LONDON - 2016 has been a superb year for football, if not a lot else… Leicester City incredibly won the Premier League, Wales reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals ultimately won by underdogs Portugal and Chelsea completed a remarkable 12-month turnaround to finish they year top of the Premier League under Antonio Conte after a horrid start to 2015-16.
But which players have stood out the most? We’re asking you to pick your team of 2016 – using the all-the-rage 3-4-3 formation – starting with the goalkeepers.
Despite turning 38 in January, Buffon is as superb a stopper as he has ever been. The Italian skippered Juventus to their 32nd Serie A title – his seventh and fifth in a row – in a remarkable season, which included setting two new records; most consecutive clean sheets (ten) and minutes without conceding (974). Buffon also featured in his 11th major tournament during this summer’s Euros, notching his 167th cap in the process.
Navas has been a key member of a hugely successful Real Madrid team this year. This Real Madrid stopper has enjoyed a fruitful 2016. While stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale may take the plaudits, the Costa Rican conceded just three goals in 11 matches – including a whopping nine clean sheets – as Real won the Champions League. On top of that, the Navas‘ side clinched the Club World Cup title with a 4-2, extra-time win over the Kashima Antlers in December.
DAVID DE GEA
De Gea has been United’s undoubted star for the last three seasons. Manchester United's struggles since Alex Ferguson’s retirement would have been a whole lot worse if it was not for the Spaniard. De Gea’s brilliant form at Old Trafford has seen him overtake 167-cap veteran Iker Casillas for his country’s No1 jersey. He made a brilliant save from Patrick van Aanholt’s free-kick on Boxing Day as a 3-1 win kept United in the hunt for a Champions League spot. And after an infamous failed transfer to Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho will know his side will have to start challenging for honours soon if they are to keep hold of their in-demand stopper.
While not always a household name, Atletico Madrid stopper Oblak enjoyed a sublime 2016. The Slovenian stopper was an ever-present in La Liga, winning the prestigious Zamora trophy for conceding a mere 18 goals in 38 matches. Oblak also tallied eight clean sheets in the Champions League as they reached the final, after he crucially saved a Thomas Muller penalty in the semi-final against Bayern Munich.
Leicester's fairytale run to the Premier League title was built on defensive grit as much as the flair of Jamie Vary and Riyad Mahrez. With trusted lieutenants Robert Huth and Wes Morgan in front of him, Schmeichel lived up to his name with a series of superb performances. The Danish international played every minute of the incredible season – keeping an impressive 15 clean sheets. Schmeichel’s absence has been felt by Leicester this season as a slump in form has seen the defending champs dragged into a relegation battle.
Another to fly slightly under the radar at club level, but Portugal goalkeeper Patricio had a sublime summer. The Sporting stopper played in every minute of his nation's stunning Euro 2016 win in France this summer, celebrating his 50th cap with a penalty save in the quarter-final shoot-out win over Poland. On top of that, Patricio had a stunning match as Portugal stunned France on their own turf in extra-time, thanks to a late Eder winner.
Chelsea stopper Courtois has had a good time of things in 2016. After the Blues shock start to 2015-16 under Jose Mourinho, he has been a key cog in leading Antonio Conte's men to the top of the Premier League this time around. Courtois was also a star man as his Belgium reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, only to be stunned by underdogs Wales.