Since 2009, FIFA and FIFPro, the representative organisation for professional footballers, have joined forces to honour the 11 best players on the planet every year, an initiative that FIFPro first launched in 2005. Traditionally, more than 50,000 players cast their vote for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI award, the results of which are then announced at the annual FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, and this year is no different.
Of the 55 names on the shortlist, 12 have never failed to make an appearance at this preliminary stage. Of that group, English defender John Terryhas enjoyed the greatest success, making the World XI five times in the last six years.
The others are: Gianluigi Buffon (voted into the World XI twice), defenders Alessandro Nesta (twice), Lucio and Rio Ferdinand (both once), midfielders Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and Kaka (three times each) and forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Samuel Eto’o (both twice), Didier Drogba (once) and Wayne Rooney, who is the only repeat nominee yet to have been selected for the final XI.
At the same time, there are four footballers pre-selected who have been here before but failed to make the shortlist altogether last year, and are now once again in contention for a place in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. They are: Eric Abidal (shortlisted in 2007/08), Ricardo Carvalho (2007/08), Yaya Toure and Karim Benzema (both 2009).
In addition, there are 14 complete debutants within the 55-man list, namely goalkeepers Victor Valdes and Manuel Neuer, defenders Vincent Kompany and David Luiz, midfielders Sergio Busquets, Nani and David Silva, and forwards Sergio Aguero, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Mario Gomez, Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Neymar, the only player who does not ply his trade in Europe.
As you ponder your predictions, bear in mind that the longest current streak of appearances in the World XI belongs to Lionel Messi, who has been selected four times in a row. The Argentinian superstar is followed by Iker Casillas, Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo on three consecutive appearances, while Iniesta has two to his name. All of the aforementioned players can extend their present runs by being voted in again this year.