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FIFA Ballon d'Or

The Candidates

  • Sergio AGUERO

  • ARG
  • El Kun was in among the goals again as Manchester City finished runners-up in the English Premier League last season, his tally of 26 goals in 33 matches earning him the league’s Golden Boot award. The 27-year-old Argentinian also led the way for City as they reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, finding the back of the net six times in seven games, including a hat-trick in a memorable comeback against Bayern Munich in the group phase. On the international front, Aguero helped his country to second place at the Copa America Chile 2015. Argentina’s first-choice striker, he struck twice on the road to the final, including his side’s winner in a tight contest with old rivals Uruguay.
Gareth BALE
  • Gareth BALE

  • WAL
  • Gareth Bale was named Wales’ footballer of the year for a record-breaking fifth time in 2015, and no wonder. After all, while this proud nation had produced plenty of outstanding footballers, Bale has succeeded where the likes of Ryan Giggs, Neville Southall and Mark Hughes all failed – by leading the team to a major tournament. The Real Madrid star was undoubtedly the key man in the Dragons’ superb UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign - and resulting surge into the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking - scoring or assisting all but one of their goals en route to France. He has also boosted his status at the Bernabeu, bouncing back from a difficult and inconsistent 2014/15 campaign to play an increasingly influential role under Rafael Benitez. With dynamism, searing pace and set piece mastery among his many attributes, Bale seems sure to remain a huge player for club and country for many years to come.
Karim Benzema
  • Karim Benzema

  • FRA
  • Cristiano Ronaldo's first lieutenant at Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has forged an excellent understanding with the Portuguese forward and can pride himself on being a fixture in the club's attack, having struck 21 goals and served up 12 assists in his last 35 games. He was also named France captain for the first time when Brazil paid a friendly visit on 26 March, but Benzema has rarely proved as effective for Les Bleus as he is in Spain, partly due to the turnover in personnel as the UEFA EURO 2016 hosts prepare for next summer. Nevertheless, he is always the first name on Didier Deschamps's team sheet and will be anxious to repay the coach's faith at the continental showcase on home soil. 
Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Cristiano Ronaldo

  • POR
  • After winning the third FIFA Ballon d’Or of his career at the start of 2015,  Cristiano Ronaldo continued to perform at his very best, racking up the goals to end the league season as its highest scorer with 48 in all, his biggest haul in Spain to date. He very nearly ended the UEFA Champions League season as its leading marksmen as well, tying with Lionel Messi on ten goals but serving up fewer assists. Cristiano nevertheless etched his name in the Real Madrid history books by becoming the club’s leading all-time scorer, eclipsing fellow Blanco legends Alfredo Di Stefano and Raul. The Portuguese also enjoyed a productive year on the international front, skippering A Seleçao das Quinas to direct qualification for UEFA EURO 2016, a relief for him and his team-mates following three consecutive appearances in EURO and World Cup play-offs.
  • Kevin DE BRUYNE

  • BEL
  • It takes a rare talent to surpass Lionel Messi on the statistical front but Kevin De Bruyne achieved precisely that in 2014/15. His tally of 26 assists for Wolfsburg was more than even the Barcelona phenomenon could muster last season and set a new Bundesliga record, the Belgian international also weighing in with 16 goals. De Bruyne's efforts helped his club finish runners-up in the German elite and inevitably drew admiring glances, with Manchester City splashing out to bring him on board in the summer. He has continued to shine in England and ended 2015 on a high as Belgium sealed a berth at UEFA EURO 2016 and moved top in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for November.
  • Eden HAZARD

  • BEL
  • The praise flowed once again for Eden Hazard in 2015 as he was voted player of the year in England and Chelsea's player of the season, picking up both awards for a second consecutive campaign. The Belgian schemer grew in stature as 2014/15 unfolded to steer the Blues to the Premier League title and the English League Cup, showing real maturity for his age. Due to turn 25 in January, Hazard revelled in his dual responsibilities as a creator and goalscorer for club and country, and although he – like Chelsea – has struggled so far in 2015/16, the west London outfit always seem to flourish when Hazard performs at his mesmerising best.

  • SWE
  • One of modern football's most enduring icons, it's rare that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out of the spotlight – with 2014 the first time in three years that the Swedish star had missed out on the FIFA Ballon d'Or top ten. The fact he helped Paris Saint-Germain pull off an unprecedented treble in France, as he ended the season with Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France winner's medals, will no doubt have softened the blow though. On the way to that historic achievement he scored 19 goals to aid the Parisiens to title glory, which was their eighth in the last nine seasons.  He hit a further 20 more in domestic cups, Europe and in the colours of Sweden, all with same sense of swagger and even became PSG’s all-time top goalscorer in October, surpassing Pauleta’s record.
  • Andres INIESTA

  • ESP
  • In continuing to play key roles for club and country, the 31-year midfielder has shown his ability to adapt to changes in tactics and the personnel around him. Now the skipper at Barcelona following Xavi’s move to pastures new, Iniesta has enjoyed a prolific year, picking up winners’ medals in the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup. The Barça man was also a steadying presence as a transitional Spain side qualified for UEFA EURO 2016, where they will defend their European title.
  • Toni KROOS

  • GER
  • Toni Kroos pulls the strings in midfield both for Real Madrid and Germany, dictating the rhythm of the game and able to unlock any defence with his pinpoint passing. He rarely gives the ball away and finds a team-mate over 90 per cent of the time. At Madrid, Kroos channels balls to the frontline and also covers a lot of ground to help out in defence. The technically-gifted midfielder helped Madrid into the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, where they were eliminated by Juventus, while the side finished as runners-up to arch-rivals Barcelona in the league. Kroos also played his part in Germany booking their ticket to UEFA EURO 2016 in France.

