ronaldo vs messi les secret des champions

joueur de football Les 100 meilleurs joueurs du monde 2018

Les 100 meilleurs footballeurs masculins du monde 2018

Notre panel de 225 experts de 69 pays a eu son mot à dire et Luka Modric a été couronnée notre n ° 1
Après six ans de duopole MessiRonaldo, nous avons un nouveau gagnant. Le Croate a gagné de peu, 246 points exactement, et 79 juges l’ont désigné n ° 1 (contre 48 pour Messi et 33 pour Ronaldo). Et ça venait. Lorsque même Zinedine Zidane vous parle de vous, vous savez que vous faites quelque chose de bien – et Modric fait beaucoup de bien. « Lorsque le ballon passe à côté de lui, le jeu se déroule comme si le football était la chose la plus facile du monde », a écrit Jorge Valdano pour le Guardian lors de la Coupe du monde . «Soudainement, nous découvrons que l’espace et le temps existent et que nous avions besoin de quelqu’un qui ait le talent de les ramener, de les rendre tels qu’ils ont toujours été. Quelqu’un qui sait jouer au football. Ou mieux encore, JOUEZ AU FOOTBALL dans les capitales. »Curieusement, sa meilleure saison – vainqueur de chaque récompense individuelle,grimper de cinq places à la première place de notre liste – n’était pas sa meilleure saison, car il avait mieux performé pour son club les deux saisons précédentes. Mais une Coupe du Monde extraordinaire a apporté une reconnaissance universelle à un joueur merveilleux. Sid Lowe
2Cristiano Ronaldo
En avril, Ronaldo a reçu une ovation totale des supporters de la Juventus pour une attaque dirigée contre leur équipe au stade Allianz. Trois mois plus tard, il est retourné à Turin pour rejoindre les Bianconeri . Entre temps, il remporte son troisième titre consécutif en Champions League avec le Real Madrid et inscrit un brillant triplé en Coupe du Monde contre l’Espagne. Ce n’est pas mal, selon la plupart des mortels, et Ronaldo ne cache pas qu’il pense avoir mérité le Ballon d’Or. L’année à venir sera encore plus fascinante, car il cherche à la reconquérir dans un nouveau décor. Reconnu comme un extra-terrestre du football par les médias italiens, il a participé à quelques matches pour trouver ses buts pour la Juventus, mais il avait atteint deux chiffres à la fin du mois de novembre. De retour à son ancienne position à gauche de l’attaque, il a montré une volonté de travailler pour ses coéquipiers, tout comme son record d’aide de la saison dernière. Paolo Bandini
3Lionel Messi
Donc, si loin devant tous les autres Espagnols, mais quand il s’agissait de la Ligue des champions et de la Coupe du monde, où les opinions se formaient et laissaient un héritage, Messi n’a pas pu laisser l’impact qu’il souhaitait sur une année où il a dirigé Barcelone. , parfois apparemment à eux seuls, à un double en championnat et en coupe . En fin de compte, la saison a été une déception – et cela en dit long. Messi est peut-être victime de son acharnement, de sa normalisation du génie. Et si l’ échec de la Coupe du Monde était un peu triste, même en dehors de l’Argentine, c’est peut-être en partie parce que le temps presse pour Messi. Et maintenant quoi? L’année dernière, personne n’a marqué plus, fourni plus ou mieux joué n’importe où. Malgré tout, il chute au troisième rang de notre liste, à seulement 44 points de Cristiano Ronaldo, deuxième. Sid Lowe
4Kylian Mbappé
On pourrait discuter pendant des heures de la qualité la plus impressionnante de Mbappé – de sa vitesse dévastatrice? Son toucher habile? L’esprit mortel et joyeux avec lequel il joue? Le calme qui lui permet de prendre tous ses dons et tous les éloges dans sa foulée? – ou on pourrait simplement indiquer les récompenses qu’il a remportées avant même d’avoir 20 ans. En 2018, il a aidé le Paris Saint-Germain à remporter le triple national français et la France à remporter la Coupe du monde , devenant ainsi le premier adolescent en 60 ans à marquer en finale . «Bienvenue au club», a tweeté Pelé. Certains de ses exploits en Russie vont directement à la légende de la Coupe du Monde: les courses dévastatrices contre l’Argentine que personne ne peut oublier, encore moins Marcus Rojo; la passe double et la roue arrière à Olivier Giroud en demi-finale contre la Belgique, deux touches qui prouvent que l’espace et le temps ne signifient que ce que Mbappé veut qu’ils veulent dire. Paul Doyle
5Mohamed Salah
L’homme qui a gagné 36,9 millions de livres sterling ressemble à une transaction de transfert. Salah est le plus grand alpiniste du top 10 après une saison phénoménale pour la première fois à Liverpool, détruisant les défenses adverses, les records et guidant l’équipe de Jürgen Klopp vers la finale de la Ligue des champions. Le joueur de 26 ans a inscrit 44 buts au total pour son club, dont 32 en Premier League. Cela fait de lui le buteur le plus prolifique de la saison de 38 matchs, éclipsant Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo et Luis Suárez, et remportant de nombreux honneurs individuels, dont le joueur de l’année PFA et FWA.plus le joueur de Liverpool de la saison. Salah a également tenu tête à son pays, envoyant l’Egypte à sa première Coupe du Monde en 28 ans avec une pénalité à la 94e minute contre le Congo. L’absence d’ego renforce l’attrait de Salah, mais aussi la cruauté de sa finale de la Ligue des champions – et de la Coupe du monde – d’une blessure controversée . Andy Hunter
6Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann monte de 12 places, assis à la table du haut où il a déclaré vouloir manger avec Ronaldo et Messi. Il peut encore y avoir un débat à ce sujet, mais il a fait ce qu’aucun d’eux n’a pu faire et a été le joueur le plus décisif pour les champions du monde – marquant ou assistant à chaque tour à partir du quart de finale. Un superbe joueur qui joue comme s’il était terrible, son effort et son intelligence complètent son talent. D’autres systèmes pourraient mieux fonctionner pour lui, vu égoïstement, mais il travaille brillamment pour Diego Simeone et pour Didier Deschamps. Il est l’un des 13 Français inscrits sur la liste 2018 avec seulement Kylian Mbappé devant lui, au numéro 4. Il devra peut-être remporter la Ligue des champions – ou au moins atteindre la finale – avec l’Atlético cette saison pour se classer parmi les trois premiers.Sid Lowe
7danger édénique
Hazard a permis à son pays de terminer troisième de la Coupe du monde, ce qui lui a permis de remonter légèrement au septième rang. Il reste l’inspiration créatrice de Chelsea, une force de la nature qui menace depuis le flanc gauche. La priorité du club est de prolonger son séjour à Stamford Bridge au-delà de 2020 , sachant que remplacer le Belge serait une perspective décourageante. L’argent ne serait effectivement pas un objet, mais Hazard semble s’être tourné vers le Real Madrid . Il a suggéré à Saint-Pétersbourg pendant l’étéque le temps soit peut-être venu, mais comme Chelsea n’était pas disposé à accepter une vente à l’heure actuelle, il s’est retrouvé face à Cobham et a été le meilleur joueur de la Premier League à l’automne. Les objectifs ont plutôt stagné ces derniers temps, mais avec le Real toujours attentif aux développements de loin et les négociations en suspens sur de nouvelles conditions, sa menace reste puissanteDominic Fifield
8Kevin De Bruyne
Le milieu de terrain a commencé 2018 en signant un nouveau contrat de cinq ans avec Manchester City , qui pourrait lui avoir donné un contrat à vie si on lui en demandait. Une semaine plus tard, il a démontré son dernier tour dans un répertoire en constante expansion, marquant un but en percant un coup franc sous le mur de la ville de Cardiff. Chaque semaine, il évoquait un nouveau plaisir alors que City remportait le titre de Premier League. « Je pense qu’il n’y a presque pas de match où mon niveau a baissé », a-t-il déclaré vers la fin d’une campagne dans laquelle son excellence incessante s’est même étonnée. Aucun joueur ne peut contrôler les matches avec autant d’autorité que lui, et seuls quelques-uns peuvent transformer des parties avec de telles passes ou des rafales improbables. Il a également joué un rôle déterminant pour son pays, puisque la Belgique a obtenu la meilleure troisième place de sa carrière à la Coupe du Monde.victoire à long terme contre le Brésil est l’un des faits saillants du tournoi. Paul Doyle
9Harry Kane
Au sommet de la hiérarchie, le regard s’intensifie et on a l’impression qu’il existe une obsession singulièrement anglaise de chercher des trous à Kane. Le capitaine de l’Angleterre a remporté la coupe du monde Golden Boot cet étécependant, il a été signalé que le coup d’envoi comprenait trois pénalités et une déviation. Il a eu un début lent pour la nouvelle saison, marquant seulement deux sur huit pour le club et le pays. Avait-il perdu son avantage pour enfin céder sous sa charge de travail gigantesque? Kane gagne sa vie à prouver que les gens ont tort. Rappelez-vous cette merveille d’une saison? Il est maintenant un prodige de quatre saisons et demi. Peu de joueurs possèdent sa détermination, son dévouement obsessionnel et, malgré le bruit, il a simplement continué à faire ce qu’il a fait – marquer des buts. Fatigue? Kane affirme qu’il apprécie le déroulement des matches. Cela lui donne son rythme. Sûrement, il vaut mieux chérir un maître de son art? Il a peut-être quatre places dans le top 100, mais il est toujours considéré comme l’un des 10 meilleurs joueurs du monde. David Hytner
