And just like we did with the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers, it's always a struggle to pick the best side over the past 12 months, especially with so many talented players to pick from.
However, all of us on the ESPNSTAR.com editorial team have managed to reach some form of consensus, and we present to you the best players of 2011 in a 3-4-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
The last twelve months have seen 25-year-old Manuel Neuer establish himself as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.
Fresh off his exploits at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Neuer was one of the few shining lights as Schalke endured a disappointing Bundesliga campaign. The German international provided a calming influence at the back, and singlehandedly dragged his club to the semi-finals of the Champions League, their best-ever showing in the competition.
His performances earned him a €22million move to Bayern Munich, where he has since proved a worthy acquisition, helping the Bavarian side finish the calendar year at the top of the Bundesliga.
Defender: Thiago Silva
In May, AC Milan claimed their first Serie A title since 2004, finishing six points ahead of city rivals Inter Milan. While they had the second-best strike rate in the land, scoring four goals less than the Nerazzurri, they had the best defensive record, conceding just 24 goals, fifteen less than Napoli and Lazio.
Plenty of credit has to go to Thiago Silva, who formed an outstanding partnership with veteran Alessandro Nesta at the heart of the Rossoneri defence. The Brazilian was strong in the air, sharp in the tackle and hardly afforded his opponents a yard of space. Furthermore, Silva was extremely inventive from the back, regularly initiating Milan attacks from their own half.
With Barcelona reportedly keen on signing him, the Rossoneri face a tough fight keeping him at the San Siro.
Defender: Nemanja Vidic
At times, the best way to gauge how important a player is to his side is to assess their performances when he isn't playing. And Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic is an ideal case-study in that regard.
In his first season as club captain, Vidic led the Red Devils to a record 19th league title, before his start to the 2011/12 season was curtailed by injury - his absence most notable when United were humiliated in a 6-1 loss to arch-rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Following that abject display, the Serbian, who is now retired from international football, was hurried back into the starting lineup, and his return coincided with four wins and a draw in United's following five games, during which they conceded just once.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely he will be featuring in this list next year, after another injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Defender: Vincent Kompany
2011 will forever be remembered as the year Manchester City established themselves as a dominant force in European football. But while the Citizens' highlight reel over the last twelve months will mainly feature the likes of David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, all their good attacking work would be for naught if not for a solid defence.
And for that, we give credit to Vincent Kompany, who has been an absolute rock at the back for Roberto Mancini's side. However, it is his leadership qualities that truly make him stand out from the rest, standing in for the injured Tevez early on in the year, helping City to the FA Cup, before taking over on a permanent basis following the Argentinean's indiscretions.
Kompany has led his charges by example, even remonstrating with his team-mates on a number of occasions when they are out of line (like chastising Mario Balotelli after a provocative goal celebration against Villarreal). Still only 25, there's plenty more to come from the towering Belgian centre-back.
Defensive-midfield: Scott Parker
Every team needs a Scott Parker in their starting XI. We rightly marvel at the majestic midfield skills of Xavi for Barcelona but Parker is - in his own right - a world class midfielder all the same. Played just in front of the defence, there are few better defensive midfielders in world football at the moment than the Englishman.
Parker played the first half of 2011 with West Ham United but despite his best efforts - he was voted 'Footballer of the Year' by the Football Writers' Association - the club was relegated at the end of the 2010/11 season. Parker then moved to Tottenham Hotspur at the start of the current campaign and has been a vital addition to Harry Redknapp's side.
Parker may not score many goals or get you many assists but he does win you games with his ability to stifle the opponent's attack.
Right-midfield: Mario Gotze
It's scary to think that Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze is only 19 years old. Far from being the finished midfield article, Gotze is already a champion in Germany after playing a pivotal role in Dortmund's run to the Bundesliga title last season.
Blessed with a combination of speed, technical ability and creativity, Gotze is on the watch list of practically every major club in European football. No wonder German legend Matthias Sammer called the attacking midfielder "one of the best talents Germany has ever seen".
Count on him to get even better in 2012.
Left-midfield: David Silva
David Silva is a playmaker of the highest order and his performances for Manchester City in the 2010/11 season earned him high praise from then club captain Carlos Tevez who called the Spaniard "the best signing" the club had made.
Form is temporary and class is permanent, and Silva continued to inspire Roberto Mancini's men well into the current campaign and he is the favourite to land the PFA Players' Player of the Year award in 2012.
If Manchester City did nothing else right for the rest of the season, Silva would still be loved by the club's supporters in the years to come. This is because the midfielder orchestrated the single most significant league result in the club's recent history - a 6-1 derby demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford in October 2011.
What is it about Spanish football and world class midfielders?
Xavi is the man who puts Barcelona's tiki-taka philosophy into practice on the pitch - and he has the medals and trophies to prove it works.
It was not surprising to see Xavi play an instrumental role in helping Barcelona to titles in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League in 2011.
For so long in his career the midfield maestro never got the recognition he deserved but with Spain's continued dominance of the international game - in contrast to Argentina's failings despite having a certain Lionel Messi at their disposal - Xavi is finally being considered by some as the world's best player currently.
His passing is obviously excellent, but then many players are just as good at that as he is. What actually makes Xavi go a notch above his peers is his intelligence on the football pitch. His movement is second to none and he always gives his team-mates the right passing line - he is prone to making team-mates look better than they really are.
Right-forward: Lionel Messi
La Liga is fortunate to have two of the best players on the planet. Ronaldo may be able to play with both feet, head the ball and take free-kicks, but a combination of supreme balance and perhaps the best left-foot in the history of football makes Messi equally good, if not better.
The Argentinean was once again at the forefront of it all, as Barcelona won La Liga and the Champions League to continue their domestic and European domination. The only disappointment would have been the failure of the national side to win the Copa America. Despite that though, Messi wowed the world yet again with some breathtaking goals that had pundits, journalists and fans alike scurrying for the Thesaurus.
Unfortunately, there are not enough words in the English language to describe the diminutive forward. Until someone comes up with more adjectives, genius will have to suffice.
Left-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Few players in world football divide opinion as fiercely as the man from Portugal. Some can't stand him for his showboating, perceived selfishness and tendency to go down whenever there's a strong gust of wind. Others swear by him for being the most complete player of his generation.
Whichever camp one belongs to, it's difficult to argue with the numbers Ronaldo has piled up since his move to Real Madrid. He took the Pichichi Trophy for the 2010/11 season, and has continued to score by the bucketloads this season, having notched up 25 goals in 23 matches in all competitions.
Love him or hate him, you simply cannot ignore him. If you haven't yet, check out Ronaldo - Tested to the Limit, to get an insight into the workings of this truly remarkable athlete.
Centre-forward: Robin van Persie
Van Persie had been tipped for greatness ever since his arrival at Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004. Six frustrating, injury-laden years later, the Dutchman finally delivered on that early promise with 34 goals (and counting) in the Premier League this year.
In a year when Arsenal have been unsettled by high-profile departures and some shattering results, Van Persie has provided relief, joy and excitement to Gunners' fans - ensuring they'd have something to cheer about.
If one were to pick the best out of his 34, it would have to be the volley against Everton where he allowed a chipped pass from Alex Song to drop over his right shoulder before smashing the ball off the post, into the net. Intelligence, technique, power, precision. Suitable adjectives for a world-class striker.