Lists

The 100 Best Football Players in the World 2019: full list revealed

Best football players in the world 2019
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FourFourTwo’s ranking of the 100 best male footballers in the world returns after an action-packed 2019 full of underdog excellence, crazy comebacks and a defender almost winning the Ballon d'Or. Almost. 

As ever, a note about subjectivity: this list is largely derived from performances over the calendar year, in conjunction with FFT staff and dozens of our most respected writers from around the world, but we feel there should be a nod to overall class as well. After all, does one good – or bad – year define a player? We think not. You may (see also: will almost certainly) disagree.

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter (we're over at @FourFourTwo) with the hashtag #FFT100...

100. NABIL FEKIR

REAL BETIS
France

A few eyebrows were raised when the Lyon captain and World Cup winner joined Real Betis last summer for an initial €20m; the gifted playmaker had agreed a €60m move to Liverpool in 2018 before the Reds got cold feet, citing an underlying knee injury. No signs of trouble yet, however: he is already essential for Los Verdiblancos. 

99. LAUTARO MARTINEZ

INTER
Argentina

After a season spent adjusting to European football, Martinez – now Argentina’s first-choice frontman – is justifying the hype. The industrious 22-year-old scores and creates goals for Inter, and under Antonio Conte he has formed a fine partnership with Romelu Lukaku that’s already been dubbed ‘LuLa’ by the Italian press. 

98. CIRO IMMOBILE

LAZIO
Italy

Given his freakish scoring rate at Lazio (November’s 2-1 win at Milan marked his 100th goal for the club, in 147 games), the second half of 2018-19 was disappointing for Immobile. He is making up for it now, matching last term’s goal tally by November’s end. In that time, he scored in 15 of his 19 appearances for Lazio and Italy.

97. WISSAM BEN YEDDER

MONACO
France

After three increasingly prolific campaigns at Sevilla, which followed six years with Toulouse, Ben Yedder is back in Ligue 1 – and he's flourishing. The 29-year-old was vocal about catching Didier Deschamps’ attention for Euro 2020, and that he has done: without his goals, a mediocre Monaco would be in even greater trouble.

96. MARTIN ODEGAARD

REAL SOCIEDAD (ON LOAN FROM REAL MADRID) 
Norway

Odegaard became world-famous when he debuted for Norway aged 15 and joined Real Madrid at 16, but only now, after shining in the Eredivisie, is the 21-year-old getting the chance to show Spanish football his worth. Stellar midfield performances at Real Sociedad earned him La Liga’s Player of the Month gong for September.

95. IAGO ASPAS

Iago Aspas

CELTA VIGO
Spain 

Aspas isn’t just Celta Vigo’s star player: he is their leader, their talisman, and he completely embodies the club. In 2018-19 he netted 20 league goals for a woeful side, keeping them in La Liga almost single-handedly. The former Liverpool man is a cracking package: set-piece master, workhorse, creator and ever-reliable finisher.

94. DUSAN TADIC

AJAX
Serbia

Tadic became just the ninth player in history to receive a 10/10 rating from L’Équipe, for his incredible display in the demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Playing as a false nine, he was imperious in Ajax’s Champions League quest, and his 38 club goals in all competitions last term beat his four-year Southampton haul – by 15.

93. GABRIEL JESUS 

MANCHESTER CITY
Brazil

The striker played his part in another record-breaking season at the Etihad Stadium, scoring 21 goals in as many starts across 2018-19. He was brilliant for Brazil to help them lift the Copa America: the 22-year-old put in goal-and-assist displays in the semi-final and final as his beloved Seleção triumphed on home soil. 

92. PAULO DYBALA

JUVENTUS
Argentina

Dybala has spent a lot of the 2019-20 season making a mockery of Juve’s efforts to flog him in the summer. The Argentine forward was determined to prove his worth throughout the turbulence, and he has done just that with some fine performances and important goals, including strikes against both Milan and Inter.

91. LORENZO INSIGNE

NAPOLI 
Italy

Although 2019 concludes with doubts swirling about Insigne’s future at his hometown club, the fleet-footed winger’s 10-goal haul in 2018-19 helped Napoli finish 2nd in Serie A. Since then, tensions have risen between players, management and fans at the Stadio San Paolo, but Insigne has continued to deliver amid the chaos. 

90. RICARDO PEREIRA 

Ricardo Pereira

LEICESTER 
Portugal

Leicester’s player of the season in 2018-19 is a flying force for the Foxes; a steam train of a right-back who is often found inside the opposition penalty area. The Portuguese speedster set up six goals last term, and he has designs on finally ousting Joao Cancelo and Nelson Semedo in time for Euro 2020 next summer. 

