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|Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:35pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich & Germany
In the words of Germany and Bayern great Lothar Matthaus, Neuer has "reshaped" goalkeeping.
"I would say he's almost reinvented it," Matthaus said in January 2015, suggesting Neuer deserved to win the Ballon d'Or for his performances during Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph.
At Barcelona, Pep Guardiola had Victor Valdes, whose ease in possession of a football made him an ideal sweeper-keeper. In Munich, he found Neuer, with yet superior ball skills who might make him a more-than-passable outfield player. In the 2013-14 season, there were only 10 Bundesliga players who passed the ball more accurately than the former Schalke man.
That alone would not be enough to confirm Neuer's primacy among his contemporaries: his fast-twitch reflexes, command of his box during set pieces and consummate defensive organisation set him a cut above.
2). David De Gea, Manchester United
In Manchester United's fall from grace over the past three seasons, only one player has been able to maintain the high standards of the Sir Alex Ferguson years. "Dave saves," a Stretford End banner reads. And without De Gea, United's decline would surely have been sharper.
United's decent defensive record in the two seasons of Louis van Gaal's stewardship was rightly credited to the Spaniard, whose collection of three consecutive United player of the year awards is the fans' testament to the debt his excellence is owed.
The string-bean frame with which he arrived at Old Trafford in 2011 has filled out, and the previously quiet De Gea has become a leader. In one-on-one situations, there is perhaps nobody better. Ferguson's decision, on the advice of then-goalkeeping coach Eric Steele, to sign De Gea rather than Neuer, then on offer from Schalke, has rarely been regretted.
3). Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus
"We wanted to be like him."
What Iker Casillas -- a three-time Champions League winner, twice European champion and a World Cup winner -- said of Buffon reflects the longevity and legacy of Italy's captain. Buffon will be 39 in January, with two decades of near-unbroken excellence behind him. Juventus' payment of £33 million to Parma in 2001 was a world record for a goalkeeper, and remains so, but has become a bargain.
Keeping five clean sheets to win the 2006 World Cup may be the height of his career, yet nostalgia for the Buffon of old rarely sustains. After some recent criticism, he silenced doubters by performing heroics in Juventus' 1-0 win at Lyon in October, making an elastic save from Nabil Fekir and stopping an Alexandre Lacazette penalty.
"This is what I live for, to make people eat their words," Buffon said afterwards.
4). Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid
No European club has enjoyed such a rich lineage of goalkeepers as Atletico Madrid over the past few years. De Gea left in 2011, to be replaced by Thibaut Courtois' three-year loan from Chelsea until 2014. Then in came Oblak from Benfica for €16m, making him La Liga's most expensive keeper ever.
The 6-foot-3 Slovenian is capable of saves just as spectacular as De Gea and is far better with the ball at his feet than Courtois.
The 2015-16 Liga season saw him beaten just 18 times, equaling the all-time record set by Deportivo La Coruna's Paco Liano in 1993-94. Atleti coach Diego Simeone, having been previously blessed with that exemplary pair, signposted an "enormous future" for Oblak as he starred in a team that reached the 2016 Champions League final before losing to Real Madrid on penalties.
5). Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea
Chelsea have not yet seen the best of Courtois, as compared to the brilliance of his three years on loan at Atletico Madrid. The Belgian has occasionally indicated he may not be in London for the long-term, having enjoyed his life and the football far more in Spain.
"I don't think I will end my career there," he said during Euro 2016, and this season at Stamford Bridge looked make or break.
Some Chelsea supporters yearned for Petr Cech, who was allowed to leave for Arsenal in the summer of 2015, especially when Courtois struggled during the Blues' pitiful defence of their 2014-15 title. However, the arrival of Antonio Conte looks to have revived Courtois' confidence and courage. Should he wish to leave London, a huge fee will be required from any potential suitors.
6). Hugo Lloris, Tottenham
Spurs legend Teddy Sheringham recently picked Hugo Lloris as the club's greatest goalkeeper -- a high accolade considering the likes of Ray Clemence and Pat Jennings once graced White Hart Lane.
The Frenchman, captain of both club and country, is a most modern exponent of his craft. At 6-foot-2, he has the slim build of a rangy central midfielder rather than the archetypal English football goalkeeper. His ball skills suggest he would be comfortable in an outfield position; he will almost always try to play the ball out from the back.
Brave almost to a fault when coming for crosses or when at the feet of opposing strikers, he leads his teams by example and moves almost as much as the rest of the players in Mauricio Pochettino's all-action pressing game.
"I can say only good things for him," Pochettino said after Lloris had kept Bayer Leverkusen's forwards at bay to secure a 0-0 draw in Germany last month.
7). Keylor Navas, Real Madrid
Had Real Madrid sent their documents on time on Aug. 31, 2015, the Costa Rica international would have been a Manchester United player, with De Gea back in his home city. It was an administrative error that ended up working out for all parties concerned.
Reserve goalkeeper turned cult hero of the Bernabeu and Champions League winner at the end of that 2015-16 season, Navas is not a sweeper-keeper or a supreme defensive organiser. He is instead a shot-stopper in the finest Latin American style: agile, aware and expert in psyching out opponents in a one-on-one situation.
"He's a hell of a keeper," an approving Cristiano Ronaldo said in March.
. Petr Cech, Arsenal
Losing Cech to Arsene Wenger and Arsenal darkened Jose Mourinho's mood even more than usual, as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich allowed the 11-year veteran to head to a destination of his own choosing in the summer of 2015.
Chelsea had Courtois, whose return from loan at Atletico Madrid had forced Cech to the bench, but the Belgian has so far failed to replicate the consistent security the Czech international supplied for so long. Courtois has some way to travel if he is to come close to Cech's all-time Premier League record of 182 clean sheets.
Cech leaves the spectacular stuff to the others; positioning has always been the key aspect to his game. "He will save them 12 to 15 points a season," Chelsea captain John Terry predicted as Cech's defection neared completion. Arsenal are certainly far more solid with him around.
9). Claudio Bravo, Manchester City
English football is yet to see the best of Bravo. The Chilean has been the focal point of a philosophical debate over whether a goalkeeper's role is to play as part of the team -- as City manager Pep Guardiola prescribes -- or as a shot-stopper, cross-catcher first and foremost.
An error-strewn Manchester derby debut on Sept. 10 did not aid his reputation. Guardiola, though, described Bravo's as "one of the best performances I have ever seen," and also defended him after being sent off against Barca in the Camp Nou during City's 4-0 defeat on Oct. 19.
During eight years at Real Sociedad from 2006 to 2014, he was recognised as one of Spanish football's best -- a status he retained when winning two La Liga titles with Barcelona. On the international stage, he captained Chile to Copa America glory in 2015 and 2016. For these reasons his manager holds such faith.
10). Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona
When Guardiola wanted a new Manchester City goalkeeper, ter Stegen was his initial target, the player perhaps closest to Neuer.