dixN’Golo Kanté
Le Français avait déjà remporté les titres successifs de Premier League avec Leicester et Chelsea lors de ses deux premières années de football anglais mais, non content de ce résultat, il faisait partie intégrante de la campagne réussie de Les Bleus en Coupe du monde.. Kanté est une énergie débordante, un brouillage d’interceptions. Les Français ont littéralement chanté leurs louanges après la Russie, se réjouissant de son style sobre. Chelsea l’apprécie beaucoup, car il tient à l’écart du Paris Saint-Germain avec un nouveau contrat de cinq ans d’une valeur de 290 000 £ par semaine à l’automne. Il a en fait trouvé que certaines périodes de la campagne nationale avaient été déplacées par Jorginho en tant que pivot du milieu de terrain. Maurizio Sarri exigeait que le jeune homme de 27 ans soit davantage une force progressiste de nos jours. Si l’Italien parvient à atteindre les objectifs et la créativité du jeu de Kanté, il restera sûrement mobile dans la moyenne dans cette enquête. Dominic Fifield
11Neymar
Seul un acteur de premier plan pourrait affirmer de manière convaincante que Neymar n’est pas un plaisir à regarder quand il est en pleine effervescence. Oui, il peut être complaisant et avoir tendance à exagérer la douleur qu’il ressent après avoir été souillé, ce qui explique peut-être pourquoi il a perdu huit places depuis le sondage de l’année dernière. D’autre part, ne sommes-nous pas tous un peu blessés lorsqu’un créateur aussi merveilleux est contrecarré par des pirates informatiques qui le chassent de jalousie ou de pure perplexité? Après avoir ridiculisé la Ligue 1 grâce à son talent pour aider le PSG à un triplé national, Neymar a résisté à une blessure sérieuse pour aider le Brésil à atteindre les quarts de finale de la Coupe du monde.Paul Doyle
12Raphaël Varane
Dejan Lovren a été ridiculisé pour avoir laissé entendre qu’il méritait d’être considéré comme l’un des meilleurs défenseurs du monde, mais personne ne s’est moqué de lui quand le Croate a déclaré en novembre que Varane était le meilleur. Cette opinion est largement partagée après les performances impérieuses du Français qui ont aidé le Real Madrid à se démarquer en Ligue des champions et lui ont procuré la solidité qui a permis à la France de devenir champion du monde. Pas étonnant qu’il ait grimpé de 83 places dans le top 100 cette année. Il était l’une des stars les plus brillantes des Bleus en Russie, menant de l’arrière et inscrivant même un but crucial et crucial dans la victoire en quart de finale contre l’Uruguay. Paul Doyle
13Ivan Rakitic
Sa belle-mère lui a dit un jour que le chien prenait une meilleure pénalité, mais Rakitic a marqué les deux tirs au but qui ont permis à la Croatie de se qualifier pour la Coupe du monde. Ce n’est pas qu’il s’agisse de ces gros titres, et il est tentant de suggérer que l’on ne parle pas assez de Rakitic, l’homme qui, selon ses propres mots, a joué « deux saisons en une » l’année dernière. À tous les coéquipiers, le partenaire de tout le monde sur le terrain, capable de tout faire et le faisant toujours au bon moment, il est rare qu’un acteur de soutien supposé ait joué un rôle aussi central. Sid Lowe
Advertisement
14Luis Suarez
Suárez has the best backside in football, and his feet aren’t bad either. Few strikers use their body as well, bumping off opponents to great effect. And although there have been moments when he appeared to be slowing down – his goalscoring record in Europe has been poor, too – he remains central, not just because of what he does but what he allows others to do. The numbers are extraordinary and he is far better technically than many recognise – including himself. He tends to see himself as a limited footballer, which might just be why he is such a good one. Sid Lowe
15Sergio Agüero
The 30-year-old elevated his game during Manchester City’s runaway title triumph, scoring 30 times in all competitions while adding the high press and link play Pep Guardiola demands. Agüero has continued that flying form in the current campaign and has finally convinced the manager he is the undisputed No 9 ahead of Gabriel Jesus, whose inconsistency means the Argentinian is even more vital to City. All of this confirms what has been true for the past few seasons: Agüero has a robust argument to be regarded as the finest purest finisher in world football. Jamie Jackson
16Paul Pogba
The midfielder proved his big-game temperament when he backed up his motivational speech to his France teammates before the World Cup final with a fine goal in the win over Croatia. “The media image does not correspond to who he is,” Didier Deschamps, France’s manager, says. Try telling that to José Mourinho, though. Pogba’s relationship with Manchester United’s manager has appeared strained for a long time and the 25-year-old has often struggled to replicate his international form for his club. United’s £93m man remains an enigma at a time when he should be hitting his peak. Jacob Steinberg
17Sergio Ramos
There is something about Ramos: somehow, when it comes to the moments, he always seems to be at the heart of it. He can be bad for a long time but you just know that when it comes to it, to the key moments – at least for his club – he will be at his best. That said, he has fallen in this list: perhaps because, while others took the blame, he was poor in Russia. Perhaps because of that reputation too, added to with Mo Salah. Talent and temperament, both unreliable and utterly reliable, there is something almost old-fashioned about him: a leader who has lifted three European Cups in a row. Sid Lowe
18Marcelo
Marcelo is a No 10 who just happens to play at left-back – in theory, at least. Few are so unpredictable or so talented, a fútbol sala player really. Breaks the mould, even when it comes to attacking full-backs; while they tend to be athletes who dash up the wing on the outside, he is an aesthete who dribbles inside, all touch and technique, foot on the ball, dragging it back, playing one-twos, tricking opponents, scoring goals and providing assists and lots of fun. Anarchy rules. Sid Lowe
19Sadio Mané
Scored 20 goals in an exhilarating campaign for Liverpool last season. His speed, skill and directness complemented the differing talents of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to perfection, producing one of the finest front threes in Europe as Liverpool reached the Champions League final where he scored in the defeat to Real Madrid. Mané also scored in the World Cup for Senegal, having been instrumental in their qualification, and while yet to recapture those heights consistently this season he has been a potent force in Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League run. Andy Hunter
20David Silva
Eight goals in his first 20 outings this season partly explain why the Spaniard has risen from last year’s ranking of 38. Adding a greater goal threat at 32 years old has made Silva an even finer player: the complete midfield schemer, a footballer unique to City and the English game in his ability to drift, phantom-like, around the pitch finding passes and space his peers cannot. His partnership with Kevin De Bruyne in midfield was the driving force of the title triumph and if City are to finally claim the Champions League this season Silva surely has to remain fit. Jamie Jackson
21Edinson Cavani
The best praise comes from arch-rivals. “He may play for PSG but I think Cavani is extraordinary and underrated,” said the Marseille defender Adil Rami in March. “I really like this guy. He’s a hell of a striker with huge tenacity.” For much of his career at PSG Cavani has played second fiddle to others, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Neymar. But that did not stop him becoming the club’s all-time top scorer this year, reaching the tally of 157 goals in 229 matches (and continuing thereafter). He also helped Uruguay to the World Cup quarter-finals, only for injury to rule him out of the clash with France. Paul Doyle
22Toni Kroos
When Kroos whipped that thrilling 95th-minute winner into the far corner against Sweden in Sochi, seemingly opening up a safe passage for the then-world champions to escape ignominy, it felt like one of those moments that can define an entire World Cup. That sensation did not last long and it summed up a mixed year for Kroos, whose wonderfully rhythmic partnership with Luka Modric was on show as Real won yet another Champions League but spluttered early this season along with the rest of the team. When on song Kroos is the complete package: peerless passing range, intuitive feel for the game and rare ability to time his runs into goalscoring positions. It just was not quite enough to turn Germany’s fortunes on their head.Nick Ames