89. ROMELU LUKAKU

INTER
Belgium

Lukaku’s summer switch to Inter has revitalised him after a troubled end to his time at Manchester United. Belgium’s all-time top scorer made an instant impact, equalling Ronaldo’s record of nine goals in his first 11 games to help the Nerazzurri launch a title challenge. He remains a major force at international level, too.

88. FERNANDINHO 

MANCHESTER CITY
Brazil

Outstanding in Manchester City’s 2-1 January win over Liverpool that swung the Premier League title race back in their favour, Fernandinho is still conspicuous by his absence whenever he is unavailable. These days the 34-year-old fills in at centre-back, too, demonstrating his value to Pep Guardiola as a brilliant squad player.  

87. FABIAN RUIZ

NAPOLI
Spain

Ruiz has enjoyed a rather smashing 2019. The versatile midfielder became a key member of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side in an impressive first Serie A season, before inspiring his country to glory at the European Under-21 Championship last summer, where he was named the Player of the Tournament. There’s much more to come.

86. JADON SANCHO

BORUSSIA DORTMUND
England

An on-song Sancho is one of the most entertaining players in the world. Inconsistent? Maybe, but he is far exceeding expectations for a 19-year-old. He topped the 2018-19 Bundesliga assists chart with 18, adding a dozen goals for good measure, and against Kosovo in September he netted his first two goals for England.

85. MAURO ICARDI

Mauro Icardi

PSG (ON LOAN FROM INTER)
Argentina

Despite having to endure nearly four months without competitive football in 2019, Icardi is now in excellent form for his new club. PSG sporting director Leonardo gambled in signing Inter’s prolific-yet-divisive forward late in the summer, and he has been richly rewarded. Edinson Cavani’s successor seems to have been found.

84. MATS HUMMELS

BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Germany

Hummels’ 2019 had been a nightmare, with Germany boss Joachim Löw publicly and prematurely axing him alongside Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller, before difficulties with Robert Kovac forced him to quit Bayern Munich and rejoin Dortmund. Since then, his form has been superb. Löw is under pressure to change his mind.

83. PAPU GOMEZ

ATALANTA
Argentina

One of La Dea’s best-ever signings, Gomez captained the team with Serie A’s 14th-highest wage budget to 3rd place – and Champions League qualification – in 2018-19. The crafty, creative 31-year-old has reached double figures for league assists three years running, and was halfway there this season by October’s end.

82. THIBAUT COURTOIS

REAL MADRID
Belgium

Relentless, unforgiving and cruel – such is life at Real Madrid, where fans quickly turn on their own players. Courtois has been steady but underwhelming since his 2018 move and is yet to win the love of Madridistas, but the former Atletico Madrid and Chelsea goalkeeper remains one of the finest shot-stoppers in the world.

81. GIORGIO CHIELLINI

JUVENTUS
Italy
 

Maurizio Sarri would not have been amused when he heard that Chiellini was sidelined for six months with a cruciate ligament injury, just as the new season was getting underway. At 35, the Italy veteran remains the best and most influential centre-back at Juventus – and the ideal mentor for new signing Matthijs de Ligt.

80. SAMIR HANDANOVIC

Samir Handanovic

INTER
Slovenia

Inter’s Mr Reliable is comfortably the longest-serving player in their regular XI. The 35-year-old goalkeeper brings a calming influence to the Nerazzurri’s defence and has good command of his 18-yard box – plus, he is an excellent shot-stopper, as an incredible Serie A penalty-saving success rate of 39 per cent illustrates.

79. JAMIE VARDY

LEICESTER 
England

Age shows no signs of slowing the striker down – Vardy could become the oldest Premier League Golden Boot winner at the age of 33. Leicester’s marksman is firing the Foxes towards another surprise Champions League appearance, and he remains a scourge of the league. He is a hustler, a rustler – but truly an elite goal-getter. 

78. RODRI

MANCHESTER CITY
Spain

It’s been a year to remember for Rodri, who landed a £62 million transfer to Manchester City last summer after his exceptional first – and only – campaign with Atletico Madrid. The 23-year-old has impressed since arriving as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, combining positional awareness with reassuring style.  

77. HARRY MAGUIRE

MANCHESTER UNITED
England

The Yorkshireman’s remarkable rise continued in 2019 as he was made the world’s most expensive defender at £80 million, as well as the cornerstone of England’s rearguard. Manchester United’s defensive record has markedly improved since Maguire’s arrival, and he has quickly emerged as a leader in a team lacking them. 

