UEFA today unveiled their all-time XI as the Team of the Year 2016 vote launches today!
The football governing body also explained why the select footballers made it to the team.
Meet the nominees!
Iker Casillas (Goalkeeper) – Real Madrid/Porto & Spain
Spain’s captain at UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012 also lifted the 2010 FIFA World Cup – three of the six times he made it into Team of the Year. Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon (three selections each) are his main (albeit distant) rivals for the No 1 shirt.
Carles Puyol (Defender) – Barcelona & Spain
Enjoyed a golden run from 2005 onwards, winning the UEFA Champions League with Barça in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 World Cup as cornerstone of his country’s defence.
Philipp Lahm (Defender) – Bayern München & Germany
One of Europe’s most consistent performers of the past decade, Lahm’s run of three successive Team of the Year appearances came to an end in 2015.
Sergio Ramos (Defender)– Real Madrid & Spain
Four selections in a row are a measure of the Real Madrid man’s standing, the defender having earlier been rewarded for his role in helping Spain to UEFA EURO 2008 glory.
Gerard Piqué (Defender) – Barcelona & Spain
One of four defenders to have been chosen four times along with Alessandro Nesta, Daniel Alves and John Terry, Piqué squeezes into the XI on a tie-breaker by virtue of having been nominated seven times – while his three rivals received only six nominations each.
Xavi Hernández (midfielder)– Barcelona & Spain
A contender in 2005, it was not until his second involvement in 2008 that Xavi made the cut – then there was no dislodging him as unprecedented success with club and country kept him in the side for five years running.
Andrés Iniesta (midfielder) – Barcelona & Spain
Like midfield partner Xavi, once he forced his way into the Team of the Year Iniesta proved impossible to remove until 2013, but returned in splendour in 2015.
Steven Gerrard (midfielder) – Liverpool & England
One of five midfielders to have been selected three times, seven nominations were key to taking the Liverpool talisman into the ultimate XI at the expense of Kaká (five nominations), Ronaldinho (four), Pavel Nedvěd (three) and Zinédine Zidane (three).
Cristiano Ronaldo (forward) – Manchester United/Real Madrid & Portugal
Nominated a record 13 times, the Portuguese phenomenon has been included in the Team of the Year no fewer than ten occasions, three more than any other player. The 2015 team marked his ninth appearance in a row.
Lionel Messi (forward) – Barcelona & Argentina
Like Ronaldo, Messi was initially categorised as a midfielder – collecting the first of ten successive nominations in 2006 – and has missed out on the Team of the Year just once, in 2013, since his 2008 debut.
Thierry Henry (forward) – Arsenal & France
Nominated for the first six editions, Henry’s consistency was such that he got into the final selection no fewer than five times, including the first four – the only player to achieve that.