Let Duniakagyan walk you through the best football players in the world as of now.
The “beautiful game” has had its share of exceptional performers throughout history. Pele, Maradona, Maldini, Ronaldo, Muller, Yashin, and more, you name it. Even in the present lot, the talent is aplenty.
As always, some of the current players are a cut above the rest. Day in and day out, they leave us awestruck with their talent, skills, speed, precision, control, and everything else we associate with excellence.
Getting curious? If yes, then join us as we walk you through the ten best football players in the world at present.
Best football players in the world
1. Lionel Messi
Messi is hands-down the best in his generation and one of the greatest ever. The Barcelona star can turn any game on its head with a brilliant display of skills, speed and athleticism. He can dribble defences into submission, create opportunities from nowhere, score stunning individual goals, and set up team goals. In short, he can do anything on a football field.
Born and brought up in Argentina, he migrated to Barcelona in the year 2000. Come 2004, he made his competitive debut at 17 for Barcelona. And, the rest is history. Messi went on to score a staggering total of 777 goals for Barcelona and Argentina in a prolific 17-year career. With 474 goals, he’s the highest goal-scorer in La Liga. Messi also has 315 goal assists, the most for any footballer in history. He bagged six Ballon d’Or awards and an equal number of European Golden Shoes, a mark that stands till date.
Messi has won everything under the sun, save for a FIFA World Cup title. Had he achieved that milestone, we would have mentioned him in the same breath as Maradona, Pele, and Ronaldo Nazário. However, as age catches up, the ace footballer is losing touch. The Argentinian failed to touch the 30 goal mark in La Liga and guide his team to the title glory since 2015. However, Messi might not be at his best anymore, he’s still good enough to be the top dog.
2. Virgil van Dijk
Born on July 8, 1991, in Breda, Netherlands, Virgil van Dijk makes it to the list of the best football players in the world. Why? Well, his talent is exceptional and his track record, terrific. The Liverpool centre back has the strength, agility, and areal abilities to nullify even the best of attacks. A tall man with big strides, he judges the ball exceptionally well and chooses the time to challenge the attacker judiciously. His abilities with set-pieces are second to none and his leadership is simply inspirational.
However, he’s not just the best defender currently and one of the greatest ever. He is an effective scorer as well, which makes him even a bigger asset. In fact, he has scored 14 goals and assisted three in 162 Premier League appearances. Paul Merson even went on to describe him as the best defensive centre-half. Van began his professional career in 2011 with Groningen. Come 2013, he shifted to Celtic to be a part of the Scottish Premiership winning team. Two seasons later, Van moved to Southampton and later to his current club, Liverpool in 2018. Van bagged a transfer fee of £75 million, the highest for a defender.
With Van manning the defences, Liverpool stormed into the UEFA League finals twice in a row, in 2018 and 2019. What’s more, the club clinched the title in 2019. Van received two prestigious awards in that season, Premier League Player of the Season and PFA Players’ Player of the Year. He also powered Liverpool to the UEFA Super Cup title after 30 years.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Meet Christiano Ronaldo. He is just too flamboyant, even annoying at times. Plus, he has some attitude problems. So, as a human, he is as imperfect as one can be. However, as a footballer, he’s simply outstanding. His skills and achievements are good enough to earn him a place among the all-time greats. Add to it his stunning looks, Ronaldo is a genuine crowd-puller and a marketer’s delight. From Nike to Tag Heuer and Clear Haircare, he’s the advertising face of some of the global brands.
Ronaldo’s dribbling is legendary. He can outthink, outmanoeuvre and outspeed even the best of defenders to score some stunning goals. Also, the star forward is exceptional when it comes to shooting from 40 yards. He can even pick corners with ease and elegance. In a remarkable career, Ronaldo has helped himself to five Ballon d’Or awards. Additionally, he has four European Golden Shoes, the highest for a European footballer. Ronaldo has scored a record 134 goals and assisted 42 in the Champions League. He has the highest number of international goals (109), a record he shares with Ali Daei.
