No trophies to speak of, a couple of defeats in El Clasico and a disappointing exit in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League; it's safe to say that 2014 will not go down as one of the finest years in FC Barcelona's recent history but in amongst the negatives, there have been a few positives -- not least the individual performances of some of our key players. In the case of Lionel Messi and Neymar, that's equally applicable in an international sense as it is in a domestic one; feats for which both Messi and Neymar deserve recognition.
Without Neymar, Brazil crumbled under the pressure after a relatively promising start to their FIFA World Cup campaign, while Lionel Messi was one of the figureheads in Argentina's eventual charge to the final. Back home in Catalunya, the pair have contributed a number of goals and dazzled the crowds with their individual ability -- catching the eye of prestigious French newspaper L'Equipe.
As per their yearly tradition, journalists from across France have gathered to vote for their "ideal XI" of the past year and there are places in the team for both Lionel Messi and Neymar, the two sole Barça representatives for this year. Jordi Alba misses out after featuring for the past two years, perhaps underlining a belief that the Catalan has suffered something of a downturn in his form over the previous twelve months. The full XI has been included below:
L'Equipe Team of 2014 (4-3-3):
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich);
Philipp Lahm (Bayern), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), David Alaba (Bayern);
Xabi Alonso (Real/Bayern), Angel di Maria (Real/Manchester United), Toni Kroos (Bayern/Real);
Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Neymar (Barça), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real)
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