FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017: 80-71
80. Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich)
- Bayern Munich have conceded only four goals in the 767 minutes that Süle has been on the pitch in the Bundesliga this season
Süle's potential was obvious early, thanks to his outstanding performances under Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim: his quick reading of situations and powerful edge made him ripe for Bundesliga success.
After helping Nagelsmann's side qualify for the Champions League and reaching the 100th Bundesliga game landmark, the Frankfurt-born stopper earned a five-year deal at champions Bayern Munich.
In six months, 22-year-old has become a regular under both Carlo Ancelotti and Jupp Heynckes. True, the centre-back took advantage of some key players getting injured, but since getting his chance he’s firmly established himself as captain material in the long-term – and now keeps his more senior team-mates on the outside looking in.
Eight international caps have come along, too – including a run at the Confederations Cup in Russia. At this rate he's a starting centre-back for Germany at the World Cup.
Highlight: Süle's estimated £20m transfer to Bayern Munich was just reward for some superb performances at Hoffenheim, the Bundesliga's surprise package last season.
Words: Russell Smith
79. Koke (Atletico Madrid)
- Koke averaged 37.3 final-third passes per 90 minutes during UEFA World Cup qualifying – only David Silva had a higher average throughout Europe
After Koke got injured in October, Atletico Madrid’s next results were 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0. Goals dried up without their chief playmaker, costing them ground in La Liga and putting their Champions League hopes in danger. They didn’t score twice in a game again until they beat Roma 2-0 in November, then hammered Levante 5-0. By that time, their Spanish talisman had returned.
Industrious and inventive, the 25-year-old keeps Atleti's midfield ticking, feeding the forwards with incisive passes to feet or over the top.
Diego Simeone's side are now finding the net again and Antoine Griezmann, who didn’t score once while Koke was sidelined, has helped himself to four goals in three games. Make of that what you will.
Highlight: In August, Koke scored a screamer and a bicycle kick to help Atletico sink Las Palmas for their first three points of the season.
Words: Thore Haugstad
78. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
- Chiellini was on the winning side in a Serie A match for the 200th time when Juventus beat Cagliari 2-0 in February
Chiellini is happy to play with his head bandaged up and with blood on his shirt, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that he looks set to be the last member of the vaunted Juventus backline left standing. Andrea Barzagli is close to retirement and Leonardo Bonucci fled to Milan, but King Kong remains.
His fall down this list shows that, while he may no longer be the dynamic force he was, few strikers enjoy coming up against the 33-year-old when the whistle blows. Chiellini played an important part in Juve’s march to yet another domestic double, but he will want to forget the Champions League final – where he left Cristiano Ronaldo unmarked not once but twice – as quickly as possible.
The Bianconeri have shipped goals at an unusually high rate in 2017/18, but few would bet against them and their bruising defender rounding into form as the season progresses.
Highlight: Captain for the night as Gigi Buffon sat out, the stand-in skipper got to lift the Coppa Italia following victory over Lazio.
Words: Adam Digby
77. Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich)
- Arturo Vidal has won 3.3 tackles per 90 minutes, the joint-third-highest average in the Bundesliga this season
Vidal doesn't really do quiet seasons, but by his standards the last 12 months have been slightly less eventful than usual. The Bundesliga has now become a formality for the charismatic Chilean and Bayern: he perhaps stood out most with memorable performances in the Champions League against Arsenal and Real Madrid.
Although Bayern's performances have dropped around him, the amount of minutes Vidal has played have also taken their toll. Another summer tournament, in which he clocked up a further 11 international appearances for Chile, is too much football. In the end his influence couldn't carry La Roja to the 2018 World Cup, however, and he'll be watching from home.
Under Jupp Heynckes at Bayern, Vidal looks to have found some rhythm again and even managed to score in four successive Bundesliga games against Augsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hannover and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Highlight: Vidal led from the front as Chile went to the Confederations Cup final, losing to Germany in the final.
Words: Russell Smith
76. Thiago Silva (PSG)
- Thiago Silva has been the most accurate passer in Ligue 1 this season, completing 96.2% of his attempts
He’s now in his sixth season at PSG, but Silva has had to fight off the critics this year – the Brazilian was blamed in some quarters for PSG’s 6-1 defeat and Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona last spring.
It’s true that on occasion he can look a little less imperious than he did in his Milan prime, or during the early part of his PSG career, but at 33 he still has plenty to offer. That PSG didn’t target a new central defender during the summer transfer window shows that his superiors are still counting on him.
Silva’s hunger for trophies remains as strong as ever: he’s driven by the genuinely realistic prospect of becoming the first PSG captain ever to lift the Champions League trophy.
Highlight: A series of brilliantly composed performances as PSG romped through the 2017/18 Champions League group stage.
Words: James Eastham