The Best 16 Footballers of 2016 (3-1)

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering…

This is the conclusion to the series we started on the blog two days ago. We’ll be taking a look at the the top 3 footballers who wowed football fans the world over and mesmerized us again, and again, and again.

Note: Since it was a very unusual year of football, we thought to pull off”an unusual” with our own list too! Wondering what it is? Don’t worry. You’ll find it if you keep reading. If you’re a bit confused about where the list of other footballers is, you can read them up here and here. Let’s continue our countdown, shall we?

3. Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona & Argentina)

It is said that all men are equals before God but as a sports commentator said, seeing Messi play makes you doubt the statement. Is there a list of great footballers this Argentine won’t make? Every year of his playing career has been about showing off different sides of his greatness. Little wonder he has earned comparisons to the greats and can arguable be categorised as an all-time best.

Blonde Great: Lionel Messi in action

Blonde Great: Lionel Messi in action

Despite the setbacks of this year the 29-year old helped Barcelona on their way to yet another La Liga title and made Suarez’s journey to the Golden Boot smoother. Yes, he missed out (just) on glory for his country during the year as his side got beat in the Copa America 100 final but, you’ll find it hard to come up with three names that have been better than Leo this year.

Of course, going blonde was among the many facets of great that Messi showed off this year. The tatts increased, he retired from international football, unretired (who else can pull that off?) and pulled off that stunning 20-seconds display against Espanyol.

Winning just one trophy and scoring just 59 goals (the highest any could garner over the year) and 31 assists in all competitions in the calendar year may not be good enough by his standards but the fact remains, Leo’s a football god.

2. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)

Bale and Baby: Gareth Bale and his daughter at the Euro 2016

Bale and Baby: Gareth Bale and his daughter at the Euro 2016

2016 was just another 2014 for Gareth Bale… except that in 2014, Gareth Bale wasn’t busy scoring in Wales’ first 3 games in the European Championships and Real Madrid hadn’t offered him an eye-watering, stomach-churning, knee-trembling contract.

During the year 2016, Gareth Bale helped Real Madrid on their way to the treble: the UEFA Champions League trophy, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup (erm, he didn’t exactly feature in Japan due to injury but I’m sure his winners’ medal will be mailed to him in Wales where he’s spending his Christmas. Better still, Perez will keep it safe for him).

After such a stellar year,it didn’t come as a surprise when the Welshman finished in the top 10 footballers of the year 2016 as ranked by the organizers of the Ballon d’Or. He scored 16 goals in the Spanish La Liga during the calendar year (11 in the 2015/2016 season and 5 in the 2016/2017 season) and 2 goals in the UEFA Champions League (both coming against Legia Warsaw).

For Wales, Gareth Bale didn’t fail to show up. He scored 3 goals in the Euro 2016, almost single-handedly dragging Wales into the semi-final of the Euro 2016. He added another 4 goals in their bid to grab a ticket to the Russia 2018 World Cup.

I can still remember his work rate in that Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. He seemed to be all over the place, racing down possession and causing Simeone’s men all kinds of headache. Whether playing left or right in Real’s attacking line, the 27-year-old’s speed always rattled opposition defense. His crosses were always sublime and his shots? Fearsome!

2. Antoine Griezmann (France & Atletico Madrid)

The European Golden Boy: Antoine Griezmann celebrates a goal scored with Dimitri Payet in the European Championships

The European Golden Boy: Antoine Griezmann celebrates a goal scored with Dimitri Payet in the European Championships

When you had a fantastic summer like Antoine did, then it’s hard to ignore you while the end-of-the-year list is being compiled. When you add to that the coming up just two spots shy of the 2016 Ballon d’Or award, then you become worthy of being included in any end-of-the-year list.

Griezmann, despite all his outstanding performances during the year, could not win any trophy but the Frenchman almost had the best year any individual player could have. He almost won both the UEFA Champions League and the European Championships. Not so many got so close (except for You-Know-Who).

Remember that hotline bling celebration that became a worldwide sensation? How about those goals scored in front of millions of his own countrymen? Let’s round things up here with an exceprt from FIFA:

Antoine Griezmann watched on as Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the trophy – and, struggling to wipe away his tears, the tournament’s top scorer and best player could barely manage that. There had been tears a month earlier too, when the France forward had missed a penalty before converting during the shootout even if it wasn’t sufficient to hoist the UEFA Champions League trophy.
It wasn’t a new thing for Griezmann. The Frenchman had lost several times before. The 25-year old had always picked himself up even when he was much younger.
“That early passion for the game was so powerful that Griezmann sometimes forgot the usual routines and obligations of a child his age.

“His mother told me an anecdote which really shows how football had already become the most important thing to him,” says Chetoux. “One day he was leaving for school and his mother asked him, ‘Antoine, have you got everything? You haven’t forgotten anything?’ ‘No mum,’ he said. ‘I’ve got my ball!’ But he’d actually forgotten his schoolbag.”

 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)

Lol.. err, too much to handle Ronnie? C. Ronaldo "in action" against Austria at the European Championships

Lol.. err, too much to handle Ronnie? C. Ronaldo “in action” against Austria at the European Championships

  • UEFA Champions League winner? Check!
  • UEFA Super Cup winner? Check!
  • European Championship winner? Check!
  • Ballon d’OR winner? Check!
  • FIFA Club World Cup winner? Check!
  • World’s highest paid athlete? Double check!

In 2015, I thought I had seen it all. After scoring 55 goals during the year 2015, I thought he had little or nothing to prove again. But, characteristic of CR7, he proved me wrong (you too I’m sure), on all levels!

The goal-scoring machine banged in 52 goals during the 2016 calendar year (31 in La Liga, 10 for Portugal, 4 in the Club World Cup, 7 in the UEFA Champions League). He may have conceded the Golden Boot to Luis Suarez but there’s no doubting the consistency of CR7.

Cheers to a good year: C. Ronaldo says hello to one of his fans

Cheers to a good year: C. Ronaldo says hello to one of his fans

Real Madrid must have felt very lucky to have the sensation, hence the reason why they decided to extend his contract, thereby contributing their own quota to make him the world’s highest paid sportsman. On the pitch, Ronaldo seems to not be in any mood to slow down.