76. MIKEL OYARZABAL

REAL SOCIEDAD
Spain

Hours before triumphing at June’s European Under-21 Championship with Spain, Oyarzabal learned he would graduate from the business degree he had combined with football for four years. The flexible Basque forward – now a Spain regular – also shows terrific intelligence in games, as the star of an exciting Real Sociedad side.

75. RIYAD MAHREZ

Riyad Mahrez

MANCHESTER CITY
Algeria

While Mahrez still drifts in and out of Manchester City’s first XI, he is exerting greater influence in games. And his worth to Algeria is beyond reproach: the wideman inspired the Fennecs to only their second Africa Cup of Nations title in July, scoring a dramatic free-kick winner in the 95th minute of their semi-final against Nigeria.

74. CLEMENT LENGLET

BARCELONA 
France

The central defender transitioned from Ligue 2 outfit Nancy to Barcelona – via Sevilla – in the space of just a couple of years, then made himself a regular for the Catalans and world champions France. Lenglet is still only 24 but he has replaced the injury-prone Samuel Umtiti for both, and shows plenty of potential to grow.

73. LUIS SUAREZ

BARCELONA
Uruguay 

Averaging 35 goals per season at Barça, Uruguay’s top dog has proved the perfect foil for Lionel Messi. While the end is near – he turns 33 in January and succession plans are in place at the Camp Nou – a slowing Suarez is still goal-hungry in 2019-20... even if he has gone four years without scoring away in the Champions League.

72. TOBY ALDERWEIRELD 

TOTTENHAM
Belgium

Tottenham’s passage to the Champions League final was so dramatic, one forgets their vital clean sheets against Inter, Dortmund (twice) and Manchester City. Alderweireld, stylish and ever-reliable in his five years with Spurs, was key. And Jose Mourinho’s arrival may mean his north London spell isn’t nearly over, after all.

71. IVAN RAKITIC

BARCELONA
Croatia

The former Sevilla captain averaged 53 appearances per campaign across his first five years with Barcelona, lifting nine major honours including four La Liga titles and the Champions League. Rakitic often sacrifices his own talents for the Catalans’ benefit, which means he can sometimes be underrated and underappreciated.

70. MARQUINHOS

Marquinhos

PSG
Brazil

Though primarily a central defender, the 25-year-old has mastered the role of defensive midfielder, making him one of the game’s most vitally versatile operators. His 2019 was forgettable at club level (a fifth Ligue 1 title aside), but Copa America success with hosts Brazil was just reward for Marquinhos’ personal development.

69. WOJCIECH SZCZESNY

JUVENTUS
Poland

Szczesny’s transformation in Serie A has been nothing short of a revelation. First at Roma, then at Juventus, he has become a truly excellent goalkeeper who now does the simple things well on top of those wonderful saves. Calm, mature and consistent – he is Juve’s No.1 with good reason, keeping out a legend in Gigi Buffon.

68. DANI PAREJO

VALENCIA
Spain

Valencia are seemingly in constant flux, although their skipper is a reassuring constant, loved at Mestalla and admired throughout Spain. The former QPR loanee has clocked up over 350 appearances since joining Los Che in 2011, and in May he lifted his first senior silverware: the Copa del Rey. Now 30, he is getting better with age. 

67. MANUEL NEUER

BAYERN MUNICH
Germany

With Marc-Andre ter Stegen consistently in top form at Barcelona, it was hard for Neuer to justify his continued standing as Germany’s starting goalkeeper. But he has certainly tried: following a hideous 2018, when a poor World Cup followed injury woes, the 33-year-old’s 2019 was much brighter thanks to Bayern’s domestic double. 

66. MILAN SKRINIAR

INTER
Slovakia

Skriniar seems tailor-made for Antonio Conte; the ideal defensive warrior to make his three-man backline work. Strong, mobile and fearless, Skriniar boasts excellent pace and awareness, and he is unquestionably one of the best man-markers in Italian football. He is growing in stature and reputation, and still only 24 years of age.

65. KEYLOR NAVAS

Keylor Navas

PSG
Costa Rica

Navas is now enjoying a new lease of life with PSG after inexplicably falling out of favour at Real Madrid, and he wasted little time in reminding people that he remains among the best goalkeepers in the game. Les Parisiens’ defensive meanness owes a lot to the serene presence of their accomplished Costa Rican between the sticks.

