Alexis Sánchez (Chile) Barcelona’s 25-year-old winger had his best ever season, scoring 19 goals and providing 10 assists, cutting inside from the right forward position. He scored an audacious chip this season against arch rivals Real Madrid, showing he has not just the silky skills but also the temperament for big games. Expect him to feed off through-balls from a quality midfield containing Arturo Vidal and Matías Fernández.
Ángel di María (Argentina) It is fair to say that Ángel di María, 26, has gone somewhat under the radar. At his national team, Lionel Messi is the superstar, and at his club, Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo steals the spotlight. However, di María has been outstanding this season, leading the Spanish League with 17 assists. The creative flair has always been there, but a ferocious new work ethic on the pitch has transformed his game.
Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast) Yaya Touré, 31, is arguably the most complete midfielder in world football. The towering Ivorian led Manchester City to League and Cup glory, and is at the top of his game now. When you see him steamroll defenders on one of his marauding runs, it’s easy to forget how graceful his curling free kicks are. In an era when most midfielders either defend or attack, Touré can tackle, dribble, pass and score.
Marco Reus (Germany) Germany’s pool of young talent seems never-ending. At 24, Marco Reus has already become an integral part of the juggernaut: He was the second highest scorer in qualifying with five goals. Gifted with incredible acceleration and close control, ‘Rolls Reus’ stood out at his club Borussia Dortmund, with 21 goals and 15 assists last season. In Germany’s fluid, often strikerless system, he should prosper.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay) The Premier League’s best striker by a country mile, Luis Suárez, 27, has put his controversial past behind and is focussed on terrifying defenders, with his unique ability to twist and turn, seemingly inches from the ground. The forward trio of Suárez, Diego Forlán and Edinson Cavani will look to replicate the attacking potency that led Uruguay to a commendable fourth place in the last World Cup.
Jordi Alba (Spain) Twenty-five-year-old Jordi Alba caught the world’s attention when he burst through the Italian defence to score in the Euro 2012 final, and his attacking sprints down the left wing made for great viewing. He will be an important weapon, since teams have begun to counter Spain’s possession-based game by parking men behind the ball, and Alba’s pace may hold the key to breaking down packed defences.