Top 100 players of 2015: Neymar, Lionel Messi and Mesut Ozil feature
By James Walker-Roberts and Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 26/12/15 9:24am
Who was the best player in 2015? Sky Sports counts down the top 25 players of the year as rated by WhoScored.com.
After every game, WhoScored.com gives players competing in Europe's top five leagues a mark out of 10 based on a wide range of statistical data. Each player then gets an average score for 2015, and to qualify for this countdown, players must have made at least 20 league appearances.
Now we reveal the top 25 and the highest-rated player of 2015...
25. Nicolas Otamendi - Valencia & Manchester City - 7.547 average rating
After being named in the La Liga Team of the Season for 2014/15, Otamendi made a big-money move to Man City in the summer. His standout display so far has been in the Manchester derby, when he earned a man-of-the-match rating of 7.94.
24. Nabil Fekir - Lyon - 7.55 average rating
The highly-rated Frenchman was named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year after a breakthrough season in 2014/15 and started the 2015/16 season with four goals in four matches. However, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury playing for France in September that not only ended his year, but also damaged Lyon's prospects. "I can guarantee you that with Nabil, we would be in the top three in the league and that we would have six more points in the Champions League," said club president Jean-Michel Aulas in October.
23. Marcelo - Real Madrid - 7.556 average rating
A fan favourite at the Bernabeu, the Brazilian has improved defensively over the last few years and is always a threat going forward. Named in the WhoScored La Liga team of the season for 2014/15, the Brazilian was rewarded for his improvement with a contract extension in the summer.
22. Santi Cazorla - Arsenal - 7.570 average rating
The Spaniard has become a key component in Arsenal's midfield over the past few seasons. At the time of a year-ending injury in early December, he had played more minutes than any other midfielder in the 2015/16 Premier League season aside from Daley Blind.
21. Francis Coquelin - Arsenal - 7.58 average rating
After being recalled from a loan spell at Charlton in December 2014, Coquelin firmly established himself in the defensive midfield role for Arsenal in 2015. "He has gone through a lot of doubt, questioning himself," said Arsene Wenger. "Now that he has a chance he doesn't want to let it slip away. But he is a winner - that's why he is so committed." At the time of his injury, Coquelin led the way for tackles and interceptions among Arsenal's midfielders and also had the best pass success percentage.
20. Thiago Silva - Paris Saint-Germain - 7.592 average rating
Zlatan Ibrahimovic might grab most of the headlines, but Thiago Silva has proved himself to be another key part of PSG's star-studded side. The captain led his team to a domestic treble in 2014/15, was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year and is part of a defence that has conceded just nine goals in the league this season.
19. Dimitri Payet - Marseille & West Ham - 7.606 average rating
One the signings of the summer in the Premier League, Payet's success might not be too surprising considering he assisted more goals than any other player in Ligue 1 in 2014/15 and created more chances than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues. When he was ruled out for the year with injury against Everton, only Mesut Ozil had created more chances in the Premier League.
18. Robert Lewandowski - Bayern Munich - 7.617 average rating
The striker won the Bundesliga with Bayern and was the top goalscorer in Euro 2016 Qualifying with Poland, but his standout moment of 2015 came as a substitute when he scored five goals in nine minutes against Wolfsburg. It was the fastest Bundesliga hat-trick (three minutes and 22 seconds), the first time a sub had scored five times in the league and his first treble for Bayern.
17. Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Borussia Dortmund - 7.618 average rating
"One of the most talented players in the world," according to Jurgen Klopp, the Armenian appears to have benefitted from the departure of Klopp and the appointment of Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund. The attacking midfielder is in WhoScored's Bundesliga team of the season at the winter break with a rating of 7.9 and has provided the joint-most assists along with Raffael.
16. Ricardo Rodriguez - Wolfsburg - 7.620 average rating
A creative talent on the left flank, Rodriguez has become an important player for Wolfsburg both defensively and going forward. His contributions at both ends of the pitch have led to reports that Manchester United are interested in his services.
15. Raffael - Borussia Monchengladbach - 7.633 average rating
The Brazilian enjoyed an impressive campaign in 2014/15 as Gladbach finished third in the Bundesliga. He scored twice in a 2-0 win at Bayern Munich and set up a goal as Gladbach beat Bayern again in December. He leads the way in the German top flight in 2015/16 with eight assists alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and makes it into the WhoScored team of the season so far.
14. Gareth Bale - Real Madrid - 7.664 average rating
The Welshman has not had his most prolific year at club level but has continued to chip in with goals and assists for Real. He finished the year on a high by scoring four times in the 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano in late December and also played a key role as Wales qualified for Euro 2016.
13. Jordan Amavi - Nice & Aston Villa - 7.664 average rating
Described as a "perfect fit" by Tim Sherwood when he signed in the summer, Amavi impressed in a struggling Villa side until he was unfortunately sidelined for the season with a knee injury suffered on international duty. He was the highest-rated player in Ligue 1 last season with four goals and eight man-of-the-match performances.
