In this new annual feature, we at Outside of the Boot aim to unearth the best performing footballers from each of the 5 primary Confederations in the past calendar year. Rather than do the work ourselves, we had the bright idea of crowd-sourcing the answers and the football-sphere has spoken with it’s votes.
Drum roll please. And the winners of Global Series: Europe are…
10. ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE
The young French forward was the star of Lyon’s incredible 2014-15 season. Lacazette had always been respected as a talented young player until the start of the season, but being deployed as an out an out striker allowed the man to use his pace and deadly finishing skill in the most optimum way, and he did so. His fine partnership with Nabil Fekir, another standout individual, earned him a number of plaudits and links to clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea.
He hasn’t been as successful so far this season, but then again, a 31 goal season was always going to be hard to match. Lacazette combined with his teammates to take Lyon very close to breaking PSG’s monopoly over Ligue 1, with some very special performances, such as the hattrick against Lille, or the 4 game streak in which he scored 4 braces. Lacazette, and Lyon, seem to be recovering after a torrid start to the season, and this can only bode well for lovers of the beautiful game.
9. SERGIO BUSQUETS
Part of a Barcelona team full of heroes and champions, Sergio Busquets is surely the most underrated one. This should come as a massive surprise, especially when you stop to consider that Busquets is a player that has won pretty much everything there to win in football, from the World Cup and the Euros, to the Champions League and his domestic league. He’s been a key part of every one of those triumphs as well, and certainly deserves a lot more recognition than he often gets.
having come through the ranks at Barcelona, Busquets is their lynchpin, doing his work in the shadows of players like Iniesta and Messi. Stats would be a poor indicator of his contribution to the team, because it can be measured by looking at what doesn’t happen on the pitch when he plays. Offensively too, he is a vital cog of the midfield wheel of also comprising Iniesta and Rakitic, with his accurate and incisive passing setting the tempo for the forwards. Busquets is probably the best in the world at what he does.
8. HARRY KANE
The mythical and legendary character that is Harry Kane continues to forge his reputation with clinical performances week after week for Spurs. Kane is currently the top scorer in the Premier league for the 2015 calendar year, and will presumably end it that way with both his nearest competitors some way behind him. having emerged from obscurity in 2014, he’s nailed himself firmly under the limelight now.
What makes it better is that a lot of his 24 league goals have come against top class opposition. A brace and 2 assists on the first day of 2015 against the Champions elect Chelsea paved the way for so much. He scored a match winning brace against Arsenal in February, and found the net against the same opposition this season too at the Emirates. He also managed to score with one of his first touches in an England shirt, which just adds to the fantastical aura around him.
7. ANTOINE GRIEZMANN
Very often, the topic of who would succeed and dominate world football in a post Messi-Ronaldo era comes up, and a name that is regularly mentioned is that of Antoine Griezmann. The undoubtedly talented youngster had a few hiccups at the start of his career due to his streaky disciplinary record, but that seems to have been straightened out now by Simeone, and Griezmann is focused fully on football. The results are a fair reflection of this focus.
He’s got 12 goals and 6 assists this season, and is the necessary driving force for an Atletico attack that is sometimes accused of being a little too blunt. His pace, skill, and sharpness are a major asset for Simeone going forward, and his hot scoring streak has papered over the cracks created by the form of Jackson Martinez and the inability of Fernando Torres. This is fine progress indeed, especially coming on the back of a 25 goal haul last season.
6. KEVIN DE BRUYNE
At the start of 2014, Kevin De Bruyne moved to Wolfsburg from Chelsea after Jose Mourinho deemed him, and Juan Mata, surplus to requirements for the Blues. We’re almost 2 years down the line from that, and Mourinho might just be regretting that move. Without really creating much of a fuss, De Bruyne accepted his failure at Chelsea, and got down to becoming the best player in the Bundesliga. Having played a key role in dismantling Bayern Munich in the league and winning the cup, De Bruyne was the subject of a monster bid from Manchester City, and made the move back to the Premier League this summer.
He’s been an important player for City since his return to England, with 10 goals and 11 assists in just 25 appearances for the club. Moreover, he’s done a swell job to fill in for the injured David Silva and take on the mantle of being the chief creative presence in the side. His versatility has been an added bonus for Pellegrini, with the Chilean also using him in wide positions to accommodate players like Silva, Sterling, and Yaya Toure from time to time. Surely, Mourinho missed a trick with this player?
