Ranked! The 100 best football players in the world: 2023

Ranked! The 100 best football players in the world: 2023
(Image credit: Future)

2023 has been a wild ride – and these were the 100 best football players in the world for the year.

Here at FourFourTwo HQ, we all clubbed together to create this list of the great and the good of the past 12 months, who have defined the sport in 2023. There are some who may never feature on this list again and some who have dropped out altogether; there are some returnees and some first-time faces. 

But it's a tough call. Do you pick players based on what they can do? What they did do? A mixture of both? It's all subjective. So tell us who you think should be on the list – tweet us @FourFourTwo

The 100 best football players in the world of 2023: 100. Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets #5 of Inter Miami CF controls the ball during the second half of the Leagues Cup 2023 match between Cruz Azul and Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium on July 21, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

(Image credit: Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

The phrase "rolling back the years" has been somewhat overused in recent years (30-year-old Ross Barkley is far too young to qualify for it, used during his virtuoso performance against Arsenal for Luton recently) – but Sergio Busquets' year typifies the term. One final title with Barcelona was followed by the retirement move to Fort Lauderdale, where he's had the time and space at Inter Miami to truly be appreciated for his work on the ball. An all-time great in his twilight.

99. Nahuel Molina

Nahuel Molina of Atletico Madrid celebrates after scoring the team's second goal during the LaLiga Santander match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on May 28, 2023 in Madrid, Spain.

(Image credit: Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

€10 million is looking like an absolute steal for Atletico Madrid. World Cup winner Nahuel Molina has enjoyed another consistent season at the top for Diego Simeone, bombing forward from wing-back and contributing at both ends of the pitch. One of the best full-backs in Spain, he's one of European football's unsung heroes. 

98. Diogo Costa

Diogo Costa of FC Porto saves a penalty kick from Kerem Demirbay (obscured) of Bayer Leverkusen during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Porto at BayArena on October 12, 2022 in Leverkusen, Germany.

(Image credit: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

It was only a matter of time before Diogo Costa would get his flowers. Tipped for greatness at a ludicrously young age, a stunning Champions League group stage performance last season has led to more steady performances between the sticks for Porto. He's going to the top.

97. Micky van de Ven

Micky van de Ven of Holland U21 during the EURO U21 match between Holland U21 v Georgia U21 at the Dynamo Arena on June 27, 2023 in Tbilisi Georgia

(Image credit: Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Micky van de Ven gets injured and Tottenham's defence falls apart for a little bit. Coincidence? Nope – the Dutchman has been one of the signings of the season in Europe this term, with frightening recovery pace that makes Ange Postecoglou's philosophy really click. A top buy.

96. Karim Benzema

Real Madrid lost Karim Benzema, who acknowledges the fans as they are presented to the crowd during the Karim Benzema Official Reception event at King Abdullah Sports City on June 08, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2023 was the year that King Karim finally departed the Bernabeu for Saudi Arabia. Over the past few years, his ascension to godlike status in the absence of both Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo has been stunning to see – our loss is Al-Ittihad's gain.

95. Lucas Paqueta

Lucas Paqueta

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He delivered arguably the most important assist of West Ham's modern history, threading Jarrod Bowen in for the Europa Conference winner. And perhaps no other Hammer has the composure and the quality in such a moment, either: Lucas Paqueta is the most mercurial man at David Moyes' disposal. He's had an electric 12 months. 

94. Isco

Isco Alarcon of Real Betis celebrates during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano at Estadio Benito Villamarin on September 02, 2023 in Seville, Spain.

(Image credit: Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

The renaissance of Isco Alcarcon has been beautiful. The ex-Real Madrid playmaker has rediscovered his brilliant best at Betis in 2023, weaving through defences like the player of old. At 31, he surely has a couple more seasons like this left?

93. Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud celebrates after AC Milan's win over Genoa in October 2023, which saw him end up in goal following a red card for Mike Maignan.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So rare is a striker like Olivier Giroud. Physical, dominant, aggressive and lethal, yet almost with a deft and grace to his game. The ultimate late bloomer, he's still arguably at his best at Milan – and as 2023 proves, he's not bad between the sticks either. 

92. Enzo Fernandez

Enzo Fernandez of Argentina poses during the official FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 portrait session on November 19, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

(Image credit: Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Benfica multiplied their investment when Todd Boehly was so enamoured with a World Cup superstar, he had to drop nine figures on him. Chelsea has been a tough gig for Enzo Fernandez but the young midfielder has shown glimpses of his world-class potential in a blue shirt. 

