As ever, it has been a far from easy task. But the results are in, and we've nailed down the final list.
Will Iker Casillas lose his place in our list like he lost his place in the Real Madrid first team? Will England's 'golden generation' continue to drift? Has the Bundesliga become our most represented league? Can Franck Ribery break the duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
They've both had sensational years but who of Messi or Ronaldo is topping the tree this year? As both battle it out for January's grand FIFA prize we've ranked the duo ourselves based on their 2013 showings. The top three of our list has exactly matched the top three in the Ballon d'Or for the last two seasons, so you should see this as something of a prelude to January's big do in Zurich.
In the new magazine - out on Wednesday - we've interviewed several of the world's best players, including the No.1. But who's the greatest?
There's only one way to find out…
The exemplar of the modern top-class centre-back - bulky but agile, tall but lithe, an economic migrant but settled enough to captain his team - Kompany has been a roaring success in the Premier League.
He should be looking forward to 2014, considering the Belgium side he skippers are off to their first finals since 2002, but he will be concerned that injuries are taking longer to shrug off these days. His club side Manchester City are certainly the poorer without his calming presence.
The 26-year-old’s habit of scoring important goals continued into 2013, with crucial strikes against PSG and France towards the business end of last season.
That’s not to say he isn’t extremely consistent and effective - the forward has continued to perform well under Barcelona’s new manager Gerardo Martino, and is something of an unsung hero at Camp Nou.
EXCLUSIVE Pedro interview in the new FourFourTwo
"No matter how many shots you save, we will never accept you in our shirt." So claimed the banner unfurled by Bayern fans after Neuer's move from Schalke in summer 2011.
All Neuer can do is keep saving shots, and he does it well: last season Bayern broke dozens of Bundesliga records at both ends of the field, including most clean sheets (21 in 34 games), fewest goals conceded (18) and fewest away goals conceded (7). Neuer was in goal for 31 of those 34 games, and is Germany's undisputed No.1. Accept it.
Nine league goals and a starring role in Malaga’s surprise run to the Champions League quarter-finals inspired Carlo Ancelotti to make the former Valencia trainee his first summer signing at Real Madrid.
The €30 million man hit the ground running at Santiago Bernabeu with three goals in his first three outings, keeping Mesut Ozil out of the side and forcing the German to seek regular football elsewhere, much to Arsenal’s gain.
Muller’s 23 goals and 17 assists were a major contributing factor to Bayern’s unprecedented treble last season, as the 24-year-old brilliant Bavarian consolidated his position as one of the world’s top players.
In a sense, his incredible versatility weighs against him: the German doesn’t instantly spring to mind in debates about great forwards or midfielders, but he can play as both to a very high level. His spatial awareness in midfield makes him a dastardly opponent and he can finish too: he was Bayern’s top scorer in the Champions League with eight goals.
Sensational in a Chelsea side anything but last season, Mata’s creativity saw him top the charts for Premier League assists - and net 12 goals.
It didn’t seem to matter to Jose Mourinho, who dropped the Spain man at the start of his tenure, but make no mistake: Mata is still one of the world’s greatest No.10s. He’s got a point to prove with both club and country now.
The centre-back’s late blooming was worth the wait where Bayern are concerned. “He’s one of the best defenders I've ever played with,” glowed Philipp Lahm shortly after his team-mate’s arrival.
While far from an unknown quantity after almost three years at Borussia Mönchengladbach, the 30-year-old’s influence in the Bavarians’ brilliant campaign was surprising as it was significant. The big-haired Brazilian can do no wrong right now.
Yes, yes, we know. And no, he shouldn’t be higher. Not when you consider the last 12 months haven’t been the best for the Manchester United forward.
Not only did he see his position as Manchester United’s best player usurped by Robin van Persie, he was dropped for key games in the league and Champions League. So there.
Returning to his boyhood club last season couldn’t have gone any better for the 24-year-old, who took to Jürgen Klopp’s adventurous brand of attacking football like a duck to water.
When Dortmund need him Reus steps up, as demonstrated by his flawless displays domestically and in Europe last season. With his guile comes goals too - lots of them. And there’s much more to come.
EXCLUSIVE Marco Reus interview in the new FourFourTwo
Long gone is the scamp found with females in training ground hot tubs. So much so, in fact, that former Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes went as far to name him “the world’s best midfielder” alongside Sergio Busquets.
It was just more praise in a terrific year for the 29-year-old, whose three Bayern trophies were complemented by a 100th Germany cap in October.
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