64. SAUL NIGUEZ

ATLETICO MADRID
Spain

At an age where he should be growing in influence as a midfielder, Saul has instead become a victim of his willingness to do a job for Diego Simeone. Occasionally deployed on the left of defence despite his disdain for the position, the 25-year-old’s midfield displays have suffered in turn – yet he remains a trusted lieutenant.  

63. TIMO WERNER

RB LEIPZIG
Germany

Werner, one of the world’s quickest strikers, has added a new dimension to his game. The Germany frontman is playing less selfishly while also finishing his chances more ruthlessly, amounting to 12 goals in his first 12 Bundesliga matches of 2019-20. In Leipzig’s 8-0 rout of Mainz, he bagged a hat-trick and assisted three more. 

62. AXEL WITSEL

BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Belgium

Witsel wasted his talents for far too long, allowing his progress to stagnate first in Russia and then in China. He has been making up for lost time at Dortmund ever since. He turns 31 in January, yet 2019 has arguably been his best-ever year: the midfielder was a constant as Lucien Favre’s team went close to glory last season.

61. KOKE

ATLETICO MADRID
Spain

“Everyone’s work ethic is incredible, but Koke does so much running – I just don’t know how he does it.” So eulogised his new team-mate, Kieran Trippier, who has been liberated by the Rojiblancos’ captain. Even if the 27-year-old is no longer at the peak of his powers, he is an admirable workaholic who helps others to thrive. 

60. GARETH BALE

Gareth Bale

REAL MADRID
Wales

So much is made of Bale’s off-field relationship with Los Blancos that it’s easy to forget how decisive he can still be. Welsh football’s icon is a supreme talent stuck in a job he hates, something typified by the frustrated celebrations that followed his fine strike in February’s Madrid derby. It’s a whole different story for his nation. 

59. NIKLAS SULE

BAYERN MUNICH
Germany

Sule has become an undisputed starter for both Bayern Munich and Germany. The centre-back is a dominant presence, 6ft 5in but seemingly looming even larger, yet tactically astute and relatively quick to boot. Sadly, a cruel cruciate ligament injury has ruined his season and even left his Euro 2020 hopes hanging by a thread. 

58. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN 

TOTTENHAM 
Denmark

Eriksen’s lacklustre autumn displays should not cloud his achievements in the first half of the calendar year. In all, the Dane plundered 20 goals and assists in an excellent 2018-19 Premier League campaign, making him only the second player (alongside David Beckham) to assist at least 10 goals in four consecutive seasons.

57. TONI KROOS

REAL MADRID
Germany

Last season was not a good one for Kroos, who was so passive at times that it was reasonable to ask if years of winning had sapped all the 29-year-old’s motivation. The midfielder’s mojo appears to be back, although it remains to be seen if he can maintain that inspiration when it matters most. Real Madrid need him to do so.

56. MARCO REUS

BORUSSIA DORTMUND
Germany

The Dortmund star is a veteran now, having celebrated his 30th birthday, and he is mainly used as a creative midfielder rather than a forward. His 2019 was largely positive, taking in a heartwarming return to Germany’s ranks following his injury nightmare – even if a maiden Bundesliga crown for Reus proves frustratingly elusive.

55. SERGIO RAMOS

Sergio Ramos

REAL MADRID
Spain

Ramos continues to be a very competent goalscorer, assuming Real Madrid’s penalty duties with enviable nonchalance. But he is also an increasingly suspect defender, who can be taken to the cleaners not just by Barcelona but, in the past year, the likes of Girona and Mallorca. Write Sergio off at your peril, however.

54. PAUL POGBA

MANCHESTER UNITED 
France

While 2019 won’t go down as a vintage year in Pogba’s career, it nevertheless featured his best run of form in a Manchester United jersey, with a combined 22 goals and assists earning him a place in 2018-19’s PFA Team of the Year (alongside 10 Manchester City and Liverpool players). Rightfully, however, United fans expect more.

53. SERGE GNABRY

BAYERN MUNICH
Germany

This was the year Gnabry grew into a true world-class star. His performances for Germany in their Euro 2020 qualifiers were superb, including a phenomenal strike against the Netherlands. He has also become a pivotal player for Bayern Munich, where he is admirably filling the huge void left by Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

52. MARCO VERRATTI

PSG
Italy

Despite suffering form and fitness frustrations at PSG in recent seasons, Verratti remains a crucial figure. His velvet touch and metronomic qualities have come to the fore with club and country, leading to his contract in France recently being extended until 2024. Adding goals to his game could make 2020 his best year yet. 

