FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017: 100-91
100. Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
- Pulisic scored seven goals and produced six assists during World Cup qualification, averaging 1.21 goal contributions per 90 minutes
2017 was a humdinger for Christian Pulisic. His speed, agility and constant desire to drive forward with the ball at his feet has lifted Borussia Dortmund and bamboozled opponents.
The American was thrust into the role of being Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's supply man after Ousmane Dembele left for Barcelona ahead of the 2017/18 season – and the 19-year-old responded. He has shown maturity in handling more responsibility and seamlessly become one of Dortmund's most important players.
Even in the face of a rollercoaster season with BVB, Pulisic is often one of the best players on the pitch. His constant will to win and disbelief that anything is over until he’s beaten two more defenders is impressive. Pulisic is the youngest non-German ever to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances, and his exposure to first-team football has shown what a difference that can make with the right character. Even without a World Cup, his stock will continue to rise next year.
Highlight: A goal and an assist on the opening day against Wolfsburg were just two standout moments from another Pulisic game-winning performance.
Words: Jonathan Harding
99. Adrien Rabiot (PSG)
- Adrien Rabiot has averaged 80 passes per 90 minutes, the third-highest average in Ligue 1. He's completed 93% of his passes, the sixth-highest passing accuracy in the league
After years of angling for a move away from PSG, 2017 was the year that Rabiot finally cemented his place in the starting XI. So good has his form been, in fact, that PSG were willing to let Blaise Matuidi join Juventus in the summer – confident in the knowledge that Rabiot was ready-made to step into his compatriot’s left-sided midfield role.
Tall, elegant and deceptively powerful, Rabiot is an old-school schemer; a player capable of defence-splitting passes and forward runs breaking the lines. His defensive work can improve and he needs to add goals to his game – three in 27 Ligue 1 starts last season isn’t good enough – but he’s a full France international now and has excelled in the Champions League.
At 22, there’s every reason to believe he’ll become an even more complete player over the next two to three seasons.
Highlight: The give-and-go with a classy finish against Toulouse in August that underlined his magnificent potential.
Words: James Eastham
98. Edin Dzeko (Roma)
- Edin Dzeko managed a career-high 29 league goals in 2016/17, capturing the Serie A Capocannoniere en route
Before last season, the Bosnian striker looked to be as out of place in the Italian capital as he was in the final days of his spell at Manchester City. In his debut campaign with the Giallorossi he scored just 10 goals in 39 appearances, and his performances were lambasted by the media and Roma supporters alike.
“I would be lying if I told you that I don’t listen to or read what people say,” Dzeko admitted recently – but it seems the criticism inspired a complete reversal of fortune.
Now the 31-year-old scores almost every time he's on the field, and set a new club record for goals in a single season by netting 39 times in all competitions and finishing as Serie A’s leading marksman in 2016/17. He already has 11 to his name in the current campaign, too – a total which includes a well-taken Champions League brace against Chelsea.
Highlight: Collecting the Capocannoniere award as Italy’s top scorer in 2016/17.
Words: Adam Digby
97. Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)
- Samuel Umtiti has completed 94.1% of his passes this season, the highest passing accuracy in La Liga
Umtiti’s signing didn’t bring much fanfare in the summer of 2016, but heading into the later stages of 2017, the Frenchman was as big an asset to Barcelona as Gerard Pique or Sergio Busquets. That was, until an untimely injury ruled him out for eight weeks. Despite not towering above many players thanks to his modest height, the 24-year-old has proved himself highly competent in the air, quick across the ground and excellent in one-on-one battles.
Umtiti has had the answers to any questions asked of him so far, and his skill and temperament should ensure he becomes a long-term mainstay for the Blaugrana. He has matured very quickly since being entrusted with a starting berth at one of the biggest clubs in the world, in the year that he stepped up from promising talent to top-level star.
Highlight: An imperious showing against Valencia in November without the support of Gerard Pique.
Words: Simon Harrison
96. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
- Roberto Firmino contributed to nine of Liverpool's 23 goals in the Champions League group stage (6 goals, 3 assists)
The 26-year-old experienced an emotional August when Liverpool were drawn against Hoffenheim in the Champions League qualifiers. Facing his former club, where he flourished and felt loved, was not easy for the Brazilian – but he excelled in both legs, scoring and assisting Emre Can at Anfield as the Reds won twice and secured their place in the group stage.
As Hoffenheim fans know, Firmino is not a player whose role is easy to define, but he usually does his assigned job effectively and unselfishly. Jurgen Klopp generally plays him as a false nine and the results were decent in 2017, especially in Europe where the striker has seven goals to his name this term. He is still not consistent enough to be considered truly world class – but time is on his side.
Highlight: A big show in March's big 3-1 win over Arsenal that included a goal and a sublime assist to Sadio Mane.
Words: Michael Yokhin