12. Kevin De Bruyne - Wolfsburg & Manchester City - 7.683 average rating
After inspiring Wolfsburg to a second-placed finish in the Bundesliga with a league-record 21 assists and 10 goals, a £54.5m summer move to City has not slowed his production. The Belgian has continued to provide goals and assists in his new surroundings and has settled in well at the Etihad. After scoring the winner against Sevilla in October, Manuel Pellegrini described him as the "perfect player" for City.
11. Franco Vazquez - Palermo - 7.691 average rating
The Argentinian-born Italy international enjoyed a breakthrough year with 10 goals and 10 assists in the 2014/15 season. His performances earned him his first international call-up and he is reportedly not short of admirers across the continent. The 26-year-old is Palermo's highest-rated player so far this season at 7.59 and ranks in the top five for shots per game in Serie A.
10. Alexis Sanchez - Arsenal - 7.724 average rating
The PFA Fans' Player of the Year for 2014/15, Sanchez has established himself as arguably Arsenal's most important player. Scored a stunning goal in the FA Cup win over Aston Villa before leading Chile to their first-ever major tournament win at the Copa America. This season, he averages the second most shots per game in the Premier League, has made more dribbles than any of his team-mates and scored six goals.
9. Nolito - Celta Vigo - 7.753 average rating
It says plenty about how good Nolito's 2015 has been that, four years after leaving Barcelona, the Catalans reportedly want him back. The 29-year-old has been a driving force behind Celta's impressive start to the 2015/16 season with eight goals and five assists in La Liga. His impressive form saw him earn his first Spain call-up in November.
8. Mesut Ozil - Arsenal - 7.754 average rating
David Moyes might think the jury is still out on Ozil, but the German has impressed almost everyone else with his level of play in 2015. Named the Premier League Player of the Month for November, he is the leading assist-maker in the top flight by some way in 2015/16 and has also provided more assists than any other player in Europe's top five leagues in 2015. "Mesut is an absolute complete, collective player," said Arsene Wenger after the win over Aston Villa in December. "He's a very important link in our game."
7. Riyad Mahrez - Leicester - 7.762 average rating
After only scoring two league goals in the first half of the year, Mahrez has burst onto the scene with a string of dazzling displays for the table-topping Foxes. The tricky Algerian has scored 13 goals in the Premier League this season, including a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Swansea and two against Everton, while also providing seven assists. The good news for Leicester is that it looks like he will be staying beyond January. "I don't think Leicester want to sell him and he is focused on doing well with them," his agent Kamel Bengougam told Sky Sports recently.
6. Luis Suarez - Barcelona - 7.834 average rating
After scoring in the Champions League final win over Juventus to ensure his first season at Barca ended in a historic treble, Suarez has improved as the year has gone on. He has scored 13 times in La Liga and provided three assists while in Europe he netted five goals in five games. Missed out a nomination for Ballon D'Or even though Lionel Messi said he "deserved to be there".
5. Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid - 7.9 average rating
It might have been a trophyless year for the Portuguese, but the goals have continued to flow for club and country. After ending the 2014/15 season with a remarkable 48 league goals, he has netted 12 in the second half of the year and also took his tally to a record-breaking 11 in the group stage of the Champions League when he scored four against Malmo. He is in contention to win a fourth Ballon D'Or if he can pip Lionel Messi and Neymar to the award.
4. James Rodriguez - Real Madrid - 7.904 average rating
His start to the 2015/16 season has been disrupted by injuries, but the Colombian proved a key player in the first half of the year for Real, who felt his absence when he was out for February and March. Finished the 2014/15 campaign with a rating of 7.9 to make into the WhoScored team of the season and notched up 13 goals and assists.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Paris Saint-Germain - 8.077 average rating
Scored 19 goals in the 2014/15 season to lead PSG to the Ligue 1 title and, in October, became the club's all-time leading goalscorer when he netted twice against Marseille. At the winter break in France, he is the top scorer with 15 goals and has also chipped in six assists on his way to becoming the highest-rated player in the league. Also scored three times in Sweden's Euro 2016 play-off tie with Denmark to book their place in France.
2. Neymar - Barcelona - 8.37 average rating
It's been a breakout year for the Brazilian. After playing a key role in Barcelona's treble-winning season, including scoring in the Champions League final, he stepped up along with Luis Suarez when Lionel Messi missed two months with injury. In November, Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague said he is the second best player in the world and at the winter break, he is the top scorer in La Liga with 14 goals along with five assists. Has been nominated for the 2015 Ballon D'Or, along with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
1. Lionel Messi - Barcelona - 8.821 average rating
Another remarkable year at club level that was highlighted by winning La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. In 2015, he has scored 51 goals for club and country, including three hat-tricks, provided 26 assists and is the favourite to win the Ballon D'Or for a fourth time. He finished the year by scoring in the Club World Cup final win over River Plate while in late November, he was labelled the best player in the world by team-mate Luis Suarez. "It makes you happy just to see him out on the pitch. None of the rest of us would say that we can be the best in the world because he is."