Ranked! The 100 best players in the world, 2022
The best players in the world in 2022, featuring all-time greats, up-and-coming wonderkids and the stars we've been raving about all season
10. Vinicius Junior
Real Madrid’s Brazilian sensation enjoyed a breakout season in 2021/22, playing a vital role in their stunning run to the Champions League and La Liga double.
The 22-year-old ended last season with 22 goals to his name in all competitions, but the biggest of them all was his close-range finish against Liverpool in the Champions League final.
He was named as the tournament’s young player of the season, while his form propelled him into the Brazil squad and he will be part of Tite’s star-studded attack in Qatar.
9. Harry Kane
Last summer’s Man City transfer saga seems a long time ago now, as Kane put the past behind him in 2021/22 by bagging 27 goals in all competitions and helping Spurs qualify for the Champions League.
The England captain’s partnership with Son Heung-min continued to flourish – when Kane set up the South Korean’s goal against Leeds in February, it was the 37th time they combined, making them the Premier League’s most prolific partnership ever.
The 29-year-old has continued to be a reliable threat for Antonio Conte this season, with 11 league goals to his name already, a tally only Erling Haaland has bettered, and his strike against Wolves in August saw Kane make Premier League history as the player with the most goals – 185 – for a single club in the division.
8. Mohamed Salah
Ok, we’ll admit it: the 2022/23 campaign hasn’t been one to remember for Salah so far. The Egyptian winger has been one of several Reds players to struggle for form, but his year overall has still been very good.
Salah captained Egypt to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations at the start of the year, but they were beaten on penalties by Sadio Mane’s Senegal – who then repeated the feat in the World Cup play-off the following month.
The 30-year-old bounced back from the disappointment to win his third Premier League golden boot, which he shared with Tottenham’s Heung-min Son after they both scored 23 goals.
Salah also ended the campaign with a league-high 13 assists and since penning a new three-year Liverpool contract in the summer he’s scored 14 goals in 20 games – including a six-minute hat-trick against Rangers in the Champions League.
6. Robert Lewandowski
Times are tough at Barcelona, but not for Lewa. The Polish striker has made the jump from Bundesliga to La Liga look as easy as anything, and lifted some of the gloom during a difficult time in Catalonia.
Last season at Bayern, Lewandowski scored a staggering 50 goals in all competitions to win a fifth consecutive Bundesliga top scorer crown and a second European Golden Shoe in a row, as he helped the German giants to the title.
He departed for Barca in the summer and although he couldn’t stop them from crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage, the Pole has started in stunning form with 18 goals in 18 games.
5. Lionel Messi
Given the ludicrously high standards Messi set at Barcelona, his first season as a PSG player was a bit underwhelming.
That said, an underwhelming year for the Argentina legend still looked like this: A Ligue 1 trophy, double figures for goals (11) and assists (15) and captaining his country through an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign. Not too shabby.
Messi has been back to something resembling his dazzling best this season in Paris, though, and has already bettered his goal tally from last season with 12, as well as being one assist away from levelling his tally from last term. The 35-year-old has hit frightening form at the perfect moment ahead of World Cup 2022.
4. Kylian Mbappe
Still only 23 (!), Mbappe’s rapid rise towards becoming the best player in the world continued in 2022 with more goals, trophies, and jaw-dropping moments for the highlight reel.
He ended 2021/22 as Ligue 1’s top scorer for the fourth time with 28 goals, after a will-he-won’t-he transfer saga with Real Madrid ended with Mbappe penning a lucrative new deal with PSG.
Rumours about his happiness and future in Paris have continued to swirl since, though, not that it’s impacted his form – the France striker has 18 goals to his name already this season, including seven in six Champions League group games, and heads to the World Cup with four goals in his last six games for Les Bleus.
3. Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne’s consistent level of excellence is almost taken for granted by regular Premier League watchers by now, but there is nothing normal about the spectacularly productive Belgian.
The playmaker was named Premier League player of the year last season after providing 19 goals and 14 assists, while this term he’s already scored three and set up another 13 in all competitions.
The footballing world took a moment to stop and applaud the Belgian sensation’s ability in May when he scored four goals against Wolves, including a hat-trick on his 'weaker' left foot in the space of 24 minutes.
2. Karim Benzema
Benzema’s sensational form for Real Madrid in the second half of last season earned him a richly deserved Ballon d’Or, making the Frenchman the oldest winner of the prize since Stanley Matthews in 1954.
Like a fine French wine, the striker has got better with age, and his incredible feats in Europe were responsible for winning Real Madrid yet another Champions League title.
He bagged a 17-minute hat-trick against PSG, another treble against Chelsea, a decisive extra-time goal in the second leg with the Blues, and a goal in the remarkable comeback against Manchester City on the way to the top prize, while claiming La Liga’s top scorer crown for the first time.
1. Erling Haaland
Where to start? He's as unplayable a striker as we’ve seen in years.
Although Haaland’s end to last season at Dortmund was relatively quiet by his standards, he’s more than made up for that with his explosive impact at Manchester City.
The first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three successive home games. The first player to notch 25 goals in his first 20 Champions League games.
At the time of writing, 23 goals in 17 games for Pep Guardiola’s side, and six in six for Norway in the Nations League to boot. Haaland isn’t a footballer, he’s a force of nature – and the question of how to stop him remains unanswered.
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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...
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