When Neymar made a solid case for the 2015 Ballon d'Or award
After a two-year hiatus, Lionel Messi got back to the individual pinnacle of football when he was named the 2015 Ballon d'Or winner, polling 41.33% of the total votes, while Cristiano Ronaldo (27.76%) and Neymar (7.86%) rounded up the top three.
Messi had a spectacular personal campaign and was more than deserving of the 2015 Ballon d'Or, but his former teammate Neymar was also a worthy winner.
Here, in continuation of our series profiling players who should have won Ballon d'Or's between 2008 and 2018, we shall be making a case for why Neymar should have been named the Ballon d'Or winner in 2015.
The 2015 Ballon d'Or winner - Lionel Messi
Having played a starring role in Barcelona's first-ever treble in 2009, Lionel Messi took centre-stage again as the Catalans became the first side in history to win a continental treble on two occasions.
The Argentine maestro scored 58 goals and assisted 28 times from 58 matches in all competitions as Barcelona thumped all before them to triumph in LaLiga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.
His performances throughout the season led to Messi becoming the first player to win the Ballon d'Or five times and it is hard to argue against his worthiness of the award.
Making a case for Neymar to have won the 2015 Ballon d'Or
Messi's status as unarguably the best player in the history of Barcelona means that he earns most of the plaudits for the club's successes and deservedly so, as the 32-year-old has been central to all the heights attained in the last decade.
However, as talented as the Rosario native is, he is not capable of doing it all on his own and he has had more than a fair amount of help from some exceptionally talented players over the years.
One of such players is Neymar and the Brazilian international put in arguably his best performance in Barcelona's colours during their treble-winning 2014/2015 campaign.
He scored 22 goals and assisted nine times from 33 LaLiga games to help the Blaugrana to their 23rd league title.
There were several notable displays during the domestic campaign, particularly in the home-run stage of the season, such as the 2-2 draw with Sevilla at the notoriously demanding Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan.
Neymar was the star of the show, scoring one and assisting the other to help the Blaugrana leave Andalusia with a point, while he also scored five and assisted three in Barcelona's final six matches including scoring in four consecutively between matchday 33 and 36.
The importance of his output proved to be invaluable, as Luis Enrique's side finished the campaign just two points ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid.
He was also the club's highest goalscorer in the Copa del Rey, scoring seven goals (including one in the final) from just six Cup games to help Barcelona win the first of what was to become four consecutive Copa del Rey triumphs.
Neymar, however, saved his best for the Champions League and was one of the standout players in the competitions.
Barcelona easily topped their group ahead of PSG, Apoel Nicosia, and Ajax, with Neymar scoring three goals; and having played a minimal role in the elimination of Manchester City in the round-of-16, the former Santos man took centre stage in the quarterfinal clash with PSG.
At this point, Lionel Messi was in the second of his five-year Champions League quarterfinal goal drought and with the absence of the mercurial Argentine's goal output, the onus fell upon Neymar's shoulders and he stepped up to the plate.
He opened the scoring in the 3-1 first-leg victory over the French side and then put them to the sword once more in the return leg, scoring a brace to condemn his current employers to a 5-1 aggregate defeat.
In the semifinal, Barcelona came up against former manager Pep Guardiola and his Bayern Munich side and they put up an emphatic display in the first leg, defeating them 3-0 at Camp Nou with Neymar putting the gloss on the scoreline with a goal in injury time.
The perennial German champions were eager to get out of the blocks quickly in the second leg at home and went ahead as early as the 7th minute through Mehdi Benatia, but Neymar promptly sucked the winds out of their lungs when he equalized eight minutes later and made Bayern's job much more difficult when he put the visitors ahead in the 29th minute.
Although Bayern Munich rallied back to win 3-2 on the night, they lost the fixture 5-3 on aggregate and Neymar was unarguably the standout player over both legs.
The final saw Barcelona come up against Juventus and Messi failed to find the back of the net, but with the Italians trailing 2-1 and threatening to force extra time with an equalizer, Neymar was on hand to slot past Buffon in the 97th minute to hand Barcelona her fifth European crown and complete the treble.
Overall, he finished the Champions League campaign with ten goals from 12 matches and this saw him become the first player other than Ronaldo and Messi to win the Golden Boot since 2007 (although he shared the award jointly with the pair).
His performances were somewhat dampened by his shenanigans at the Copa America, but it is pertinent to note that Lionel Messi also failed to inspire a star-studded Argentine squad to Copa glory in Chile.
Though his teammate was a worthy winner of the 2015 Ballon d'Or, Neymar also performed creditably well and could very well have mounted the podium in Messi's place.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:43 IST