As Europe’s premier competition comes to a close, we look back at this year’s standouts an assemble our very own Team of the Tournament.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
It’s hard to punish Manuel Neuer for the avalanche he endured as the stars aligned when Pep’s atrocious tactics met the best offensive team of the modern era at the Nou Camp. Buffon carried Juventus to the final and kept them in the match blocking shots that Neuer could not manage to keep out of the back of the net.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
Just like another Chelsea man on this list, Ivanovic’s side suffered a shocking defeat in the round of 16, but in that match like all preceding, he made it abundantly clear he is the best fullback alive.
CB: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Reports of the Spaniard’s decline have been exaggerated. This was a vintage performance from the elite defender who has anchored Barcelona’s defense throughout the most successful run in the Champions League era.
CB: John Terry (Chelsea)
Nothing over the course of this campaign convinced me there is a man I would rather have if my season was on the line. Unlucky to exit the tournament so early.
LB: David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
Pep Guardiola moved Alaba all over the pitch as his spastic tendencies forced the Austrian into a variety of tactical positions and unfamiliar responsibilities. To the surprise of no one, he handled himself quite well despite the task at hand.
CM: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Barcelona’s unsung hero has provided the defensive cover and brilliant passes to allow the Catalan giants to play otherworldly ball. He is the best holding midfielder alive and has been trusted to collect the ball for a team notorious for slacking on defensive responsibilities.
CM: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
If anyone is curious how important Iniesta is to this gaudy Barcelona side, just watch the stylistic fall off and lack of attacking focus when he is taken off the pitch in favor of exiting legend Xavi Hernandez. The Spanish maestro who engineered Spain’s international and continental dominance also collected man of the match honors in Barcelona’s triumph over Juventus.
RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
You never know what Messi will show up on match day. At his worst, he is a brilliant and inventive creator who is unmarkable. At his best he is otherworldly. He was the latter much more than the former in 2015.
LW: Neymar (Barcelona)
With goals in both legs of the quarterfinal, both legs of the semifinal and the game clinching goal in the final, the Brazilian wunderkind announced his arrival on the European stage in staggering fashion.
ST: Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around what Suarez was able to accomplish this season despite his massive suspension for biting Georgio Chiellini in this year’s world cup. In case you think you’re having deja vu, you’re not. Suarez scored 7 goals in 10 appearances, including the deciding goal in the final. More importantly, Suarez gladly assumed the role of creator, paving the way for Messi and Neymar to obliterate elite defenses.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Even at the lowest points of Real’s season, Ronaldo would manage to create something out of nothing, netting 10 times in the competition. He put Real on his back and nearly dragged them to the final despite nagging knee injuries and waning pace.