91. Serhou Guirassy

Serhou Guirassy of VfB Stuttgart reacts during the Bundesliga match between VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg at MHPArena on October 07, 2023 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're not going to judge if you've never heard of him before – but Serhou Guirassy has been the surprise competition to Harry Kane's expected one-man march to Bundesliga Golden Boot. A steady one-in-two ratio on loan at Stuttgart last term led to a permanent deal, where the 27-year-old has torn up this season, netting 16 in his first 11 appearances. Unsustainable? Perhaps – but undoubtedly one of the stars of the past calendar year. 

90. Nico Williams

Nico Williams of Athletic Club looks on during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Athletic Bilbao and UD Almeria at Estadio de San Mames on October 06, 2023 in Bilbao, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Athletic Club have got the Christmas present they wanted: penning Nico Williams to another four years in the Basque country. The winger has been excellent all year, showing two-footedness, directness and intensity out wide. At 21, he's only getting better. 

89. Marcus Thuram

Marcus Thuram of FC Internazionale celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Serie A TIM match between FC Internazionale and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 29, 2023 in Milan, Italy.

(Image credit: Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Marcus Thuram was one of the Bundesliga's worst-kept secrets and he's been solid in Serie A, too. Just like his World Cup-winning father Lilian, he's an incredibly intelligent, hungry footballer who has shown a lot of promise at Inter Milan thus far. 

88. Ivan Martin

Ivan Martin of Girona FC celebrates with his teammate Cristhian Stuani after scoring their team's fifth goal during the LaLiga Santander match between Girona FC and UD Almeria at Montilivi Stadium on February 17, 2023 in Girona, Spain.

(Image credit: Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Girona's surprise title assault might be Spain's answer to Leicester City in 2016 – but in truth, Ivan Martin doesn't have an equal from that Foxes side. With silky technique and brilliance on the ball, Martin has been a revelation this campaign – his performances may just earn him a huge move in the future. 

87. Christoper Nkunku

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 2: Christopher Nkunku of Chelsea during the pre-season friendly match between Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on August 2, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Yet to play competitively for Chelsea, Christopher Nkunku is still deserving of his place in the top 100 players on Earth, if just for his brilliance over the past couple of years. The forward is like a lightning bolt through the centre of his side, able to create, drift and attack the box with bluster: he might just be the catalyst to a faltering Blues side.

86. Viktor Gyokeres

Viktor Gyokeres celebrates another goal for Sporting

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Coventry to Lisbon isn't the most commonly trodden path but Viktor Gyokeres is something of a trendsetter. The Swedish hitman was the Championship's best player last season and has taken to Sporting with ease. With an £87m release clause, perhaps English football beckons once more in the future. 

85. Martin Zubimendi

Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad during the La Liga match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad played at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on October 8 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Cesar Cebolla / Pressinphoto / Icon Sport)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Real Sociedad have had a fantastic year under Imanol Alguacil. The Basque side qualified for the Champions League, won their group and Martin Zubimendi in the centre of midfield has been responsible for keeping the side ticking over. Barcelona and Arsenal loom with future offers, if you believe the rumour mill, and it's understandable: he's one of the best midfielders in Europe this season. 

84. Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa of Juventus FC looks on during the Serie A TIM match between AC Milan and Juventus at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 22, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Scaccianoce/Getty Images) Tottenham Hotspur stories

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Injuries and bans from UEFA competition have robbed English fans of watching Federico Chiesa a little more often – but the Juventus star is simply out of this world when he's at his best. Chiesa is dynamic, can beat a man both ways and has an intensity to him that few forwards do: no doubt English fans will be hoping that they don't see too much of him this summer, mind. 

83. Douglas Luiz

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa celebrates after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 26, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Nigel French/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Aston Villa is a complex ecosystem of a side organised meticulously by Unai Emery. It's hard to pick out one star but Douglas Luiz is perhaps the most obvious one. Controlled yet aggressive, able to carry or sit, and integral box-to-box, the Brazilian has been superb as the Midlands outfit have transformed under Emery into one of the most exciting sides to watch in Europe. 

82. Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling in action for England at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Raheem Sterling is a lesson in mentality. He has speed, strength, creativity and intelligence – but his finest asset is that one can simply never write him off. He always has a 10/10 in his locker just waiting when you least expect it… as former employers Manchester City found out to their detriment in that 4-4 draw. He's been wonderful this season but that game in particular might be the performance of the season from anyone in the Premier League. 

81. Federico Valverde

Federico Valverde

(Image credit: Getty)

He is the glue of that midfield. Fede Valverde can be anything depending on who's alongside him, as shown by winning a Champions League from right-wing and adapting to four-man diamond to do the hard-running alongside the likes of Jude Bellingham, Modric and Kroos. Is he still underrated?

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