His Man-of-the-Match performances against Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg, Hungary, Celta Vigo, all coming in the first half of the year, is testament to how much more he wants to keep winning those trophies. No, he didn’t score the winning goal that won Portugal her first European championship. But his ‘CR7 Live’ performance on the sidelines that day helped his team on their way to a surprise trophy win.

1/4: Cristiano Ronaldo and his son pose with the UEFA Champions League trophy

1/4: Cristiano Ronaldo and his son pose with the UEFA Champions League trophy

At this point, I’m tempted to kick-start again the ever-green argument, but obviously both are kings in their own shape and size (you get it, right?). It’s just glaring how much one has achieved with his country in the space of a year… and how much the other struggled to achieve same for his country.Enough said.

 

P.S: Surprise! We were able to squeeze in two players into the no. 2 spot. Don’t blame us. It would have been suicidal to drop either names from our list. So, we decided to pull some magic off (like Leicester City did).

 

Now that you’ve seen them all, what do you think? And I’m not just talking about having two players on the no.2 spot. I’m talking about our 16 (well, make that 17) players who made our end-of-the-year list? What do you think? Did we leave someone out in the cold? Is there a player who made this list unworthily?

Let’s know what you think by leaving a comment in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you! Or you prefer personal messages? Hit us up on our twitter pages (links are embedded in our names below). 

 

Special thanks to the names that argued back-n-forth well enough and made this list become a reality. Tosin Adesina, Kolawole Awolope and Posi Olayiwola. Thanks for your valuable contributions guys! Let’s do this again next year.

For reading this far, and this much (I think it’s a 4,000-plus-words series), I’d like to say a big thank you. Thank you for always coming back over the year to see what we’ve got on offer. Thanks for being part of our year.

Cheers to a fab year ahead! 😉 Much love

 

The Best 16 Footballers of 2016 (9-4)

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering…

The countdown continues as we look back at the year 2016 and review the football players who took our breaths away with their sterling performances. Just in case you missed the first post, you can catch up here. When you’re done, we’ll be here waiting for you… 😉

9. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal FC & Germany)

Picture Perfect, Award Worthy: Mesut Ozil finds his way past Ludogorets goalkeeper in a UEFA Champions League match during the year.

Picture Perfect, Award Worthy: Mesut Ozil finds his way past Ludogorets goalkeeper in a UEFA Champions League match during the year.

Jose Mourinho once admitted that anytime Mesut Ozil struck the ball, it made a different sound. It was another pitch, a note no one else could hit. At a time, there was an meme which had the magical German which and a line which read, ‘I WILL FIND YOU AND GIVE YOU AN ASSIST’.

In a world where it’s all about the goals, hardly would one see someone so dedicated to setting them up. Step in Mesut Ozil. The German creates goals with relative ease. It took him just 11minutes to create his first Arsenal goal and it is that kind of class that separates him from other Trequartistas in football.

He knows how to pick out the perfect pass, be it the arching pass that Bastian Schweinsteiger buried at the Euros or the looping corners into the box or the passes on a silver platter for Arsenal’s goal-shy forwards; with Mesut, the supply never stops.

He is gradually taking matters into his own hands, and the second half of 2016 has seen him evolve into the goal-scorer. He creates his moments and he decides what is best for himself, be it the mazy Puskas-worthy goal against Ludogorets, or the smash-ins or his tap-ins. He is gradually becoming ‘THE FOOTBALLER’.

He is already the specialist, and 2016 was the year he realized he was just more than a supplier; it was a year when the supplier became the executioner. And it won’t take long before the net starts making a different sound when he scores.

8. Paul Labile Pogba (Manchester United & France)

The Most-Talked-About One: Paul Pogba, back in a Manchester United shirt.

The Most-Talked-About One: Paul Pogba, back in a Manchester United shirt.

An obvious selection, for obvious reasons. Three years after leaving Manchester United for greener pastures in Juventus for a measly compensation fee, Paul Pogba returned to his boyhood club this year amidst a world record transfer fee. He was the most talked-about footballer this year, again, for obvious reasons.

The 23-year-old French midfielder started the year with the Old Lady, as they continued their fine form from 2015 to run unchallenged at the Scudetto. Pogba was an integral part of the team, with his lung-busting runs from deep, long-range stunners, fancy footwork and immense strength in the middle of the park all proving to be important tools in making him one of the finest midfielders in the world.

Shortly after the Scudetto glory, Pogba was a part of the French squad that performed admirably at the Euros 2016 but fell short of expectations by losing to Portugal in the final match. Paul himself was not at his dominant best for the national team but this can be attributed to the more defensive role he was asked to play by his national coach.

Fast forward over the summer and he now plies his trade in the Red half of Manchester once again. And while his performances have been far from bad, the tag of the world’s most expensive player on his head has seen many football fans calling for more consistency from the young midfielder.

Pogba can go on to be the best midfielder on the world, such is his potential and it is safe to say we expect him to justify this fact in the near future. He was nominated for the Ballon d’Or 2016 too by the way, which is the least that should be expected from a player of his quality.

7. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City & Algeria)

Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez poses with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez poses with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

Well what can I say? Riyad Mahrez’s meteoric rise to prominence is nothing short of phenomenal and is worthy of the pages of a Hollywood script. The tricky winger, signed dirt cheap by Leicester from Le Havre about three seasons ago, will surely go down in his club’s history as their biggest bargain signing of the Premier League era.

After taking a season to settle into England, Mahrez absolutely burst to life in his second season, grabbing double figures in goals and assists, an incredible feat for any PL player, talk less of one playing for a team like Leicester City. From the beginning of this year, Mahrez was part of a fairytale run to the end of the season that ensured that Leicester would finish league leaders and he was arguably their most exciting and outstanding player.

Later in the year, Mahrez was named BBC’s African Footballer of the Year, and was part of the shortlisted three up for the CAF Player of the Year award. He also found his way into the list of nominees for the Ballon d’Or award, alongside fellow revelation of the season, teammate Jamie Vardy. Could he possibly need to do more to grab a spot in this list? I think not.

6. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal & Chile)

Another Copa: Sanchez gives the #Copa100 trophy a kiss

Another Copa: Sanchez gives the #Copa100 trophy a kiss

Unbelievable. That is one word that describes this man’s form this year. 2016 has been a very good year for Chilean ace, Alexis Sanchez. The versatile forward was the Premier League’s best rated player, according to WhoScored, achieving an average rating of 7.81 out of a possible 10.

In the calendar year, he grabbed 19 goals and 9 assists, more than any other player in the league. In a club that has countless talent going forward, it is impressive that Alexis is considered to be the best player, and he has justified this sentiment, helping Arsenal to finish second in the league in May.

Fast forward to the Copa America and Alexis was once again influential, contributing goals and assists in Chile’s run to the final and proving key as they beat Argentina once again to win the cup.He was named player of the tournament, despite not being the highest goal scorer or assist king. Such is the influence he had on the team’s success.

Fast forward again to the new season and Alexis has not slowed down one bit. Deployed as the main striker, he has rewarded coach Arsene Wenger’s faith with a return of 12 goals (second best in the league as at time of writing). His pace, trickery, shot power, intelligence and surprising “Hulk” strength despite his diminutive stature is a constant terror for opposition and his inclusion in our end-of-the-year list is well justified.

5. Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz (FC Barcelona & Uruguay)

Highest Goal-scoring Father: Luis Suarez poses with the European Golden boot alongside his kids

Highest Goal-scoring Father: Luis Suarez poses with the European Golden boot alongside his kids

Messi and Ronaldo are regarded as superhumans because they score goals like no one can. But how do you class a player that can score more? There was a popular belief that no Barcelona striker could score too much with Messi around (maybe Zlatan wasn’t Zlatan then). But the Uruguayan, since joining the Catalan giants, has added more bite to that Barcelona attack.

That’s why there was utter disappointment when he wasn’t named in the top three best players of the year 2016 because he actually was one of them. Doing everything right, and having the right names around him, Suarez won the Pichichi crown as the top goal scorer in the La Liga 2016/2016 season.

Fiery: Suarez made goal-scoring look like nothing over the year

Fiery: Suarez made goal-scoring look like nothing over the year

He didn’t stop there as he went on to win the European Golden Boot. He has become a part of a deadly trio, the MSN, whose joy is to terrorize defenders and rattle the onion bag as often as possible. Stopping Suarez and his cohorts will take a miracle and at that they’ll almost always find a way in the end.

With his wife and children cheering their hero from the sidelines in a culture similar to his own, Luis finally has found that psychological balance to enjoy his football. The ghosts of 2014 are long gone now. Suarez bites with his boots now. He’s been the best in the world in every position he has played in this year and that is subject to no argument.

4. Neymar Jr (Brazil & FC Barcelona)

Golden Boy: Neymar spent the year nutmegging his opponents and, ah yes, helping Brazil win that elusive Olympic gold medal in Men's Football

Golden Boy: Neymar spent the year nutmegging his opponents and, ah yes, helping Brazil win that elusive Olympic gold medal in Men’s Football

If Neymar Jr was a punching bag, he would be bruised, battered and almost useless at this point, giving the kind of year he had. The 24-year old had to deal with accusations of his involvement in his own transfer move which has been stylishly called all names but fraudulent.

He was made to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea by his club when they informed him he couldn’t play at two international events in the space of three months. It was a daunting year but one that seems to be worth it. Many would make a case that he shouldn’t make the list. But for a player whose is a high-functioning part of the world’s deadliest trio, that would be injustice.

From the Copa del Rey final to the Olympic games final and those times when Messi and Suarez were out injured, Neymar Jr rose to the occasion. He has his detractors, those feel he is to fanciful, but for a player who believes in the ‘Zinga’, the Samba and whose trademark is to show off like a peacock, you can’t blame him for being the closest thing to fun that football has seen since Ronaldinho gaucho.

And even though he doesn’t possess the free flowing hair of his counterpart, he does possess his skills and seeing him enjoy himself is beauty to football in itself. It is this flair that influences his passion, one characterized by his tears as he struck the penalty that brought Olympic Glory to the Seleccao after several years of agony.

He has suffered his worst drought in front of goal already but it’s all an indication that he is growing and if 2016 brought joy and agony simultaneously, 2017 can only get better for the purist’s golden boy.

Photo credits: Twitter

What do you think about the list? Is there a footballer “wrongly” placed above or below another? Or have we committed an unforgivable mistake by completely omitting a certain name? Let us know in the comments section below. We’ll like to hear from you.

The Best 16 Footballers of 2016 (16-10)

 

2016 was the ultimate year for any football fan. There was more than enough football to go round for everyone. There never seemed to be a quiet month during the year. From the leagues to international football, transfer speculations and the ones that became realities, football in 2016 was more than enough.

Add to that list, the number of exceptionals that occured over the year, then it’s safe to conclude that another year like 2016 may be very hard to come by in a very long time. While all these actions were ongoing, it was the players that were in the spotlight, some stealing the show with their amazing performances and others leaving mouths the world over agape with their brilliance.

Of all of them, we at For The Goals have selected 16 players who we think outperformed every other football player on the planet during the calendar year. With the number of football events that happened over the year, it was very hard to come up with just 16 names. it was so hard that we had to include a “Worthy Mentions” list which you’ll get to see at the end of the countdown.

But first, we countdown, the best footballers who took the world by storm in 2016

 

16. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus & Italy)

Italian Wall: Leonardo Bonucci in his country colours

Italian Wall: Leonardo Bonucci in his country colours

The retirement of Paolo Maldini in 2007 was the end of an era for defenders; a role scarcely appreciated by fans due to its perceived lack of excitement. The defender is tasked with stopping the attacker from scoring. But that role is gradually evolving, with ball-playing defenders like John Stones and Gerard Pique overshadowing men who have fulfilled varying roles in the strong defensive position either by breaking up play, making last ditch tackles, the oft goal-line clearance, taking one for the team, or creating memories with goals that break opposition hearts.

They are often the most stable outfield players and no man embodies these qualities more than Juventus brave heart Leonardo Bonucci. Be it in Antonio Conte’s three-man defence or Max Allegri’s four-man defence, Lenny has forged partnerships with his partners and made them impenetrable.

