Meet the men included in the shortlists for the major FIFA awards, the Ballon d’Or, the recognition as Best Coach and the Puskas Award for best goal of the year.
Lionel Messi (FIFA Ballon d’Or-Barcelona): The winner of four Ballon d’Or was 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. He 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.
Cristiano Ronaldo (FIFA Ballon d’Or-Real Madrid): After winning the third FIFA Ballon d’Or of his career at the start of 2015, 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. He also became Real Madrid’s leading all-time scorer. 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.
Neymar (FIFA Ballon d’Or-Barcelona): Coming into his own in his second season with Barcelona, he consolidated his position as one third of a lethal three-pronged attack. He 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. He has for the last two years been the star act of a Brazil side.
Luis Enrique (Best Coach-Barcelona): The Spanish coach could barely have enjoyed a better first season on the bench of Barcelona, the 45-year-old supremo leading Los Culés to their second ever treble of La Liga, El Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. What is more, the former midfielder did so with the best record in Azulgrana history, his team racking up 50 wins, four draws and just six defeats in 2014/15. Enrique’s team subsequently added the 2015 UEFA Super Cup to an already packed trophy cabinet. The stats backed up Enrique’s ability to successfully rotate and manage his squad.
Pep Guardiola (Best Coach-Bayern Munich): He had to make do with just one trophy in his second season at Bayern Munich, though the Spanish coach’s stats at the helm of the Bavarian giants were once again highly impressive. At times controversial, the 44-year-old tactician’s rotation policy did bear fruit in the Bundesliga, where his team took hold of top spot on matchday five and remained there for the rest of the season. Bayern were thus crowned champions with the best goals for and against records, shipping just 18 strikes in 34 league encounters. He also reached UEFA Champions League semifinals.
Jorge Sampaoli (Best Coach-Chile national team): At the age of 55, he enjoyed the greatest achievement of his coaching career so far, by guiding Chile to a historic first-ever triumph in the Copa America. Voracious in attack, their 13-goal tally higher was than any other side. Opponents could not handle the intensity of their pressing nor a style of football based around control and swift passing.
Lionel Messi (Puskas Award-Barcelona): On 30 May 2015, at Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club, after receiving Dani Alves’ pass just a few yards inside Bilbao’s half, he went on a mesmerising 50-yard run down the right to open the scorin. Seemingly effortlessly slaloming past four defenders, the Barcelona No10 then cut inside the area to fire past Gorka Iraizoz at his near post.
Alessandro Florenzi (Puskas Award-AS Roma): On 16 September 2015, at Champions League against Barcelona, he sent the Stadio Olympico into uproar with an audacious 55-yard effort against the reigning European champions. The Roma full-back took a quick look up as he burst over the halfway line, noticed Marc-Andre ter Stegen off his line and delivered a magnificent long-range effort that Barça No1 could only watch clip the post on its way into the net.
Wendell Lira (Puskas Award-Goianesia): On 11 March 2015, he made headlines in Brazil’s Goiano after scoring a sensational bicycle-kick in the driving rain to put his side 1-0 up. A slick, passing exchange at the edge of the area released the striker, but with the ball dropping behind him, he needed an amazing show of agility to twist, spin and send a magnificent volleyed finish low past the keeper.