23Roberto Firmino
The highest re-entry in our chart, having fallen to 104th place in 2017 from 76 in 2016. Behind the bling, the no-look finishes and extravagant goal celebrations lies an introverted character and arguably the most selfless player in Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool team. “A footballer from his head to his toes,” was Klopp’s description of Firmino last season, during which the striker covered more ground in the Premier League than any other Liverpool player (347.7km), made more sprints than any Liverpool player (2,353) and was the forward with the most interceptions (18), all while chipping in with an impressive 27 goals in all competitions. The Brazil international is essential to Liverpool functioning at their devastating best. When he is subdued, as has occurred this season, the team is too. Andy Hunter
24Virgil van Dijk
The highest new entry in our chart. His appearance, along with a world record fee for a defender of £75m, has been entirely justified by his impact at Liverpool. The team’s defensive record has transformed since Van Dijk’s arrival, as has the form of Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren around him. He has proved to be leader and a major factor in the team’s development into title contenders. “I hate going up against him,” admitted Troy Deeney. “He’s too big, too strong, too quick, too good on the ball, loves fighting, a good head of hair. One of those guys that sprays (aftershave) on his top as well, so it smells lovely!” Andy Hunter
25Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho arrived at Barcelona five months later than either party would have liked but, when it came, his departure from Liverpool was pleasingly smooth. There was goodwill all round and everyone involved has done rather well for themselves since. In Coutinho’s case, a hot late-season goalscoring streak for club and country helped Barça to their domestic double and suggested, for a time, that Brazil might rediscover past World Cup glories. The latter did not come to pass, though his strike against Switzerland was one of the tournament’s best. This season started well too and a goal in the evisceration of Real Madrid added to his popularity, although Ousmane Dembélé’s selection in his place for the recent derby with Espanyol was a reminder that he cannot afford to drop his standards. Nick Ames
26Paulo Dybala
A player once billed as the « next Leo Messi » is in danger of being overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus’s top scorer last season, Dybala has appeared to struggle with the adjustment to a supporting role following the Portuguese’s arrival and drops 12 places on our list. Briefly dropped from the Bianconeri’s starting XI, after barely featuring for Argentina at the World Cup, he quickly won back his place but his strike rate since remains modest. His natural talent, though, is undeniable and he has delivered for Juventus on big occasions in 2018: scoring winners away to both Tottenham and Manchester United in the Champions League.Paolo Bandini
27Jan Oblak
« Obi, Oblak, cada día te quiero más! » Atlético Madrid fans have adapted the Gypsy Kings song Djobi, Djoba to serenade their goalkeeper who, the lyrics say, they love more every day. And no wonder. Oblak reached 100 clean sheets in 178 games for Atlético – and that’s not just because the defence is sound; there are countless saves in there too, many of them astonishing. Tall, strong, and very calm, an undemonstrative goalkeeper in complete control, there’s a case to be made to declare him the best in the world. Sid Lowe
28Isco
Isco said he is not stupid – that if all his managers have failed to play him regularly, protecting and nurturing him, then he must be doing something wrong. There may be something in that, although there may also be a simpler explanation: his No 10 role does not really exist at Madrid. For four months it did, and he was arguably Spain’s best footballer for a while as they won the league and European Cup. That, though, is long gone now and for all the extraordinary talent, the doubts remain. Julen Lopetegui made him the central figure and he was sacked as Spain manager two days before the World Cup began. Sid Lowe
29Ivan Perisic
Perisic put the very best of himself on display at the World Cup: a wide forward with the footwork to navigate through a crowded penalty area and finish – as he did for Croatia’s opening goal in the final – but also the physical stature to dominate defenders in the air. He covered more distance than any other player at the tournament and was decisive against England in the semi, scoring his team’s equaliser and setting up the winner. All of which only makes it more frustrating when we see him go missing from games, as he has at times with Inter. He is the second-highest new entry on our list, five places below Virgil van Dijk. Paolo Bandini
30Robert Lewandowski
It is a sharp fall down the list for Lewandowski in 2018, indicative of a calendar year that he perhaps expected to be pivotal in his career, but that has turned out to be deflating by his lofty standards. He failed to make any significant impact for Bayern in their Champions League semi-final and after they refused to sanction a move to Real Madrid – Los Merengues might have pushed harder for him had he shone brighter in that tie – he had a quiet World Cup with Poland. He remains a formidable goalscorer in an ageing Bayern side. Andy Brassell
31Raheem Sterling
The Pep Guardiola effect has been most marked in a forward whose 18 league goals last term have been followed up with eight in 13 games by mid-December this season. Sterling’s jump of 31 places reflects the fact is no longer an erratic performer, instead becoming a consistent matchwinner and an integral part of the side. It is not only his scoring that has improved – Sterling’s movement and decision-making have become razor sharp, meaning he has now pulled ahead of Leroy Sané as the manager’s most potent wide operator. Guardiola recently deployed Sterling centrally – the ultimate compliment from a manager who wishes he could field a midfielder in every position. Jamie Jackson
32Mauro Icardi
Despite finishing last season as Serie A’s joint-top scorer, Icardi could not persuade Jorge Sampaoli to include him in Argentina’s World Cup squad. That is a testament to his nation’s abundant options up front, yet it is still tempting to wonder how such a ruthless finisher could not have been of use to a team that barely made it past the group stage. Exquisitely efficient inside the penalty box and, as Tottenham discovered at San Siro, not half bad when obliged to take aim from further out, Icardi has excelled throughout this year’s introduction to the Champions League with Inter. Remains just outside the top 30 on the list for a second consecutive year. Paolo Bandini
33Mario Mandzukic
Mandzukic was supposed to line up on the left of attack for Juventus this season, deploying his customary hard graft to create opportunities for Cristiano Ronaldo through the middle. Somehow, the roles got reversed. Although Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical schemes are fluid by design, it is the Croatian who has most often lined up at centre-forward – already surpassing his Serie A scoring tally from last term. This after a World Cup in which he contributed a goal or assist in every game of the knockout phase – even if he did also put the ball into his own net in the final. He is the second-biggest climber in the top 100 of the players who were on last year’s list, moving up 65 places. Paolo Bandini
34Diego Godín
“Football has changed,” Godín says. “Everyone wants to play nicely now; they want to bring the ball out, the goalkeeper, players, lots of touches. It has worked for many teams … but some forget the other side of the game. To use the ball, you have to win it back. You need to know how to do that, and it’s not so easy.” It’s not, no. But Godín is very, very good at it. And if what he does isn’t always “nice”, bloody hell, you want him in your team, every time. Sid Lowe
35Samuel Umtiti
Umtiti can crash into you and you can crash into him and he will carry on as if nothing had happened. Well, usually. There is a coolness about him that is startling at times, like his mind is somewhere else. Few knew much about him when he arrived in Spain but was superb in his first season at Barcelona – in a role that, defenders often complain, can leave you horribly exposed – and impressed with the world champions too. Has a knee injury now that may keep him out for most of the season. Paul Doyle
36Christian Eriksen
The Danish playmaker’s technique is one of the Premier League’s most sumptuous sights. The fizz, curl and precision that he is able to summon on set-pieces or passes and crosses in open play frequently take the breath away. Eriksen shouldered the creative burden for Denmark at the World Cup, where he helped drive his country to the last 16 – he would miss his kick in the penalty shootout defeat to Croatia – but he has more support at Spurs. Finished last season with a career-high 14 goals at club level. Has needed to manage an abdominal problem this time out. David Hytner
