Many football fans enjoy debating who the best player in the world is. There are various ways in which this can be measured, and there’s the difficulty of trying to compare a forward with a defender. After all, these positions require different attributes.
The Ballon d’Or is a decent yardstick, and it’s an award that has been dominated by two particular players in recent years. Unsurprisingly, they form part of our top ten, along with some of their teammates.
In descending order, we list the top ten football players in the world. There is a big attacking bias to our selections, and we make no apologies for our positive outlook. However, there is a goalkeeper and a central defender who have been shining for their respective clubs and countries.
It’s amazing to think that Coutinho was left out of the Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup. After all, the Liverpool midfielder has been shining in England pretty much since leaving the Internazionale reserves to take his place at the Merseyside club, and it seems as though the world is this player’s oyster.
Coutinho is the most vital cog in the Liverpool FC machine under Jürgen Klopp, with the midfielder controlling the majority of his team’s attacking moves. His close control and technical skill are something to marvel at.
It’s the ability to play the ball quickly and accurately that marks out this player as a potential great, and Liverpool fans will be hoping that he steers clear of injuries to ensure that they can land a long-awaited title at Anfield.
Along with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, Coutinho has formed part of a menacing attacking line-up that has been terrorising opposition defences since the campaign began.
Now enjoying his third season at Atlético Madrid, Griezmann has quickly developed into one of the best forwards in the world, with the humble Frenchman regularly letting his football do the talking.
The 25-year-old still has a bright future ahead of him, with the striker having played a starring role in France’s path to the Euro 2016 final before they hit the buffers against a Portugal side who were in a determined defensive mood.
Griezmann is a small player, though that low centre of gravity can often be to his advantage, and he is a vital cog in the Atlético machine, with Diego Simeone needing a player who can spring offside traps and take any chances that fall their way.
We shouldn’t just judge the former Sociedad player by his goals though. This is someone with an excellent workrate who offers himself selflessly for the team, though he’s capable of spectacular and deft finishes when he does get chances.
David de Gea
Manuel Neuer is often spoken about in hushed tones, though we prefer the Manchester United goalkeeper who has been performing brilliantly for the Red Devils over the past few seasons.
There was a question mark over the Spaniard when he first arrived at Old Trafford, with the stopper getting roughed up by opposition forwards, though he now commands his penalty area and nothing much gets past him.
De Gea’s shot-stopping is unrivalled, and while there’s a penchant for football teams to play the ball out from the back, the ultimate job of a goalkeeper is to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Some of his saves made in the English Premier League have been genuinely breathtaking, and it appears as though he’ll be a fixture in the Manchester United squad for a long time to come, especially after a proposed move to Real Madrid fell through.
We need to have some defensive players included in this list. After all, football is a team game, and it’s as much about stopping the opposition from scoring as finding the net! With this in mind, we head to the Vicente Calderón, where Diego Godínremains the ultimate central defender.
Where to start with Godín?! How about the fact that he marshals the Atlético Madrid defence, arguably the meanest rearguard across Europe, with the Uruguayan playing a key role in helping Los Colchoneros to get to two Champions League finals, in 2014 and 2016.
Godín is brilliant in the air and that often sees him score for his club and country from corners and free-kicks. He’s a tough tackler and doesn’t let anyone beat him, even if it comes at the cost of a yellow card.
The Gabon international isn’t yet a household name across Europe, though he is arguably a bigger scoring machine than Robert Lewandowski, and he can certainly rival his predecessor in terms of name length.
Aubameyang is the most lethal finisher in Europe. He scored 16 goals for Borussia Dortmund before November was up, with the striker firing home four in a single match away to Hamburg, where he produced a “complete centre forward performance”, according to manager Thomas Tuchel.
Since signing from Saint-Étienne, the pacy forward has improved every season and has 67 goals from 91 Bundesliga starts. It’s little wonder that clubs across Europe want to spend big money on this amazing player.
Before the 2015/16 season, José Mourinho was singing the praises of Eden Hazard. Thethen-Chelsea manager claimed that his midfielder could climb into that elite group of world-class players that included Messi and Ronaldo, though the ensuing season gave little suggestion that Hazard was anywhere near that level.
