FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2018
30. Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Given the injuries that Reus has suffered in recent years, it’s remarkable that in 2018 he returned to the best form of his career. Having played little football due to injury last season, Reus was one of very few bright sparks for Germany at an otherwise forgettable World Cup.
Spurred on by new team-mates and Lucien Favre, a coach who unearthed his brilliance at Borussia Monchengladbach back in 2012, the 29-year-old wide man is reborn.
He is a captain who leads by example – taking the teenager Jadon Sancho under his wing, for one – and has had a direct hand in 15 Bundesliga goals (10 scored by him, five assisted) already this season. He has been the best German player in 2018. – Jonathan Harding
29. Ederson (Manchester City)
In terms of the impact made in a player’s debut season, Ederson deserves to go down as one of the most influential signings in Premier League history. Manchester City were largely underwhelming as they finished third in 2017/18, when the error-prone Claudio Bravo was seemingly unable to keep out any opposition efforts on target.
The Jaws lookalike has proved a much more reliable shot-stopper, but it’s his composure in possession and passing ability – both long and short – which stand out most of all.
The former Benfica custodian isn’t the first goalkeeper to play a part in starting attacks, but he’s probably the best at in the world today. “I could play in midfield,” he told FFT earlier in the year. And who are we to argue? – Greg Lea
28. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
If Jurgen Klopp could be one player, you’d suspect he’d be Firmino: teeth gritted, sleeves rolled up, fighting until the whistle.
While Mohamed Salah has scored most of Liverpool’s goals, the Brazilian striker has facilitated them, linking up play and harrying defenders to set the tone for the Reds’ counter-pressing. Firmino also chipped in with 15 league goals of his own last season, adding to the 14 assists he managed at home and abroad.
Though less prolific since the World Cup, where he warmed the bench, Firmino remains to Klopp what Jorginho is to Maurizio Sarri and David Silva to Pep Guardiola: an embodiment of the team’s style and attitude. – Thore Haugstad
27. Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
It's been a year of two halves for Godin. He was imperious in Atletico Madrid’s Europa League win where he shut out Arsenal at the Metropolitano, then gave Marseille absolutely nothing in the Lyon final.
He followed that with an even more impressive World Cup. The veteran was arguably centre-back of the tournament in Russia, transferring his club partnership with Jose Gimenez to the international stage, but the hangover since has been long and painful.
This season, mistakes have crept into Godin’s game that suggest age may finally be taking its toll on the veteran warrior. If this is approaching the end, what a run. – Lee Roden
26. Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
The year could hardly have begun better for Coutinho, who sealed a £142m move to Barcelona in January. The 26-year-old playmaker has since won a Spanish league and cup double, wooing the Camp Nou with dazzling goals from long range.
Though Brazil lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals at the World Cup, Coutinho also shone in Russia, netting two goals – including an absolute stunner against Switzerland – and creating another two.
Having been struck down by a thigh injury in early November, Coutinho is back in the Barça team and will hope for an even more productive year in 2019. – Thore Haugstad
25. Marcelo (Real Madrid)
A leading example of a wing-back in the modern game – there isn’t an attacking full-back out there who can offer Marcelo’s offensive capabilities and technical quality.
After scoring an important away goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final first leg, then providing an assist in the second, the Brazil international went on to pick out two assists in the final against Liverpool.
The defensive side of his game is far from perfect, but his technique, eye for a pass and left foot are exceptional tools for an exciting defender who has a huge influence in the final third. – Simon Harrison
24. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Sterling is closing in on 300 career appearances at club level, which is why it’s difficult to forget he’s still only 23. He was unfairly maligned before the start of 2018, but the Manchester City forward has enjoyed a brilliant year and is now rightly considered among Europe’s best in his position.
Sterling scored in his first game of the calendar year against Watford and has barely looked back since: in 38 club appearances in 2018, he’s found the net 16 times and provided 17 assists. Goals proved harder to come by at the World Cup, but Sterling struck twice in England’s memorable Nations League victory over Spain in October. – Greg Lea
23. Edinson Cavani (PSG)
Now 31, Cavani remains one of the best centre-forwards on the planet. He’s unstoppable at the top of his game, and is a tremendous sight for fans who love their strikers to get into the box.
A formidable force in Uruguay’s run to the World Cup quarter-finals (well, eventually) – who can forget his stunning crossfield one-two with Luis Suarez and headed finish in their last-16 win over Portugal? – he was also the 28-goal Ligue 1 top scorer as PSG romped to another league title.
Cavani’s stock may have dropped a couple of notches since Thomas Tuchel arrived in the French capital, but don’t bet against him taking a starring role when the prizes are up for grabs in spring. – James Eastham
22. Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Ask Lionel Messi which player he links up with best these days at Barcelona, and it’s pretty certain his reply will be Alba. The tenacious full-back has matured well and become a key part of Barcelona’s setup, with his rapid, piercing runs down the left opening up crucial avenues for the attackers beyond him.
Defensively he’s improved over the years too, and now looks more assured with the experience he’s gained. He was dropped by country recently – thanks to a fall-out with Luis Enrique stemming from his time at Barcelona – but it didn’t take long before the Roja boss had a rethink and brought Alba back into the fold. Spain will be all the better for it. – David Cartlidge
21. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus)
The man steering the wheel at Juventus, Pjanic is the creative mastermind at the heart of a side that has its sights locked on European domination.
The Bosnian playmaker sits at the base of the Old Lady’s midfield trident, directing team-mates, intercepting passes and dictating the tempo. His composed performance against Manchester United on Champions League duty at Old Trafford was a fine example of a midfielder at the peak of his powers.
Pjanic is also a free-kick expert, although his dead-ball opportunities have become more limited following the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Sigh... – Alasdair Mackenzie