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5 non-attacking players who deserve to be shortlisted for the 2015 Ballon d'Or

Buffon came fourth in UEFA Player of the Season award

The FIFA Ballon d’Or is the supreme honour any professional footballer can win in recognition of his performance for a particular year. Over the years, some of the biggest names in the history of the game have won the award and, unsurprisingly, most of the winners are forwards or midfielders. In fact, only one goalkeeper, Lev Yashin, and two defenders, Fabio Cannavaro and Franz Beckenbauer, have won the award in 69 years.In the last seven years, the award has been shared between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and it is very likely that one of these two will win again. Nevertheless, being named in the 23-man shortlist for the award is a huge honour and a number of defenders and goal keepers make the list every year.Manuel Neuer finished third in the polls last year and it was the closest a non-attacking player came to winning the award since Cannavaro in 2006. So here is a list of five non-attacking players who deserve to be shortlisted for the 2015 Ballon d’Or.

#1 Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon came fourth in UEFA Player of the Season award

Italy’s veteran goalkeeper once again proved that age is just a number as he led Juventus through an amazing 2014/15 season. Buffon kept 18 clean sheets in the league last season and his side also had the best defensive record in the league for the fourth season running. He eventually captained his side to the club’s first Coppa Italia title in twenty years and to the final of the Champions League as well.

The 37-year-old was instrumental in Juventus’ amazing run in the UEFA Champions League and he was in imperious form in the semi-final against Real Madrid. Though Buffon fell short of lifting his maiden Champions League trophy, he was excellent in the final and kept his side in the game despite falling behind early on.

The Italian was named in the UEFA Champions League team of the season for 2014/15 and was fourth in the poll for UEFA’s best player in Europe. He can proudly claim that he was only behind Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo among all the players in Europe.

#2 Gerard Pique

Pique recovered his form last season under Enrique

When Luis Enrique took over as Barcelona manager in 2014, Gerard Pique was not one of the first names on the team sheet. The Spaniard was benched in favour of Jeremy Mathieu initially, but the former Manchester United man won his place back by putting in brilliant performances when he was handed a chance.

Pique went on to become one of the first names on the team sheet for Barcelona and was one of the architects behind Barcelona’s eventual treble win. The aspect of his game on which Pique improved massively was his leadership qualities on the pitch and it was something which he lacked while partnering Carles Puyol. The 27-year-old also chipped in with seven goals last season which was his highest tally for a season.

The defender’s contributions towards Barcelona’s successful campaign didn’t go unnoticed as he was rightly named in the UEFA Champions League squad of the season for 2014/15 and the La Liga Team of the Season for 2014/15.

Pique is likely to be shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or and it is also very likely that he will be part of the FIFAPro World XI for the fourth time in his career.

#3 Giorgio Chiellini

Chiellini missed the Champions League final through injury

Giorgio Chiellini has been a regular with the Juventus side for many years now and it was the same case last season when Juventus came agonisingly close to winning the treble. The Italian was a rock at the back for Juventus in both domestic and continental competitions and his stats back up the claim.

The 31-year-old averaged an incredible 5.43 clearances per game in the league and 5.92 clearances per game in the Champions League last season. In the calendar year 2015 alone, Juventus have kept 12 clean sheets in the matches Chiellini started.

Chiellini’s importance in the Juventus side was highlighted during the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid. The centre-back suffered an injury during the first leg of the tie, but he battled through the pain and put in an amazing performance as his side kept out the dangerous Real Madrid attack for most parts of the game.

The Italian defender missed the Champions League final against Barcelona through an injury and it was clear that Juventus missed his presence in the final. Despite this, he was one of many Juventus players to make the Champions League team of the season.

#4 Jerome Boateng

Boateng helped Bayern defend their league title

Jerome Boateng has continued to be a key member of Bayern Munich’s side ever since his move to the Bavarian club from Manchester City in 2011. The 27-year-old defender helped the German champions successfully defend their title and helped his side to the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal as well as the UEFA Champions League.

Although Bayern were unlucky not to win any of the cup competitions owing to several injury problems, Boateng did justice to the faith Pep Guardiola showed in him. The German averaged over two interceptions per game and over three clearances per game in both the league and Champions league last season.

Moreover, in the current calendar year Bayern Munich has kept 14 clean sheets in games in which Boateng has featured. The previous season was not Boateng’s best season for Bayern Munich, but he was still impressive when he played and was voted by fans into the Bundesliga team of the season.

#5 Naldo

Naldo helped Wolfsburg finish second in the league last season

Naldo will go down in history as one of those players who didn’t receive the accolades they deserved. The towering centre-back has been a consistent performer in the Bundesliga for many years and yet he has shunned the limelight up until last season.

One can confidently say that the former Brazilian international enjoyed the best season of his career on an individual level. Naldo’s performances benefitted Wolfsburg on both ends of the pitch. He helped the Wolves keep 14 clean sheets last season across all competitions and 11 clean sheets in the current calendar year.

In the league, he boasted 3.7 interceptions per game and 5.2 clearances per game. Offensively the veteran scored eight goals in all competitions and it is a great figure for a defender. The 33-year-old’s performances which helped Wolfsburg finish runners-up last season didn’t go unnoticed and he was voted by fans into the Bundesliga team of the season.

Naldo may not be on of the most well-known names in football. But based on his performances for Wolfsburg last season, he definitely deserves a spot in the Ballon d’Or shortlist.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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