We now know that the Belgian wasn’t interested in playing for Mourinho, and his form during the 2016/17 has been breathtaking by contrast. Hazard is back to his very best, with the playmaker creating and scoring goals for a Chelsea side who are once again serious Premier League title contenders.
The midfielder has wonderful technical ability and can dribble past opponents with consummate ease. He looks so much better when not being equipped with defensive duties, and we’re confident that he’s starting to make that prophesised step up.
Bale might end up becoming the main man at the Bernabéu. There was a time when Real Madrid simply enjoyed indulging in marquee signings for the publicity and the glamour attached to this football club.
However, the Welshman’s arrival was a calculated piece of business, even if Bale was the most expensive signing in the world at the time that Los Merengues signed the forward from Tottenham Hotspur.
What has been extra special for Bale is that he’s had to contend with Cristiano Ronaldo holding court at the Spanish club. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old has quietly gone about his business and continues to improve, which is testament to his desire to learn and get even better.
Bale scores lots of goals and, like Ronaldo, he offers a dangerous threat from set pieces. He can take a mean free-kick that sees the ball move a lot in the air, and he’s also adept at getting his head on corners and free-kicks.
Suárez is not among the best two players in the world, though there are none better than the Uruguayan if you rule out his teammate Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Between 11th August 2015 and 4th May 2016, the former Liverpool striker managed to score 60 goals in all competitions. It was a quite breathtaking feat and included three games where Suárez was able to score on four occasions.
Suárez is a remarkable player to have in your team. He has electrifying acceleration, which can be useful from an offensive and defensive point-of-view. There is never a moment when a defender can relax on the ball, with the 29-year-old like a terrier who never gives up on trying to fetch the ball.
The Barça forward is also a predator in front of goal. He can score any number of different goals and that includes firing home from range, though he’s at his most deadly cutting in from an angle, with Liverpool enjoying his immense scoring ability before that big-money move to the Nou Camp.
If there was an award for the most arrogant football player in the world, then Cristiano Ronaldo would be at the front of the queue. However, it must be tempered by the fact that the Real Madrid and Portugal captain’s arrogance is mostly justified considering how much of an impact he continues to make at the highest level.
Ronaldo will be privately disappointed by his modest impact at the European Championship last summer, even if his Portuguese side bucked all expectations by landing the Euro 2016 crown. For the 31-year-old, this was arguably his last chance to win something with his country, and he finally didn’t need to carry them to victory.
At the time of writing, Ronaldo has 19 goals on the board, and there was a marvellous recent hat-trick at the Vicente Calderón, arguably the hardest place for a Real Madrid player to manage a three-timer. After all, Atlético Madrid have made a habit of keeping life difficult for the big Spanish guns at home, though Ronaldo had other ideas.
The former Manchester United winger burst into life at Old Trafford towards the end of his time with the Red Devils. He started out as a tricky winger who was fond of a stepover, and left as a dynamic forward who could score all types of goals.
His advantage against Lionel Messi is that Ronaldo is aerially more potent, and the height that he is able to generate is testament to the remarkable fitness levels that have been attained through his career, even if injury plays a growing part in slowing him down.
Cristiano Ronaldo might just be about to land the 2017 Ballon d’Or, though that’s mainly because he helped Portugal win Euro 2016 last summer. Lionel Messi was also involved in a summer competition with Argentina, though the relative failure of La Albiceleste means that his arch-rival is set to land the plaudits.
Nevertheless, we would rather have King Messi in our team. He’s the player who can make the most magic happen on a football pitch, and sometimes that occurs in a really tight corner where it appears that there is no danger to the opposition.
Messi’s trickery remains as strong as ever, with Barcelona benefiting from having this legendary player in their midst. At the time of writing, he has 19goals for the season, and there have been just a handful of games where the forward has failed to find the net.
At the age of 29, Messi continues to have several years of football ahead of him, and he has managed to stay relatively clear of injuries thus far in his career, with a Champions League hat-trick against Manchester City this season illustrating that he’s still a tour de force in the game of football.
Messi has more recently been joined by Neymar and then Luis Suárez at the Nou Camp. The MSN are probably the most lethal strikeforce we have ever witnessed at club level, with his two teammates allowing Leo to operate in a deeper position where he roves forward to devastating effect.