We take a look the top 10 stars in Europe over the calendar year – and it’s no surprise to see the marquee players at Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the 2015 ratings.
It’s been a funny old year of football, undoubtedly highlighted best by comparing the Premier League table at the beginning of 2015 to now. Last season’s champions Chelsea find themselves Mourinho-less in 15th while Leicester sat three points adrift at the bottom of the pile on January 1 and top it at Christmas.
In Spain it was a year that ended with arguably as unconvincing a 10-2 win as is possible from Real Madrid, while the likes of Angers and Hertha Berlin – tipped for relegation from Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga respectively – find themselves in the top three in France and Germany.
Some things never seem to change though, and the world’s finest players have been there or thereabouts again this year. Nevertheless, with the odd surprise making their way into the running, WhoScored.com reveal their top 10 players of 2015 using their statistically calculated ratings. There are notable narrow misses from the likes of Lewandowski, Aubameyang and Pogba, with a minimum of 20 appearances across Europe’s top 5 leagues required to be considered.
10. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – 7.72 rating
Just making his way onto the leaderboard with a rating of 7.72 in the Premier League this calendar year, it’s been a memorable one for Alexis. In 31 appearances the Chilean has scored 12 goals from a whopping 123 shots – only Kane and Coutinho mustered more in 2015 in England’s top-flight – while only Hazard and Zaha completed more dribbles (100).
9. Nolito (Celta Vigo) – 7.75 rating
Heavily linked with moves to Barcelona and Arsenal, Nolito shocked many last week by announcing he was ready to sign a new deal at Celta Vigo after a sensational year in La Liga. Now very much in Vicente del Bosque’s thinking at international level, the 29-year old has come to the fore late in his career, scoring 16 goals and registering 13 assists in 35 league appearances in 2015, with only Ozil and Payet creating more chances in Europe’s top 5 leagues (101).
8. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) – 7.76 rating
The second Arsenal player to make the top 10 here, Mesut Ozil has well and truly silenced any critics he may have had in 2015. The German has been in phenomenal form this season, picking up 15 of a record 19 assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues this year in the current campaign. He has created more chances than any other player in that time too (123) and assuming he steers clear of injury, which is certainly not a safe assumption at Arsenal, he should smash Thierry Henry’s Premier League assist record in a single season.
7. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) – 7.77 rating
Just pipping Ozil to the top of the Premier League pile in WhoScored’s ratings this year, 2015 has been one that Riyad Mahrez and Leicester fans will never forget. The Algerian has been in mesmerising form this season in particular, taking his 2015 tallies to 15 goals and 8 assists. The Foxes flyer is also level with Alexis in terms of dribbles, making him one of only four Premier League players to manage the milestone of 100 this year.
6. Luis Suarez (Barcelona) – 7.83 rating
It says a lot of the talent at Luis Enrique’s disposal that Suarez is the poacher in the Barcelona front three. It’s not to say that he doesn’t contribute aside from his outstanding 28-goal tally this year, with his movement and work off the ball key to the success of Messi and Neymar this year, but so much of what the Uruguayan became renowned for at Liverpool is far less evident at Barcelona. Tallies of just 36 dribbles and 19 tackles from 33 appearances are way down but with 12 assists and a superb 24.6% conversion rate his role in the Blaugrana’s fearsome threesome cannot be underestimated.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – 7.90 rating
Having scored more goals than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues this year (35) it seems bizarre to suggest that Ronaldo has had something of an underwhelming 2015 by his standards, but his ratings suggest as much. No longer the top player at Real Madrid this year, let alone Europe, the Portuguese’s goal tally has come from a remarkable 243 shots – leaving a modest 14.4% conversion rate. Nevertheless, with a further 12 assists to his name Ronaldo’s figures have been outrageous once more.
4. James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) – 7.90 rating
Edging Ronaldo to the top rating for Real Madrid this year, had James Rodriguez not succumbed to injuries he may well have been a contender for a Ballon d’Or nominee. As it was the Colombian was restricted to just 23 league appearances, with a direct hand in as many goals in that time (11 goals, 12 assists). From 14 fewer appearances than his aforementioned teammate he created 10 more chances (69), made almost twice the number of tackles and mustered 208 fewer shots at goal (35). Preferring to find a team-mate than go for glory, his conversion rate was a sensational 31.4% when he did go for goal himself.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG) – 8.08 rating
Never really considered among the players of the year down to the league that he plays in more than anything, Ibrahimovic’s Ligue 1 figures would take some beating by any player in world football regardless. The Swede had a direct hand in 38 goals (26 goals, 12 assists) from just 27 league appearances, contributing to a goal more often than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. There are those that suggest his career is winding down. Zlatan disagrees.
2. Neymar (Barcelona) – 8.37 rating
Few would argue that Neymar enjoyed the very best year of what is already a ludicrously impressive career for a player of 23. The Brazilian has arguably been the best player in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season in particular, taking his goal and assist tallies for 2015 to 25 and 9 respectively. His figure with regards to creating goals for teammates is modest still given he has laid on 94 chances in the league this year – ranking 6th in Europe – while only two players have completed more dribbles (138).
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 8.82 rating
When it comes to deciding the best player in Europe this year, however, WhoScored.com’s ratings suggest it isn’t really a contest despite the best efforts of some outstanding players in 2015. Lionel Messi may have struggled with injuries at times but that hasn’t stopped him from scoring 33 goals and registering 15 assists from 32 appearances – a direct hand in more goals than any other player. The Argentine also leads the way in terms of dribbles (167), ranking second for goals and shots (163) and third for assists in the calendar year.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find live in-game data as well as player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their free app.