Ter Stegen is less physically imposing, but shares his compatriot's sweeper-keeper aptitude. Germany legend Oliver Kahn, from a more traditional school of goalkeeping, is a confirmed fan.
"Everything he does, he does with such calmness," Kahn said in 2013, when Barcelona were making their move for ter Stegen, then at Borussia Monchengladbach. Kahn also defended him when, typically high up the pitch, he was beaten from 50 yards by Roma's Alessandro Florenzi in September 2015.
"If I were his coach, I would turn the page and tell him to continue on the same path and not to abandon his style," Kahn said.
Bravo's departure to City hands ter Stegen, previously only involved in cup matches and the Champions League, full-time duties as Barcelona goalkeeper.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:39pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich
Bayern captain Lahm is 33 now, but it will still take someone special to usurp him as the world's best player in his position. Lahm remains an extraordinary footballer, one who looked as comfortable in midfield under Pep Guardiola and at left-back for his national team as he still does on the right. He won 113 caps for Germany and lifted the World Cup and, overall, has spent 10-plus years at the highest level.
There may never have been a more talented all-round full-back, and there is more to come: "I'm convinced that he can play until he's 39," Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti said in August. Publicly, Lahm is leaning toward retirement in 2018 and recently said he could even quit the game next summer, but don't bet against him playing on.
2). Hector Bellerin, Arsenal
When Barcelona and Manchester City are the two clubs said to be soliciting your services, something is going right. Little has gone wrong for Bellerin, arguably the most exciting full-back Arsenal's academy has produced -- with a touch of help from those at Barca's La Masia, since he broke into the side two years ago.
Electrifying going forward, Bellerin actually started his career as a winger but has been quick to learn his defensive responsibilities since dropping into the right-back role, rapidly becoming the best in his position in the Premier League.
Rest easy, Gunners fans; he has no plans to follow the example of Cesc Fabregas, who beat a similar path from Barcelona to the Emirates Stadium and back again. "If I wanted to play there, I would have stayed there," he says of the club he left at 16. Bellerin has stated he would love a race with Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt to test his exceptional pace to the full.
3). Juanfran, Atletico Madrid
Rugged, insistent and with more than a touch of genuine class, Juanfran is every inch an Atletico Madrid player in the mould demanded -- indeed, created -- by coach Diego Simeone. Juanfran turns 32 in January but seems to get better with age, and he has defied the trauma of a decisive missed penalty in last season's Champions League final shootout to return with his usual level of performance this season.
His father was a club member at Real Madrid, the team responsible for that painful night in May; his wider family also supports Atletico's bitter rivals, but there is no questioning his own commitment. A strong runner, an economical user of the ball, and a dogged defender, Juanfran exemplifies the remarkable consistency shown by Atleti in recent seasons.
4). Dani Alves, Juventus
At his best, Alves could run a game from right-back; he is a force of nature who would turn up all over the pitch but still, somehow, be trusted to keep things quiet in defence. That is not quite how he operates these days, but he remains one of the cleverest defenders around, recently playing as a third centre-back for Juventus and bringing the ball out with his usual distinction.
If the Brazilian is a slightly more restrained figure now, his contribution in Spain for Sevilla and Barcelona was routinely thrilling. He made 100 assists in La Liga and appeared more times in the division than any other foreigner, defining the position in a way perhaps only Cafu has come close to achieving. Now 33, Alves chose to join Juventus last summer in an effort to escape his "comfort zone" at the Camp Nou; there is little danger of him failing his latest challenge.
5). Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid
It sometimes seems that Carvajal flies beneath the radar. Many Real Madrid youth products do -- such is the rarity of progression to regular football in the club's first team -- but the 24-year-old is an outstanding talent and has improved each year since Madrid exercised a buy-back clause to retrieve him from Bayer Leverkusen in 2013.
Carvajal gives Madrid attacking impetus down his flank and is capable of lighting an occasion up on his own: witness this season's European Super Cup against Sevilla, in which he scored a brilliant last-minute solo winner. Carvajal has considerable competition for a place in Spain's squad, but has time on his side to make his argument even more persuasive.
6). Lukasz Piszczek, Borussia Dortmund
When you think of Piszczek, perhaps you think first of his role in Jurgen Klopp's dazzling, dynamic Borussia Dortmund side earlier this decade. The 31-year-old has fizzed up and down the Bundesliga club's right flank for years and has adapted well to the more possession-based demands of Thomas Tuchel, too. Piszczek is equally important to Poland, for whom he reprises his former club partnership with Jakub Blaszczykowski.
The tidiest of operators on and off the ball -- one goal-saving tackle in the recent Ruhr derby with Schalke was positively Bobby Moore-like -- Piszczek started as an attacking midfielder during six years with Hertha Berlin. Now, though, he wreaks havoc with his incursions from deep.
7). Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juventus
Lichtsteiner's gifts are admirable enough before you consider what he endured just over a year ago. Last September, the Juventus player was stricken by breathing difficulties during a Serie A match against Frosinone and had to be replaced. It turned out Lichtsteiner had cardiac arrhythmia, which needed correction with heart surgery. The procedure went well enough for him to be back in training by the start of November; on his comeback two days later, the Swiss international volleyed in a superb Champions League goal for his side against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The moment summed up his qualities well: Lichtsteiner, now 32, is still a formidable athlete renowned for his runs up the right flank and his willingness to contribute in attack. He has even got better and better with age.
. Nathaniel Clyne, Liverpool
Observers tend to be split over the comparative merits of Clyne and Kyle Walker as far as the England right-back berth is concerned. If this list is anything to go by, Clyne gets the nod. There could be few more perfect full-backs for the demands of modern-day football, and the 25-year-old has become crucial to a Liverpool side that have played some thrilling football en route to topping the Premier League. He may even be the first name on Klopp's team sheet.
There is no more creative right-back in the Premier League; his elegance and speed on the ball feeds slickly into Liverpool's attack. It was not always smooth going, though: Clyne grew up in a troubled area of south London, and while football was a vital diversion, he was rejected by Arsenal at the age of 10 for being too small.
9). Kyle Walker, Tottenham
Walker got the nod over Clyne for the majority of England's ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign, starting three of four games. There is little to choose between the two, and Walker, just 26 but now in his eighth season with Tottenham, certainly has similar gifts.
Strongest when on the front foot and when supporting attacks, he may get more chances to shine in the opposition half if Mauricio Pochettino persists with the 3-4-3 formation he fielded at Arsenal recently, a move the manager said was in part designed to use the offensive skills of Walker and left-back Danny Rose. Walker has faced some injury problems; he missed the 2014 World Cup with a pelvic injury that kept him out for nine months. Before that, he was considered liable to make errors; since, he has been in the form of his life.
10). Darijo Srna, Shakhtar Donetsk
The best European right-back not to have played in a major league? The case is compelling. Some believed Srna, who turned 34 in May, was slowing at Shakhtar Donetsk last season, but he proved to be an unstinting presence up and down the right wing for Croatia at Euro 2016. Those performances were made all the more remarkable by the fact that his father, Uzeir, died shortly after the opening match against Turkey; Srna returned straight home to mourn but was back in Croatia's side five days later, captaining them in the 2-2 draw with Czech Republic.