He was a backbone in the Italian team that reached the Quarter finals of the Euros not to mention his performances with Juventus and his key role. It didn’t come as a surprise when he became the subject of a 50million-pound bids from multiple clubs. He is giving defenders new identity and I’m not talking about just tackling,

It is shouldering the responsibility of his team and carrying the hope of a nation. It is his fierce loyalty to the Old Lady despite the money distractions from the ‘younger ladies’. He is the symbol of the new defender: reborn, tough and yet performing at the highest level. 2016 has indeed been one for Lenny to remember. He would join Maldini as the next Italian to have his jersey retired at his club.

15. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham FC & France)

What a Year!: Hugo Lloris enjoyed a great year with both club and country

What a Year!: Hugo Lloris enjoyed a great year with both club and country

Speed off the line, cat-like reflexes, great handling skills, accurate kicking and consistency; all these attributes and more make Hugo Lloris an undroppable option. Already long considered to be one of the finest goalkeepers in the business, Hugo Lloris has taken his game to yet another level this year as his heroics for club and country earned him a spot in the FIFA Ballon D’or list of nominees.

The French goalkeeper has been outstanding and he has proven to be an extremely solid last line of defence as he was crucial in Tottenham’s run to third place towards the end of last season. Hugo also formed part of a formidable French team that competed in the 2016 Euros, getting to the final before losing to underdogs Portugal in an unexpected turn of events.

Carrying this good form into the new season, Hugo is still the undisputable first choice goalkeeper for Tottenham and he is part of a defence that has conceded the second least number of goals so far in the Premier League, letting in only 12 goals in 17 games. Stunning form, no doubt.

14. Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior (Real Madrid & Brazil)

Glorious Year: Marcelo rejoices as he hoists the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan

Glorious Year: Marcelo rejoices as he hoists the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan

He may be just 5’8 tall but, don’t be deceived. He is a beast that attacks, defends, and sometimes patrols the whole left wing on his own when Ronaldo is where Ronaldo wants to be. Arguably the world’s best left back at the moment, you might mistake him for a winger sometimes when he’s skinning his opposite number.

2016 is a year Marcelo will most likely not forget in a hurry. Winning the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA World Cup and on top of the La Liga table, the playful left-back can look back on the achievements of the year and several reasons to feel on to of the world. Although he wears the jersey number 12, he plays in the no. 3 position while CR7 can be anywhere. 3+7=10. That’s perfection, you do the maths.

Marcelo, smiling Rasta, leftwing demon.

 

13. Ngolo Kante (Chelsea & France)

Diamond in the Rough: N'golo Kante was one of the revelations of the year. (Image credit: Bleacher)

Diamond in the Rough: N’golo Kante was one of the revelations of the year. (Image credit: Bleacher)

The French African that has been compared to the Makaleles of football and rightly so… He knows his role and he plays it well. His role, like his complexion, is to be engaged in the dark arts of football. Break and attack, and start a new one. Shield the defense and give the strikers no joy. So far, this year has been his year, playing key roles in helping Leicester win the EPL and helping Chelsea lead the table in the new season.

To highlight his importance, Leicester have struggled so far this season while Chelsea who were the jokers of the last season are not letting in much and are leading the table. N’golo Kante is a school-of-hard-knocks type of player, efficient midfield beast reincarnated from a previous era.

 

12. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund & Gabon)

African Prince: Reigning African Player of the year, Aubameyang

African Prince: Reigning African Player of the year, Aubameyang

He has been described as ”maybe the paciest striker in the world.” Being one of the only 2 Africans who came close to winning the Ballon d’Or this year (he ranked 11th on the France Football list), that description is just perfect.

From being crowned the CAF African Footballer of the Year in January, to being voted the Bundesliga Player of the Year by his fellow professionals (beating names like Robert Lewandowski by the slimmest of margins, 0.2%), to being nominated again for the African Footballer of the Year, 2016 has been a beauty of a year for the Gabonese striker.

Despite not having much to do during the summer like the CR7s and Leos did, Aubameyang still managed to score 32 goals in all competitions during the year. Even though that number falls short of the 42 he scored last year, Pierre is still one of the most sought-after strikers in the game, with big shots like Real Madrid rumoured to be interested in the Gabonese.

Any blots on his scorecard this year? His fall-out with his coach Thomas Tuchel, which led to him getting suspended. Asides that, Aubameyang had a beautiful 2016. With the AFCON and more coming up, I can’t wait to see more of the Gabonese.

 

11. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City & Denmark)

Following in the steps of the fathers: Schmeichel played an important role in the Leicester side that shocked the world.

Following in the steps of the fathers: Schmeichel played an important role in the Leicester side that shocked the world.

It was May 1993; Man United were on their way to a first Premier league title; Guarding the goal was a 29year old blonde-haired clean shaven Dane, his name; PETER SCHMEICHEL. Twenty-three years later, another Schmeichel was repeating the feat, albeit in more magical circumstances, with lowly Leicester City.

His rather not-so meteoric rise has seen him play in the lower divisions of English & Scottish football. Kasper is not the clean-sheet king his father was or the ball-playing sweeper-keeper Manuel Neuer is. He belongs to the old school category of safeguarding the goal, placing all on the line to prevent his net from bulging, and these were efforts that rarely were recognized.

2016 was, however, the year in which Schmeichel made his mark, leaving a huge print on the sands of time with memorable performances while protecting his side’s goal when the fairy-tale was looking in doubt. This was the form he carried into the new season. And despite his club’s sickening league form, his Champions League performances have been virtuoso just as much, keeping clean sheets in his first four games in the competition, and earning himself a Best-Goalkeeper-in-Europe tag from his manager.

There were several forces that made Leicester City tick and achieve the fairy tale they did. Mother luck played her part. Riyad Mahrez might have possessed the wizardry of skills and Jamie Vardy the goals, but as Adriano Galliani once said, Defence is the best form of Attack; a defence that starts with the line who comes in handy when the other lines are found wanting.

That is another great Dane, whose performances have sparked talks of a move to Manchester City, another one that got away.

