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
50. Lautaro Martinez
Since joining Inter Milan from Racing in 2018, Lautaro Martinez has developed into one of the deadliest strikers on the planet. The Argentine is quick, direct and a lethal finisher, as proved by his impressive goal tally again this term. Martinez is also versatile, capable of playing as part of a front two, as he often does at Inter, alone, as is usually the case at international level, or even from the wing.
49. Christopher Nkunku
The Bundesliga’s reigning Player of the Year has picked up where he left off this term, smashing in 17 goals for RB Leipzig before seasons were halted for the World Cup. The 25-year-old is a powerhouse in and out of possession – a fast, direct and deadly forward who busts a gut to win the ball back for his team. He’s a modern manager’s dream, and he’s only just hitting his prime.
48. Marco Verratti
Death, taxes and Marco Verratti keeping things ticking over in midfield – there are few things in life as certain. The 30-year-old is classy in possession, positionally faultless and a leader now for club and country. Italy’s failure to make it to Qatar has knocked him down a good few places on this list, but the tempo-setter looks certain for another glittering season in Paris at least.
Eyebrows were raised when Man United elected to spend £55m on a 30-year-old that Real Madrid no longer considered a starter. But the five-time Champions League winner has slotted seamlessly into the Red Devils midfield – hustling and bustling with the determination of two players and showing his quality in possession as well. His positional intelligence could provide the springboard to the next great era at Old Trafford.
Some (especially those in England and North-Rhine Westphalia) sniffed when the 19-year-old playmaker was awarded the 2022 Golden Boy gong. Yet it was just reward for his consistent performances for club and country this calendar year. Gavi’s dazzling footwork and composure in possession have all the hallmarks of a La Masia upbringing, and few would bet against him becoming a legend in Catalonia.
45. Kieran Trippier
Trippier is a menace from dead-ball situations, has the creativity to unlock defences and, with a stint in La Liga, has become one of the most rounded defenders in the league, thanks to Diego Simeone’s school of deep blocks. Opposition wingers rarely ever get past him, while strikers often score from crosses he delivers into the box.
44. Cristiano Ronaldo
On the pitch, Ronaldo hasn’t exactly been ripping up many trees this season, but his quality is still undeniable.
His 18 league goals and being named in the Premier League Team of the Season shows that, while he is still past his best - a fact he is seemingly finding it difficult to come to terms with - the Portuguese forward is still worth his place on this list. After all, he is 37-years-old and recently scored his 700th club career goal, and for that you can’t begrudge him.
43. Gabriel Martinelli
A sharp, tenacious, dribbling goalscorer, Arsenal’s patience with Martinelli’s development is truly starting to pay off. In previous seasons the Brazilian has shown glimpses of his quality, but never consistently.
However, Martinelli has been one of the Premier League’s standout players at the start of the 2022/23 campaign – so much so that he has deservedly earned himself a Brazil World Cup call-up.
42. Dejan Kulusevski
The Swede’s all-round game is quite simply superb. He doesn't need an overlapping winger or midfielders to come towards him to link with: he's physical, deft and capable of producing a creative spark to free up Kane and Son beside him.
He's been almost flawless since arriving in English football, and his presence in Tottenham’s team is sorely missed whenever he’s not there.
41. Luis Diaz
Injury has halted the Colombian’s progress at Liverpool in recent months - considering his meteoric trajectory since joining the club last January, who knows how well he could be playing by now? The winger beats full-backs for fun with his sharp acceleration, silky dribbling and clever one-twos - often, the only way to stop him is to foul him. He’s slowly adding goals to his game, too, and could be unstoppable if he continues on his current path.
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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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