’s best defender and his leadership on and off the pitch was key to the Blues' title march. The former England international played every Premier League game under Mourinho, when old regimes had previously put his place in jeopardy.
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Paul Pogba, Midfielder, Juventus
Juventus had an incredible season, lifting the Serie A and Coppa Italia titles, while reaching the Champions League final. Paul Pogba’s ability to break up play and retain possession helped Massimiliano Allegri’s side move away from a 3-5-2 formation, favored under previous coaches. Despite playing a deeper role this season, Pogba managed 10 goals and six assists in all competitions.
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Ivan Rakitic, Midfielder, Barcelona
Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets had great seasons at Camp Nou. However, it was the purchase of Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla that really transformed Barca’s midfield. There were some fears among Blaugrana fans over the club’s ability to replace the departed Cesc Fabregas, but they need not have worried. Rakitic, already familair with La Liga and European competition, added energy, goals, assists and eased the defensive reliance on Busquets.
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Eden Hazard, Midfielder, Chelsea
This was the season that Eden Hazard came of age and proved that he could rival Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in future years. Hazard’s relentless energy, combined with assists, goals and trickery made him a nightmare to defend against this term. The Belgium international has come to life since Mourinho’s appointment two years ago and capped an outstanding season by being named PFA Player of the Year. An exceptional talent.
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Kevin de Bruyne, Midfielder, Wolfsburg
Chelsea may now be regretting their decision to let Kevin de Bruyne join Wolfsburg last summer. The Belgium midfielder won the Bundesliga Player of the Season award having played every game and contributing 10 goals and 20 assists. The 112 chances he created for his side helped them score 72 goals, just eight short of title-winning side Bayern’s total. Now the 23-year-old has been linked with a reported $47million summer move to Manchester City.
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Antoine Griezmann, Forward, Atletico Madrid
Following Atletico’s incredible success in 2013-14, Diego Simeone oversaw a summer exodus at the club, with players such as Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois exiting the Vicente Calderon. With the money raised from transfers, Simeone purchased Real Sociedad forward Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman’s overall contribution to Atleti’s season, scoring 25 goals in all competitions, earns him a place in our rankings above Neymar and Luis Suarez. Instant success.
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Cristiano Ronaldo, Forward, Real Madrid
Ronaldo ended the campaign on an incredible 61 goals from 54 appearances, including an astonishing seven hat-tricks. He is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or and once again showed this season that he is one of the best players to have ever lived. Despite his goalscoring record, the Portugal international drew some mid-season criticism from some. But he answered them with 11 goals in Real Madrid’s final six games of the season.
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Lionel Messi, Forward, Barcelona
Leo Messi -- buoyed by the reality of losing his Ballon d’Or crown to Cristiano Ronaldo -- was the standout player of last season in La Liga and world soccer. It wasn’t just his 58 goals in all competitions but, just as importantly, his 23 assists. The little Argentinian magician’s all-round game and work rate particularly impressed this time round. He can also be thankful to be playing in a team with Neymar and Luis Suarez for company.