The ace footballer is one of the select few to have more than 1100 appearances and 780 plus goals. His career started in 2002 with Sporting CP. Later, he shifted to Manchester United in 2003 and then to Real Madrid in 2009 for a staggering transfer fee of €94 million. Presently, Ronaldo is a part of Juventus, which acquired him for €100 million in 2018. For 2016 and 2017, Forbes ranked him the highest-paid athlete while for Time magazine, he was one among the most influential people globally in 2014.
4. Mohamed Salah
Speaking of talent, this bloke has loads of it. The Egyptian footballer can finish and dribble better than most footballers out there. However, what makes him stand out is his speed. The current Liverpool forward can cover ground and penetrate defences with lightning speed. Salah has superb tactical abilities, refined technique, an impeccable eye for goals, and great ball control. Whenever he is in action, his team ends up with some serious scoring opportunities. And, that’s a hallmark of a great player, make no mistake.
Salah made his professional debut for the Egyptian club Al Mokawloon in 2010. As his career progressed, we saw him playing for five more clubs. This includes Basel (2012-14), Chelsea (2014-16), Fiorentina (2015), Roma (2015-17), and Liverpool (2017-present). He bagged a fee of £36.9 million from Liverpool, which was a club record back then. In the debut season, Salah scored 32 goals in 36 outings, a record for a 38-matches Premier League season. His sublime performance garnered him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. The very next year, Salah was the joint-top scorer, powering his team to the UEFA Champions League title. As well, he helped Liverpool clinch the Premier League title in 2018-19.
5. Sadio Mane
This Senegalese is considered to be a complete footballer and a winger par excellence. Danny Blind even compared him to Christiano Ronaldo for his ability to find the net with either foot. A goal machine, Mane has a reputation for clinical finishing, foolproof technique and outstanding dribbling. Plus, he is a good reader of the game, tactically aware, agile, and a quick decision-maker. More often, he positions himself well to score individual goals and create scoring opportunities for the team. All that makes him one of the best football players in the world.
Born and raised in Senegal, Mane had a difficult childhood. But that didn’t deter him from following his passion for football. His father died when Mane was just 7. He fled his home at 15 to pursue his dream. However, it was only in 2009 that scouts identified his talent at a game in M’Bour. On Jan 14, 2012, Mane’s professional football career kicked off when he substituted for Kevin Diaz. His first team was Metz. Later that year, he joined Red Bulls Salsburg where he scored 31 goals in 63 outings. By 2014, Mane signed a four-year contract with Southampton for £11.8 million. Eventually, he landed a five-year contract with Liverpool in 2016 for £34 million.
6. Kylian Mbappe
For Arsène Wenger, Mbappe is a mirror image of Thiery Henry. He’s a gifted forward who can use his both feet to score and create chances. In the centre, he can be your main striker. That’s because of his ability to absorb pressure, finish clinically, and control the ball. He can dribble at high speed and beat the defenders with exceptional agility, sharp reflexes, and sudden acceleration. Apparently, he is a defender’s worst nightmare in a one on one situation.
Mbappé had a dream start to his career with Ligue 1 club Monaco in 2015 at age 16. He finished the season with two coveted recognitions, the Golden Boy and Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. This led Paris Saint-Germain to sign young Mbappe at a staggering €180 million, the highest for any teenager. For the club, he ended up being the highest scorer for three seasons in a row. The high point in Mbappe’s career came in the finale of the 2018 World Cup when he netted the fourth goal to seal title victory for France against Croatia. With this, the 18-year old became the youngest footballer ever to score in a World Cup showdown. Unsurprisingly, his performance earned him the Best Young Player award.
7. Frenkie de Jong
Whether you are looking for a midfielder who can defend, attack and hold, Frankie is your man. He is a versatile midfielder known for gaining possession and playmaking. Frankie has the talent for dribbling through the narrowest places and deliver passes accurately. In fact, he maintained a pass accuracy of 91.4% right through the previous season for Ajax. Lengthy cross-field passes are his speciality. Also, his offensive runs often prove to be the game-changer and make him one of the best football players in the world.
Frankie kickstarted his professional career in 2015 with Willem but Ajax was quick to acquire his services the very next year for a symbolic transfer fee of €1. He soon emerged as the leading young midfielder in Europe, powering his club to a domestic double. Plus, Ajax made it to the semis of the Champions League for the first time in 22 years in that season. In 2019, his current club, Barcelona purchased Frankie for €75 million. His international debut happened in Sep 2018 for the Netherlands in the first-ever UEFA Nations League. Mind you, the Netherlands played some good football to finish runners-up. Moreover, he featured in the 2019 FIFA Pro World11 alongside two other Dutchmen.
