World XI: FOXSoccer.com’s picks for 2015’s best players
Manager of the Year: Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City)
Spin: The natural choice to lead our World XI might well have been the treble-winning Luis Enrique, but the pick has to be Ranieri. Sure, Ranieri has only been in charge for six months but the Italian took over a club that narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League a season ago and turned them into the unlikeliest of Cinderella stories, turning Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez into household names and springing tiny Leicester all the way to the top of the league. -- Honorable mentions: Enrique (Barcelona), Jorge Sampaoli (Chile) and Josep Guardiola (Bayern Munich).
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany)
Spin: Acting as the safety valve to a Bayern Munich side that routinely dominates its opposition, Neuer admittedly doesn’t get tested as often as his peers, but he almost always comes through when he does. His ease on the ball and ability to start attacks from the back is second to none and has made him the prototype of the modern goalkeeper. -- Honorable mentions: David De Gea (Manchester United/Spain), Claudio Bravo (Barcelona/Chile) and Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus/Italy).
Getty ImagesPaul Gilham
Left back: David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Austria)
Spin: The most versatile member of our World XI, Alaba can excel at every position in defense as well as midfield -- and has done just that for Bayern Munich over the last 12 months. Intelligent, precise, lightning quick and equipped with a powerful shot, Alaba has been just as brilliant in a traditional No. 10 role for Austria’s national team. Still just 23 years old, his best days are still ahead of him. -- Honorable mentions: Jordi Alba (Barcelona/Spain), Marcelo (Real Madrid/Brazil) and Layvin Kurzawa (Paris Saint-Germain/France).
VI-Images via Getty ImagesVI-Images
Centerback: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid/Uruguay)
Spin: At a club that keeps exceeding expectations in the face of massive turnover, Godin, besides coach Diego Simeone, has remained a reliable constant. Tireless, supremely organized and tough when he needs to be, Godin serves as the rock of a defense that once again ranks among the top three in Europe. His added penchant for scoring goals in key moments makes him indispensible for our squad. -- Honorable mentions: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich/Germany), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/France) and Miranda (Internazionale/Brazil).
Getty ImagesJuan Manuel Serrano Arce
Right back: Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus/Italy)
Spin: Lining up at RB on our World XI’s three-man backline simply out of necessity, Chiellini has anchored Juventus’ famously stout defense for over ten years now. Smart and fearless, you won’t see Chiellini go forward in this outfit, but given the strength in offensive talent ahead of him, he’ll hardly need to. -- Honorable mentions: Dani Alves (Barcelona/Spain), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich/Germany) and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid/Spain).
Spin: The driving force behind Juventus’ run to a fourth straight Scudetto and UEFA Champions League final, “King Arturo” also guided Chile to its first-ever international trophy. Though his fitness remains a question mark and led to his sale to Bayern over the summer, there are few box-to-box midfielders as tough and talented as Vidal. -- Honorable mentions: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain, France) and Gary Medel (Internazionale, Chile).
Getty Images for FC BayernA. Beier
Central midfielder: Paul Pogba (Juventus/France)
Spin: At the ripe age of 22, Pogba already has a strong case to be the world’s most complete footballer. Juventus had no reservations handing Pogba the keys this summer as both Vidal and Andrea Pirlo left the squad, and the Frenchman hasn't disappointed. With a drive for goal and technical ability that knows no bounds, Pogba already shows he can dominate his more experienced peers, as he did to Yaya Toure twice this season in Europe. -- Honorable mentions: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona/Croatia), Luka Modric (Real Madrid/Croatia) and Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium).
Getty ImagesDino Panato
Central midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal/Germany)
Spin: With 16 Premier League assists to his name already this season, Ozil is just four shy of Thierry Henry’s single-season record and must be considered among the frontrunners for Player of the Year honors. Prone to occasional spells of ineffectiveness in the past, Ozil seems to finally have made the jump to consistent world-class performer. -- Honorable mentions: Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain/Italy), Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC/Italy) and James Rodriguez (Real Madrid/Colombia).
Arsenal FC via Getty ImagesDavid Price
Left winger: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal)
Spin: The reigning Ballon D’Or winner might find it impossible to defend his title at next month’s gala in Zurich, but there’s no doubt Ronaldo still has a reserved seat in the World XI. CR7 has shown no signs of slowing down despite now being on the wrong side of 30, instead becoming Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer and setting a new UEFA Champions League record with 11 goals in this season’s group stage. -- Honorable mentions: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
Getty ImagesDenis Doyle
Attacking midfielder (c): Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina) and FOXSoccer.com's Player of the Year
Spin: The dynamo that makes Barcelona tick. With 26 assists to go along with his 47 goals in this calendar year, Messi has risen back up to the No. 1 slot in the world rankings after another eye-catching season. Critics will point to his “failure” to win a World Cup (or, for that matter, the last Copa America) with Argentina, but his contributions to Barcelona are hard to overstate. The best passer in the game and perhaps the single most creative player the sport has ever seen, Messi is likely to go down as the greatest of all time. -- Honorable mentions: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich/Germany), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid/Germany) and David Silva (Manchester City/Spain).
Bongarts/Getty ImagesAlex Grimm
Right winger: Neymar (Barcelona/Brazil)
Spin: How good is Neymar? Well, he wasn’t a big help to Brazil during the Copa America (he was suspended four games for a head-butt) and, he struggled at first to fit in at Barcelona. Ignore all that. The Brazilian wizard won the treble with the Catalans last season and is Barca's joint-top scorer in the Champions League. When Messi was out of Barca’s lineup with an injury, Neymar put the team on his shoulders and carried them. Immaculate in front of goal and arguably the game’s best dribbler, the 23-year-old is Messi’s likely heir. -- Honorable mentions: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/Belgium), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Netherlands) and Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich/Brazil).
Getty ImagesDavid Ramos
Forward: Luis Suarez (Barcelona/Uruguay)
Spin: Love him or loathe him -- and Suarez is one of the most reviled players in the game -- it is hard to argue with his performance in Spain at the heart of Barca’s fearsome trident. Suarez has racked up over 40 goals for club and country in 2015 and simply put, has made both Messi and Neymar better. A consummate poacher with a knack for making the right pass, Suarez also seems to have finally grown up after a series of ugly disciplinary incidents that ultimately led to his suspension from the 2015 Copa America. Arguably the deadliest pure striker in the game. -- Honorable mentions: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Germany), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain/France) and Sergio Aguero (Manchester City/Argentina).