51. HAKIM ZIYECH

AJAX
Morocco

If it was odd that elite clubs let Ziyech swap Twente for Ajax in 2016, it’s baffling that his €30m release clause went ignored – and 2019 showed why. The playmaker enjoyed a stunning Champions League campaign, also claiming the Eredivisie’s joint-most assists as Ajax won the title, and he has been just as sensational this term.

50. FRENKIE DE JONG

Frenkie de Jong

BARCELONA
Netherlands

As the brains behind the most incredible run in recent Champions League memory, the youngster looked like a player made for Barcelona during his time with Ajax. It turns out he was. The Dutch prodigy has flourished whether deep or playing in an advanced role, dribbling, passing and working his way into Blaugrana hearts. 

49. SANTI CAZORLA

VILLARREAL
Spain

His injury problems were so terrible that it’s genuinely remarkable Cazorla is even playing again. Not only is he competing at the highest level, however, he is regularly Villarreal’s best performer, possibly 2019’s best Spanish midfielder and deservedly in the national team. At 35, he is a triumph for perseverance and a luxury to watch.

48. RAPHAEL VARANE

REAL MADRID
France

So electric and dominant was the young Varane that expectations were set unrealistically high. A drop-off was perhaps inevitable at some point, and so it came in 2018-19; the Frenchman was slack, in keeping with the general malaise around the Bernabeu. Fortunately, things have looked much more promising this season.

47. THIAGO SILVA

PSG
Brazil
 

He may be 35 now, but Silva remains a rock at the heart of PSG’s defence. Although his French renaissance may finally come to an end after this campaign with a move to pastures new, following eight years in the capital, he is still in imposing form for club and country and helped Brazil to Copa America success in their own back yard. 

46. GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

LIVERPOOL
Netherlands

In May, a quick couple of Wijnaldum goals sent Anfield potty. The second-half substitute made the difference against Barcelona that memorable night, but Gini has been consistently excellent in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield; the occasional goal is just a bonus. Scoring a hat-trick as Netherlands captain wrapped up a marvellous year. 

45. THIAGO ALCANTARA

Thiago Alcantara

BAYERN MUNICH
Spain

Thiago was in fine fettle as Bayern Munich overhauled Borussia Dortmund to win the German double; he was especially good when the Bavarians hammered their title rivals 5-0 in April. The Spain schemer lost his way a little at the beginning of 2019-20, but the midfield metronome should return strongly under a new coach.

44. JAN VERTONGHEN

TOTTENHAM
Belgium

Vertonghen put in a collection of expert displays during Tottenham’s unlikely run to June’s Champions League final. A goalscoring performance at wing-back against Borussia Dortmund was as genuinely brilliant as it was unexpected, and his work there and in central defence earned him a place in UEFA’s team of the tournament.

43. SERGIO BUSQUETS

BARCELONA
Spain

Though still only 31, Busquets has averaged 50 games per season for more than a decade – so it’s no surprise that his legs aren’t quite there any more. In form, he is the finest passing midfielder around, but age-induced fatigue combined with an increasingly anarchic Barça means that the Spaniard suffers now more than ever.  

42. MATTHIJS DE LIGT

JUVENTUS
Netherlands

De Ligt’s 2019 started dramatically, his goal eliminating Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals. The Ajax captain didn’t lift Ol’ Big Ears but did win the Dutch double and reached the inaugural Nations League final with the Netherlands, all before he had even turned 20. Juve were perfectly happy to pay €75m for his services.

41. ANGEL DI MARIA

PSG
Argentina
 

The Argentine midfielder turns 32 in February, and he is just as important to PSG as the big names playing in front of him. Over the past year, Di Maria has produced some of his best performances since his days with Real Madrid, and he started the current campaign brilliantly following 12 league goals and 11 assists in 2018-19. 

40. CASEMIRO

Casemiro

REAL MADRID
Brazil

As is the case for most of Real Madrid’s squad, it hasn’t been the easiest of periods for Casemiro – but, boy, do they notice when he isn’t around to plug the gaps. The Brazilian is still indispensable; however, four seasons of doing twice as much running in order to cover for slack team-mates has taken its toll, and he deserves better. 

39. DRIES MERTENS

NAPOLI
Belgium

The 32-year-old Belgian has passed some major club milestones in 2019, hitting 300 appearances for Napoli and overtaking the legendary Diego Maradona in their all-time goalscoring chart, with the No.1 spot to follow. Mertens remains a serious threat, even if – inevitably – he isn’t hitting the same dizzy heights as two years ago.