 

10. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid CF & Germany)

Not the noisiest, not the quietest: Kroos poses with the FIFA Club World Cup

Not the noisiest, not the quietest: Kroos poses with the FIFA Club World Cup

Since Joachim Low’s appointment as Germany boss in 2006, never has he listed a central midfielder as his best player in the world. This year changed all that. His enthusiasm and delight at citing the consistent year that Toni Kroos had for Real Madrid was evident. It was the grin and the joy of a father who was delighted in his own son, impressed with how the boy had become the man.

It is quite shocking how Pep Guardiola let the metronome slip through his grasp. Toni has become more technical, with every stroke of the ball like that of a mother caressing her baby. Kroos may yet not be the Andres Iniesta many Catalans see or the Xavi that fans were in awe of. He is his own man, the technical master, the musical chord that is the leader of the orchestra.

Like the violinist who plays with an alluring tempo, he has consistently been at the top of his game according to Low and it is a sentiment his club manager echoes. It’s not a farce. If his stats are anything to go by, Kross has averaged an 88percent pass completion rate for the year and has registered 8assists in the second half of the year already for Real Madrid.

He was sorely missed in the Clasico as he would have matched Iniesta for technique upon his introduction. He is often touted to be the toast of several clubs but he doesn’t look likely to leave the Bernabeu anytime soon. He is just like the proverbial sugar that attracts small insects. Kroos is the midfielder, the fantasista.

Wondering who else made the list? You can continue reading here!

The Best 15 Footballers of the Year 2015 (3-1)

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The Deadly Trio! M S and N

This is the concluding part of our countdown of the 15 best players of the year 2015. Just in case you’ve missed the first three articles, catch them here, here and here.

3. Neymar

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Neymar the Golden Boy

“He is my heir, he has the opportunity to break all those records”.
    
When Ronaldinho Gaucho gives a glowing endorsement about you like this one above, know you are the real deal. The special one. The chosen one. The only one. I’m running out of superlatives to describe this young lad. At 23, Neymar is a World Champion with Barcelona, a UEFA Champions League as well as a UEFA Super Cup winner. Add to that his La Liga and Copa titles and you’d see reason with this chap. A full-fledged member of an attacking triumvirate that has scored a staggering 134 goals in 2015. They were in part (which means 90%) the reason FC Barcelona have come this far this year. His ability to put off-field issues behind him and concentrate on his football is not just a sign of greatness but that he is.
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In a year that has seen him go from the highs of carrying the almighty Barca on his back along with Messi and Suarez, being the poster boy for Brazil, a team that looks like a bunch of Sunday league players without him, to the trough of tax cases and controversy about his move to the Catalan club, Neymar has done too much not to be the best. He is the diamond in the rough that is being polished, You only need pay attention to his sizzling skills, one in particular so dazzling that it was adopted in a Nigerian musician’s dance video. If he doesn’t win this year… The crowned prince of football is definitely going to rule for years to come especially with his current environment. No wonder there are rife rumours that Mr Florentino wants to use ‘his current transfer controversy’ to lure him to the Bernabeu…  But for now… Fans be happy… Defenders… Be afraid, Be really afraid… MSN are coming to a pitch near you…

2. Luis Suarez

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Luis Suarez

£77m and 15months later, Luisito is a World Champion. He appeared to have reached his trough in June 2014, He had repeated his vampirism.. A third bite and a chunk of Giorgio Chiellini’s arms the recipe. His first appearance after his four month was the much revered El Clasico, He started, with the eyes of the watching world on him, many waiting to see him fumble, He escaped unscathed as he displayed a sign of an understanding with his teammates with the assist for Neymar’s goal. Fast forward by 2months and he had started to emerge from the shadows. His 43 appearances in all competitions yielded 25goals and 21assists, a ratio of 1:1 in terms of goals & assists per game. The highlight of his Champions League return was the double header against PSG in the Quarter finals when he took David Luiz to the cleaners and apparently justified Mourinho’s statement of Luiz being a ticking time bomb. His winning strike against Real Madrid in the Clasico was the final nail in the Galaticos coffin that ultimately crowned Barca champions while his goal in the final all but sealed victory at a point when Juventus were growing into the game.
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His impact seemingly has doubled this season no thanks to his contributions in Messi and Neymar’s absence. While he indeed has witnessed it all for Barca this year,  from the 5 trophies won to theof the 4-0 and 4-1 defeats to Athletic and Celta, Suarez’s quality has shone through. His head as a part of the three-headed monster, that is the MSN, has struck effectively and precisely, 150 goals among 3players is no joke and if this trident are to stay together for much longer, it is only bad news for defences because of their ability to make up for one another’s failings, a quality that Suarez has flawlessly exhibited (his understanding with his strike partners) with many having feared for his selfish attitude. His strikes in the Clasico this season and his 5 goals at the Club World Cup only tell a part of the story of a man who in 2016 all things been equal could be the heir apparent to Lionel Messi’s inevitable Balon D’Or.

1. Lionel Messi

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Leo the Legend

He’s 28years, he’s won the Ballon d’or four times, 500 appearances, 425goals, 32 hatricks, defences know him as “messi-less”… everytime you try to describe the Argentine, you come up short. What he has accomplished needn’t be repeated, it’s no secret, we all know it, he’s been the best, arguably of all time. In 2015, he’s been phenomenal, no one comes close, his game, the way he plays.. is an art and like wine, it has gotten better with age.

Do you remember that solo run against A. Bilbao? That Copa del Rey final? How about the Champions League? Boateng will not for Leo in a jiffy. The best player in a horrifying attack (the MSN Gang) and despite his obvious talents, he dazzles with every performance. How do you describe winning every competition he’s play in? If that’s not best in the world, I don’t know what is.

There you have it. The best 15 players of the year 2015. What do you think? Do you think there’s that one player we forgot to include in our list? Share your views with us in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers to a fantastic 2016 from all of us at ForTheGoals! (@Rotimi Tosin @kopainzy) 😉

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An Analysis of Nigerian Football in 2015

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What a year!

As young chaps, we all dreaded our exams (well to a certain extent). I did for one reason: the fear of failure. I never for once finished outside of the top 2 right from my nursery up until my final year in primary school. That was the year my fears swallowed me. It was the first term to be precise. My mom was no place near me to monitor me. I flopped big time, finishing 10th. That report sheet sent cold shivers through my spine. My uncle didn’t help issues either. My Christmas was another case entirely. My annual Christmas cloth? It never arrived; I didn’t wear any new outfit to church or to our Christmas carol. That rage spurred me. I’d finish first the following term for one reason, and the wheels had gone off before I desired a change.