8. Eden Hazard
Eden has been a “Hazard” for oppositions throughout his prolific club and international career. The Belgian combines speed, unpredictable movements and elite dribbling skills to subdue oppositions. He is versatile enough to play as both, a winger and a midfielder. In fact, he even played as a central attacking midfielder in the early part of his career. Thanks to his ability with both feet, he can switch flanks and intrude into the opposition’s defences.
Football pundits consider him the most technically accomplished and creative player in contemporary times. His petite stature imparts him an outstanding speed, agility, and low centre of gravity. As such, winning ball possession comes naturally to him. Also, teams rely on Hazard for penalties and free-kicks, and he seldom disappoints. Need any more proof of why he is among the best football players in the world?
Born in Belgium, Hazard played for local youth clubs before moving to France in 2015. Come 2007, Hazard got his breakthrough season for Lille at age 16. It was just a matter of time for him to win the Ligue 1 Young Player of the year award twice in a row. This was a rare feat for a non-French footballer. After netting 50 goals in 190 outings for Lille, he shifted to Chelsea in 2012. the stint was successful, as Chelsea won two Premier League titles (2012 and 2016). He scored 85 goals in 245 appearances for Chelsea before being transferred to his present club, Real Madrid for a fee of €150 million. Hazard debuted for Belgium in 2008 and was a part of the team that made it to the quarters of the World Cup 2014.
9. Matthijs DeLigt
Another Dutchman on the list, Matthis De Ligt is an outstanding centre-back who can anticipate well, tackle cleanly, and pass accurately. He has the strength, agility, and technique to challenge the best attackers even in one on one situations. Being well-built, he can possess the ball for longer and create chances for himself and his team. Standing tall at 6.2 feet, he has the height for headers and set-pieces. Also, De Ligt has been dominant in the air, thanks to his athleticism. His leadership abilities are also well-recognized, being the youngest captain of Ajax at just 18.
De Ligt’s professional career took off on 21 September 2016 for Ajax against Willem II. Upon scoring from a corner after 25 minutes, the Dutchman became the second-youngest goalscorer. When playing the Europa League finale on 24 May, he emerged as the youngest footballer in history to feature in a major European title decider. A year later, De Ligt became the first defender ever to receive the coveted Golden Boy award. The performances fetched him a five-year contract worth €75 million with Juventus in 2019. In the very first season for Juventus, De Ligt helped it win the Kopa Trophy. His international debut for the Netherlands came in 2017, aged 17.
10. Harry Kane
For many, the Englishman is the best “old-fashioned traditional centre-forward” out there. He is even linked to former great, Alan Shearer for his brute strength and accuracy in passing. He’s a prolific goal-scorer, a superb finisher, and an asset in deeper positions. Plus, Kane is capable of shooting from a distance though, his stot placements are impeccable.
As a teenager, Kane lacked the physical attributes and speed of a top-class footballer. However, he improved quickly in Tottenham’s academy, thanks to his passion for football and keenness for self-improvement. On the downside, he lacks the areal game. Lately, he has received bad press for his strategy of moving backwards and colliding with defenders jumping for headers, exposing them to some serious injuries.
A Londoner, Kane’s career kicked off at Tottenham Hotspur as a teenager. He rose through the ranks to find a place in the senior team in 2009. However, he could get a full season only in 2014 under coach, Mauricio Pochettino. Riding high on a fine run of form, he finished the season with 31 goals and the coveted PFA Young Player of the Year title. In the next season, Kane was the top scorer in the league, helping Tottenham finish runners-up. He repeated this performance in 2017-18 and 2020-21 seasons, which made him stand in the league of the best football players in the world.
So, that was our list of top 10 footballers in the world. But how did we rank them? Well, we factored in their talent, skills, achievements, physical abilities, game awareness, and other key factors. For more such quality compilations, stay tuned to Duniakagyan, your one-stop shop for all the Gyan in this Dunia.
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