  • POL
  • Robert Lewandowski is the embodiment of a classic number nine. The Polish striker can score with virtually any part of his body and poses a constant threat, regardless of whether he has his back to goal or space to attack. His excellent technique means he is able to control virtually any ball he receives, hold it up and wait for support. In September he set a scoring record by hitting five goals in nine minutes for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg. Last season he finished as Bayern’s joint-top scorer alongside Arjen Robben on 17 goals, and played a significant role in helping the club win the league title. He was directly involved in 11 goals in 12 appearances in last season’s UEFA Champions League, propelling Bayern into the semi-finals. The forward also captained Poland as they secured qualification for UEFA EURO 2016, scoring 13 times in ten games to set a new record in European Championship qualifying history.

  • ARG
  • Now 31, the Argentinian was a linchpin of the Barcelona side that won the Spanish league, UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey and European Super Cup last season, figuring among the ten most-used players by Luis Enrique across all competitions. A leader, tactician and shrewd operator, Mascherano showcased his versatility throughout the season, slotting in whenever required at centre half or in a holding role in midfield, a position he habitually occupies for his country but had not done so for his club since Pep Guardiola allotted him defensive duties. A member of the Argentina side that took the runners-up spot at the Copa America Chile 2015, Mascherano was among the best five passers at the competition.    
Lionel MESSI
  • Lionel MESSI

  • ARG
  • The Argentinian star recaptured the form and sharpness that has brought him four FIFA Ballons d’Or to date. Barcelona’s leading marksman in the league with 43 goals, he fired his side to yet another title and also top-scored in their victorious UEFA Champions League campaign, contributing ten goals and six assists. One of the highlights of another hugely productive season came in the Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao, with Messi slaloming his way past several opponents on a long, mazy run before conjuring up a clinical finish inside the box. The elusive forward also played a decisive part in Argentina’s run to the final of the Copa America Chile 2015, serving up three assists, the joint-highest tally in the competition along with Chile’s Jorge Valdivia.
  • Thomas MUELLER

  • GER
  • Thomas Mueller is capable of the extraordinary and can pull off a surprise at any time in any game to prove decisive. Thanks to his instinctive nose for goal, the attacking all-rounder is frequently in the right place at the right time, but always has an eye for a pass to a team-mate too. It is almost impossible to defend against Mueller, as he can play both out wide and through the middle. In 2014/15 he was directly involved in almost a goal per game on average and thus spearheaded Bayern Munich’s charge to the league title and into the DFB Cup semi-finals. Bayern also reached the last four of the UEFA Champions League, where they lost to eventual winners Barcelona. Mueller helped Germany seal their berth at UEFA EURO 2016 in France and was the reigning world champions’ top scorer in qualifying, grabbing nine goals in nine games. 
Manuel NEUER
  • Manuel NEUER

  • GER
  • Manuel Neuer has been the undisputed No1 between the posts for Germany and record German champions Bayern Munich for a number of years now. His team-mates regularly involve him in the side’s build-up play due to his ability on the ball. The attacking style with which he defends his goal can lead to some spectacular scenes, and numerous pundits credit him with revolutionising goalkeeping. Neuer won the German league title with Bayern last season and also helped his country secure qualification to UEFA EURO 2016 in France. Last term Bayern reached the semi-finals in both the UEFA Champions League and the DFB Cup, losing to eventual champions Barcelona in the former and succumbing to Borussia Dortmund in the latter.

  • BRA
  • Coming into his own in his second season with Barcelona, Neymar consolidated his position as one third of a lethal three-pronged attack. Following the shining example set by Lionel Messi, the Brazilian was his side’s second-highest scorer in their league, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League treble-winning campaign, contributing 39 goals in 51 matches. Troubled by injury in his debut year, Neymar was Barça’s third-most used player in the league last season. Now 23, he is keen to continue making history with his club, commenting after their UEFA Super Cup win that he has changed his game and his way of life. A devilish dribbler and deadly finisher, the gifted forward has for the last two years been the star act of a Brazil side that is now looking to rebuild after its FIFA World Cup™ woes on home soil in 2014. 
  • Paul POGBA

