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15 Biggest Stars in World Football in 2012

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2012

15 Biggest Stars in World Football in 2012

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    Football. Such an objective subject. So divisive, and yet, at the end of the day, there is no actual right or wrong answer.

    The following slides aim to pinpoint not necessarily the best 15 players in the world right now, but the 15 biggest stars over the calendar year.

    Some players were hard to leave out, and David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Gianluigi Buffon, Bastain Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm certainly have cases to feel aggrieved. 

    So, agree with some, disagree with others and make yourself heard in the comments...

15. Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

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    When ranking No. 9s, the Uruguayan is second only to his South American counterpart, Radamel Falcao.

    Manchester City and Chelsea are reportedly among the interested parties in the Napoli striker who has scored 94 goals in 192 matches since his arrival in Serie A.

    Known in Italy as Il Matador, it is likely the 25-year-old will find himself much further up this list at the end of 2013.

14. Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

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    If Sir Alex Ferguson is prepared to pay £24 million for you, then you must be pretty good.

    The Dutch forward has enjoyed a near injury-free year, a rarity in his career since joining Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004.

    Since a summer move to the red half of Manchester, his 14 goals have contributed to United's healthy lead at the top of the table.

13. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

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    The La Liga title for Real Madrid and the European Championships with Spain crown another impressive year for Ramos.

    An incredible athlete and defender, the former Sevilla man was a key ingredient in both of those successes.

    Still just 26, the Spaniard will still harbor realistic hopes of many more domestic and international titles.

12. Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

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    One of the most consistent performers in the Premier League last season, Toure was a large part of Man City's success.

    The Ivorian sat deeper for large parts of the season, but he was at his best when Roberto Mancini allowed him to push forward.

    This was at its most evident when the 29-year-old put in a title-winning display against Newcastle United in May.

11. Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)

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    The small midfielder who helped bring technical, passing players back into fashion continues to thrive on the world stage.

    This year, he lifted the Copa del Rey with Barcelona and won a third straight major international tournament with Spain.

    In 2012, he has also added more goals to his game and ends the year with La Blaugrana comfortably atop of La Liga.

10. Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua)

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    He left Chelsea in the summer, but his performances prior to then earn him his place in this countdown.

    The Ivorian was—as in most of his Chelsea career—the main man as the Blues lifted the Champions League and the FA Cup.

    He scored the late equalizer and the winning penalty in the European Cup Final against Bayern Munich and the winner in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

9. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

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    Captain of his club and his country, San Iker's year included a memorable double.

    First of all, he was part of the Real Madrid side which reclaimed the title from Barcelona before winning the summer's European Championships with Spain.

    In the midst of all this, he also became the first player to record 100 wins for their country—he's still just 31.

8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)

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    Unlike some on this list, Zlatan's year was hardly decorated in silverware, yet he continues to claim headlines.

    This summer, he left AC Milan for PSG, the French side continuing to throw money toward their goal of being a European superpower.

    His four goals against England, as Sweden opened their new stadium, drew worldwide attention for the spectacular nature of his fourth goal.

7. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

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    Vincent Kompany will be forever defined by Manchester City fans for his match-winner against Manchester United in last season's title showdown.

    Yet it is his defensive brilliance which has earned him legions of worshipers at the Etihad Stadium.

    As City's captain colossal, the Belgian was Roberto Mancini's savior on many occasions, not least in that derby.

6. Neymar (Santos)

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    Neymar stepped into the Santos first team in 2009; they have since won five trophies, including the 2011 Copa Libertadores.

    Questions constantly surround the talented 20-year-old Brazilian: Will he? Won't he? When will he?

    When, not if, he leaves for Europe, the next set of questions will be even more interesting: How good is he? Can he compete with Messi and Ronaldo?

5. Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)

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    The wily old wizard may have been discarded by AC Milan, but in 2012, he conjured up some more magic.

    His "Panenka" penalty against England epitomized the coolness of a man who has had the world swooning over him again this year.

    He contributed to Juventus winning Serie A, including a remarkable unbeaten streak, and Italy's run, against the odds, to the Euro 2012 Final.

4. Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)

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    This year the Colombian announced himself as the best No. 9 in the World. It had been coming.

    He spearheaded a Porto side that won the League and Europa League in 2011 before winning the latter competition again in 2012 with Atletico. Both times he was top scorer.

    Atletico ended the year second in La Liga and ahead of Real Madrid. Falcao's 17 goals are a large part of that.

3. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

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    Of Spain's success this summer, Andres Iniesta was hailed the shining star among a superstar side.

    He was constantly surrounded by masses of opposing players, yet he constantly created space and opportunities and was named "Player of the Tournament" as a result.

    In August, he was named the "Best Player in Europe" for the 2011/12 season and, of course, continues to dazzle for Barcelona.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

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    It's easy to make a case for Cristiano Ronaldo to be No. 1. The problem for the Portuguese forward is, there's a case for a little Argentinean, too.

    This year, Ronaldo excelled for Real Madrid, as they took the title away from Catalonia three years later. He was also influential in Portugal reaching the semifinal of Euro 2012. 

    Like him or loathe him, he's been outstanding in 2012.

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

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    Ninety-one. Yes, 91 goals, you may have heard, have been scored by Lionel Messi for club and country in 2012.

    From free-kicks against Atletico to cheeky chips vs. Sevilla, there have been many glorious moments in a year which has seen debate after debate about how La Pulga compares to the greats.

    It has had its drawbacks, though, as despite his goals, he failed to win either La Liga or the Champions League. 2013 awaits.

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