An exciting year of football saw Chelsea win the Champions League, and Spain defend their European Championship title. In amongst all of that were some stellar individual performances, including one man who continues to break every record going. Which players make the first eleven from world football this year?
GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
As clear a pick as there is, San Iker enjoyed an excellent year winning La Liga with Real Madrid, before captaining Spain to their third consecutive major competition win. A fact that demonstrates both Casillas' longevity and Spain's recent dominance is that he became the first player to win 100 matches for his country in July.
LB: Jordi Alba (Valencia/Barcelona and Spain)
The young Spaniard has enjoyed an incredible year, becoming an integral part of his national team and moving to Barcelona in the summer. Alba's high point will have undoubtedly been scoring the second goal in the final of Euro 2012, bursting through the opposition on one of his trademark runs from deep.
RB: Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich and Germany)
In many ways, Lahm will want to forget this year as soon as possible, having lost in the semi-finals of the Champions League and Euro 2012, and also finished runners up to Dortmund in the German domestic tournaments. However Lahm's own performances have been superb, and Bayern's unbelievably good form this season will have cheered him up.
CB: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City and Belgium)
Kompany earns his spot by virtue of his fantastic performances for Manchester City which were at the core of their Premiership title last season. The Belgian is also a part of the Belgian national team, which might well become a contender at major tournaments in the coming years, having picked up some impressive wins in 2012.
CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)
Hummels was brilliant for Dortmund as they defended their Bundesliga title, and has been excellent for them again so far this season, as they topped their Champions League group ahead of Real Madrid. The defender was also a key part of the German side that made it to the semi-finals of Euro 2012.
MF: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus and Italy)
English fans will be well aware of the brilliant year Pirlo has had, as he ran the show against the England national team during Euro 2012, before elegantly chipping in a panenka penalty in the shootout. Pirlo was also at the centre of the Juve team that went unbeaten in Serie A last season, and can feel a little aggrieved at not making the three man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or.
MF: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain)
The third name on the Ballon d'Or shortlist, and the player of Euro 2012, Iniesta has enjoyed another incredible year for club and country. Those who say Barcelona are a one man team have perhaps never seen Iniesta play.
MF: David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
Whilst Silva has yet to truly produce his best for this season, his contribution to Spain's European Championship triumph cannot be overlooked, nor his Premiership title with City.
FW: Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid and Colombia)
Few of the players on this list are as essential to their club as Falcao, and Atletico will have a terrible job trying to replace him if he does leave at some point next year. Falcao's goals fired them to a Europa League win and have now taken them to second place in La Liga, ahead of their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal)
The best player in the world bar one, Ronaldo has turned in another stellar year, driving Real Madrid to the La Liga title and taking Portugal to the semi-finals of Euro 2012. Failing in the semis of both the Champions League and the Euros will have been agony for Ronaldo, but he still had one of the best seasons of his career.
FW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
For all the incredible personal achievements, the fact that Messi has started to produce his Barcelona form for Argentina might be the most exciting part of his year. The diminutive Argentinian keeps getting better, and the goal scoring record he has set in 2012 is unlikely to be broken by anyone but Messi himself.
image: © jeroen bennink