38. KARIM BENZEMA

REAL MADRID
France

“If you haven’t got a dog and you have got a cat, you hunt with a cat,” moaned Jose Mourinho eight years ago, when forced to play Benzema at Real Madrid. Now the predatory Frenchman is top cat – with more than 30 goals in all competitions across 2019, he is Zinedine Zidane’s most trusted and consistent attacking option.

37. PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

ARSENAL
Gabon

A final-day brace away at Burnley meant Aubameyang shared the 2018-19 Premier League Golden Boot, and a semi-final hat-trick in Valencia steered Arsenal to the Europa League final, so he has proved a rare source of good cheer in a dysfunctional Gunners side. His scoring touch certainly hasn’t deserted him in 2019-20, either. 

36. DANI CARVAJAL

REAL MADRID
Spain

A contender for Real Madrid’s star performer of 2019, the 27-year-old is a prototype for the modern full-back. Carvajal is supremely fit, steadfast defensively and an assist machine, who offers club and country an extra attacking dimension that is especially notable when it is missing. Great beard; even better right-back, though.

35. DAVID DE GEA

David de Gea

MANCHESTER UNITED
Spain

De Gea has struggled ever since the 2018 World Cup, in truth, but the rate at which he bailed out Manchester United was hardly sustainable. And even if he couldn’t make it into five consecutive PFA Teams of the Year, he did, in January, equal his own record of most saves in a Premier League game (11, against Spurs at Wembley).

34. JOSE GIMENEZ

ATLETICO MADRID
Uruguay

The highly underrated defender prefers distraction to run-of-the-mill thuggery during matches, often asking his opponents about the car they drive or why certain countries’ flags feature the same colours. Machiavelli would surely approve. The 24-year-old has evolved into Atletico’s defensive leader since Diego Godin departed. J

33. JOSHUA KIMMICH

BAYERN MUNICH
Germany

Kimmich continues to be hugely influential for Bayern Munich and Germany, whether he is being deployed as a right-back or in his preferred central midfield role. He is versatile, and provides assists at a remarkable rate, but also a genuine leader on the pitch at the age of 24. He shoulders responsibility, and he rarely disappoints.

32. JORDI ALBA

BARCELONA
Spain

It’s hardly surprising that Barcelona struggled at the beginning of this season: Alba, who chipped in with 17 assists in all competitions last season, missed a month of the 2019-20 campaign through injury. “Jordi is the best left-back in the world,” PSG defender Juan Bernat recently enthused about his international team-mate.   

31. LUKA MODRIC

REAL MADRID
Croatia

Sure, the 2018 World Cup runner-up hasn’t been at his Ballon d’Or-winning best over the past year – hence his placing here – but he is a deep-lying playmaker of rare quality. Madrid struggled to replace the 34-year-old’s laconic promptings when he was injured at the start of this season, and his return inspired an upsurge in form. 

30. SON HEUNG-MIN

Son Heung-min

TOTTENHAM
South Korea

Somehow, Son is still underrated. In 2019 he stepped up in Harry Kane’s absence, plundering 20 goals across the campaign even as his international commitments stacked up. It was the second-best haul of his career, including three of Spurs’ four goals in the two-legged Champions League success against Manchester City. 

29. FABINHO

LIVERPOOL
Brazil

The former Monaco favourite grew slowly into his first Premier League season, but now he is key for Liverpool. Fabinho could stake a fair claim as the most effective defensive midfielder in England right now, if not Europe. If he adds more goals like the one against Manchester City, he will be some player. Many believe he already is.

28. GERARD PIQUE

BARCELONA
Spain

Pique is one of the most decorated players in Spanish football history, and he remains vital at the Camp Nou despite his advancing years. Pique, 32, was arguably Barcelona’s third-most important player in 2018-19, and his experience must now help his club to avoid repeats of the debacles against Roma and Liverpool.

27. MIRALEM PJANIC

JUVENTUS 
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Few players are as overlooked and under-appreciated as Pjanic, who has quietly been reinventing himself as a deep-lying playmaker since leaving Roma in 2016. As Maurizio Sarri’s midfield fulcrum he routinely exceeds 100 passes per match, yet he is also a significant goal threat. If only someone didn’t steal all his free-kicks…

26. ANDY ROBERTSON and 25. TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson

LIVERPOOL
Scotland
England

Liverpool’s full-backs had their very own assists competition in 2018-19. Alexander-Arnold’s 12 set a Premier League record for a defender; Robertson managed a mere 11, but by the end of November he had bumped his team-mate into second position, across the league, for assists in 2019.

