The following is my personal list of my 10 favourite footballers of the year; the players who were special, who I will remember:
10) Miroslav Klose: Klose is not the most memorable striker in the world, and is in the autumn of his career. But he has always been a fair player and a gentleman, and as part of the German World Cup side he went on to become the most scoring player in World Cup history. Perhaps unlikely, but not undeserved for a player who will be missed when he retires.
9) Lionel Messi: Messi has been criticized for not being at his former level, and at the World Cup, we only saw his genius in glimpses despite FIFA giving him a weird player of the tournament price. That said, he is still a marvelous player, scoring one goal after another, and carrying the entire weight of Barcelona on his small shoulders.
8) Diego Godin: Godin was core in the strong defense of Atletico Madrid which ended up taking the title. On top of this he was also a great threat in attack, witnessed by his crucial goals against Barcelona or against Italy in the World Cup for Uruguay. In my view, one of the best defenders in the world.
7) Thibaut Courtois: It has been the year of the goalkeepers, and at 22 Courtois is set to become one of the greatest ever. He gave Atletico Madrid the tranquility in defense they needed to take the title, and was immediately taken back to Chelsea, where he has continued being a wall. For Belgium he was also a strong last man. An amazing goalkeeper.
6) Toni Kroos: Bayern Munich, Germany, and now Real Madrid. Every team the German plays on seems to win, and he has been (and continues to be) a crucial side of all these sides. He is an outstanding passer.
5) Arjen Robben: It is easy to dislike Robben as he is a prolific diver, becoming infamous in the World Cup after his dive against Mexico. That said, it is undeniable that he is an incredible footballer, playing a crucial role in the Dutch World Cup campaign (taking his revenge on Spain) and most notably for Bayern Munich, where his characteristic runs continue to tear defenses apart (I particularly remember his match against AS Roma).
4) Cristiano Ronaldo: I like that Ronaldo is so competitive that he will settle for nothing less than being the best, and I am happy for him that he received the FIFA player of the year award. His goals for Real Madrid are incredible, and he has become more of a team player, although he will always, foremost, be an individualist. His poor performance at the World Cup showed this.
3) Manuel Neuer: At a time with many incredible goalkeepers, it is difficult to pinpoint the best, but Manuel Neuer it is. He made important contributions to Germany winning the World Cup title (playing almost as a libero against Algeria, he surely prevented a better Algeria for scoring) and is a bastion in Bayern Munich's defense. Neuer is a goalkeeper who would make any team great, and is already playing in great teams.
2) Philip Lahm: The Bayern Munich and Germany captain is often the kind of player most people take time in noticing, but he is the crucial piece in these two great sides. From varied defensive positions he varies between defense and offense superbly, and is often the player with most touches and longest runs. An absolutely world class player, who is already difficult to replace after having retired from the German national team.
1) Thomas Muller: Muller was an instrumental part of both Germany's and Bayern Munich's teams in 2014. Nobody really knows what position Thomas Muller plays, and in that sense, he is perhaps one of the most complete modern players in the world. He can play as striker, offensive midfielder, wing... and will probably define what it is to be a complete footballer for a foreseeable future.
It was not an easy list: there are indeed a lot of Germans and Bayern Munich players (there could have been more, with Bastian Schweinsteiger), and even two goalkeepers! I also think this is the first time for many years no Brazilians have made my list, although Neymar came close. But other players who could have come in and thus deserve a mention are James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yaya Toure, Luka Modric, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.