In September he was linked with a move to Barcelona. Srna would have graced any club on the continent, but Shakhtar, where he has spent 13 years since leaving Hajduk Split, is his spiritual home.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:43pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Gerard Pique, Barcelona
Perhaps, when Pique's career is over, those who appear to be hounding him out of international football will realise what they missed. The Barcelona defender has said he will retire from Spain duty after the 2018 World Cup, partly on account of the criticism he has received for his views on Catalan independence, though Pique may still be in his prime then.
Now 29, he is the perfect modern defender, a blend of brain and brawn with the passing range demanded of a Barcelona player and a happy knack of scoring important goals. He is adored at the Camp Nou, where he has won 19 major honours, but also earned approval from fans of former club Manchester United when he said his affection for the club would prevent him from joining rivals City.
2). Jerome Boateng, Bayern Munich
It takes something for a defender to be named footballer of the year when your league's stars include Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but that's exactly what happened in Germany last season when their media voted Boateng the Bundesliga's best by a landslide margin. The 28-year-old made only 19 top-flight appearances last season because of injury and has had his issues this term too, but he is an extraordinary competitor when fit.
Boateng's speed, strength and athleticism are unrivalled and would probably go down well these days under his former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, where he spent a single unsuccessful season in 2010-11.
3). Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid
It is easy to see why Manchester United have been linked with a £30 million move for Godin next summer. He is straight from the Uruguayan mould of uncompromising, unyielding centre-backs. His style is that of a defender from another time, perfectly competent on the ball but standing out through leadership and sheer guts. Those commodities are thin on the ground in the modern game, which explains why the 30-year-old is so highly prized.
The development of Atletico's watertight defence has owed a huge amount to their lynchpin and while he would improve any leading side, he possesses qualities that money simply cannot buy.
4). Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus
One of a fearsome trio of Juventus defenders alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, Bonucci has shot to prominence since joining from Bari in 2010. More of a ball-playing presence than his two colleagues, he was subject of the highest praise when Pep Guardiola called him "one of my favourite ever players" last season.
He would fit in perfectly at Manchester City and also at troubled Inter Milan, who may still be kicking themselves for selling him to Treviso after only four appearances eight years ago. Bonucci's career has gone in only one direction since then.
5). Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid
Ramos has a habit of upsetting people but he probably wouldn't have it any other way. No Real Madrid player in history has more than his tally of 21 red cards for the club and although he can be a niggly presence, someone whose gamesmanship and gesticulations are designed to wind opponents up, there is no doubting that he is a winner.
Ramos, 30, was primarily a right-back in his youth but in recent years his partnership with Pepe has been one of the world's best; together they make the ultimate bad boy defensive duo. Few would fancy their chances against them.
6). Mats Hummels, Bayern Munich
He's not exactly popular at Borussia Dortmund these days, having left to join Bayern in the summer in the latest big-name move between the two sides, but Hummels has only ever charmed the fans of clubs for which he plays. In fairness, Bayern was his first club and Carlo Ancelotti has been quick to buy stock in a player whose elegant, authoritative style sets him apart.
His debut for Bayern came against -- naturally -- Dortmund in the German Super Cup at his former home but he did not let his old supporters' taunts get to him, producing the kind of unflustered and intelligent performance that has long been his hallmark.
7). Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
If there were university degrees for defending, Chiellini would have his doctorate. Across more than a decade with Juventus he has proved to be a centre-back in the finest Italian tradition, putting head and body on the line for his team and covering a tremendous amount of ground foraging for the ball high up-field.
Chiellini scored against Spain in Italy's Euro 2016 campaign and has always been a threatening presence inside the opposition box, although perhaps his most famous involvement in another team's area is the skirmish with Luis Suarez in Brazil that led to the Uruguayan's third "biting" controversy.
. Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain
Had Thiago Silva not obstructed Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina in Brazil's 2014 World Cup quarterfinal, the walls might not have caved in against Germany in the following round. It was a minor, petty offence but Silva was booked and suspended for the semifinal tie and the rest is history.
There is scant chance Brazil would have lost 7-1 with their captain to pull them together; PSG can point to his influence, too. He has won four Ligue 1 titles since becoming their defensive rock four years ago; not bad for a player who came close to retiring at the age of 20 when he contracted tuberculosis during his time at Porto.
9). Pepe, Real Madrid
Villains in football don't come much bigger than Pepe. The problem is that if you are booing and hissing him, he almost certainly has your team where he wants them. Pepe was actually on something approaching his best behaviour at Euro 2016 and was the most consistent performer in Portugal's momentous success.
His man-of-the-match showing against France in the final was one of the best -- and perhaps the most important -- in a career that has seen the Real Madrid defender build a reputation as a high-level master of the dark arts. In France, though, the extraneous stuff was put firmly on the backburner and the world was reminded that there are few who can marshall a back line quite like him.
10). Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal
You wonder what the cost to Arsenal would have been had Arsene Wenger not signed the relatively unheralded defender after a sole Ligue 1 season with Lorient back in 2010. Koscielny has been the on-pitch constant in a six-year period fraught with ups and downs for the Gunners, and it is a mark of how quickly time passes that he has reached the age of 31 without quite getting the recognition he deserves.
Although not a commanding figure at first glance, Koscielny has the all-round athleticism and anticipation to make amends and shows little sign of letting up. In Shkodran Mustafi he appears to have found the central-defensive partner who best complements his strengths. This season may be his best chance yet of winning the Premier League medal that his application deserves.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:46pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). David Alaba, Bayern Munich
The 24-year-old Austrian is arguably the archetypal modern player. Technically smooth on the ball and equally comfortable almost anywhere on the pitch, this season alone the Bayern Munich star has played in four different positions for club and country: left-back, defensive midfield, attacking midfield and forward.
It sums up his adaptability that has provided the second-highest number of assists for Bayern this season behind Franck Ribery, with five -- four of which came from left-back. When Bayern won the Bundesliga title in April, Alaba became the youngest player in league history to be involved in 100 wins -- though he was unable to help his country out of the group stage at Euro 2016.
2). Jordi Alba, Barcelona
Over the past few years, Barcelona have undergone an evolution in style, and now favour sudden breaks and explosions in play as much as intricate passing moves. That greatly suits Alba, whose pace has become a key asset for one of the finest sides in the world. His ability to burst up the pitch gives Barca another dimension, and offers their stellar attackers space to roam.
It is no surprise, then, that he provided more assists than any other defender in La Liga last season. That willingness to get forward can come at a cost, however, as Alba can be prone to the occasional lapse in defence, but his overall contribution means it is well worth the risk. The Spaniard makes his team fast -- something close to indispensable in the modern game.