  • FRA
  • A long-awaited successor to Patrick Vieira in the France line-up, and capable of playing every position in midfield, Paul Pogba confirmed his stunning potential in 2015 after first raising expectations last year. Named the Hyundai Young Player Award winner at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, the 22-year-old Juventus phenomenon already plays with remarkable authority as he goes about his stated mission of becoming "the best player in the world". In the meantime, his task this season is to help Juve cope with life after Andrea Pirlo and to take on greater responsibility at the heart of the France team.    
Ivan Rakitic
  • Ivan Rakitic

  • CRO
  • Ivan Rakitic dictates the play for Barcelona and provides cover for the team’s attackers to get forward, doing so with great aplomb. The defensive midfielder is both an aggressive tackler and an excellent strategist, while his athleticism gives Barcelona a physical edge and defensive stability. Last season Rakitic competed with none other than Xavi for a starting berth at club level, and he won the treble of league, Spanish cup and UEFA Champions League titles, even scoring the opening goal in the continental final in a 3-1 victory over Juventus. Furthermore, this year the blonde midfielder was voted Player of the Year in his native Croatia for the first time ever.
  • Arjen ROBBEN

  • NED
  • The 2015 calendar year was a rollercoaster for Arjen Robben. The Dutchman was able to continue his sublime form from the previous year which was highlighted by a third-place finish at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. He was Bayern Munich’s outstanding player in the second half of the 2014/15 season, firing the club to a successful title defence almost single-handedly. The left-footer’s haul of 17 goals meant he led the Bundesliga scoring chart for a long time. However, Robben was also plagued by several serious injuries. He was unable to participate in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, and also had to cut short his appearance in the DFB Cup semi-final. Bayern would go on to be knocked out of both competitions. Injury also limited the nimble-footed winger’s availability at international level, where he is now captain of the Oranje. However, when fit, Robben he proved to be a constant menace on attack.

  • COL
  • Despite the stiffest of competition in the Real Madrid front line, the Colombian showed his considerable array of skills in his maiden season at the Bernabeu, ending the campaign with 17 goals and as many assists in all competitions. With his talent, speed and versatility, James has cemented his place in the Madrid machine and in the hearts of the fans, with only seven Blanco players spending more time on the pitch in the league last season. So impressive at Brazil 2014, James was unable to inspire Colombia to big things at the 2015 Copa America. Still only 24, however, he very much remains one of Jose Pekerman’s key performers.
  • Alexis SANCHEZ

  • CHI
  • 2015 was an unforgettable year in the career of the Chilean forward, who converted the penalty that secured the Copa America for La Roja, their first official national team title. The scorer of just the one goal in the competition, Alexis nevertheless performed a crucial attacking role for Jorge Sampaoli’s side before keeping his nerve when it mattered against Argentina in the final. The Chilean also proved a matchwinner for Arsenal, employing his speed, verve and technique to great effect in racking up four goals in the Gunners’ run to FA Cup glory and a further 16 as they clinched third place in the Premier League and with it a berth in the UEFA Champions League.
  • Luis SUAREZ

  • URU
  • The Uruguayan settled in straightaway at Barcelona, making a pivotal contribution to the club’s second treble success. Despite being suspended until October 2014, Suarez nevertheless ended his debut season at the Camp Nou with 25 goals from 43 matches. After starting out on the right flank, Suarez took up No9 duties after swapping positions with Lionel Messi, building up a near-perfect understanding with the Argentinian and fellow strike partner Neymar, with the trio amassing the small matter of 122 goals between them. Among the Uruguayan’s most decisive contributions were his braces against Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League, not to mention a crucial second-half strike in the final in Berlin against Juventus. Following Messi’s untimely injury at the start of the 2015/16 season, Suarez has taken on an even more crucial role in the Barcelona attack.
  • Yaya TOURÉ

  • CIV
    Côte d'Ivoire
  • Though Yaya Toure may have ended the 2014/15 season with fewer goals than he managed in the outstanding campaign that preceded it, and though his club Manchester City lost out to Chelsea in the race for the English title, the midfielder has plenty of other reasons to look back on 2015 with satisfaction. A giant on the Premier League and international scenes, the four-time African Footballer of the Year finally won the continental title he has yearned for for so long, captaining Côte d’Ivoire to the final of the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they shaded Ghana in a penalty shootout. As well as being Toure’s maiden major national team trophy, it was also the first for a golden Ivorian generation, as they ended Les Éléphants’ 23-year drought in the competition.
Arturo VIDAL
  • Arturo VIDAL

  • CHI
  • Dubbed El Rey Arturo, the 28-year-old Vidal enjoyed a 2015 to remember, winning the scudetto and Coppa Italia with Juventus, as well as a UEFA Champions League runners-up medal, and also helping Chile to land their first major international trophy at the Copa America. After finally shaking off a knee injury at the start of the 2014/15 season, Vidal was able to show his many attributes as a box-to-box midfielder, getting on the end of attacks at one end and bringing his considerable defensive skills to bear at the other. In the process, he did more than enough to convince Pep Guardiola to lure him to Bayern Munich for the 2015/16 season. Not content with his club triumphs, Vidal was also the midfield heartbeat of a Roja side that came of age on home soil at the Copa America, a tournament in which he also contributed three goals and an assist.