With 2015 coming to an end, theScore is reflecting on the year that was by counting down the top 20 players in world football over the past 12 months.
The rankings have been compiled after tallying votes from theScore's contingent of footy editors: Armen Bedakian, Gord Brunt, Carlo Campo, Michael J. Chandler, Anthony Lopopolo, Daniel Rouse, and Gianluca Nesci. Each was asked to produce their own top-20 list for the calendar year, with a point system used to create the cumulative rankings. Players were awarded 20 points for a first-place vote, 19 for second place, all the way down to a solitary point for being ranked 20th. In the event of a tie on points, the player with more total votes was awarded the higher ranking.
Without further ado, here are the players we felt were a class above the rest in 2015:
Once the best full-back on the planet - be it on the left or right side of the pitch - Philipp Lahm has morphed into one of the most versatile players in the world under notoriously innovative manager Pep Guardiola; a Swiss Army knife doesn't function as multi-purposely as the 32-year-old German. The man once described as a "football robot" by Thomas Tuchel, Lahm came back from a broken ankle in March to assume a spot on the right side of Bayern Munich's midfield, after having previously played in defensive midfield. Mere mortals would struggle with the constant adjustment. Lahm, of course, is better than most mortals.
A very real argument can be made that the darling of Colombia - or, at least the country's second-favourite person after the recent Miss Universe debacle - is Real Madrid's most important player. His broken foot, and subsequent two-month absence in February, highlighted how vital he was, and is, to any success Los Blancos enjoys. His first season in La Liga garnered 13 goals and the same number of assists, making him one of only six players to hit double figures in each category. Rodriguez, 24, looks on his way to accomplishing the impressive feat once more, recording three tallies and creating four goals in just eight league matches this season. Were he not felled by a lengthy bout with a thigh injury in September, those numbers would surely be even better.
Perhaps the least-celebrated superstar there is, Sergio Busquets' brilliance is every bit as vital to Barcelona as the swashbuckling attacking exploits of the club's frightening trio of forwards. The 27-year-old, who has hoisted every major trophy you can name, is hailed by manager Luis Enrique - someone who observes greatness on a daily basis - as the best midfielder in the game today. "He's one of a kind, one of the most complete players out there. I think he's the best midfielder in the world, not just because he's intelligent, but because he can play in different positions."
After a miraculous 2014-15 campaign with Wolfsburg - where, among other things, he made Bas Dost look like a modern-day Pele - Kevin De Bruyne earned the type of high-priced summer transfer that has torpedoed many other promising young careers over the years. The playmaker hasn't fallen victim to the same fate, oh no. The Belgian midfielder has arguably been Manchester City's best player this season, picking up right where he left off in the Bundesliga. Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, no other player - not Lionel Messi, Neymar, nor anyone else you can think of - has more league assists (28) than the ginger superstar.
Having inherited the crown as the world's best full-back from his aforementioned teammate, David Alaba is now making his steady ascent up the mountain of world greats. At the tender age of 23, the Austrian - who led his country to a Euro 2016 berth while playing in central midfield - has already proven equally adept at both ends of the pitch, and is one of the world's most dangerous players from set pieces. He isn't too shabby from long range, either; just ask Arsenal what type of magic his left foot is capable of conjuring. Get used to seeing him on this list (and in a much higher position) for years to come.
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