3). Marcelo, Real Madrid
With all of the supreme talent in the Real Madrid side, it can be easy to overlook a full-back, but Marcelo's teammates don't. Indeed, they see him as one of the most technically gifted players at the club, marvelling at his ball-juggling skills.
Having made his international debut at 18, the Brazilian has become one of the world's finest full-backs in the decade since. He provided more assists than any other defender in La Liga in 2014-15, but has also added a defensive composure to his game that was missing when he first arrived at the Bernabeu. He was one of the key figures in Madrid's 11th Champions League triumph last season, and scored one of the penalties in the shootout win over Atletico Madrid.
4). Raphael Guerreiro, Borussia Dortmund
The 22-year-old announced himself as a top talent at Euro 2016 and was named in the competition's team of the tournament after starring for Portugal at left-back. But he is more than just a full-back.
Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel immediately said upon signing him from Lorient in the summer: "He is far too good to be restricted to one position." We have also seen Guerreiro's abilities in central midfield, and he has scored two goals and provided three assists from that role. From a player who showed supreme solidity for Portugal, his attacking instincts have improved and his set-piece ability is also something to keep an eye on.
5). Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea
In a world where full-backs are almost used more as attackers than defenders, and are prized for their forward play over what they can do at the back, Azpilicueta is the ultimate throwback. The Chelsea man stays deep, protecting his goal, and doesn't get up the pitch all that much, as indicated by a career return of just three goals.
The 27-year-old is very tough to get past, strong in the tackle and solid in almost everything he does at the back. His consistency also sets him apart and he has become a regular in the Spain squad, while he already looks to be one of Antonio Conte's fixtures in a three-man defence. Whether it's in either full-back slot or in the middle, Azpilicueta is a proper old-fashioned defender. Maybe the best of that type in the world.
6). Patrice Evra, Juventus
There was once a time when Evra was out on his own as the best left-back in the world, but even if the 35-year-old is no longer the relentless runner he was between 2006 and 2011, it shows just how good he is that he is still in the conversation.
And how could he not be? He is an influential senior player in two of the finest teams in the world. Evra has given Juventus -- a team that reached the Champions League final in his first season at the club in 2014-15 -- a dynamism from left-back, while also offering Euro 2016 finalists France a dependability and presence in the dressing room. His reading of the game is excellent, and it is a credit to him that he makes the list well above some of his younger peers.
7). Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg
The 24-year-old has been linked with the biggest clubs in the world for two years now, though they have so far baulked at the €25m that Wolfsburg have demanded. It is surely only a matter of time before the Swiss international gets a big move because, as he becomes more mature, he will show how can live up to that kind of fee.
Rodriguez is close to being the perfect modern full-back: solid in defence, but also effective going forward. He was one of the most productive defenders in the Bundesliga over 2013-14 and 2014-15, hitting five goals and providing nine assists in the former, and six goals and five assists in the latter.
. Lucas Digne, Barcelona
Currently Jordi Alba's understudy at Barcelona but, at 23, the France international will take on a more prominent role over the next few years. Digne is similar to Alba in the way he surges forward. And although his pace is not quite as penetrating as the Spanish international, he does have a tenacity in the tackle.
On loan at Roma last season, and among Opta's top-20 rated defenders in Serie A last season, Digne had the highest ratio of tackles won with 49 out of 56. He now just needs to cement his place in the Barcelona and France teams.
9). Danny Rose, Tottenham
Mauricio Pochettino has made Tottenham one of the most exciting and energetic teams in Europe over the past year, and a large part of that is down to the full-backs. The Argentine relies on them to give his team thrust with surges up the line, and is increasingly relying on Rose.
The 26-year-old's performances for Spurs earned him a deserved place in the PFA Team of the Year last season, and he made the most tackles per game in the 2015-16 Premier League for a defender (3.. Those performances led to his first senior England cap against Germany in March and he was in his country's squad for Euro 2016. The demands that Pochettino places on his full-backs means he has to regularly rotate, but it is clear who the first choice at left-back is.
10). Filipe Luis, Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid have become the finest defensive side in the world, so it speaks volumes that Filipe Luis is considered one of Diego Simeone's lynchpin defenders. His form has been so good, in fact, that it beggars belief Chelsea under-used him so much when they owned him in the 2014-15 campaign.
It reflects Luis' durability, though, that he immediately walked back in to Simeone's defence when he re-signed and was as dependable as ever. It's easy to see why the manager likes him so much. Luis made more tackles than any other defender in Spain last season, with 176, but also more dribbles than any other defender too, with 195. He is Simeone's ideal full-back.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:51pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Luka Modric, Real Madrid
He may not be Real Madrid's best player, but he's the guy who probably makes them play best as a team. It's not just about the passing from midfield (Toni Kroos can do that, too) but the Croat's combination of dynamism, leadership and selflessness. Early in his career, some compared him to Johan Cruyff, partly for his elegance, partly for his vision, partly for the uncanny youthful resemblance. Truth be told, he's an artist with a hard hat, willing to do the dirty work with class.
It's not a coincidence that Real Madrid tied him to a new contract through to 2020, the year he turns 35. He's the sort of midfielder who you feel can go on for a long time.
2). Sergio Busquets, Barcelona
You can imagine him as Atlas, hunched over and holding Barcelona's entire attacking firmament on his shoulders. Were he to shrug, you could see the whole shebang collapsing and the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Andres Iniesta tumbling to the ground like little toy soldiers.
OK, that may be over the top. But if Barca have spent nearly a decade excelling with a clutch of small attack-minded guys stocking the midfield, attack and flanks, a lot of it is down to Busquets, the oversized duckling who was so unappreciated as a kid that he bounced around marginal Catalan clubs and only made it into La Masia at 17. Few read the game and sniff out danger the way he does while also being happy to shun the limelight and able to hang with the daily ronda.
3). Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
At its most basic level, it's about striking a ball and making it go where you want, at the desired speed and angle. Few men in the game do it better than Kroos, who also happens to excel at deciding just where to pass the ball and when.
The fact that he is also blessed with an accurate, powerful long-range shot is a bonus. He is a natural attacking midfielder, the assist-man you want making the last pass to the forwards, but at Madrid he has shown the humility to adapt to a deeper role for the good of the team.
4). Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona
At Schalke they called him "Rakete," or "Rocket." You know it's more than a play on his last name if you've seen the way he explodes into space, hair in the wind, afterburners on, legs pumping. His versatility is striking, when you consider he was tasked with replacing a certain Xavi in the Barcelona midfield, and he has managed it without missing a beat. His touch is refined and accurate, but hidden beneath the surface is unusual power and dynamism.
Having already taken Xavi's place, he may well end up as the heir to Iniesta in time, because there are very few things he can't do.
5). Paul Pogba, Manchester United
As a teenager, he was often compared to Patrick Vieira. "That makes me very proud," he said. "But I want to be better than Vieira." He wasn't being arrogant. He was shooting for the stars. And when you break down his skill set, you can see why that's anything but fanciful.