5. GIORGIO CHIELLINI
For many years now, Chiellini has been at the heart of the Juventus defence, and in 2015 he was finally part of a successful European Juventus defence. Juventus went all the way to the finals of the UEFA Champions league last season, falling just short of completing a treble themselves. Their counter attacking football relied heavily on a solid defence, and Juventus, marshaled by Chiellini, proved that being organised is as good as, if not better than just having 10 men behind the ball.
Chiellini has always been a player who makes every effort to win, and his heart, desire, and commitment to the cause set him apart. A strong physique, and good athletic skills dont hurt of course. But his technical growth has also been strong and had an impact. His ability to play out from the back effectively made him a very useful tactical alternative for Allegri, especially when Pirlo was marked by opponents. And of course, all of this isn’t meant to take away from the basics of defending, where he is very accomplished indeed. As a ball winner, a marker, and an organiser of the defence, Chiellini is top class, and surely deserves the applause.
4. ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI
Lewandowski has been one of the best strikers in the world for a while now, but 2015 has seen him stake some serious claims for that title. The Pole hasn’t always had the easiest time in Bavaria since his move, with Guardiola often choosing to play with Gotze in his place as a false 9, rather than behind him as they did at Dortmund. Lewandowski has taken it in his stride though, and worked hard to prove himself worthy of a place in the starting line up. 10 goals in the second half of last season were the appetiser to a delicious 23 goal start to this one. He’s just 2 behind his tally for the whole of last season already, thanks to some incredible goal scoring exploits.
Bayern and Guardiola have changed their playing style a little this season, with the team almost always employing 2 quick wingers and two forwards, Lewandowski and Muller on most occasions. This has worked a like a charm for them, as the two forwards now have a lot more to attack, and a lot more to aim at as Douglas and Coman look to send the ball into the box from a wide area at every opportunity. Lewandowski has just done the simple things right. There are not fancy tricks and slips, no searing pace, or brute strength. Just plain old accurate finishing, which is proving to be deadly. We can say a lot, but the highlight has to be this, after he scored for the 5th time in 9 minutes against Wolfsburg- after coming on as a substitute.
3. THOMAS MULLER
The other half of the deadly Bayern strike combination, Muller has always found a spot in every team he’s played for because of the fact that he contributes so directly, and so easily in the form of goals. Muller is a very versatile attacker, he can start pretty much anywhere in the attacking third. What sets him apart is his ability to find space for himself, and convert the opportunities he gets into goals.
Muller already has 20 goals for this season, and falls firmly into the great goalscorer category. His awareness, and work ethic are very visible in his body language on the ground as well, and this is one trait that you can never sacrifice. The 20 goals scored are also very well spread out, as Muller is proving that he’s a regular scorer, rather than one who performs in spurts. Moreover, he isn’t just restricting himself to being a fox in the box. Muller is also involved in build up play to a large extent.
2. IVAN RAKITIC
The Croatian superstar has had a super debut season at the Camp Nou. During his initial days, there was a bit of disbelief that confronted the notion that either Xavi or Iniesta would have to sit out matches to accommodate Rakitic. All of this died down very soon, as Rakitic let his feet do the talking. While he isn’t the most prolific in front of goal, he doesn’t really need to be, and he does the job of keeping the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez well fed very efficiently.
Tactically speaking, Rakitic is a very intelligent player, and a fine addition to this Barcelona side. With Messi playing in a free role that sees him move far away from his nominal starting position on the right, Rakitic is often the one covering for the mercurial Argentine. Rakitic filling in the space vacated by Messi allows the team to gain a lot more defensive balance, and spreads the attacking points across the pitch as well. When given his own attacking freedom, Rakitic can be seen making runs into the opposition penalty box, like he did for his goal in the Champions League final against Juventus.
1. CRISTIANO RONALDO
Surely, Ronaldo was the undisputed choice for this position. The Portugese player is one of the two best players in the world, alongside Lionel Messi, and we must appreciate that we’re truly fortunate to witness one of the great football rivalries- a match up between two Gods.
Real Madrid as a team have had a disappointing year, having won nothing, and currently suffering in La Liga. But the blame for this certainly cannot be laid at the feet of Ronaldo, who has scored 21 goals already this season, including a record breaking 11 in the Champions League group stages. This is in addition to 29 that he scored in the second half of last season. Ronaldo has scored 2, 3, 4, and 5 in a game this year. many have bemoaned that fact that he seems to have transformed away from a tricky winger that he was, but surely, goal scoring machine isn’t the worst thing to transform into.
While Ancelotti had him starting on the left in a free role, Benitez has tried to shift him into a more central role from time to time. While he hasn’t always been comfortable here, he’s adapted to the needs of the team as and when required, and this is surely a well earned award for his efforts.