An issue similar to mine seems set to plague the current Nigerian Football Federation cabinet. A good start but then with reservations. While we celebrate the successes in Nigerian football this year, we seemingly aren’t supposed to rest on our laurels just yet, and like the proverbial report card in the hands of child, here is mine, as a teacher’s assessment, of the Glass house over the past year (Each section is scored over 100):

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Osimhen Victor

ON THE PITCH: Was it Victor Osimehn’s ten goals at the U17 World Cup in Chile or Oghenekaro Etebo’s solo run in the final of the U23 Nations Cup in Dakar, that pleased you the most? It’s a sound indication of how good our teams put up a show on the pitch. The year hadn’t looked bright with many still reeling in our failure to qualify for the AFCON as well as Emmanuel Amuneke’s U17 team’s implosion at the U17 Nations Cup. It changed with Manu Garba’s charges winning the U20 Nations Cup before crumbling like a pack of cards in New Zealand, and the Super Falcons ‘putting up a show’ in Canada. Fast-forward to the end of the year and we were in dreamland with the Flamingoes and Falconets completing routine jobs of qualifying for their respective World Cups sandwiched in between, the Falcons’ failure to qualify for the Olympics and the aforementioned success of the Dream team in dire circumstances as well as that of the Eaglets against all odds. Who would forget Enyimba’s title win? Or Akwa United’s epic Federations Cup final success.  Which moment did you cherish the most?
VERDICT: 68

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Kingsley Sokari of Enyimba against Etebo Oghenekaro of Warri Wolves. Image Credits: LMC.org

THE NIGERIAN PREMIER FOOTBALL LEAGUE: ‘They said this day would never come’. There I sat, proud of a first game played at night in Nigerian football. It was just cool, and the atmosphere was good (where I watched it). It was dreams come true. A game under floodlights… but wait. “Why can’t we have more of this?,” I asked myself. Then I remembered: it’s the Nigerian Professional Football League, where late games are a taboo. Despite the on-field successes, the question still begs to be answered of why we can’t do better. A calendar which is just as symbolic as that of a certain Nigerian university isn’t something to be proud of. The 2014-15 season kicked off in 2015, the 15-16 season will begin in 2016 just about the same time as the commencement of the preliminary round of the 2016 CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup which all but leads us to that missing part of the league. While organisation was at its best this past season, the LMC need not rejoice yet, there is still work to be done. The calendar needs to be set right, the idea of two conferences won’t be bad with the teams split into two conferences of ten teams and a playoff tournament just like the MLS to ensure a quick end to the season and ensure a realignment with the European season which is being followed. And it’s not just that. One would only look further up north and see how players of a certain club had to sleep outside the government house in harsh harmattan conditions because they weren’t getting paid. It leaves a scar on the game and the LMC might be needing to enforce rules, rules like ABSA enforced in South Africa to ensure the Premier Soccer League has become a league worthy of watching. Clubs need to understand that the welfare of their players are paramount in whatever they do, however what do you expect, when a club cannot possibly produce TV friendly jerseys. It is true, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but there were huge strides and big calls made to ensure Rome is what it is today. The LMC chairman, Alh. Shehu Dikko complained about how the fans are not in the stadiums, but in sincerity, they refuse to look at how they have failed to draw the fans to the stadium. The league needs branding, and until that step is taken, the fans won’t come. Its quite amazing that despite Nike being our national team kit sponsors, we can’t get them to supply us Match balls, referee kits et al. The pitch may be TV friendly, what about the stands? The terraces? Must all games on Saturday and Sunday necessarily kick off at 4pm? Is there not supposed to be a schedule? A Friday night kick-off at 6pm won’t hurt, neither will 3pm,5:30 & 7:45pm kick-offs on Saturday or 12noon kick-offs on Sundays. We need to have match times, well-structured, and floodlights in all stadiums so as to have more mid-week games that people can catch up too, a 4pm mid-week match is a joke with a lot of people still in traffic on their way back from work. There is still a lot to be done and the administrative trips to the UK had better be implemented in the coming season. Save that, 2015 was fair….
VERDICT: 55

THE NFF: Amaju Pinnick was the new beginning I’d rooted for during the NFF elections; his charm and demeanour, add to that his youthful look, made him the perfect candidate on my path, and a major upgrade on the outgone Aminu Maigari board. Things have changed on the pitch quite alright. However, it is off it that the challenges lay. A certain Chris Giwa lurks in the shadows while there are huge question marks over how the deal with Nike went down giving Adidas opted against renewing the kit contract. The jerseys are yet to be available a year after its unveiling and so do the questions arise. The decision to owe Samson Siasia his wages but pay Sunday Oliseh his in advance plus a car as well as the fact that the Dream Team allegedly took only ONE jersey to Senegal for the U23 tourney is worrying. His unveiling of the 2016 budget was crowned with his statement of majority of the funds coming from the Federal Government. But can part of the NFF’s budget not be sponsored by other companies other than the company called the Federal Government of Nigeria? The NFF is an institution that shouldn’t just rely on government funds. It is issues as such that make player strikes and protests inevitable as well failure to pay a coach. Achange of approach in 2016 maybe?
VERDICT: 50

Nigerian football may have changed levels in 2015, but its happened in time past, that in taking a step forward, we often take the proverbial two steps backwards, one mustn’t always hit the trough before surging towards another crest, we aren’t sound waves…

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The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (7-4)

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Go Figure

We continue counting down the list of players that shattered records this year, whose performances eclipsed that of their counterparts in the calendar year 2015. In case you missed the previous lists, catch up here and here

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Dare To Zlatan: Swedish General, Prince of Paris

“So long as they can enjoy playing on the bench” would be Zlatans response if asked if he needs to take the back seat  in the PSG set up.

At 34, Zlatan isn’t slowing down and the karate king of football isn’t “taking a bow”… at least not very soon. The Enigma whose nose is legend ‘blows away’ defences at will not just with goals (38 for club and country) but also with assists (15), he is still offers a lot to his teams.