Pogba has the body of a big man, coupled with raw speed and freakish athleticism. He's a fearsome finisher from distance, his dribbling and control are superb, and he can certainly hit a pass. On top of all that, he's intelligent and confident and a student of the game. In fact, Pogba does so many things very well, that the problem might be figuring out what he does exceptionally well and putting him in a position where he can exact maximum damage.
6). Xabi Alonso, Bayern Munich
Doctor Alonso and Mr. Xabi. The former is an elegant, classy passer who can comfortably handle playmaking duties for any team, whether spinning an intricate tiki-taka web or launching laser-guided deep balls for teammates running into space. The latter is the stubbly warrior who terrorizes opponents with crunching tackles and runs himself into the ground.
Indeed, what strikes you most about him is how he adapts to his managers. With Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, he was the calm, collected midfield general. Under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, he was the snarling defensive stopper, and with Pep Guardiola at Bayern, he is the midfield metronome. Wherever he goes, he's the manager's avatar.
7). Arturo Vidal, Bayern Munich
Had he been around in Noah Webster's time, he might just have put his picture (or, more likely, lithograph) after the definition of "intensity." Vidal's is simply demonic. He moves like a man trying to save a child in a burning building. The hard running, tackling and vicious finishing sometimes obscure the fact that he is also a gifted passer and assist-man.
The flip side of his insatiable hunger is the occasional lapse in discipline, as we saw in the 2014-15 Champions League final, where he could have been sent off several times. But he's the kind of ninja every manager wants to have on his side.
. Marco Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain
Talk about scouts sleeping on the job. Until he was 14 and joined Pescara, Verratti was playing for the youth sides of his village team, Manoppello. Scarcely more than a year later, at 15, he was making his professional debut. At 18, he was running Pescara's midfield as they dominated Serie B, and a year after that he was doing the same at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Nothing fazes this kid, who easily navigated the transition from No. 10 to deep-lying playmaker. He's more Xavi than Andrea Pirlo, except with defensive bite and dynamism. Simply put, Italy doesn't produce midfielders like him. And when folks say he "looks Spanish," they mean it as a compliment.
9). Thiago, Bayern Munich
So your dad is a world champion, and you were the only Barcelona player none other than Pep Guardiola decided he needed with him when he moved to Bayern. No pressure there, right? An elegant passer who is rarely flustered, Thiago has two other great skills -- these ones perhaps inherited from his father, Mazinho -- that set him apart: he's lightning quick, and he can dribble too.
If there's a knock on him, perhaps it's that he doesn't score often, though he seems to be the type of guy who relishes setting up teammates, and thus far he has been slowed by injuries. But should he overcome that -- and this season looks promising in that regard -- there's a very high ceiling to what he can achieve.
10). N'Golo Kante, Chelsea
Before his 23rd birthday, few were aware of his existence. Since then, he spent one season in Ligue 1 helping newly promoted Caen avoid the drop and one season guiding Leicester City to the greatest achievement in the history of sport. And he's now the linchpin of Antonio Conte's Chelsea midfield. Not bad for a guy who, when he first arrived at Leicester, was occasionally mistaken for a lost kid from the youth team due to his diminutive size and baby face.
The familiar quote from Steve Walsh, Leicester's former head of recruitment, sums him up perfectly: "We play three in midfield. Danny Drinkwater in the middle and N'Golo Kante either side."
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:55pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City
Will selling Kevin De Bruyne so early go down as one of Jose Mourinho's great mistakes? His current manager certainly appreciates him, and one suspects that the prospect of working with players like the Belgian helped Pep Guardiola make the decision to move to Manchester City.
"How De Bruyne played over 18 months at Wolfsburg was madness," Guardiola said last year, before arriving in England.
At closer quarters, he was even more impressed, calling him "one of the best players I've managed" earlier this season, which is high praise given some of the Catalan's former charges. Under Guardiola's tutelage, De Bruyne could well become even better.
2). Andres Iniesta, Barcelona
Still going after all these years. There's an argument to be made that he has the most complete career of any player in the history of football: Iniesta was a central part of the greatest club and international sides of the current era, with whom he's won every honour there is to win, plus he scored the clinching goal in a World Cup final.
If Iniesta retired tomorrow, he would remain one of the best of all time. But he's keeping on keeping on, orchestrating a new Barcelona generation just like before, though an injury has cut into this season.
His is a refined style of football, but one endearing thing about Iniesta is the joy with which he plays, still, at 32. "What I do in the stadium, I did on the school playground," he said recently. "What I did at 12, I still do now."
3). Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
"The sale of Ozil is very bad news for me. He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal ... I'm angry about Ozil leaving."
That was the reported reaction of Cristiano Ronaldo to Mesut Ozil's departure from Real Madrid in 2013, and when the player with the most unshakable self-belief in the world is annoyed about the departure of a colleague, you know that colleague is pretty good. To back that up, Xabi Alonso called Ozil "the kind of player you don't find these days," and you can see what he means.
Where most contemporaries sprint at a furious pace, Ozil seems to glide, a player who eschews bombast for subtlety. He's one of those players who, given the chance, you'd like to watch move around the pitch and ignore the rest of the game. And he's improving, too: he has three goals already this season, when his previous best tally for Arsenal was eight.
A divisive player in some quarters, he might convince some doubters with a more ruthless streak in front of goal.
4). David Silva, Manchester City
It's quite the surprise to learn that delicate and diminutive playmaker David Silva was actually a goalkeeper at school.
Quickly converted to the dainty midfielder we know now, he was rejected by Real Madrid after a trial aged 14, despite his touch and creativity being evident back then. Real tried to rectify their mistake a decade later, but he moved from Valencia to Manchester City instead and has been the orchestrator of two Premier League titles since.
Dubbed "Merlin" by teammates, Silva is easy to take for granted given the other expensive talent recruited, but he remains one of the modern greats.
5). Dimitri Payet, West Ham
Who knew that someone could establish himself as one of the best attacking midfielders in the world by playing for West Ham?
This season, Payet has created more chances for teammates than any other player in the Premier League, leading to the conclusion that the Hammers' tricky start to the season isn't really his fault. It also makes you wonder what a force he could be at a club with a more potent attack.
After a sometimes aimless time in France, Payet finally established himself as a true talent after moving to Marseille from Lille, where he credited Marcelo Bielsa with giving his game some "order."
The summer's European Championships finally convinced those few still unsure that Payet, a relatively late bloomer, is one of the world's best.
6). Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Some players on this list seem to have been predestined for the top from an early age, but for others the route is more circuitous.
The latter is true for Riyad Mahrez, who arrived at Leicester City via spells in the French second division, and even more curiously after a trial at St Mirren. Mahrez departed the Scottish side on a bike after deciding the weather was simply too cold, but even then his talent was evident.
"His skill was unbelievable," said former St Mirren defender Iain Gray earlier this year. "I thought I'd smash him in a tackle. He just did a wee feint and I went flying past him."
