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
Rodri looked a little dumbfounded upon arriving in English football, tasked with the unenviable role of displacing Fernandinho.
Realising that he couldn't simply do the Brazilian's job like-for-like, Rodri has become one of the finest deep-lying playmakers on Earth, adjusting to Guardiolaball perfectly and dictating traffic for the champions. He's effortless in possession, works hard out of it and the biggest compliment you can pay him is that at times, it looks like Pep himself has a clone in there for him.
29. Bukayo Saka
So firmly established for Arsenal and England is Saka that it's hard to believe that he only recently turned 21. There's no doubt that he's one of the most exciting English talents to emerge this century.
The highly adaptable winger has been at the forefront of Arsenal's electric start to the 2021/22 season, reliably providing assists for Mikel Arteta's side and finding the net himself.
On top of his all-star ability, Saka has shown immense strength of character too: since missing the decisive penalty in the final of Euro 2020 and subsequently receiving vile online abuse, he's only got better and better and better.
The fact that Pedri has been compared to Barcelona legends as wide-ranging as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi tells you all you need to know about the immense potential he possesses.
And it's potential he's already realised to a large degree at the age of just 20. One of the first names on the Barca teamsheet, he's well on his way to following in the footsteps of those aforementioned icons.
A chameleonic player who's equally influential whether deployed in midfield or a more advanced role, Pedri is one of the great hopes of Spanish football and its latest golden generation.
At the age of 28, Marquinhos is coming into his prime years as a centre-back – and he's doing so as one of the best in the business. There are few more well-rounded in the role than PSG's captain.
The Brazilian – who can also line up at right-back or in midfield – formed a formidable partnership with compatriot Thiago Silva in Paris and has consummately transitioned from apprentice to master since the latter's departure.
Marquinhos is on the shorter side as centre-halves go – but that doesn't matter when you read the game as expertly as he does. A top-quality operator.
26. Federico Valverde
Federico Valverde had one of the hardest jobs in football, trying to dislodge one of Modric, Kroos or Casemiro from their place in the Real Madrid midfield.
What the Uruguayan has done shows his character, however, adapting to become the right-winger in Carlo Ancelotti's system. Valverde is a crunching midfielder but has showed the dynamism and workrate to help in all phases of the pitch: it's paid off, too, with Los Blancos conquering all before them in 2022. A testament to versatility.
25. Jude Bellingham
Bellingham is the highest-ranked teenager on this list – and that's because the Borussia Dortmund and England sensation performs like a player far beyond his 19 years.
From the moment he burst onto the scene with boyhood club Birmingham City, it was clear Bellingham was going to be something very special indeed – and so it's proved: he's already developed into one of the most complete midfielders in the world.
In October this year, he became the youngest captain in Bundesliga history as he wore the armband in senior duo Marco Reus and Mats Hummels' absence – and it would be absolutely no surprise at all to see him skipper his country in future. 'Prodigious' is the word.
24. Ruben Dias
In 2020/21 – his first season at Manchester City – Dias became the first defender to win the prestigious Football Writers' Association (FWA) Football of the Year award in the Premier League era – the first since 1989, in fact.
That alone ought to tell you what a world-class operator the Portuguese enforcer is. No team conceded fewer goals than City across the 2020/21 and 2021/22 campaigns – and their centre-back rock was integral to their solidity.
All-round defensive quality coupled with elite passing range makes Dias the perfect fit for Pep Guardiola's side – and a formidable opponent for the rest of the league (and Europe).
23. Toni Kroos
As Germany won the 2014 World Cup, they had Kroos control to thank: the playmaking powerhouse provided more assists than any other at that tournament, where he firmly established himself as one of world's best creative midfielders.
That summer also saw him make the switch from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid – with whom he's won 17 trophies, including the Champions League on four occasions.
Kroos retired from international duty last year, having racked up 109 caps (the ninth-most by any German player ever) – but at 32, he should still grace the club game with his midfield mastery for a good few more years yet.
Ederson's composure under pressure is almost scary (remember the Manchester City number one's outrageously casual, post-stumble side-footed pass off the line against Liverpool last season?) – but it's what makes him one of the finest goalkeepers in today's game.
The Brazilian is often dubbed an outfield player in goalkeeping gloves – and some of his passes make you think he wouldn't look out of place in the middle of the park (Pep Guardiola says he's not a bad penalty taker, either...).
Of course, he wouldn't be one of the world's top 'keepers if he didn't, well, keep the ball out of the net better than most – and needless to say, he emphatically ticks that box too.
21. Joao Cancelo
A Fantasy Football manager’s dream, Cancelo has become as firm a fixture as any in Pep Guardiola’s side.
The Portuguese full-back set up 10 goals for his team-mates last season, scoring three, while this term he’s already got five assists and two goals to his name.
Cancelo played a key role in City’s Premier League title triumph and he’s become a key man for his country too, starting in their World Cup play-off victory over North Macedonia and providing two goals during the recent Nations League campaign.
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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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