The double act were key to Liverpool’s extraordinary year, combining consistent quality with mind-boggling stamina. Both were in the PFA and Champions League teams of the year, and Alexander-Arnold even got on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or (justified purely by that ingenious corner against Barcelona, we would argue). 

“The wider you make the pitch, the bigger the spaces in the centre,” Jurgen Klopp said recently, discussing his full-backs. “That’s why we try to be a force from pretty much everywhere.” With these two, that’s guaranteed.

24. EDERSON

MANCHESTER CITY
Brazil

Ederson’s 20 Premier League clean sheets in 2018-19 would have been enough to win him the Golden Glove in any of the previous 10 years. The goalkeeper provides so much more than shot-stopping, however (although he is pretty good at it) – he even chalked up a couple of assists last season, which was as many as Sadio Mané. 

23. NEYMAR

PSG
Brazil
 

Neymar won’t look back on 2019 particularly fondly: it was arguably his worst year as a professional. Injuries ruled him out of crucial Champions League games for PSG and Brazil’s Copa America triumph on home soil, and a dream return to Barcelona failed to materialise during the summer. Can he return to his best in 2020? 

22. ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

BARCELONA
France

“I knew it would be difficult,” said Griezmann about his slow start at the Camp Nou following a €120m transfer to Barcelona. “Far from a disaster,” is how France boss Didier Deschamps described his form. Griezmann has struggled, that’s undeniable – but his relationship with Lionel Messi is vital to his Champions League ambitions. 

21. AYMERIC LAPORTE

MANCHESTER CITY
France

Laporte’s worth to Manchester City has been painfully clear since an injury in September sidelined him for the long term. He was one of two exceptional centre-backs in the Premier League across 2018-19, and justifiably made the PFA Team of the Year. Frustratingly, his knee knack also denied him a much-deserved France debut.

20. DAVID SILVA

David Silva

MANCHESTER CITY
Spain

Silva isn’t slowing down, even as his career in England nears its final act: since the beginning of the 2018-19 season, he has made or scored 21 goals in the Premier League alone. His balletic grace, positional intelligence and adaptability have each come to the fore under Pep Guardiola. It isn’t just City who will miss him next year.

19. KALIDOU KOULIBALY

NAPOLI
Senegal

Even in Serie A – the home of man-marking, maximum organisation and naughty tricks – Koulibaly stands out as special. He relishes battles but also packs a decent turn of pace and, better still, the intelligence to be there one step earlier. “I love Koulibaly, so I refused €105m,” said Napoli’s owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis. Fair enough.

18. N’GOLO KANTE

CHELSEA
France

Kante had his least remarkable 12 months in England, but that isn’t saying much: the norm for him had been winning major trophies with any team he represented. The omnipresent French midfielder had to adapt under Maurizio Sarri, but adapt he did, and it’s given his usual defensive game an extra dimension. He is a bit special.

17. BERNARDO SILVA

MANCHESTER CITY
Portugal

As Manchester City’s most-used outfield player after Aymeric Laporte last season, Silva combined graft and guile, encapsulated in his superb performance against Liverpool in January. He also scored a vital goal at Old Trafford in a nerve-wracking title race, and was player of the tournament in Portugal’s Nations League win.

16. EDEN HAZARD

REAL MADRID
Belgium

Hazard is yet to hit top form since his dream move to Real Madrid last summer, but the brilliant Belgian with a big backside is beginning to find his feet in La Liga. “I know he is going to succeed,” says Los Blancos boss – and long-term admirer – Zinedine Zidane. Next step for Hazard: becoming Madrid’s new Cristiano Ronaldo.

15. SERGIO AGUERO

Sergio Aguero

MANCHESTER CITY
Argentina

The records continue to tumble. Although Aguero has long normalised his outstanding goal returns, in 2019 he became Manchester City’s record Premier League scorer and made the PFA Team of the Year for a second campaign running. A 32-goal haul in 2018-19 was the Argentine’s joint-second-most prolific season in blue. 

14. ROBERTO FIRMINO

LIVERPOOL
Brazil 

Firmino is surely Liverpool’s most underrated player. He isn’t a statistical freak as his strike partners are, but the Brazilian’s specific role in attack is appreciated by Reds team-mates and supporters, if not necessarily further afield. His selfless space creation and showreel of tricks and flicks earmark ‘Bobby’ as a special player indeed. 

13. ALISSON 

LIVERPOOL
Brazil

Consistently excellent throughout Liverpool’s victorious Champions League campaign, the Brazilian was a truly game-changing signing who justified his hefty £67m price tag. He kept 21 clean sheets to earn the Premier League Golden Glove award, then leaked just one goal in six matches as the Selecao lifted the Copa America. 