At 6’5, Zlatan still ‘stands tall’ amongst the best in the game, sending an entire nation into retirement in the European qualifiers. He’s the only player alive that can say:

“…at the Euros in 2016, the French crowd will cheer for me more than they will for the French National Team.”

Like a boss

Zlatan isn’t tired yet and earns his place at number 7.

6. Thomas Muller

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Muller: Bayern's not-so-secret machine of war

It was the definition of a job well done, But its the RekordMeister and the football pitch is their playground, Turning a masterclass was the perfect tonic and response to the shambles of their first leg loss, To celebrate it; one man did it distinctly, He grabbed a megaphone, ran over to the fans and noised them up. It was a memorable moment, one that would last in memory of the fans that stayed behind that night. It defined an era, the institution that Thomas Muller had become at Bayern on a night he had become Germany’s all time Champions League top scorer.. Only at 25. Gerd Muller must have being envious. That night encapsulated what Muller stood for and his performances in the year. If 2014 was the tip of the Icebag, 2015 was the Big Bang! The year he finally matured into the leader he is.  Who would forget that night? Or the way he rallied his teammates in the second leg of their 3-5 loss to Barca, or his virtuoso assist for Lewandowski in their final CL game of 2015, even his angled strike against Arsenal in that 5-1 thrashing..  His records of being the fastest German to reach 50CL wins? Or his 150Bundesliga victories?

His efficiency in finding the net with
his chances on goal has dramatically improved so as his overall link-up play. His 20goals and 5assists midway through this current season is 1short of his total tally of 21goals last season even though his assists tally is dwarfed  by the 18 he had. However, don’t be fooled, He is more than just a finisher, He is an all-round footballer, a sign of what is to come in football. He is the RAUMDEUTER: Space-investigator. Still only 25, it’s a sign he is yet to reach his peak…

5. Robert Lewandowski

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5-Star Goalscorer.

What do you call a performance that has one of the world best coaches on his feet with a smile, and his hands celebrating a moment he just witnessed alongside the crowd?

Ans: Polish

Who holds the world records for;
1. Fastest Bundesliga Hatrick?
2. Fastest Four goals in the Bundesliga?
3. Fastest five goals in a bundesliga Match?
4. Most goals scored by a substitute in the bundesliga?

Ans: Robert Lewandowski

Pep Guardiola was quoted saying:

“I can’t really understand it. Five goals. Neither as a coach nor as a player did I ever experience something like this and I can’t really explain it.”

Since achieving these records, Robert has continued to find the back of the net, scoring 14 goals and counting in the Bundesliga this season, helping his team to an eight point lead ahead of Borrusia Dortmund, while his five goals in the Champions League have secured qualification for the knockout stages of the competition. 

With the national team he equalled former Northern Ireland striker David Healy’s 13-goal record for a single European Championship qualifying campaign. 45 goals for club and country is only dwarfed by world bests Ronaldo and Messi. He’s been the best centre forward this year and can be said to be Bundesligas’ biggest excitement this year.

From being stopped from transferring to Blackburn by volcanic ash to be playing at a level of one of the world’s bests, Lewandowski is favoured by the football gods, he’s had a great year!

4. Cristiano Ronaldo

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High Flier

Words are not just enough to describe how phenomenal and prolific he has been in 2015 and hitherto. Though ,he is at the peak of his amazing and mind-blowing career, that does not stop him from churning out his outstanding performances, game in game out.

With little or nothing to prove again, the Funchal born superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro, indeed had a dramatic year even without a silverware. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a total of 55 goals for club and county ,short of his tally of 61 of last year.

In remarkable fashion, he has found the net 23 times this season alone: with 12 league goals and 11 in the Champions League. He also became the first player to score 11 goals in the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League and he is the current top scorer of the competition. Out his goals this season,10 goals came from his right foot, 3 from his left, 4 headed goals, 1 spotkick and 5 free kicks.

Well, there is little or no doubt, he is of the greatest footballers that has ever graced the game of football,so if he says he is the best in his head, – with 235 goals in 215 games for Real Madrid – his record echoes the message: Best in the world!

The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (11-8)

We’re counting down the list of players that amazed the world of football the most this 20!5. In case you missed the first part, you can catch up here

11. Arturo Vidal

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Vidal: A box of energy

His eyes swollen, apparently tearful. He was left explaining his silly act of drink-driving during a tournament where he was the poster-boy, He was the symbol of the nation, and he had somewhat entangled himself in trouble, after lifting hearts with masterful performances in their first two games of the tournament. He was expecting to be punished. But the ANFP went soft, the fans forgave him, and he repaid their faith in full. He was the beacon as they won their first ever international title in front of their own fans after a peach performance in the final. He was named Man of the Match and was only included in the Team of the Tournament.

The manner in which Vidal evolved in 2015 was crucial both for the man and the team, right from his ‘New’ Advanced role at Juventus through to his more withdrawn role at Bayern. His consistent performances birthed 8 goals in 39 appearances (the league and Champions league) which resulted in a fourth straight Scudetti and a Champions League Silver medal as well as a Coppa Italia title. The stats speak in his favour just as much. His knack for important goals which put the mind of the fans at rest were a common feature of his game this year. One only need look at the Champions League quarter-final win against Monaco and the opening game of the Copa. If 2014 was the year Arturo Vidal showed promise, He definitely lived up to it in 2015.

10. Mesut Ozil

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The All-Seeing Mesut

In football terms, the German international can be said to be more Spanish than German. Get it? Indulge me… let me Ozil (assist) you. His game isn’t about intensity, work rate or the machine-like efficiency associated with Germans. In fact if German footballers are likened to Mercedes-Benz, he’d be a Porsche or a Lamborghini, such is the finesse and class his game exudes (now if you don’t get it, you just can’t).

If you thought he had the world’s attention while at Madrid, now the whole universe watches in awe. Highest number of assists this season in the top 5 leagues in Europe, arguably the best playmaker in the game right now. The 15/16 season is only half-way through but he has already assisted twice as many goals as the next player on the list (Kevin de Bruyne, 8 assists). What more can be said

2015 has been Ozil’s best year yet and he’s still gathering plaudits with his constant ‘eye popping’ performances. Ozil is football’s illuminati, utilising the all-seeing eyes for passing accuracy and assists. Little wonder Cristiano Ronaldo was furious he was sold.