That talent helped propel Leicester to their incredible league title win, and earned high praise from colleagues. "Mahrez is the toughest player I've ever defended," wrote teammate Christian Fuchs. "The reason is because he's so versatile with the ball at his feet. He can go on his left, he can go on his right. Left, right, left, right again."
7). Koke, Atletico Madrid
It's gratifying to see Koke receive some recognition, because Atletico Madrid's fierce group mentality and Diego Simeone don't often allow individual players to receive the credit they deserve. But Koke is absolutely exceptional, and if you don't believe us, allow someone with rather better credentials to explain.
"Koke is an extraordinary footballer," Xavi said in 2014. "He has everything: talent, physical ability, he is a footballer of the present and the future."
Koke was the product of the Atletico youth side and is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield. Indeed, former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque described him as "the complete midfielder." His versatility has perhaps delayed his rise to being a national team regular but at some point his talent will ensure this happens.
. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
Inter Milan have conducted quite a bit of bad transfer business over the years, but letting Philippe Coutinho go for a paltry £8.5 million must be among the worst. Able to dictate games from the left wing, it's not a surprise that Mauricio Pochettino, who managed him at Espanyol, once said he had "magic in his feet."
Coutinho learned his skills on the futsal courts of Rio, growing up near the Maracana, but he nearly skipped a trial at Vasco de Gama as a young boy because he was too shy. Eventually, of course, he overcame that bashfulness, and while he can still be a little inconsistent, his excellence can win games.
"He changed us completely," Luis Suarez said about the Brazilian while still at Liverpool -- you can't get much higher praise than that.
9). Dele Alli, Tottenham
It's easy to forget that 18 months ago, Dele Alli was playing in the third tier of English football. Since then he's rapidly looked comfortable among football's elite, to the point where Sir Alex Ferguson declared him the best young midfielder he's seen since Paul Gascoigne and Harry Redknapp said he'd prefer Alli to the world's most expensive player, Paul Pogba.
When he was at MK Dons, few doubted that he was destined for the top, and he used to amuse his teammates and then-manager Karl Robinson by doing keepy-uppies with a piece of chewing gum before volleying it back into his mouth.
Alli has spoken about improving his goal-scoring record; if he does that, he'll be moving up this list in short order.
10). James Rodriguez, Real Madrid
It somehow doesn't sound plausible that former child prodigy James Rodriguez is still just 25. Only 15 when he made his debut for Envigado in Colombia, he was signed by Banfield aged 17 and became the youngest foreigner to ever score in Argentina.
As a youngster, most kids would dream of emulating the greats of Colombian football like Carlos Valderrama or Tino Asprilla, but Rodriguez instead idolised a character in the cartoon "Super Campeones," a Japanese Manga series.
After his brilliant performances at the 2014 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, Rodriguez earned his dream move to Real Madrid, and while he has occasionally struggled to establish himself in Spain, he's still among the world's most talented and potent playmakers.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 5:59pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund
Reus has been hampered by injuries. If he had been fit this season, German football might boast a player not far below the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship were denied Reus' talents. He is 27 now, when players are supposed to hit their peak, but has missed all of Borussia Dortmund's season so far with a torn abductor muscle.
Without him, Dortmund are unable to challenge in the Bundesliga. In full flow, off either wing, his delicate, slender frame allows him to glide beyond defenders, and his finishing is explosive. Bayern Munich coveted him in the past, as have Real Madrid, but after joining Dortmund from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012, Reus has remained in his home town. A player whom Franz Beckenbauer declared "extraordinary" in 2014 has never found the fitness for a top team to take an expensive risk.
2). Angel Di Maria, Paris Saint-Germain
During the summer of 2014, Di Maria appeared almost unstoppable. His long, surging runs -- not those of Ronaldo -- were key to Real Madrid's 4-1 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid. At the 2014 World Cup, Di Maria was the ideal foil for Lionel Messi as Argentina pushed to their first final since 1990 before losing to Germany.
A £59.7 million move to Manchester United that summer proved a disaster. But in 2015, PSG were the beneficiaries of a player eager to prove himself once again. He starred in last season's runaway Ligue 1 title win, rattling in 10 goals and supplying 18 assists.
3). Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
He is just 21, but Sterling is already in his fifth season at the top level. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and England coach Roy Hodgson tried him as a central forward, but Sterling has excelled as a winger for Pep Guardiola. A preseason text message of encouragement from Manchester City's incoming manager was the first step in rehabilitation from a mediocre first season at the Etihad.
"He gives you little details and instances of when it's happened with players he's dealt with," Sterling said of Guardiola, someone he is clearly keen to learn from. Sterling is no longer the speed merchant dancing past opponents. He is a player of genuine physical power, tough to knock off the ball. The £49m fee City paid Liverpool in the summer of 2015 no longer seems extortionate.
4). Willian, Chelsea
Where might Chelsea have been without Willian last season? Probably much lower than 10th place. While the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Oscar wilted during the storm that brought down Jose Mourinho, the Brazilian flourished.
Mourinho wanted to take him to Manchester United in the summer, but he signed a new contract at Stamford Bridge. "When someone like him is interested in you, then you are happy," Willian said in August, after penning a new four-year deal.
He has proved himself indispensable as an exponent of modern wing play, with an eagerness to work back in defending. Willian is a powerful, speedy attacker all across the front line. He's also a free-kick expert, with all five of his goals in last season's Champions League coming from the dead ball.
5). Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich
At 33, his powers have waned a little since the club collected a treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in 2013. Back then, he and Arjen Robben ripped teams apart in tandem. But injuries and the arrival of Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman have supplanted them.
When fit, Ribery still displays the gifts that made him a favourite sidekick to Zinedine Zidane in France's run to the 2006 World Cup final. Ribery's current muscle problem, suffered at the end of September, occurred just as Carlo Ancelotti saw him score twice in five Bundesliga appearances.
"When he is on the pitch, he has an incredible energy and is not just at his limits, but even beyond," Zidane said of Ribery in December 2015. The mentor retains faith in his pupil.
6). Nolito, Manchester City
Nolito has been a late developer. First, he was snapped up by Barcelona at age 22 after playing third-division football. Then, having failed to make the grade at the Camp Nou, a move to Benfica turned his career around before three seasons at Celta Vigo brought him to La Liga prominence.
His attacking talents off the left wing, where he cuts in on his right foot, won favour from both Vicente del Bosque, who selected him for each of Spain's matches at Euro 2016, and Guardiola, who made him among his first Manchester City signings. He was rewarded with three goals in Nolito's first three matches.
Having failed to make Guardiola's great Barcelona team, Nolito is making himself very useful in his manager's current project.
7). Arda Turan, Barcelona
"This year, he's showing the form we all knew he was capable of," Barcelona manager Luis Enrique said after Turan had scored an equaliser as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Sept. 28.
Perhaps that slow burn is the result of sitting out half of the 2015-16 season while Barcelona served a FIFA transfer ban. Turkey's captain is yet to replicate the impact he had at previous club Atletico Madrid, where he was one of Diego Simeone's most reliable performers. In the Champions League semifinal second leg at Chelsea in 2013-14, Turan scored to effectively confirm Atleti's place in the final.
