Yes, itÃ¢ÂÂs back. For a fifth year, we at FourFourTwo have put our heads together to present you with our take on which 100 individuals are truly the greatest players in the world right now.
It hasnÃ¢ÂÂt been easy. Oh, itÃ¢ÂÂs been fun Ã¢ÂÂ deciding upon the globeÃ¢ÂÂs best footballers is, of course, the pub conversation to end all pub conversations Ã¢ÂÂ at least for the most part, until punches were thrown and coffee was spilt.
For this is the hardest job in football journalism. How do you decide upon the very best? How do you compare a goalkeeper to a striker; a 34-year-old veteran to a prodigious youngster half his age; a gritty, reliable centre-back to a slick trequartista with a slide-rule pass and an eye for goal?
To an extent, of course, you canÃ¢ÂÂt. WeÃ¢ÂÂve worked hard on this list to make it as definitive as possible, but as time changes, so will the protagonists. Form is temporary, class is permanent Ã¢ÂÂ but if one of our top 100 now hits a colossal loss of form, that canÃ¢ÂÂt be helped.
So hereÃ¢ÂÂs how we at FFT go about it. First, we get a hat and write down the names of every footballer in the world right now...
No, really. We speak to our vast legion of experts from around the globe; the people we turn to for that extra bit of insight on a player or team from their region. Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Brazil Ã¢ÂÂ theyÃ¢ÂÂve seen the lot and weÃ¢ÂÂve canvassed their opinions, to add to our own.
Once weÃ¢ÂÂve seen our overseas expertsÃ¢ÂÂ recommendations and included the domestic players we believe are at the very peak, we have well over 150 names. Then comes the whittling. ItÃ¢ÂÂs ruthless: we read every report, look at every stat, watch every video, but if a player doesnÃ¢ÂÂt look the real deal, heÃ¢ÂÂs out. Simple.
A darkened room welcomes us. We have just over 100 names; now we have to put them in a sensible order Ã¢ÂÂ no mean feat when you have to consider everything from form and importance within a team, to potential and overall class. Out comes the whiteboard and the markers.
By breaking the list down into positions, we can rank every defender, forward and so on, and once we have each mini-list, slot them together. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs a lot of scrubbing Ã¢ÂÂ fortunately, weÃ¢ÂÂve not had a repeat of the permanent marker Ã¢ÂÂNo, heÃ¢ÂÂs crapÃ¢ÂÂ incident from last year.
Finally, we have our top 100, ready for your delectation.
This process has been undertaken every year since 2007, inclusive. Back in those heady pre-Euro 2008 days, England had 13 players in our top 100 Ã¢ÂÂ the most of any country. Since then both Spain and Germany have improved immeasurably, while other countries, clubs and leagues have declined or joined them on the rise.
WeÃ¢ÂÂll be asking our global experts on FourFourTwo.com for their take on local success or malaise. WeÃ¢ÂÂll also have, every day from Tuesday to Friday this week, an alphabetical list of the top 10 players in their position Ã¢ÂÂ goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards (note: this doesnÃ¢ÂÂt necessarily equate to the best 40 players in the world). These will appear daily over at out lists page.
Most importantly, we want you to get in touch. Seriously, we do Ã¢ÂÂ please join the conversation, because weÃ¢ÂÂll try to respond to a few questions/rants/death threats about the list towards the end of next week. Send your feedback, however short or long, to @FourFourTwoEd on Twitter with the hashtag #FFT100, or on Facebook, or via email (email@example.com) Ã¢ÂÂ you can even write a letter if youÃ¢ÂÂre so inclined, but please, no more boxes of dog muck...
The January issue, featuring the full feature on the 100 Best Players in the World, is out on Wednesday, December 7. We donÃ¢ÂÂt expect you all to agree with it Ã¢ÂÂ but we hope you all enjoy it.
And by the way, top of that first list in 2007 was Kaka, with Lionel Messi a Ã¢ÂÂlowlyÃ¢ÂÂ fifth. How times changeÃ¢ÂÂ¦