FourFourTwo's Top 100 Players in the World 2013: 10-1
As ever, it has been a far from easy task. But the results are in, and we've nailed down the final list.
Will Iker Casillas lose his place in our list like he lost his place in the Real Madrid first team? Will England's 'golden generation' continue to drift? Has the Bundesliga become our most represented league? Can Franck Ribery break the duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
They've both had sensational years but who of Messi or Ronaldo is topping the tree this year? As both battle it out for January's grand FIFA prize we've ranked the duo ourselves based on their 2013 showings. The top three of our list has exactly matched the top three in the Ballon d'Or for the last two seasons, so you should see this as something of a prelude to January's big do in Zurich.
In this month's magazine, out on Wednesday, we interview several of the best players in the world. But who's the greatest? There's only one way to find out…
10. THIAGO SILVA
Dei giocatori con almeno 20 presenze in Ligue 1, Thiago Silva è il secondo miglior giocatore per passaggi completati: 89,97 %, secondo solo a Marko Basa del Lille (90,91%) (Opta).
A rock at the heart of PSG’s title-winning defence, this was the year in which Silva finally became almost unanimously regarded as the world’s best centre-back.
Fierce, committed and driven, the Brazilian is a captain and a leader in the purest sense, and capped a fine season by helping his nation lift the Confederations Cup on home soil.
9. ROBIN VAN PERSIE
Van Persie è stato il capocannoniere delle qualificazioni europee ai Mondiali con 11 reti (Opta).
A hat-trick and wonder goal against Aston Villa to seal the Premier League title proved a fitting finale to the Dutchman’s devastating debut season at Old Trafford. Van Persie’s decision to pick United over City ultimately determined the destination of last season’s silverware.
His 26 league goals played no small part in the Red Devils finishing 11 points above their noisy neighbours to snatch the trophy back off them.
8. GARETH BALE
Bale è l'unico giocatore dei cinque principali campionati europei ad aver realizzato 10 reti da fuori dell'area di rigore (Opta).
Forget that hat-trick against Inter in 2010 - this will be the year remembered as the one in which Bale really put his name on the map. A sensational second half of 2012/13 may not have been enough to drag Spurs into the Champions League, but it was enough to convince Real Madrid to finally cough up a reported £86m for his services.
After a slow start, the Welshman is starting to show the expectant Bernabeu crowd that the club's big-wigs were right to be so keen.
7. PHILIPP LAHM
Lahm è il difensore che ha realizzato più assist (4) e creato più occasioni da gol (22) nell'ultima Champions League (Opta).
FFT wouldn’t presume to understand what goes on inside the shiny dome of football’s Professor X, but we were surprised when Pep Guardiola took the best full-back since Paolo Maldini and moved him into a packed Bayern midfield. Lahm’s response was to marshal the middle like a natural, foiling opponents and regularly completing over 100 passes per game.
Guardiola says if he played Lahm upfront, “he’d be the best striker in Europe”. Modern football’s understated, underrated genius? No doubt.
6. ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC
Ibrahimovic, tra gol e assist, ha contribuito alla realizzazione di 14 reti nelle qualificazioni ai mondiali (Opta).
What more can be said about the big, brilliant Swede? Zlatan is Zlatan: the man, the myth, the legend. He defies analysis. After joining the Qatari revolution at PSG, 30 league goals fired the French club to their first league title in 19 years and it’s fair to say he often singlehandedly carried the team.
Four iconic goals against England summed up a stellar season.
5. ANDRES INIESTA
Tra il novembre 2012 e l'ottobre 2013, Iniesta ha realizzato 16 assist in campionato, il migliore di tutti i cinque principali campionati europei (Opta).
Barcelona may be changing, even as the Camp Nou crew march toward another title, but it looks like Iniesta is there for the duration.
Turning 30 in May, just before the World Cup at which Spain will chase a fourth successive tournament triumph, the Catalans' creator-in-chief looks set to sign a new contract which could take him to 20 years at the club he joined as a 12-year-old.
4. RADAMEL FALCAO
Falcao è il giocatore che ha tirato più di tutti nel girone sudamericano di qualificazione ai Mondiali: 27 volte, di cui 17 in porta (Opta).
The manner with which the Colombian striker hit the ground running following his summer move to Ligue 1 was as impressive as it was predictable.
Having blasted Atletico Madrid to the Copa del Rey and third in La Liga last season, the powerful forward has his eyes on the Ligue 1 title and a return to the Champions League - a competition he has only played in just one of his five seasons in Europe.
3. FRANCK RIBERY
Ribery ha provato 302 dribbling nell'ultimo anno: più di tutti nei cinque principali campionati europei (Opta).
There isn’t much more the brilliant Frenchman can do to stake his claim for January’s Ballon d’Or (“it will go above my fireplace,” he quipped last month).
Jokes aside, Bayern’s terrace hero has been nothing short of sensational in 2013. He won the UEFA Best Player in Europe award by a landslide - just reward for being the driving force behind his side’s stunning treble season.
2. LIONEL MESSI
Dal novembre 2012 all'ottobre 2013, Messi ha realizzato 41 gol in campionato, più di qualsiasi altro giocatore, contando anche gli altri campionati europei. Più anche di CR7 che si è fermato a 34 (Opta).
Only No.2, we hear you cry? Well, yes. It may not be his fault that Barcelona are over-reliant on him, especially against top-level European quality, but an injury-punctuated last six months have highlighted that arguably the world’s greatest team are in decline.
Both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich would have been unthinkable even 18 months ago - just like Messi not being No.1 on our list every year. But such is life, and the Argentine now has a big year ahead to prove why it's he who should be taking this mantle in 12 months' time. He could do a lot worse than leading his country to World Cup glory on enemy soil.
1. CRISTIANO RONALDO
Cristiano Ronaldo è stato il capocannoniere dell'ultima Champions League con 14 reti (Opta).
"Firstly, I want to thank you for this honour", Ronaldo told FFT upon hearing we had named him our player of 2013, on the night of Portugal's World Cup qualifying play-off first-leg win over Sweden. Having been kept off our top spot since 2008 by Lionel Messi, the Real Madrid superstar is finally numero uno.
It's not hard to see why - his stunning hat-trick in the second leg of that play-off underlined his ability to drag a team to victory, thanks to his pace, power and world-wowwing skills. But what for 2014? "I think we can win the league and the Champions League", Ronaldo tells us. Our No.2 will have something to say about that...
FEATURE Viva Ronaldo: Why Cristiano is FourFourTwo's player of 2013
EXCLUSIVE Cristiano Ronaldo interview in the new FourFourTwo