37Thibaut Courtois
It was a profitable summer for Courtois, who won the Golden Glove award at the World Cup and within a month completed the move to Real Madrid he had craved. He makes a big leap in this list accordingly, having grown into his new surroundings after a tricky start. Courtois is Santiago Solari’s clear choice as No 1 despite the claims of Keylor Navas and that level of confidence will do no harm. The clean sheets have started to come and the save percentage is on the way back up; what had been as much a personal choice as a professional one, with his children being based in Madrid, is bearing fruit and at 26 the best should still be to come. Nick Ames
38Gareth Bale
You get left out of the team for months, no explanation sought or offered. You’ve decided that it’s over, you’re out. And then you come on in the Champions League final and do that. Arguably the best European Cup final goal ever – although Zinedine Zidane grinned that his wasn’t bad either – Bale’s extraordinary overhead kick against Liverpool still wasn’t enough to convince him to stay (or indeed for him to be higher than 38th in our list) and he said as much after the game. What did were the departures of Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, although doubts remain and debates around him continue. Has won four European Cups in five years.Sid Lowe
39David De Gea
A drop from his 23rd place in our 2017 ranking, yet the goalkeeper finishes another year as the one player of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era who has been consistently brilliant for Manchester United. De Gea did suffer a wobble playing for Spain last summer but his form had been flawless during United’s troubled start to the season until a howler against Arsenal. At 28 De Gea is considering his options, forcing the triggering of the clause that ensures he will be at United until summer 2020 as the scramble to convince him to sign on again continues. Jamie Jackson
40Hugo Lloris
Fulfilled the ultimate boyhood dream when he lifted the World Cup as France’s captain in July and his ludicrous gaffe in the final against Croatia ought not to divert attention from his excellent saves in the previous rounds. In Lloris’s own words, he endured a “turbulent” start to the new season, taking in injury, a few more errors and, most seriously, a drink-driving conviction and accompanying shaming in court. Mauricio Pochettino allowed the goalkeeper to retain the Spurs captaincy and there have been signs of a return to form. Up 41 places on the list. David Hytner
41Romelu Lukaku
A drop of four places from 2017 feels a surprise considering a fine year that has tailed off only during the past two months: by mid-October Lukaku had scored 27 times in 42 appearances for United and Belgium in 2018. At club level the 25-year-old carries a considerable burden and this, plus Lukaku’s recent admission that bulking up for the World Cup had hampered his club form, explains the domestic drought that ran from 15 September to 1 December. By early December Lukaku had only six goals this term, which moved José Mourinho to drop him for the first time in his United career. Jamie Jackson
42Casemiro
Down 14 places this year despite the World Cup probably underlining his importance – he was missing when Belgium knocked Brazil out. It is an old cliche that some players don’t get noticed until they’re absent, but there is something in that. Ask anyone at Madrid and they would say the same. Nor, though, is « dirty work » all there is to his game and, while he doesn’t score many, they tend to be significant. Gilberto Silva insisted that Casemiro was the best defensive midfielder in the world, the man who « liberates » all those around him. Sid Lowe
43Alisson
Another new Liverpool entry, in keeping with the patient, vital and expensive improvements that Jürgen Klopp has made at Anfield. Brazil’s No 1 became the costliest goalkeeper in history – for 20 days at least – when he arrived at Liverpool for £65m in July from Roma, where 17 clean sheets last season made him Klopp’s only candidate to replace Loris Karius and saw him named Serie A’s goalkeeper of 2017-18. The 26-year-old raised expectations at Anfield the moment he signed and has already shown he can be the long-term solution to a long-term problem position at the club with several matchwinning saves. Andy Hunter
44Marc-André ter Stegen
Go to YouTube, type « Ter Stegen doble parada Sevilla », and watch. Done? Now, scrape your jaw off the floor and watch the other double save from the same game. He is shining in La Liga not just because of his ability with the ball at his feet but because of things like that, which are quite regular occurrences now. There was even a tweet from Barcelona suggesting it was all about Messi at one end and Ter Stegen at the other. Which doesn’t say much for the rest, but says a lot about him. Sid Lowe
45Dele Alli
It is remarkable to think that Alli is still only 22 but even more so to consider his capacity to raise himself for the biggest games. An example came at Chelsea in April, when he scored twice to inspire a 3-1 win; his first goal for 2-1 was a classic – outrageous control setting up the ice-cool finish. « Dele’s mentality is that he gets bored quickly when he doesn’t feel the pressure, » Mauricio Pochettino says. « But when he’s under pressure, he’s unbelievable. » Alli’s movement and tricks remain his calling card; there is an artful off-the-cuff quality to his game. He drops 14 places but there is the sense that we have yet to see the best of this player. David Hytner
46Dries Mertens
At a glance, it might appear that Napoli’s change of manager has done damage to Mertens. He is no longer a guaranteed starter under Carlo Ancelotti, as he was under Maurizio Sarri, instead alternating games with Arkadiusz Milik up front. Yet his minutes-to-goals ratio is considerably better than it was last season, and the opportunities to rest might actually be to his benefit. Mertens was less prolific at the World Cup, featuring in six out of seven games for Belgium but only scoring once – albeit that was a spectacular strike, to open his country’s account against Panama. One of seven Belgians on the list. Paolo Bandini
47Marco Reus
It seemed a big ask for Reus to return to his scintillating best after the run of long-term injuries that blighted the peak years of his career; it seemed a long shot, too, for Borussia Dortmund to dominate this season’s Bundesliga after more than half a decade in Bayern Munich’s slipstream. What a thrill, then, to see both on such sensational form in recent months. Reus looks a player reborn, a string of decisive and utterly lethal performances helping lift Lucien Favre’s compelling side clear at the summit. A rapier-like finish in the 3-2 win over Bayern, later added to with a penalty, embodied Reus at his best: he can hurt you from anywhere and the only regret is that he could, should, have been one of the world’s top few players for years on end. He returns to our list after a two-year absence, having been No 50 in 2015, and at least we are now able to enjoy him in full flight once again. Nick Ames
48Karim Benzema
No one hangs around at the Bernabéu for 10 years if they’re not really, really good at football – and Karim Benzema is really, really good at football. The thing is, some don’t see it. Others, meanwhile, demand more. More goals, especially. Last season his contribution was limited although he did score in the semi-final and the final of the Champions League, assisted by two barely-believable goalkeeping errors. And anyway, Benzema thinks they’re missing the point: “People don’t understand what I do on the pitch,” he says. Sid Lowe
49Giorgio Chiellini
Amid the media spectacle of Cristiano Ronaldo’s unveiling at Juventus this summer came a rare human moment when he ran into Chiellini for the first time at the club’s Continassa training facility. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner extended a polite hand in greeting; the Italian ignored it and went in for a bear hug. Wearing the captain’s armband this season following the departure of Gigi Buffon, Chiellini remains the same down-to-earth leader that he always was, and the same brilliant defender as well. He won his 100th cap for Italy in November and intends to add plenty more yet. Paolo Bandini
50Sergio Busquets
Not long ago Pep Guardiola revealed what Leo Messi thought the first time he saw Busquets in training, a line that was telling in its simplicity. « I like this guy, » Messi said. Guardiola replied: « Whenever we have problems, he’ll be there. » The last man standing of « that » midfield, a defender of Barcelona’s footballing faith. Although it is true that he is slowing down, sometimes more exposed than he would like, caught more than he once was, there may be no one quite like him. Sid Lowe
