Barcelona and Real Madrid had a field day at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich. The ceremony not only crowns the best male soccer player in the calendar year with the Ballon d’Or, it also names the best players at each position, naming a World XI team of the year.
Lionel Messi of Barcelona took home his record fifth Ballon d’Or, topping teammate Neymar and Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo despite missing two months towards the end of 2015 with a knee injury. Messi still managed 52 goals and 26 assists for club and country in his injury shortened year, which is on par with Ronaldo, who managed 57 goals and 16 assists in 2015 and finished second in the Ballon d’Or voting. The numbers make it seem difficult to differentiate between the two, however there was little doubt it would be the mercurial Argentine who would take home the Ballon d’Or as Messi led Barcelona to have one of the most dominant years in the history of club soccer. Barcelona captured five trophies in 2015: the La Liga championship, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
In the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich, Messi delivered one of the most iconic goals of 2015 when he glided past Jerome Boateng and delicately chipped Manuel Neuer. The goal carried Barcelona into the final, where Messi was at the heart of everything good for Barcelona and set up Luis Suarez’s go-ahead goal in the 3-1 victory over Juventus.
Messi was at his best less than a month later, scoring two goals in the Copa del Rey final, including a solo run that saw Messi dance down the right touchline past four Athletic Bilbao defenders.
Messi was also named to the FIFPro World XI team, joined by Barcelona teammates Neymar, Andres Inesta and Dani Alves. Real Madrid also had four players make the World XI team: Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Luka Modric. Paul Pogba of Juventus, Thiago Silva of Paris Saint-Germain and Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich rounded out the World XI.
Ronaldo and Messi’s appearance on the World XI team marked the ninth team each player had made the Team of the Year, while Inesta was named to the World XI for the seventh time in his career. Neymar, Pogba and Modric appeared on the World XI for the first time in their careers.
Real Madrid and Barcelona’s representation in the World XI continues La Liga’s dominance over the World team in the past six seasons. Since 2010, 47 of the 66 players on the World XI have come from La Liga. The Bundisliga is the next most-represented league, with seven Team of the Season players in the past six seasons.
The only major European league not recognized in the World XI was England’s Premier League.