FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: 80-71
73. Claudio Marchisio
Claudio Marchisio is, without question, the unsung hero behind the success that Juventus have enjoyed over the past five seasons. While the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo each moved on to new challenges, the Turin native remained, becoming an even more vital part of the team under Max Allegri than he was under predecessor Antonio Conte.
Formerly an energetic box-to-box midfielder with a knack for scoring important goals, Marchisio has reinvented himself as a defensive anchor and adept passer, ensuring the Bianconeri maintain a high tempo when in possession. A torn ACL meant he missed the start of the current season, and Juve struggled to reach their usual high standards without the tactical intelligence and calming influence of the criminally underrated 30-year-old. – AD
72. Harry Kane
Tournament years are often defined by their marquee competitions, but the Tottenham striker should be grateful we’re broadening our analysis a little wider.
Having rattled in 25 Premier League goals in 2015/16 – four more than he managed in his breakout season – Harry Kane travelled to Euro 2016 tipped to be among the competition’s top scorers. Yet a jaded-looking 23-year-old failed to find the net as England crashed out at the last 16 stage. Roy Hodgson, already the England manager before last, may regret his curious decision to make the 6ft 2in Spurs goal machine take corners.
Yet with his club side, the Chingford-born hitman has proven himself to be among the very best forwards that the Premier League has to offer. His goals, including an incredible bending effort against arch-rivals Arsenal in March, helped Spurs to a 3rd-place finish – their best in over 25 years.
An early-season injury slowed his progress in 2016/17, but he still managed to become the 11th-fastest player to reach 50 Premier League goals. He returned just in time to score his fifth goal in five league matches in November, before netting a dramatic late brace against West Ham. – JM
71. Mauro Icardi
“Just focus on the football” would be perfect advice for both Mauro Icardi and his growing band of critics. The fallout from the love-triangle spat with former team-mate Maxi Lopez and his wife Wanda Nara was bad enough, but he's now also developed a knack of upsetting Inter supporters – both in person and via his controversial autobiography.
Yet all that simply detracts from the fact that the Nerazzurri skipper remains a deadly striker who loves performing in big games. Icardi has repeatedly proven to be the one player that Juventus's vaunted defence cannot shackle (seven goals in eight matches to date), and his overall Serie A record of a strike every other game stems directly from his incredible accuracy in front of goal. Deadly, destructive and always in the headlines – just not always for the right reasons. – AD