. Juan Cuadrado, Juventus
These days, there's a growing group of players who are proving Mourinho wrong, and the Colombian is towards the top of that list. Signed by Mourinho and Chelsea from Fiorentina in January 2015, Cuadrado was never given much chance to replace the likes of Willian and Eden Hazard. Cuadrado featured in just 13 Premier League matches -- nine as a substitute -- before being loaned to Juventus seven months after arriving in West London.
Having starred in Juve's league and cup double triumph of 2015-16, Cuadrado's stay in Turin was extended for three years, though he's still on loan from Chelsea, which is an oddity of the London club's labyrinthine loan system. Back in Italian football, he has been able to display the flair and eye for goal that attracted his parent club in the first place.
9). Yevhen Konoplyanka, Sevilla
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk guarded their prize asset jealously for years. Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre spent a fruitless few days in Ukraine in January 2014 and failed to land a fast-breaking player whose fierce, right-footed shooting from the left flank had won admirers across the continent.
Konoplyanka eventually became a free agent in the summer of 2015 and moved to Sevilla, against whom he had played his final Dnipro match -- a 3-2 loss in the Europa League final in Warsaw. He is currently on loan at Schalke in the Bundesliga, having been an unused substitute in last season's Europa League showpiece, as Sevilla beat Liverpool 3-1.
A move to English football seems unlikely. "If I was two-and-a-half metres tall and didn't know how to control a ball, then I may have gone to England," he said last September.
10). Nicolas Gaitan, Atletico Madrid
Manchester United fans have heard plenty about Gaitan over the years. He was linked with a move to Old Trafford during each transfer window from 2011 to 2016, when he finally left Benfica to join Atletico for a fee of €25m.
A match-winning performance for Benfica in a Sept. 2015 Champions League match at the Vicente Calderon helped secure his move to the Spanish capital. Gaitan signed off from Lisbon having won three consecutive Superliga titles, though he has yet to fully impose himself in Simeone's team.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 6:02pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Lionel Messi, Barcelona
It is testament to Messi's incredible talent that 2016 could be considered poor by his standards. This, after all, was a year when he won his eighth league title with Barcelona, scored 26 goals in 33 games and led his country to the Copa America final.
It's just that this was also a year when his side failed to retain the Champions League, when he hit his lowest goal-scoring return since 2009, and when he lost his third consecutive international final.
Argentina don't have to wonder what life would be like had he followed through with his decision to retire, though. One stat sums up how bad things might have been: with Messi in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, Argentina have nine points out of 12; without him, it's seven from 21.
2). Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
In terms of trophies and achievement, it was undeniably the finest year of Ronaldo's career -- he claimed a third Champions League with Real Madrid and also the international trophy that he has always craved when he won Euro 2016 with Portugal.
Yet it was the first time he didn't hit at least a goal per game since 2009-10. The fact he sat out most of the Euro 2016 final with an injury summed up the effect that physical issues have had on his game, forcing him into a more central role and ensuring he isn't quite as consistently devastating as in recent years. Yet he still hit 35 in 36 league games, still stepped up for the decisive penalty in the Champions League final, and still helped drag Portugal to the final of the European Championship.
He's not the physical force he was, but he's still utterly fearsome.
3). Neymar, Barcelona
A great entertainer and the heir to Messi and Ronaldo's throne when they retire, but he is not quite at their level yet.
The Brazilian's goal-scoring return dropped a bit from 2014-15, especially in Europe -- going from 10 in 12 to three in nine -- and that coincided with a slump that saw Barcelona slip out of the Champions League when they probably should have ended the long wait for a club to retain it.
Neymar did step up to help Brazil win their first-ever Olympic gold in football, however, and was hugely influential: scoring key goals including the decisive kick in the penalty shootout against Germany to win the title. The Olympics may not mean much in general football terms, but they meant a lot to Brazil, and Neymar dealt with the pressure well.
4). Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
The last 12 months have seen an expansion in Bale's game and his career. The Welshman enjoyed his best-ever year, winning a second Champions League with Real Madrid and also driving his country to a historic Euro 2016 semifinal place.
Bale's importance to Real has also increased; as Ronaldo has moved toward the centre, it has been up to Bale to provide some of the power and running that the Portuguese used to provide. There are few players in the world who can strike fear into a defence with a direct run like him.
5). Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
In September, Sanchez played his 100th game for Arsenal and hit his 47th goal. It was one fewer than Thierry Henry managed in the same amount of games -- which aptly illustrates how he's not quite at the level of the Arsenal legend, although he is certainly getting there.
Sanchez got his hands on the Copa America trophy for the second successive year, as Chile again beat Argentina on penalties in the final, and he strengthened his claim to be named the country's greatest-ever player. He is undeniably one of Arsenal's best, and a move to a central striking role seems to have improved both his play and his side's.
6). Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich
At full flight, and fully fit, Robben remains a level above almost any forward in the world with the way he combines raw speed with ruthless precision. But he has not been fully fit for some time, having been out for almost six months this year.
The 32-year-old played only 15 Bundesliga games in 2015-16 -- his fewest number of league appearances since 2010-11 and the second-fewest of his career. With seven goals in 22 in all competitions, it was also his least prolific campaign since 2008-09, and his absence is one major reason why Bayern failed to get past the Champions League semifinals again.
He has quickly reminded everyone what they were missing, though, and has a rate of one goal every two games since his return.
7). Eden Hazard, Chelsea
One of the finest dribblers in the world is getting back to his best after suffering a poor 2015-16 campaign which almost personified the demise of the champions. He had been named the PFA Player of the Year in Chelsea's title-winning campaign, only to drop well below his best as the team finished 10th.
Yet the Belgian has already scored more goals in the 2016-17 campaign than he did in all of 2015-16. There were indications that he was finding his feet -- he had more successful dribbles at Euro 2016 than any other player -- but Antonio Conte's clever use of Hazard seems to have taken him up a level. He has actually been playing further forward than striker Diego Costa a lot of the time and looks to have taken a step in the right direction again.
. Douglas Costa, Bayern Munich
The Brazilian can outfox an opponent with a moment of scarcely imaginable trickery and is one of the most distinctive attackers in the world, while also being one of the most entertaining.
Some of his skills have been breathtaking: his perfect delivery for Robert Lewandowski in the Champions League round of 16 comeback against Juventus was a classic example. The 26-year-old gave Bayern an extra dimension last season, and although he does punish teams in other ways, he needs to add more goals to his game, having not scored more than seven in a single season.
9). Sadio Mane, Liverpool
There are few qualities as blindingly devastating as raw pace, and Mane has it in abundance.
Liverpool's attack has become so exciting this season, and his signing from Southampton was clearly the missing ingredient. The Senegal star's speed allows his teammates to get in behind opposition defences and adds a proper cutting edge to Jurgen Klopp's pressing. The 24-year-old has also become more prolific, taking his strike rate from just over one in three to an even more impressive one in two.
