FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2018
70. Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)
There are some who see Aspas as little more than a poorly taken corner at Liverpool. Put simply, they’re all missing out because this is one of La Liga’s best all-round forwards.
The Galician could easily play for a top-four side in Spain, but instead chooses to raise the level of boyhood club Celta – and the league is all the better for it. Winner of back-to-back Zarra trophies for the highest-scoring Spaniard in La Liga, the 31-year-old is on course to make it a third in succession, hitting double figures by matchday 14 despite Celta’s wild inconsistency.
And what goals they are: from distance, in the air, from free-kicks or from close-range. Aspas has it all. – Lee Roden
69. Gonzalo Higuain (Milan)
Despite Higuain’s insistence that he was forced out of Juventus in the summer to make way for Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention the Argentine’s impressive meltdown last month which earned him a red card against his former club, the striker is exactly what Milan have been missing.
The Rossoneri struggled without a reliable goalscorer last season and that is exactly what the 30-year-old has proven to be at his third major Italian club, with seven goals to his name in all competitions so far.
Higuain scored 55 goals in two seasons in Turin, including 23 last term as they secured the domestic double. Milan are unlikely to turn down the option of making his loan move permanent next summer given his remarkable consistency. – Alasdair Mackenzie
68. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)
There’s a good reason Immobile is called ‘King Ciro’ on the blue side of Rome. Last season was the most prolific of the 28-year-old’s career as he became one of Europe’s top marksmen, finishing as joint-top scorer in Serie A (29) and the Europa League (eight).
The broader numbers are staggering: 41 goals in 47 appearances last season, 10 league goals already this term and a total of 78 in 107 games for Lazio since his arrival following unspectacular spells at Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and Torino.
Immobile is more than a mere poacher, though. He helps construct his team’s attacks and provides frequent assists for his attacking colleagues, none more so than Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. A genuine all-rounder. – Alasdair Mackenzie
67. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
“Andrew Robertson was born in Glasgow,” wrote Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport after the left-back’s lung-busting display against Roma in the first leg of last season’s Champions League semi-final. “And this explains everything.”
Robertson was one of the surprises of 2017/18, arriving at Anfield from Hull to little fanfare before going on to establish himself as one of Jurgen Klopp’s most important assets.
His bursts forward in possession add dynamism and thrust to the Liverpool attack, while his terrific delivery from out wide has resulted in nine assists for the Merseysiders this calendar year. “I’m still tired just looking at Robertson,” said a bemused Jose Mourinho after December’s 3-1 defeat at Anfield. – Greg Lea
66. Joao Cancelo (Juventus)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Turin didn’t exactly want for celebration, but he wasn’t the only Portuguese international Juventus signed last summer – one who is proving to be almost as important as his megastar compatriot.
Joao Cancelo – who spent last season on loan at Inter from Valencia – has rapidly improved the defensive side of his game but retained the ever-present attacking verve which unlocks even the most resolute opponents through a stunning combination of speed and skill from full-back.
The 24-year-old is no reckless marauder, though, and diligently tracks his man before joining the forwards at the perfect moment in Dani Alves-esque fashion. He’s become the perfect all-round full-back Juventus needed. – Adam Digby
65. Koke (Atletico Madrid)
It’s hard to know what to write about a man so Colchonero he not only bleeds red and white, but feels no less Atleti than the strawberry tree-climbing bear on the club badge.
“For me,” Koke once told FFT, “this is Madrid’s true club. I’ve been a Colchonero my whole life. My idol was Juninho, the former Middlesbrough playmaker. He was the sort of player I wanted to be.”
And he is, only better. He turns 27 in January and averages 50 games a season, chipping in with the odd goal. Mainly, though, he guarantees possession and can play anywhere in Diego Simeone’s narrow midfield four. True, he had a poor World Cup and has become the fall guy for Spain’s troubles, but it’s a sign of Koke’s determination that he has forced himself back into Luis Enrique’s squad. The sort of player every team dreams of having. – Andrew Murray
64. Isco (Real Madrid)
It’s been a difficult year for Isco, who has struggled to prove himself as a key man for two coaches at Real Madrid, but he did at least provide some positives during Spain's disappointing World Cup in Russia.
Isco offers a link from midfield to attack but also a direct threat in and around the penalty area, and when on song his intelligence, movement and technical ability make him a tough opponent to stifle.
A player of his ability should be playing more football, however. Such is life in Madrid that Isco has only started five La Liga matches this season, and his short-term future at the Bernabeu is unclear. – Simon Harrison
63. Angel Di Maria (PSG)
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar dominate the headlines at PSG – and that’s exactly how Di Maria likes it. The Argentina international lets his football do the talking and Thomas Tuchel is the latest PSG manager to realise just how valuable the 30-year-old is.
Dynamic, energetic, occasionally frustrating but consistently effective, Di Maria has spent the past 12 months tormenting Ligue 1 opponents and keeping PSG’s fearsome frontmen well serviced.
He also lit up the World Cup with a 30-yard screamer of his own in Argentina’s 4-3 last-16 defeat against his adopted homeland, making his mark in spectacular fashion in one of the tournament’s most thrilling encounters. – James Eastham
62. Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan)
A meme was doing the rounds on social media recently. It contained two images, one of a ferocious T-Rex and one of timid Toy Story character Rex. The caption said ‘Croatia Perisic and Inter Perisic’.
While obviously intended as an amusing exaggeration, it did strike a chord. In the last year at Inter, Perisic has alternated between invincible and invisible, but his haul of 11 goals and 11 assists last season helped the Nerazzurri return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.
For Croatia, the 29-year-old was crucial in their surprise run to the final, scoring three goals – including one in the final – and putting in some standout displays... not least in the semi-final against England. – Alasdair Mackenzie
61. Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich)
Bundesliga followers have observed Süle’s impressive development for some time. Few, however, would have predicted his position as a mainstay for Germany and Bayern Munich so quickly.
It would be hard to dispute that the 22-year-old is the best central defender at Bayern, and has held a level of consistency while more experienced campaigners have struggled around him.
Süle was given just the final game of the World Cup group stage, but perhaps in hindsight, coach Joachim Löw should have pushed him into the firing line a little quicker. 2019 should be much brighter for him. – Russell Smith