51Miralem Pjanic
The conductor of Juventus’s orchestra, Pjanic is the man whose understated work in the middle of the pitch allows the soloists around him to shine. His 34-place climb up these rankings is not premised on any single eye-catching performance – Bosnia’s failure to qualify for the World Cup denied him the opportunity to dazzle us in Russia – so much as a broadening appreciation of his constancy in a Bianconeri side that has changed significantly around him over the past three years. The only regret this season is that, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival, we are seeing him take fewer of his brilliant free-kicks. Paolo Bandini
52Jorginho
The Italy midfielder is the cog around which Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli turned, with the player duly following the head coach to Stamford Bridge over the summer. The compensation for Sarri’s switch was actually included in the £57m transfer fee paid for the 27-year-old. Everything goes through him, whether he is collecting from his centre-halves or prompting those further up the field. No one can match his pass rate in the Premier League, though Jorginho will have to learn to cope with the better teams swarming all over him if he is to remain effective in his team’s key games. Close him down and Chelsea are stymied. Dominic Fifield
53Blaise Matuidi
His reappearance in the top 100 reflects how well he responded to leaving Paris Saint-Germain, where some said he was washed up. Instead Matuidi enjoyed the best season of his career, helping Juventus to a domestic double before playing a key role in France’s World Cup triumph. The dynamism and intelligence he showed after being introduced to the starting lineup for France’s second match of that campaign gave the team balance and helped bring the best out of Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba, in particular. Matuidi became so vital that France successfully appealed against a yellow card to ensure he could play in the semi-final. Paul Doyle
54Edin Dzeko
No wonder Chelsea wanted to sign Dzeko in January. After turning down a move to west London, the Roma striker put together a barnstorming second half of the season: firing his team to a Champions League semi-final with goals in five out of six knockout games. In just his fourth campaign with the Giallorossi, Dzeko already ranks among the club’s top 10 scorers of all time, and has credited the man in first place, Francesco Totti, with making him better. “I only wish I had come here sooner,” said Dzeko recently. “He could have helped me to score even more.” Paolo Bandini
55Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Maybe there is something afoot with the Best League In The World™ if Aubameyang has fallen 34 places on this list despite being one of the Premier League’s most prolific strikers since he moved from Dortmund to Arsenal in January. Perhaps there is a question of whether Unai Emery could get more out of him as he is sometimes fielded wide. Enjoying his football, he is still a superb force in front of goal, as he has proved in recent weeks with an array of different finishes from inside and outside the box. Amy Lawrence
56Kalidou Koulibaly
As Kylian Mbappé sprinted towards goal during PSG’s trip to Napoli in the Champions League, the striker thought he would soon be clean through. But Koulibaly kept pace with him before nicking the ball with a perfect tackle. It was a telling moment: one of the best attackers on the planet foiled by one of the best defenders. “It was either him or me,” said Koulibaly later. “If he’d got past me people wouldn’t have stopped talking about it.” Getting past the Senegal international is indeed a feat to boast about, for he is a colossus. But he is also a tidy builder from the back and a constant threat from set-pieces. Paul Doyle
57Leroy Sané
If Sané continues to mature he may overtake Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Agüero as the star attraction in Manchester City’s constellation. The German is not always a first choice for Pep Guardiola yet it is rare for him to endure a day when he is not terrorising the opposing right-back with his pace and dazzling feet. Sané was superb in the second half of City’s championship procession so Joachim Löw’s decision to leave the 22-year-old out of Germany’s World Cup squad was a serious surprise. Jamie Jackson
58Lorenzo Insigne
Of all the tactical tweaks made by Carlo Ancelotti so far at Napoli, the decision to move Insigne into the centre of his attack looks like the most inspired. Already deadly from the left wing, the 27-year-old has only become more prolific now that he is playing closer to goal, and he punctured both Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain during the Champions League group stage. His 14-place slide down these rankings likely owes something to Italy’s absence from the World Cup, but Insigne has already assumed an integral role for the Azzurri under Roberto Mancini.Paolo Bandini
59Ederson
Another new entry whose ability to play one-touch passes with his defence or hit pinpoint balls deep into the opposition’s half to a teammate has given City an invigorating fresh dimension while reinventing the No 1 position. The recent footage of the Brazilian drilling a free-kick into the top corner during training also suggests he would be lethal with a dead ball. Ederson may have had less to do than many of his goalkeeping counterparts thanks to City’s dominance yet the 25-year-old has been flawless whenever called upon, illustrating his remarkable levels of concentration. Jamie Jackson
60Gianluigi Buffon
That elusive Champions League title might not taste quite as sweet in Paris Saint-Germain’s colours as it would have with Juventus, but few would begrudge Buffon crowning an extraordinary career with the gong that has narrowly eluded him throughout. He turns 41 in January and, rotating with Alphonse Areola in the No 1 spot, his old powers do not appear to have faded much. There was a certain desperation, though, in the way he raged at referee Michael Oliver when Real Madrid were awarded a last-gasp penalty in Juve’s Champions League quarter-final last April. Buffon’s usual statesmanlike mien disappeared; he was sent off and subsequently accused Oliver of “ruining a dream”. He brought his 17 years with the Bianconeri to an end within weeks but the fact PSG picked him up confirmed just how much of a marvel he continues to be. Nick Ames
61Saúl Ñíguez
His father and brothers played but Saúl is the best of the bunch. The player who urinated blood for a year, wore an internal catheter and told doctors to stop messing about and just take his kidney out, but fought through it. The midfielder who, his manager Diego Simeone says, “can be whatever he wants to be”. A player of touch, vision and physique, a box-to-box athlete and with a habit of scoring superb goals. Spain coach Luis Enrique was asked once if Saúl was like he had been. “Nah,” he said. “And anyway, he’d be a much-improved model.” Sid Lowe
62Marco Asensio
Named after Marco van Basten, blessed of a brilliant shot, speed, and an ability to decide games, as he did against Bayern and PSG in last season’s Champions League, seemingly bound to be among the very best players in the world. Opportunities have not always been easy to come by for Asensio though, and this season, when they have, he appears to have stagnated somewhat. Recently said that it was not up to him to lead at Madrid, that there were other players with that responsibility, and stood accused of lacking ambition. Which, of course, he denied. There is no lack of talent, for sure. Sid Lowe
63Fernandinho
The Brazilian re-enters the chart after dropping to 101st place in 2017. Fernandinho is perhaps the closest Pep Guardiola has to an irreplaceable player, a classic midfield general who can find the clever pass, thwart the opposition, and marshal the side when required. At 33, he remains fit enough for Guardiola’s relentless press-pass-move style and how the Catalan replaces him when age finally catches up will present a sizeable challenge. Fernandinho also provides the “play ugly” factor all great teams require, knowing when and how to let the opposition know that City will not be bullied. Jamie Jackson
64Jordi Alba
Seen from Spain Jordi Alba’s placing at 64, while an improvement on last year’s 89, seems odd. After all, there may genuinely be a case to say that he was the second-best player in La Liga last season, after Leo Messi – the man with whom he combined so spectacularly. He was left out of the Spain squad by new manager Luis Enrique, but that appeared personal rather than professional and even Luis Enrique, one of the most single-minded men around, backed down. Leaving Alba out for Spain was odd too. Sid Lowe
65Jordan Pickford