10). Roberto Firmino, Liverpool
Firmino is considered to be one of Klopp's favourite players, and it is easy to understand why. The Brazilian has fully bought into his manager's high-pressing game and leads the line by closing down defenders. His aggression and stamina up front has also led to an end product.
With 10 strikes and seven assists, Firmino was involved in more goals last season than any other Liverpool player. He has upped his productivity this season, with almost a goal every two games, including many screamers. The 25-year-old has one of the fiercest and most aesthetically pleasing long-range shots in world football.
|Re: Espn's Top 100 Football Players In The World by SirShymexx: 6:06pm On Nov 15, 2016|
1). Luis Suarez, Barcelona
One day, all will be revealed and we'll be told just why it wasn't until he turned 24 and joined Liverpool (as, let's face it, second fiddle to that other big deadline day signing, Andy Carroll) that he moved to a major European league.
Whatever the case, Suarez quickly established himself as one of the great all-round centre-forwards in the game, a consummate goal scorer who moved from Liverpool to Barcelona without missing a beat.
Except, of course, when he was missing games for biting opponents or using racially charged language. Now that he seems to be channeling his emotions toward the pitch, he's close to the gold standard in his position.
2). Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
His parents nicknamed him "Kun" after his favourite Japanese cartoon (actually called "Kum Kum" and to this day there's something childlike and joyful in the way he throws himself into scoring goals.
What strikes you most is his otherworldly consistency. He made his debut a month after turning 15. Two seasons later he notched 18 goals and since then, he has scored 17 or more (often far more) every single year bar one.
His movement, first step, nose for goal and crisp finishing remind you in some ways of Romario, except for the fact that unlike the Brazilian legend, Aguero is constantly in motion. Oh, and as good as he is, genetics types can't wait for his son, Benjamin, to grow up. He has Kun's genes on his dad's side, obviously, but his maternal grandfather is one Diego Armando Maradona.
3). Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich
A bit like Suarez, he's either a late bloomer or the scouts were dozing. Or maybe a bit of both.
Yeah, he scores. He scores tons. And quickly. He once came on as a substitute and notched five goals in less than nine minutes. And he reached the century mark faster than any foreign player in the Bundesliga.
He's busy, he's fast, he's strong and he shoots, accurately and powerfully, with either foot or his head. More than anyone on this list, he's the prototype striker.
4). Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid
Griezmann likes to do things differently. That may explain why he left his native France at age 14 to join Real Sociedad in Spain, but close enough to the border that he could go to school in his native country.
Or why when he left them, he opted for a blue-collar side like Atletico Madrid, probably not the most obvious destination for his dainty skills. But Griezmann is an artist with the heart of an infantryman. He showed that he could do whatever was required of him off the ball as well as continue to dispense magic on it.
He's the modern all-around striker, comfortable across the face of the final third.
5). Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester United
He is Zlatan. There may be guys who are bigger (very few), stronger (we doubt it) and more talented (highly unlikely, but we'll keep an open mind). But there is nobody who is all three at once, and in the combination that he is them. Everywhere he goes, it's all about him because, well, who else could it be about?
From his youth attaining black belts in taekwondo, to his teenage years impersonating cops and stopping motorists in Amsterdam, his collection of titles in Serie A, his stormy fallout with Pep Guardiola, his reinvention as the Prince of the Parc des Princes at Paris Saint-Germain to his raging against the dying of the light at the Theatre of Dreams ... he's the whole box office.
They should write a book about hi-- oh, wait, he already wrote one himself. And even managed to sell a companion app along with it. He is Zlatan.
6). Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus
Maybe it's the genes. His dad was a hard-nosed Argentine defender. So what do you do? You follow in his footsteps by going in the opposite direction and being the kind of player defenders absolutely hate: the striker who finds space where there is none, the forward who can finish from any angle, any which way.
He doesn't look like much on the pitch -- in fact, after he became one of the five most expensive players of all time when joining Juventus for €75 million, plenty have giggled endlessly about his rotund shape -- but watch him in full flow and you wonder why he so often gets to the ball first and is able to fire off a clean finish.
He did it at River, he did for a long time at Real Madrid, he broke the Serie A scoring record at Napoli and now Juve are hoping that his goals will take them to the biggest prize of all by winning the Champions League.
7). Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich
Out of all the players on this list he's probably the toughest on the eye. He's not graceful, he's not technically pristine and while he is uber-athletic, sure, it's more pounding than gliding energy. And yet he is one of the most productive players in the world, a guy who is perfectly defined by the unusual German term Raumdeuter or "interpreter of space."
Yet he doesn't just interpret space, he maximises it; he reinvents, he rethinks it, he conjures it out of thin air. Few players around have a comparable sense of movement and anticipation and when you combine that with his freakish athleticism and prodigious work rate, it's not surprising that he's the kind of player coaches and fans adore.
. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund
His dad was a famous Gabonese footballer who strutted his stuff in three continents and became a scout for Milan. Naturally, he steered all three of his football-playing kids to the Rossoneri. Two of them actually played for the first team: the third, Pierre-Emerick, did not.
Guess which one went on to enjoy the greatest success? Yup, that's right. To be fair, it took a while for his technical ability to catch up with his terrifying pace. It wasn't until he was 22 and at St Etienne that managers realized he was more devastating centrally than as a winger.
He now relies on his technique and his reading of the game as much as he relies on his speed -- the upshot is that he's making Borussia Dortmund fans forget all about Lewandowski. And having the ability to turn on the afterburners is always a nice Plan B.
9) Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
He's one of those guys who achieved so much but leaves you wondering how much more he might have achieved had it not been for injuries and poor judgment. Over the past nine seasons, Benzema has hit the 20-goal mark (for Lyon and Real Madrid) eight times. Not a bad total when you consider that he misses chunks of the campaign seemingly every year with one ailment or another. And that's not even taking into account his off-the-pitch distractions, like accusations of being part of a prostitution ring in 2010 or being sucked into an ugly case of blackmail involving Mathieu Valbuena last season.
Benzema is strong, fast, gifted and humble enough to cede the limelight to others -- qualities that too often are forgotten amid his injuries and extracurriculars.
10). Diego Costa, Chelsea
One of the conundrums about Costa is whether he'll end his career with more goals or more yellow cards. As of early November 2016, the goals were ahead (151 to 121) but you never know what will happen as he gets older. And, of course, he also has eight red cards to go with it.
Costa acolytes -- there are many -- will say it's the price you pay for playing every game as if you had entered your personal Thunderdome: "Two men enter! One man leaves!"
Maybe so, but what's clear is that when he stays on the pitch he's the kind of workhorse striker who can tie up a back four almost single-handedly. And he doesn't define himself by goals either, as anyone who has seen the eagerness with which he sets up teammates will confirm. As long as the red mist is kept in a safe place, he's among the best in the world.
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