Getting into the thick of it now. Who’s made it into the top 50 best players.
50. Roberto Firmino (Brazil) – Liverpool
Argubaly Liverpool’s best player this season with 5 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League this term, he’s become an integral part of the Brazil team, and ended last season pretty well also. Firmino’s justified his pricetag from his 2015 transfer from Hoffenheim, performing exceptionally well recently.
49) Saúl Niguéz (Spain) – Atletico Madrid
Saul Niguez was the reason that Atletico reached the finals of the Champions League, scoring a goal that ended up in the running for the Puskas award, and I can almost guarantee that Niguez will get the crown for most underrated player this year. He’s been super for Atletico, last season being his breakthrough campaign, and at just 22, there’s a lot more to come yet.
48) Joao Mario (Portugal) – Sporting/Internazionale
A key element to Portugal’s Euro success, Joao Mario secured a £34m transfer to Internazionale shortly after the new season began. His value has skyrocketed over the past couple of seasons, with his ability increasing in kind. He’s already provided a few assists in Serie A since arriving, and has been working to improve since.
47) Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia) – Borussia Dortmund/Manchester United
The first half was 2016 was monstrous, and it’s taken him until December to find that form for his new club. I won’t butcher his name for the sake of comedy, but will just ask any of you to watch a highlight reel of Henry’s 2016 with Dortmund to see why he’d be on this list.
46) Marek Hamsik (Slovakia) – Napoli
5 goals and 6 assists already in Serie A this season prove Hamsik’s star still shines brightly. He’s only over failed to get double figures for both across a season twice, and is already well on course to repeat the feat. At 29, he still has a few years left at the top.
45) Mats Hummels (Germany) – Borussia Dortmund/Bayern Munich
Brave guy, ain’t he? Left for Dortmund’s arch rivals for £30m in the summer after a decent comeback from injury, heading back to boyhood Bayern. He was also undefeated during the Euros, only missing the semi-final loss to France through suspension. Always a consistent performer.
44) Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia-Herzegovina) – Roma/Juventus
Fantastic during the end of his time at Roma, and starting to find his feet with goals aplenty for Juventus, Pjanic has also brought his international cap tally to 73 and is still only 26 years old. Lots more to come from Miralem in a stacked Juventus midfield.
43) Gerard Pique (Spain) – Barcelona
Sergio’s outdone him this year, but don’t tell him that, he’ll slaughter me on social media.
42) Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Real Madrid
Someone should probably start a petition to rename injury time to Ramos time.
41) Jamie Vardy (England) – Leicester City
I was going to leave Vardy off the list, but his heroics for Leicester City in both the Premier League, and now the Champions League this year cannot have him excluded. I’m not going to have him as high as a lot of other people, but the only other guy I could think of to go here would have been Marco Reus. And he’s played about 30 seconds this year.
40) Arturo Vidal (Chile) – Bayern Munich
The man made it into the Bundesliga team of the season, and has continued his fine play this year as a key element for Bayern Munich, keeping the likes of Renato Sanches out whilst helping the attack more thanks to the defensive efforts of Joshua Kimmich. A key role in a 7-0 drubbing of Mexico during the summer didn’t hinder his reputation either.
39) Leonardo Bonucci (Italy) – Juventus
He’s both one of the best passers, and best tacklers in the game and he’s a centre back. Of course he’s on the list.
38) Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) – Paris Saint-Germain
Once you look past the comedic gold that is Edinson Cavani’s finishing, you get a player who’s off the ball movement and intelligence is one of the best in the world. He’s always in the right place at the right time, has the ability to contort himself to make any shot, he just…he just can’t always shoot. To his credit though, he’s performed better as the main man at PSG.
37) Diego Godin (Uruguay) – Atletico Madrid
Find Gimenez’s entry, rinse and repeat, add the fact he’s got more experience and cooler composure. Boom. Easy.
36) David de Gea (Spain) – Manchester United
Second best goalkeeper in the world. Hands down. There’s a big gap between him and third, let’s be honest.
35) Mauro Icardi (Argentina) – Internazionale
Lead goalscoring for Inter last season, not particularly popular with his own fans, admittedly, but a star player for the side whether they like it or not. Nearly equalled last season’s tally already.
34) Alexandre Lacazette (France) – Lyon
The competition for best striker in France got a lot less more competitive over the summer with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving for the Premier League, and Lacazette is the natural choice to take over that mantle. Until he inevitably leaves, of course. Although at this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if he left Lyon on a free when his contract expires.
33) Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) – Everton
Lukaku was the victim of disproportionate hype during his Anderlecht days. Labelled the next big thing, he hasn’t fully lived up to the moniker yet. So why’s he so far up this list? Well, he was touted as the next best player in the world, and while he hasn’t reached those heights yet, he’s still only 23 remember, there’s a lot that Romelu can be happy with this year. As long as you don’t mention the Euros.
32) Marco Verratti (Italy) – Paris Saint-Germain
Part of the Ligue 1 team of the season last year, Marco Verratti is easily the best midfielder in France right now, even if his 2016 wasn’t fantastic. He suffered injuries in the first half of 2016, but has come back to be an important player for PSG in their fightback up the table.
31) Alvaro Morata (Spain) – Juventus/Real Madrid
The best impact substitute in the world. He hasn’t got the game time that he merited at Juventus, and was always going to struggle to get significant game time at Real, but when he has been playing, he’s been fantastically good.
30) Harry Kane (England) – Tottenham Hotspur
He can’t stop bloody scoring.
29) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) – Manchester United
2016 will go down as one of Zlatan’s worst years, only around 30 goals for the Swede. His Euros were genuinely poor, his start at United was lacklustre and yet, here he is. 29th. He was the top scorer in France by over 15 goals last year, and already usurped everyone as first choice striker for Manchester United. Even at the ripe old age of, what, 36?
28) Manuel Neuer (Germany) – Bayern Munich
Best goalkeeper in the world. Hands down. He’s finally calmed down a bit as well, no longer making such rash charges out of the box, picking his timing more effectively and not giving up any soft goals in that regard. He has left in soft goals in other places, but still easily the best at what he does.
27) Jerome Boateng (Germany) – Bayern Munich
Basically now a better Bonucci given he’s added long passing to his game. You can thank Pep for that one, ironically.
26) Diego Costa (Spain) – Chelsea
Ended 2015 terribly, but has been simply unstoppable this year. I saw him play against West Brom a couple of weeks ago, and he was scarily good with his holdup play, his finishing, and his pure strength. Easily the most opportunistic of the players on this list, it’s a shame he only just misses out on the top 25.
Words by Jack Mace