The highest new entry from the England team that defied expectations to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, where the Everton goalkeeper was instrumental in the nation’s best performance since 1990. Pickford established himself as England’s No 1 following a fine individual campaign at his new club. The 24-year-old was a rare transfer success by Everton’s former director of football Steve Walsh – who secured his arrival for £30m from boyhood club Sunderland – and ended the season with the club’s player of the year award. His form has dipped since the World Cup but he remains England’s best option by far. Andy Hunter
66Keylor Navas
Even while Navas was winning multiple Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, setting clean-sheet records and doing little to suggest he was unfit for service at the game’s pinnacle, there was never any real sense that he was the club’s favoured long-term option. In fairness he spent three straight seasons as their No 1 but, with La Liga action off the table since Thibaut Courtois arrived in August, there are now decisions to make. Navas has just turned 32 and has several good years left; there would be a queue for his signature and his reflexes remain impeccable. Then again he is immensely popular in the dressing room and, if he extended his contract, would presumably be given semi-regular outings in the cup competitions. The question is whether, at this point, he believes he deserves better. Nick Ames
67Joshua Kimmich
This year was the first in Kimmich’s top-level career that saw his stratospheric rise slightly clipped, coloured by Germany’s dreadful showing at the World Cup. Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller might have attracted more criticism than him for their performances in Russia but Kimmich was definitely part of Die Mannschaft’s undisciplined showings. It is not totally his fault, as he has been shifted between right-back and midfield for club and country, reflecting the relative disarray afflicting both Germany and Bayern. His talent is still hard to hold back, and he was Bayern’s leading assist maker in the first half of 2018-19. Andy Brassell
68Bernardo Silva
The Portuguese moves up 16 places after a year in which his form for City has been exhilarating to witness, particularly as he has achieved it while not an automatic selection. The 24-year-old has impressed virtually every time injury or the need for rest have forced David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne into vacating a midfield berth. Silva can also operate in wide areas where, despite the pace and goal threat of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané and the delivery provided by Riyad Mahrez, he provides a formidable alternative. Jamie Jackson
69 Lucas Hernández
Spain called, but so did France and no one can doubt that Lucas Hernández made the right decision. The son of former Atlético player Jean-François Hernández, who he said he had not heard from for 12 or 13 years, he is also the brother of Theo Hernández, who left Atlético for Real. The most successful of the three already, aged just 22, Lucas is a World Cup winner and a central defender who performed admirably at left-back and who Diego Simeone believes will lead the defence for years to come. Sid Lowe
70James Rodríguez
Rodríguez might reflect both on the year that was, and the year that might have been. Had he been fit enough to participate in Colombia’s World Cup last 16 match with England, his team may have progressed and he might have found himself far further up this list. Instead, he was a frustrated spectator – just as he has been too often since Niko Kovac’s arrival at Bayern, firing speculation of a move elsewhere. That’s a pity, because he excelled in the first half of 2018 as both a No 10 and in a midfield three at the heart of Bayern’s Bundesliga title win. Andy Brassell
71Benjamin Pavard
Twelve months ago Pavard had just made his debut for France’s seniors, singing Daniel Balavoine’s Le Chanteur for his inauguration – and changing the “je m’appelle Henri” line to “je m’appelle Benji”. That is the 22-year-old’s success in a nutshell. He adapts, as he did so well when making an unlikely move from Lille to Germany’s second-tier with Stuttgart. A standout at centre-back in the Bundesliga post-promotion, he stepped in to star at the World Cup out of position at right-back, even scoring one of the goals of the tournament against Argentina. Some post-World Cup win blues at Stuttgart can’t hide his quality. Andy Brassell
72Kieran Trippier
A new entry on the list, partly because of his outstanding World Cup performances. He could make a case for having been England’s best player in Russia and sparked bedlam across the country when he put the team in front with a precision free-kick against Croatia in the semi-final. The right-back emerged at the highest level when Spurs sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City in the summer of 2017, seeing off competition from Serge Aurier in the process, and he has continued his progress in 2018. His whipped deliveries are a major attacking weapon. David Hytner
73Ciro Immobile
Since sharing the title of Serie A’s capocannoniere with Mauro Icardi last season, Immobile has already made it to double figures for Lazio again this term. His instinctive movement and opportunistic mindset make him a perfect fit for Simone Inzaghi’s counterattacking schemes, and at time of writing he averages a goal for every 109 minutes of club football played in 2018. He has not found the net for the national team since last September, however, and was dropped for a key Nations League game against Poland in October despite the absence of any natural No 9 to replace him. Paolo Bandini
74Thiago Silva
Time is running down on Thiago’s spell at PSG, with his contract expiring in 2020 and suggestions swirling that he may depart as soon as next summer. He will turn 35 in September but remains a class act – a defender’s defender who pursues the art of not conceding goals to the point of obsession but can play a bit, too. At times he has taken the rap for PSG’s European failures and, in February, he was even dropped by Unai Emery for the Champions League round of 16 first leg against Real Madrid. At some point he will be replaced for good by Presnel Kimpembe, his outstanding sidekick; for now the pair work well together and Silva, a passionate and dynamic leader for club and country, will surely have one more big move left in him when his time in France ends. Nick Ames
75Thomas Meunier
Meunier began his footballing life as a forward and, every now and again, it shows. He appeared on the edge of the six-yard box with the timing of a seasoned poacher to score Belgium’s opening goal in the World Cup third-place play-off against England and perhaps, had he not been suspended, they might have put in a more balanced display during the semi-final with France. An assist for Nacer Chadli’s dramatic winner over Japan had already helped them get that far and these moments are sound proof of where the galloping 27-year-old’s greatest strengths lie. A new entry to this list, he is in his element as a wing-back and has a galaxy of stars to combine with at both club and international levels, although with Dani Alves on the scene he has not always had things his own way at PSG. Nick Ames
76Leonardo Bonucci
After a disastrous season with Milan, Bonucci is back in his Juventus comfort zone. Not that it might have felt all that comfortable to begin this season, with a portion of the team’s fanbase decrying him as a traitor and jeering his every touch at home games. He has begun to win those supporters back over with his performances, however, and especially with a goal that sealed victory over Napoli in September. Defensively there have been missteps, but those look less glaring on a team with the quality to protect him, and Bonucci’s passing range is a huge asset going forward. Paolo Bandini
77Marcos Alonso
A new entry in the Guardian’s list, there was a degree of scepticism when the former Bolton and Sunderland player was restored to the Premier League with Chelsea back in 2016, but Alonso has proved a key player under both Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri. He carries a potent goal threat from left-back or left wing-back, can be vicious from dead-ball situations and, despite lacking explosive pace on the recovery, is improving defensively. It says much for his marked progress in 2018 that he has finally graduated into the senior Spain setup, with clubs back home taking notice of his progress. Dominic Fifield
78Son Heung-min
Low maintenance, high-energy crowd favourite, Son is arguably the biggest football star in Asia. Leaves everything out on the pitch and has become a consistent goal threat, finishing last season with 18 in all competitions for Spurs. This year has been hugely significant for the wide forward on the international stage. He scored twice at the World Cup finals for South Korea, including one as they eliminated Germany at the group phase – although they themselves did not progress – while he led his country to victory at the Asian Games, which earned him an exemption from military service. David Hytner
