Best XI of 2014
The year comes to an end, and what a year it has been. From Atletico Madrid surprising all and sundry by winning La Liga and Real Madrid reaching the promised land of La Decima in spectacular fashion, 2014 saw the best and beyond of football. Picking out the best players out of an action-packed year is an improbable task, but there is only room for 18 players, including the bench.The selection below has been made keeping in mind the performances of the individuals and their teams.
#1 Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
The Bayern Munich custodian is currently the best player in his position in world football, of that there is no doubt.
The year 2014 saw Manuel Neuer go from strength to strength and consolidate his position as the most difficult keeper to score past.
The German also added the World Cup to his overflowing kitty of trophies in the summer of 2014, not to mention the manner in which he has revolutionised the world of football with his style of play. The sweeper-keeper is now a much-vaunted player in modern day football, all thanks to Neuer.
2014 was Neuer’s most successful year in terms of trophies won; Bayern Munich can rest easy, knowing they have the best man in the world between the sticks.
#2 Rightback - Philipp Lahm
Bayern Munich and Germany captain Philipp Lahm is arguably the best player in the right-back position, even if coach Pep Guardiola seems hell bent on changing Lahm into a defensive midfielder.
Deciding that the time was ripe to finish on a high, Lahm recently retired from international duty after winning the World Cup in Brazil. The 31-year-old had a solid season with Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal. The World Cup win in Brazil was the cherry on the cake that has been the year 2014.
#3 Centre-back: Sergio Ramos
The Spaniard’s time at Madrid has been marked by a steady rise to the top and his inclusion on the list comprising the elite of world football. After winning the World Cup and the Euros with Spain, in 2014 Ramos won the one trophy that had eluded him at Real Madrid - the Champions League - to complete an already impressive resume.
Showcasing a level of maturity and consistency that was absent during his early years, Ramos has now become the rock on which Real Madrid’s defense rests.
At 28, the defender is entering his prime years, so expect the Spaniard to evolve into a truly great defender in 2015.
#4 Centreback: Diego Godin
Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin had the best season of his career, both in terms of individual performances and team honours. The Uruguayan was an integral part of the title-winning Spanish side, as Simeone’s men had the meanest defense in the league.
Godin also had an important part to play in the World Cup in Brazil, and even though Uruguay lost at the first knockout stage, Godin’s performance was noteworthy.
Keeping his club and international performances in mind, it is safe to say Godin deserves to be part of the Best XI of 2014.
#5 Left-back: David Alaba
David Alaba completes the defending trio of Bayern Munich players in the Best XI of European football. The 22-year-old was in scintillating form in 2014, and has consolidated his position as the one of the best left-backs in football.
Not only that, the Austrian is usually fielded in a myriad of positions by manager Pep Guardiola, starting from left-back to central midfield to attacking midfield. Alaba’s versatility remains his strongest forte, and has helped him become a key member of the team under Pep Guardiola.
At 22, Alaba has time on his side to further improve himself, a scary prospect for opposition teams.
#6 Central Midfield - Toni Kroos
Perhaps the most complete midfielder, Toni Kroos’s rise to prominence has been staggering. First under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola at Bayern and now under Ancelotti at Madrid, Kroos’s transformation from a pass-and-move midfielder to an all-round box-to-box dominator has been a runaway success.
Kroos was instrumental in Germany winning the World Cup in Brazil and was more often than not the first name on the teamsheet. The year 2014 has been simply outstanding for the German international, and his talent shows no signs of unabating.
#7 Right Central Midfield: Luka Modric
Blessed with brilliant technique and a sharp mind, Modric’s performance and creativity in 2014 has seen Real Madrid re-establish themselves under Ancelotti, and win both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Despite stiff competition from the likes of Paul Pogba and Yaya Toure, Luka Modric is our choice for the central midfielder role in the team of the year. The Croatian has flourished under Ancelotti and the future looks bright for him.
#8 Left midfield - Angel Di Maria
Easily one of the world’s most exciting players and a lethal weapon for any team, Argentinean Angel Di Maria had a spectacular yet turbulent 2014, as Real Madrid decided to let go of his services.
A British record 80 million pound transfer to Manchester United saw Di Maria begin life in a red shirt again, after his career at Benfica. The World Cup hangover has wreaked havoc with Di Maria’s fitness, and so the Argentinean has not been able to showcase his best to the Old Trafford faithful.
An integral part of Argentina’s run to the final in Brazil, Di Maria was the perfect foil for Lionel Messi.
Despite a low-key second half, 2014 was still a successful year for Angel Di Maria.
#9 Right forward - Thomas Muller
A man synonymous with scoring in the World Cup, Muller’s 5 goals in 7 matches at Brazil paved the way for Germany to lift the Jules Rimet trophy at Brazil 2014. The attacker, known for his knack of finding the right spaces and doing the difficult things easily, once again came to the fore for his national team, as he has done in the past.
With Bayern Munich, Muller enjoyed a fine end to the 2013-14 season, lifting the Bundesliga title. Pep Guardiola is known to appreciate intelligent players, and Muller ranks very high on that front.
#10 Left forward - Cristiano Ronaldo
The rate at which Cristiano Ronaldo has been scoring goals, it is very much plausible that he will one day score a 100 goals in a season, given that Real Madrid on an average plays close to 60 games a season. The Portugese had a successful year with Real Madrid, lifting the Champions League trophy for the second time in his career.
With Portugal however, things remain considerably bleaker. Portugal would have hoped to do a lot better than their performance in Brazil; Ronaldo was still good, but not upto his usual levels.
Another record-breaking year for the Portugese – and many more to come for sure.
#11 Striker - Lionel Messi
Who else, but the little magician from Barcelona.
A rare trophyless year for the little maestro as far as his teams are concerned. On a personal level, Messi did pick up the Golden Ball in Brazil for his outstanding displays and leading from the front.
The Barcelona man has been racking up the numbers and his duel with Cristiano Ronaldo puts the duo in a league of their own. Captain of the national team and the most valuable player at club and international level – the rightful frontman for the Best XI of 2014.
#12 Formation, Substitutes and Manager
With World Cup winning manager Joachim Loew at the helm, this is how our 2014 Best XI would turn out, in a 4-3-3 formation with Messi as the designated false nine.
Subs: Thibaut Courtois, Arjen Robben, Diego Costa, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Paul Pogba