Earlier this year, according to Opta, Ozil had the best minutes per assist rate in the Premier League history! And that was last season. In the game against Bournemouth this season, Mesut Ozil created nine goalscoring chances, the most by a player in a single Premier League game this season.

In this same year, in the game against Man. City, he made his 14th and 15th assists of the season in the 16th game of the season; the fastest any player has ever managed in the EPL history.

9. Paul Pogba

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Well done Paul. Clap for yourself

He is not the best goal-scoring machine in the Old Lady’s arsenal but whenever he scores, his goals made headlines.

His 15 Serie A starts this 15/16 Serie A season is a testament to his indispensability at Juventus. In this same season, no player has won possession in the final third more times than Octopus Paul in the Serie A. He is power and combativeness combined.

While his team was beaten in the Champions League final and denied a treble by Barcelona, he was named in the ten-man shortlist for the UEFA Best Player in Europe award, which he later finished 10th.

In a year where some players did not win any club trophies, he won 3. Not bad Paul, not bad.

8. Alexis Sanchez

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Alexis the Terror

The Golden boy with the golden touch. You only need to see him play the piano to judge his football skills; he is just as exquisite, his fingers striking each chord like his foot striking the ball into the net.

If his arrival at Arsenal was mired by his inability to deliver on the big stage for Barcelona as some had called it, he has not only proven them wrong, he has just as much put them to shame. His goals were just as important as he himself, and even though his 2015 didn’t start too well, he was celebrating two titles in the space of a month as he played a massive role in Arsenal’s FA Cup win before leading the charge along with Edu Vargas and Arturo Vidal for Chile at the Copa America, his goals crucial in the groups and his assist for the winner in the semis. He returned to club action to lift the Community shield with the Gunners after which he embarked on a scoring run of 9 goals in 6 games for club and country.

He has shown no signs of stopping. He was rewarded with the 2015 Fans Premier League Player of the Year and you only need to ask his Arsenal team mates and they’d explain his ever burning desire to be the best… Balon d’Or consideration maybe? You have another 12months Alexis…

Can wait for the rest? Continue here and here

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The Best 15 Footballers of 2015 (15-12)

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#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...

The year 2015 brought along with it a bucket-load of surprises for football fans. From new names grabbing headlines, the usual suspects staying ahead of the game, record breakers and players who won trophies en masse, it has been a year to remember.

Of all that has happened – Leicester, Chelsea, Watford’s record summer signings, Juventus, Enyimba, the Messi-less Barcelona, that Lewa’s 5 goals in 9 minutes, that Messi dribble that finished Boateng’s career, Di Maria, van Gaal, Aguero’s 5 goals in 21 minutes, Vardy’s 11 in 11, Pep’s 2-3-5 formation, the Paris drama that made the German National Football Team spend the night in the dressing room, Florenzi’s goal against Barca, Osimhen and the Golden Eaglets, Jose Mourinho’s classic post-match comments and more – we at ForTheGoals have selected 15 players whose performances this year surpassed that of their counterparts… by miles! Here’s our countdown:

15. Carlos Tevez

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Who else can win twi trophies in two continents in one calendar year? You guessed right!

If there’s a list of footballers that can play the game and don’t mind where they play the beautiful game, Carlos ‘Carlitos’ Tevez would be atop it .

In 2015, Carlitos rounded off the season with Juventus, winning a domestic double and reaching the Champions League finals. He then left for Boca Juniors, the club where it all started, to win another domestic double, grabbing the footballing record for being the first player to win doubles at two clubs in a calender year along the way.

With 29 goals for both clubs this calender year, he sure has wounded a lot of defenses and left loads of scars. His goal scoring heroics no doubt will shame captain Rooney. Carlitos has been one of the best doing it in full glare of the footballing world and some of its hidden parts.

14. Pierre Aubameyang

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Record breaker: P. Aubameyang

Where did he come from? That’s a mohawk? Oh! He’s scored! 27goals in 26 appearances this season! If he were some captain in Manchester you’ll hear “he scores when he wants” everytime he scores. The very elusive Aubameyang has caught the world’s attention with his exploits in Germany.

Having previously played for 14 clubs (his speed must have helped him move from each club so quickly), the 26 year old Gabonese looks like he has found a settlement for his trade and he’s building a dynasty.

He’s had an explosive 2015, scoring more goals in the top 5 leagues for club and country than anyone bar the MSN gang, CR7 and Ibrahimovic. His 42 goals this year has helped Dortmund mount a challenge on the Bundesliga – as ironic as it may sound – and helped Gabon qualify for the group phase of African World Cup qualifiers.

He’s has the world’s attention… He’s had a great year.

13. Antoine Griezmann

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Antoine: The REAL A. Madrid striker

Maybe all top players see hair styles as some sort of inspiration, we’ll never know, some just haven’t just decided on their hair colour… *steps in Griezmann*. French man, multicoloured hair and match winner. He scores so many match winners his nickname should be “3 points”.

Carving a niche for himself in a league where most of the world’s top players converge, Griezmann has managed to grab the spotlight for himself from time to time.

He features for his consistency and knack for goal scoring, you have to be consistent to be reckoned with in a league containing most of the world’s galacticos, even making the la liga team of the season for 14/15.

His 2015 wasn’t amazing but it was close.

12. Claudio Bravo

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What a year!: Bravo in action for Chile

What else can be said about a goalie that won the UEFA Champions League, the La Liga title, the Copa America, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup… all in one year?

Claudio Andrés Bravo had a 2015 that most goalkeepers in the world would be envious of. For every competition he participated in, he won a trophy. After winning the UEFA Champions League and La Liga, he went home and led Chile to their first major international honour as they conquered the Copa America. He played every minute of the tourney, saved a penalty in the final against Argentina and was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament; and all this was after he was named the goalkeeper in the La Liga 2014/2015 Team of the Season. He capped it off with the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup. I didn’t mention his goalkeeping skills right? Well, his trophies speak volumes for him.

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