79Harry Maguire
Perhaps the best reminder of how far Maguire has come is the photo of him and his mates supporting England at Euro 2016. Two years later they were all at the World Cup following England again, only this time Maguire was playing. Not just playing but excelling on the biggest stage, where Maguire’s stellar performances at the heart of the England defence (as well as the size of his head and ability to ride inflatable unicorns) transformed his profile. A new entry on this list, the Yorkshireman signed a five-year contract with Leicester in September after being heavily linked with Manchester United. Stuart James
80Kyle Walker
The 28-year-old’s form this year gives him a strong case to be considered the finest right-back in the world and one of the most complete defenders, given his performances as a centre-back for Gareth Southgate’s three-man England back line. Walker was a revelation in that role as the team reached the semi-finals in Russia. His serious pace means one criticism is that he should perhaps be a more potent creative force and, if he can add that to his armoury, then next year a top 50 place may be within his grasp. Jamie Jackson
81Gabriel Jesus
A drop of 42 places from 2017 shows just how disappointing Jesus’s year has been. The striker did score 13 league goals last season but has just a handful of goals this campaign and he was also goalless at the World Cup despite being Brazil’s centre-forward. Pep Guardiola dropped him for the defeat at Chelsea – a significant move that came despite Sergio Agüero being ruled out with injury. When brought off the bench, Jesus failed to score as City suffered a first league defeat. The 21-year-old has been troubled by injuries of his own – a knee problem ruled him outfrom January to late February – and he has not recaptured his finest form since. Two goals against Everton in mid-December, however, showed that he may be about to recapture his best form. Jamie Jackson
82James Milner
The « Boring Milner » image is not the only thing Liverpool’s seasoned midfielder has made a complete mockery of. At 32, and with competition increasing at the heart of a team with Premier League title ambitions, it would be understandable for Milner’s influence to be on the wane. The opposite has occurred in Jürgen Klopp’s midfield. Milner ended last season having provided the most assists in a single Champions League campaign – nine, bettering returns from players such as Neymar, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta – yet both his form and importance have risen during Liverpool’s commanding start to the current league campaign. Andy Hunter
83Gerard Piqué
The man who reinvented the Davis Cup, taking on the tennis world; whose production company produced Antoine Griezmann’s documentary, The Decision, in which he announced live that he was not joining Barcelona after all; who lectures in the US, has connections with Silicon Valley and aspires to be a leader of business and president of FC Barcelona; who stood up to defend the Catalans’ right to decide on independence and who was attacked for it; a favourite target for much of the media, is also a very good defender. A much better one than many seem to think. He drops 25 places on our list. Sid Lowe
84Memphis Depay
After losing his way at Manchester United, the Dutchman has rediscovered his form at Lyon and enters the top 100 for the first time since 2015 as an inspirational presence for club and country. He was perhaps the best player in Ligue 1 in the second half of last season, finishing the campaign with 19 goals, 12 assists and countless thrilling runs. His spectacular performances also contributed to the revival of the Netherlands, whom he helped to Nations League success by scoring in the victories over Germany and France. “Football pitch you like a zoo, only lions is what I know,” he explained in a special rap he released in November to celebrate reaching five million Instagram followers. Because that’s how the self-styled “young king living lavish” rolls. Paul Doyle
85Ante Rebic
Rebic is one of the most confusing players at the top level of European football, which explains why this is his first appearance in the 100 at the age of 25. Failing to make the grade at Hajduk Split as a youngster or at Fiorentina as a senior, he showed his talent in the Bundesliga last season, capping it off with a brace in Eintracht Frankfurt’s shock DfB Pokal final win over Bayern. He was incandescent at the World Cup, scoring the vital opener against Argentina en route to the final, and continues to flourish with an attack-minded Eintracht this season. Andy Brassell
86John Stones
The centre-back has grown into his role as the de facto deepest-lying midfielder in Pep Guardiola’s side, with the manager an admirer of his bravery on the ball and willingness to create despite the mistakes that can still bedevil his game. Stones has finally become the first-choice he was signed to be in 2016: Guardiola recently stated that he and Aymeric Laporte are his preferred pairing when on form, as Vincent Kompany’s City career winds down. The 24-year-old was also in England’s World Cup XI, scoring twice against Panama in the 6-1 group stage win. Jamie Jackson
87Denis Cheryshev
Few expected Russia to provide one of the World Cup’s on-field success stories, and among the more optimistic souls you would have struggled to find anyone tipping Cheryshev as the man to light their way to the last eight. The winger’s club career has been patchy and there was a sense of promise unfulfilled until, during the first half of the opening game against Saudi Arabia, he replaced the injured Alan Dzagoev. He proceeded to score two fine goals and forced his way into the starting XI, proving a tricky, fleet-footed menace throughout Russia’s run and thundering in a long-range opener against Croatia during their quarter-final. Cheryshev had returned to the national squad only in March after a two-year absence; he has not exactly sparkled since returning to Valencia on loan in August but that simply goes to emphasise how deliciously unexpected his magical summer was. Nick Ames
88Diego Costa
Costa’s warrior gifts helped set the tone for Diego Simeone’s early successes at Atlético Madrid and, to that end, he remains true to his old self. He has been ruled out until February after playing through a foot problem, and although he has never been one to give up lightly it might help him rediscover his cutting edge. While two goals in Spain’s World Cup draw with Portugalwere a reminder of his rampaging best, his tally for Atlético has fallen short of his old standards. True, he has not lost his sense of occasion – a decisive Europa League strike against Arsenal, two in the Uefa Super Cup against Real Madrid and an opener against Barcelona in November are proof of that – but there is a nagging sense injuries are finally taking their toll.Nick Ames
89Matthijs de Ligt
Another one to emerge from Ajax’s flourishing academy, the 19-year-old defender is noted for his elegance on the ball and ability to read the game. He has made rapid development this year, forming an encouraging partnership with Virgil van Dijk for the Netherlands after recovering from a dodgy international debut to dislodge Internazionale’s Stefan de Vrij, and enhanced his reputation when he kept Robert Lewandowski quiet in Ajax’s 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in October. No wonder some of Europe’s biggest clubs are casting covetous glances at a player described as the new Jaap Stam. Jacob Steinberg
90Gonzalo Higuaín
Not the best of years for the Argentina striker, who has always had his detractors. He falls 56 places on our list after a year in which he was part of Argentina’s disappointing World Cup campaign and was turfed out of Juventus – on loan to Milan – to make way for a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He has not done badly at Milan, between injuries and suspensions and had, by mid-December, five goals in 11 Serie A games and two in five Europa League matches. But the goals came quite early in the season and the sense is that time is slowly running out for a player who has been an outstanding goalscorer but never the quickest. Marcus Christenson
91Willian
Willian, of all Chelsea’s players, was most thankful for Antonio Conte’s departure over the summer. His relationship with the Italian fractured beyond repair last term, as he made clear on Instagram after the FA Cup final. His form has picked up markedly under Maurizio Sarri, who has leaned on the Brazil international through his tenure to date, forcing the 30-year-old back on to the list. Willian, a regular for his country, offers pace and incision, even if his delivery can be erratic at times, and snapped immediately on to Jorginho’s wavelength as Sarri’s reign began with an 18-match unbeaten run. Dominic Fifield
92Frenkie de Jong