12. MARC-ANDRE TER STEGEN

BARCELONA
Germany

Barcelona’s goalkeepers must not only dominate their area, but also demonstrate proficiency in possession. That isn’t to say Ter Stegen is a limp-wristed waif who couldn’t catch a cold – in fact, he is one of the world’s best shot-stoppers – but it’s his fine footwork which is so highly prized. He was a steal at €12m back in 2014.

11. HARRY KANE

TOTTENHAM
England

Kane’s 2019 wasn’t as memorable as his 2018 (how could it be?) yet the goals still flowed. He bagged more than any other player in Euro 2020 qualification, and scored the most for England in a calendar year since George Hilsdon in 1908 and Dixie Dean in 1927. That a 24-goal club season was ‘disappointing’ says plenty.

10. SADIO MANÉ

Sadio Mane

LIVERPOOL
Senegal

Mané impressed even in a stacked Liverpool front three, notably when his brace at Bayern Munich took Jurgen Klopp’s men into the Champions League quarter-finals en route to winning the trophy. He claimed a share of 2018-19’s Premier League Golden Boot, and is also the favourite to collect the PFA individual prize this season. 

9. RAHEEM STERLING

MANCHESTER CITY
England

It’s extraordinary to think now that Sterling once went 27 games without a single goal for England. He scored eight in nine matches for the Three Lions across 2019, complementing lethal club form that landed him the 2018-19 FWA Footballer of the Year prize. Few players are certain of a place in Pep Guardiola’s XI – Sterling is. 

8. KEVIN DE BRUYNE

MANCHESTER CITY
Belgium

Even a side as good as Manchester City suffer without De Bruyne, injured for part of 2019. He was man of the match in the FA Cup final, having played 35 minutes of it, and by November he had racked up twice as many Premier League assists as any other player in 2019-20. He is essential to City’s Champions League ambitions.

7. ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

BAYERN MUNICH
Poland

The Pole’s disastrous World Cup had the doubters firing questions in his direction – and he answered them all emphatically. Indeed, 2019 might even have been the best year of his career: he won the double with Bayern, then opened this season by scoring 26 goals in his first 17 Bundesliga and Champions League games. 26. Daft. 

6. JAN OBLAK

ATLETICO MADRID
Slovenia

So consistent is Oblak, we are in danger of normalising some absolutely astonishing numbers. The Slovenian has kept more clean sheets for Atletico Madrid than he has conceded goals – just dwell on that for a moment – and he is only the second player ever to win La Liga’s Zamora trophy (for stingiest keeper) four years running. 

5. KYLIAN MBAPPE

Kylian Mbappe

PSG
France
 

While 2019 was underwhelming for PSG, it was fruitful for Mbappe. One year on from World Cup success, he narrowly lost out to Lionel Messi as Europe’s top overall goalscorer. Despite injuries in 2019-20, he is a genuine superstar who recently reached 100 matches for PSG, with over 100 goal contributions. He has just turned 21.

4. CRISTIANO RONALDO

JUVENTUS
Portugal

Ronny’s goal tally has been clearly dented by Serie A’s well-drilled defences, but even at 34 he continues to add to his medal collection: 2019 brought the Scudetto and Serie A’s MVP prize, plus a Nations League trophy with hosts Portugal. In 2020, it will be Ali Daei’s all-time international scoring record (109) that is in his sights. 

3. MOHAMED SALAH

LIVERPOOL
Egypt

The best players deliver when it matters most; the truly elite do it consistently. Mo has accomplished that ever since he moved to Liverpool in 2017, and now he has a Champions League crown to show for it. He kept his cool to score a penalty in the final against Tottenham, and kept his name on the Premier League Golden Boot.

2. VIRGIL VAN DIJK

LIVERPOOL
Netherlands

The Dutchman was many people’s pick for the Ballon d’Or after a superb year in which he played a big part in pushing Liverpool to a Champions League title and the brink of a Premier League triumph. He was rewarded with UEFA’s player of the year award, but missed out on the big golden football (and the Best FIFA Men’s Player award) because of a certain Argentine…

1. LIONEL MESSI

Lionel Messi

BARCELONA
Argentina

Barcelona’s wizard continues to dazzle and delight, producing another calendar year of extraordinary consistency in front of goal and almost single-handedly carrying the Catalan club at times. He thought he'd achieved the best possible recognition when he was handed a record sixth Ballon d’Or earlier this month. That was until he topped the FFT100 (OK, fine). Again. The greatest, bar none.

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