FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: 70-61
Featuring six Bundesliga stars and Chelsea's No.1...
70. Marco Reus
Reus owes somebody in Warsaw a very big cake. The German forward’s career is forever stalling becasue of injury: at 27, when he should be in his prime, Reus is battling to make up for lost time; lost Champions League finals; lost World Cups and European Championships.
So, what he really needed after a six-month layoff was an obliging opponent. And Legia Warsaw were very obliging in November – no more so than goalkeeper and deserving cake recipient Radoslaw Cierzniak, who helped Reus to net a hat-trick in his first game since May as Borussia Dortmund won 8-4 (yes, 8-4).
Reus and his BVB chum Mario Götze are in the same boat and paddling furiously against the tide, albeit for different reasons: Reus, starting again after signs last season he could return to his best, and Götze, starting again having been cowed by his time on Bayern Munich’s bench. Will one or both make this list next year? They may need to help each other along the way. – HD
69. Renato Sanches
Rarely can an 18-year-old have enjoyed such an impactful start to his senior career. Making his Benfica debut in November 2015, Sanches revitalised a struggling side to such an extent that he was never out of the team again.
His boundless energy and strength stood out as his force-of-nature style of play catalysed his team. It enabled Benfica to sensationally overturn an eight-point deficit and snatch the Portuguese title from bitter Lisbon rivals Sporting, in addition to him starring in a commendable Champions League run.
A big-money move to Bayern Munich was completed before the season was up, but Sanches wasn't done yet. He only made the Euro 2016 squad because Bernardo Silva was injured days before the announcement, but six weeks later he was wildly celebrating Portugal’s first-ever trophy having played a significant role in its conquest, so much so that he was named the Young Player of the Tournament. All before turning 19. – TK
68. Radja Nainggolan
Turning down a mega-money move in your peak years isn’t always the done thing in football, but Nainggolan’s decision to shun the advances of Chelsea this summer is testament to the steady progress he’d made over two-and-a-half years at the heart of Roma’s midfield.
The Belgian may have caught the eye with those two fearsome strikes at the Euros – his goal against Wales was a particularly bloodthirsty treat – but those highlight-reel moments bely an MO that expounds the dirty work.
Nainggolan has built his reputation on his capacity to cover ground like a roadrunner and an appetite for a full-blooded tackle (24 bookings over the last two seasons is some haul). In an era where Vine-friendly moments of tekkers can be a cheap shortcut to eminence, his no-frills attritional style is a welcome throwback. And those Chelsea rumours just won’t go away. – AH
67. Franck Ribery
Now 33 years old and into his 10th season as a Bayern Munich player, Ribery has enjoyed something of a renaissance in 2016: 12 of his 13 Bundesliga appearances last term came after the turn of the year, while the fact that he’s been included in Carlo Ancelotti’s XI five times in the German top flight since August means he’s on course to make more league starts this season than he did in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 campaigns combined.
Granted, the Frenchman’s best days are behind him and he’ll do well to keep the likes of Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman out of the team in crunch matches to come, but those who had written Ribery off have been made to reconsider their position. The ex-Marseille winger is still full of energy and remains difficult to stop when he’s in full flow, something the Hertha Berlin defence can attest to after Ribery turned them inside out before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Rune Jarstein in September. – GL
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