Some say the 21-year-old is the new Johan Cruyff, though there have also been comparisons with Franz Beckenbauer, Ruud Gullit, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Frank Rijkaard. The hype around the midfielder is extraordinary and it seems inevitable that he will leave Ajax in the summer; Barcelona and Manchester City are interested. Yet De Jong, who has helped Ajax reach the last 16 of the Champions League and the Netherlands qualify for the Nations League finals, is relaxed. “I don’t want to compare myself to any big player,” he says. “When people do that, it’s difficult to meet expectations.” Jacob Steinberg
93Lucas Torreira
A whirlwind year for the little Uruguayan. He evolved from a much-loved centrepiece at Sampdoria in Serie A, via a stellar series of performances that turned him into a starter for his country during the World Cup, to a hugely influential cult figure at Arsenal. He transmits all the energy and intensity that Unai Emery wants from the heart of midfield, with his instinctive movement to disrupt the opposition and his quick thinking for a fast forward pass. In only a few games he became essential for Arsenal and Uruguay. Expect this new entry to fly up the list in 2019. Amy Lawrence
94Gonzalo Martínez
Martínez’s name was written fast into history when, as the seconds ticked down in the Copa Libertadores final they thought would never end, he ran the length of the pitch and guaranteed River Plate a victory that, for better or worse, will never be forgotten. As sign-offs go it will be hard to top: he will join MLS champions Atlanta United in January and the North American league has a gem on its hands. He has become River’s whirring, often explosive creative force over the past three years, the goals and assists flowing freely, and his performances earned a senior international debut against Guatemala in September. Martínez – known by his nickname “Pity” – scored in that game and the European clubs who ignored him may start to feel differently if the trend continues. Nick Ames
95Nabil Fékir
The former Lyon goalkeeper Grégory Coupet summed up Fékir’s technical ingenuity – and explained why certain aspects of his play have been compared to Lionel Messi – when he said: “You often have to see slow-motion replays to understand what he did because in real time it happens so fast you’re wondering where the ball is before it lands in the net.” A player of rare vision and skill, he consistently created and scored goals for Lyon throughout this year, despite an aborted transfer to Liverpool, and spent the summer helping France to World Cup glory.Paul Doyle
96Axel Witsel
Some will express shock that Witsel is only 29, having been out of the European loop for a while. The midfielder left for Tianjin Quanjian in January 2017 but had been at Zenit before that since late summer 2012, with only fleeting glances of him for a global audience. So the fact that a player who many categorised as having been on a well-paid holiday has emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s most influential, bossing high-flying Borussia Dortmund’s midfield, is a surprise. With fewer miles on the clock than many of his peers, he could continue to dominate in years to come. Andy Brassell
97Olivier Giroud
Retreat a year and Giroud’s career appeared to be fizzling out. He was a fading force at Arsenal, reduced to Premier League cameos or Europa League outings under Arsène Wenger. Chelsea did well to prise him away mid-season, and he duly offered Antonio Conte’s team a different dimension in attack. His appearance in the list reflects the part he played with France at the World Cup where, despite being scoreless, Giroud played in every fixture and was “instrumental”, according to Didier Deschamps, in the team’s eye-catching success. An unsung hero who still seems a better bet than Álvaro Morata up front for his club. Dominic Fifield
98Hirving Lozano
There was some surprise that Lozano returned to PSV this season. His World Cup performance, which included a winning goal and blistering all-round display against Germany, confirmed what most people expected: that he has the potential to be lethal at the highest level. But Lozano – nicknamed “Chucky” after the doll in the Child’s Play horror movies – was in no rush to leave the Eredivisie champions and it is safe to say his time will come soon enough. He continues to set the domestic league ablaze and showed his capability in the Champions League with a goal against Tottenham. Most of his goals for PSV – where he averages almost one every game and a half – have come via devastating incisions from out wide. Lozano plays with an urgency that would turbocharge most front lines, and Europe’s big guns certainly know it now. Nick Ames
99Mesut Özil
What a complicated year for this enigmatic playmaker. At times Özil has graced games with his subtle finesse, at others he has been peripheral, dropped or mysteriously ill. Having outlined his anger at being scapegoated by Germany for their collectively dismal World Cup, he seemed happy to focus on club football. He is still so gifted on his day, but with Arsenal under new management the question of how he best fits in remains an open one. Unai Emery’s high-intensity work ethic does not naturally seem to be Özil’s thing and it remains to see how this one works out over the longer term. Amy Lawrence
100José María Giménez
Not playing in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid in Milan left him wondering about his future at Atlético, but José Maria Giménez said he saw something of Uruguay in his club – and not just the man standing next to him in the heart of the defence as he became a regular. Winner of the Europa League, a fast, aggressive central defender, he signed a new contract in the summer. He scored an 89th-minute winner as Uruguay got off to a winning start against Egypt in the World Cup and contributed towards his country reaching the quarter-finals. A new entry at 100 on this list. Sid Lowe
1
Luka Modric
Real Madrid
2
Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus
3
Lionel Messi
Barcelona
4
Kylian Mbappé
Paris St-Germain
5
Mohamed Salah
Liverpool
6
Antoine Griezmann
Atlético Madrid
7
Eden Hazard
Chelsea
8
Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City
9
Harry Kane
Tottenham Hotspur
10
N’Golo Kanté
Chelsea
11
Neymar
Paris St-Germain
12
Raphaël Varane
Real Madrid
13
Ivan Rakitic
Barcelona
14
Luis Suárez
Barcelona
15
Sergio Agüero
Manchester City
16
Paul Pogba
Manchester United
17
Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid
18
Marcelo
Real Madrid
19
Sadio Mané
Liverpool
20
David Silva
Manchester City
21
Edinson Cavani
Paris St-Germain
22
Toni Kroos
Real Madrid
23
Roberto Firmino
Liverpool
24
Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool
25
Philippe Coutinho
Barcelona
26
Paulo Dybala
Juventus
27
Jan Oblak
Atlético Madrid
28
Isco
Real Madrid
29
Ivan Perisic
Internazionale
30
Robert Lewandowski
Bayern Munich
31
Raheem Sterling
Manchester City
32
Mauro Icardi
Internazionale
33
Mario Mandzukic
Juventus
34
Diego Godín
Atlético Madrid
35
Samuel Umtiti
Barcelona
36
Christian Eriksen
Tottenham Hotspur
37
Thibaut Courtois
Real Madrid
38
Gareth Bale
Real Madrid
39
David De Gea
Manchester United
40
Hugo Lloris
Tottenham Hotspur
41
Romelu Lukaku
Manchester United
42
Casemiro
Real Madrid
43
Alisson
Liverpool
44
Marc-André ter Stegen
Barcelona
45
Dele Alli
Tottenham Hotspur
46
Dries Mertens
Napoli
47
Marco Reus
Borussia Dortmund
48
Karim Benzema
Real Madrid
49
Giorgio Chiellini
Juventus
50
Sergio Busquets
Barcelona
51
Miralem Pjanic
Juventus
52
Jorginho
Chelsea
53
Blaise Matuidi
Juventus
54
Edin Dzeko
Roma
55
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal
56
Kalidou Koulibaly
Napoli
57
Leroy Sané
Manchester City
58
Lorenzo Insigne
Napoli
59
Ederson
Manchester City
60
Gianluigi Buffon
Paris St-Germain
61
Saúl Ñíguez
Atlético Madrid
62
Marco Asensio
Real Madrid
63
Fernandinho
Manchester City
64
Jordi Alba
Barcelona
65
Jordan Pickford
Everton
66
Keylor Navas
Real Madrid
67
Joshua Kimmich
Bayern Munich
68
Bernardo Silva
Manchester City
69
 Lucas Hernández
Atlético Madrid
70
James Rodríguez
Bayern Munich
71
Benjamin Pavard
Stuttgart
72
Kieran Trippier
Tottenham Hotspur
73
Ciro Immobile
Lazio
74
Thiago Silva
Paris St-Germain
75
Thomas Meunier
Paris St-Germain
76
Leonardo Bonucci
Juventus
77
Marcos Alonso
Chelsea
78
Son Heung-min
Tottenham Hotspur
79
Harry Maguire
Leicester City
80
Kyle Walker
Manchester City
81
Gabriel Jesus
Manchester City
82
James Milner
Liverpool
83
Gerard Piqué
Barcelona
84
Memphis Depay
Lyon
85
Ante Rebic
Eintracht Frankfurt
86
John Stones
Manchester City
87
Denis Cheryshev
Valencia
88
Diego Costa
Atlético Madrid
89
Matthijs de Ligt
Ajax
90
Gonzalo Higuaín
Milan
91
Willian
Chelsea
92
Frenkie de Jong
Ajax
93
Lucas Torreira
Arsenal
94
Gonzalo Martínez
River Plate
95
Nabil Fékir
Lyon
96
Axel Witsel
Borussia Dortmund
97
Olivier Giroud
Chelsea
98
Hirving Lozano
PSV Eindhoven
99
Mesut Özil
Arsenal
100
José María Giménez
Atlético Madrid