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…
An unsung hero of PSG’s title-winning campaign, Matuidi took his performances to a new level and fully warranted his nomination for Ligue 1 player of the season. His drive and sheer unbridled will to win was thrilling to watch as he dominated games in the engine room, charging from box-to-box and grabbing games by the scruff of the neck.
Captained France in a friendly against Uruguay as reward for his efforts.
An interesting year for Valdes. Announcing he will leave Barcelona after 18 years, including 12 first-team seasons, the 31-year-old has found himself as busy as a Barça keeper ever gets, with Tata Martino's tactics leaving him more exposed to display some fine saves.
Moreover, he has started to replace Iker Casillas in the Spain side, leaving him open to a fascinating 2014 which could include World Cup glory and a move to the Premier League.
An integral member of the swashbuckling Dortmund side that reached the Champions League final, the composed stopper has cemented his status as one of the finest centre-backs in Germany.
Mistakes have crept into his game, though, and the young defender faces a battle winning back his place in the national side for next summer’s World Cup thanks to the form of Per Mertesacker.
Marchisio hasn’t been as effective for Juventus in the last 12 months as he was previously, hence a drop of 21 places, but the man they call Il Principino – the little prince – remains an important player for club and country.
A solid all-rounder who can slot nicely into a variety of tactical systems in midfield, Marchisio chipped in with six league goals last season as Juve retained the title.
The Armenians are coming. Mkhitaryan is spearheading a rapidly improving footballing nation in style. With his move from Donetsk to Dortmund the hipsters’ favourite has been transformed from spellcheck-spiting pupa to superstar butterfly, wowing English fans with a goal against Arsenal and filling the big boots of Mario Gotze nicely with three goals and five assists in his first 10 Bundesliga games.
He’s currently learning German – his sixth language.
EXCLUSIVE Henrikh Mkhitaryan interview in the new FourFourTwo
The Turkey international is a tireless worker on the left flank, but continues to make a decent goalscoring contribution. He netted in Atletico’s Champions League wins over Zenit and Porto, helping the Rojiblancos into the last 16.
His continuingly improving form is going a long way to help cover the loss of Radamel Falcao over the summer.
For Manchester United he’s one that got away. For Juventus he’s a stalwart, and destined to be one of the world’s best midfielders for years to come. Able to operate as a deeper, defensive midfielder or push forward in a more attacking role he loves, Pogba is already a first choice for France at just 20.
One of the most exciting young players in world football.
The former Fluminense flyer finished joint-third for league assists in 2009/10 as Manuel Pellegrini employed him as a flying wing-back. The 25-year-old has since found the right balance between defensive dexterity and attacking intent to establish himself as one of the world’s leading left-backs and ‘heir to Roberto Carlos’, according to the great man himself.
Marcelo has also become a captain of Real in the absence of Iker Casillas.
The Roman emperor dropped out of this list in 2009, at the age of 33. But anyone expecting him to ease into pre-retirement anecdotage can gaze back in wonder on his 2013.
In February he hammered in a 70mph winner against Juventus; in March he became the second-highest scorer in Serie A history; in September he signed a new contract that keeps him at his beloved Roma to the age of 39; and since then he has led the club's renaissance as table-topping pace-setters. Old dog, new tricks.
A classy midfielder with an eye for a pass and the technique to match his vision, Moutinho was a key player in helping Porto retain the title in his homeland. He clocked 12 assists in 27 games last season, winning Porto’s player of the season award in his final campaign in the blue and white shirt.
Joined Monaco in the summer, where he has continued to impress.
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