Maybe next year? The men who almost made the FFT100

It's no mean feat making it onto FourFourTwo's Best 100 Football Players in the World 2014 shortlist – as this lot found out...

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By now you'll have seen our carefully-crafted shortlist of the world's finest footballers, but what about the ones who just missed out?

For various reasons the players below didn't make the cut: those on their way up, those who need to try a bit harder, and the unlucky ones who spent most of 2014 troubling a physio...

The up-and-comers

Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim)

A dazzling year from the young Brazilian, who marked his first call-up for the Seleção with an excellent goal against Austria earlier this month. The 23-year-old grabbed 16 goals and 12 assists in a superb campaign for the free-scoring Sinsheim outfit, and has started the 2014/15 season promisingly. If he keeps it up, he'll be impossible to ignore next time around.

TALENTSPOTTER Meet the Brazilian box of tricks Liverpool should make their top January target

Julian Draxler (Schalke)

The prodigious young German carried the hopes of his team for much of last season in the absence of Dutch goal-getter Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. It's easy to forget that all this came by the age of 20 for the Schalke academy grad, who made his international debut as long ago as 2012 and was part of Germany's World Cup-winning squad – if largely unused. A ruptured tendon has ended his year prematurely, but he'd began the season as a guaranteed first-choice starter under new boss Roberto Di Matteo. 

Shinji Okazaki (Mainz)

No spring chicken aged 28, but the Japan international's stock has sky-rocketed after a magnificent 2013/14 campaign with Mainz in which he plundered 15 goals in 33 games. The former Stuttgart hitman has carried his form into this season too, bagging nine times in his first 15 matches. He didn't have the best of World Cups, netting once, but has still attracted scouts from all over Europe since.

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

Two seasons ago it seemed inconceivable that the former Sunderland midfielder could ever make a list like this, having struggled initially at Anfield under Kenny Dalglish. But the young central midfielder seemingly came of age as the Reds challenged for the Premier League title last season, forging a strong bong with Steven Gerrard and establishing himself as an England regular. Consistency is the name of the game now. 

Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)

Spurs' most influential outfield player may be too hard to ignore if he continues pulling rabbits out of hats for the Londoners. Five goals in 13 games this season is an excellent return from a midfielder who also creates plenty on a weekly basis, even if the numbers say he's still awaiting a Premier League assist this term. 

Paco Alcacer (Valencia)

It took Diego Costa eight games to open his account for Spain, against lowly Luxembourg, but 21-year-old Alcacer wasted no time putting the Chelsea hitman to shame. Since making his debut against France in early September, the Valencia striker netted three goals in Spain's next four qualifiers, including an equaliser off the bench in la Roja's shock defeat in Slovakia. Four goals and as many assists in 12 games for his club this season demonstrates a youngster on the rise. 

William Carvalho (Sporting)

It's no wonder the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been keen on the excellent young defensive midfielder. The Angola-born star is already a regular for club and country aged just 22, providing promise in a Portugal side clawing their way back from an awful World Cup. Assured in possession, intelligent and strong in the tackle, Carvalho is now showcasing his talents in the Champions League, where he has played every minute of Sporting's campaign so far. 

TALENTSPOTTER Everything you need to know about... William Carvalho

Alex Sandro/Danilo (Porto)

OK so they're not the same person, but the two Porto full-backs share a lot in common. They play on either side of the back four, are both 23 and Brazil internationals. Alex Sandro has been in Portugal for half a year longer than his compatriot, Danilo, who's been deemed good enough to oust Dani Alves from the national team setup. Don't be surprised when they're being linked with a club near you in the near future. 

Lucas Moura (PSG)

It's only now that Moura is really starting to show what he's really capable of in Paris. PSG's fifth-most expensive player ever (€40m in 2013) started only half of his 36 appearances for the Ligue 1 champions last season, and completed 90 minutes just seven times. An assist return of 13, plus five goals, however, was not bad at all and the 22-year-old Brazilian has added more to his tally this time out. Six net-ripplers in his first 13 league games indicates a player improving his end product. 

Marco Verratti (PSG)

Now a fully fledged member of Laurent Blanc's first team in the French capital, and a potential long-term successor to Andrea Pirlo for Italy, Verratti is heading in the right direction. Blanc hasn't hesitated in throwing the former Pescara youngster into PSG's big games this season, and was rewarded with a goal from the 22-year-old in the French side's 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Champions League. Five assists in 12 league games this season is no bad return either. 

Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)

Liverpool... Newcastle... Borussia Dortmund... Everton – just a handful of the clubs linked with Lyon's hottest prospect in the last year. Now a full France international, the 23-year-old joint-leads the Ligue 1 scoring charts after 15 games this season, following 22 in 54 games for les Gones last time out (all competitions). The French speedster is going places – in all likeliness, quite literally soon enough. 

Read on for those who must do better...