FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017: 60-41
60. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Gareth Bale can be a devastating weapon for Real Madrid: the only problem is making it onto the pitch. A series of injuries have restricted the Welshman to just 13 league games in 2017, triggering rumours that Madrid might be prepared to sell.
The timing has been unfortunate. The ‘Cardiff Express’ got sidelined just as Madrid clicked into gear last season. A symbolic moment came against Barcelona in April, when Zidane decided to start him when only half-fit, only to see him hobble off in the first half.
The setbacks have continued this season and, while Bale did return to action in the Spanish Cup last week, fitness issues linger. As Madrid’s strikers keep misfiring, Zidane desperately needs him back at his best.
Highlight: Striking a fine first time volley at Dortmund in September.
Words: Thore Haugstad
59. Ederson (Manchester City)
2017 was a breakthrough year for Ederson. Little-known until the summer of 2016, he hastily became one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the world thanks to a string of great performances for Benfica.
The Brazilian kept 17 clean sheets in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last term (10 of them in 2017), and was promptly snapped up by Manchester City for €40million, thus becoming the second most expensive custodian in history.
Pep Guardiola needed a stable and consistent keeper who is good with his feet and able to act as a sweeper when needed. Chilean veteran Claudio Bravo disappointed in 2016/17, but Ederson has proved to be up to the task so far, cementing his place as one of the Premier League top shot-stoppers. At the age of just 24, sky is the limit.
Highlight: Saving the crucial penalty from Napoli's Dries Mertens in the Champions League – and staying alive after that Sadio Mane challenge.
Words: Michael Yokhin
58. Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid)
Real Madrid fans longed for one of their own to make it into the first team in the modern era, and in Dani Carvajal they’ve the perfect blend of talent and professionalism to fit the local hero mould.
His performances at right-back are consistently impressive, with Carvajal never letting the side down given his ability to balance both defensive and attacking duties adeptly. Spain are also benefitting from Carvajal's development.
Over the past year alone there has been a significant improvement in his attacking contribution and it's due to this progression in his game that competition from Danilo was easily brushed aside, with the Brazilian forced out to Manchester City over the summer. His performance in the Champions League run, particularly in the semi-final and final, confirmed Carvajal's status as one of the best full-backs in the world.
Highlight: A fantastic assist in the Champions League final and general all-around man of the match display.
Words: David Cartlidge
57. Diego Godin (Athletico Madrid)
The Uruguay international’s golden era was certainly during the first few years of the Diego Simeone regime at Atletico Madrid, but even now the 31-year-old central defender continues to be a key part of the furniture for Los Colchoneros.
Despite Gabi carrying the captain’s armband, Diego Godin leads by example in the back four, with enough height to be a threat in the air and just enough speed to still cover in behind his full backs when they are exposed. At a time where Atleti have been unable to bring in new faces due to their transfer ban, faith has had to be placed in the old guard to maintain the club’s reputation until an injection of new ideas and creativity can be made. Godin is the face of Simeone’s Atleti.
Highlight: Surpassing Luis Perea’s foreign player appearance record in LaLiga for Atletico Madrid (314).
Words: Simon Harrison
56. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Having spent Euro 2016 showing that Germany had nothing to worry about in terms of life after Philipp Lahm, Joshua Kimmich spent the following year getting better and better.
At 22, Kimmich seems invincible, consistently playing 90 minutes for club and country. Along with his strong engine, his skill set has grown. Three assists against Mainz on Matchday 4 of the 2017/18 season were a sign of his quality delivery, but they haven't been an anomaly.
One of the best talents Joachim Löw claims he has ever seen in the last 10 years, Kimmich is the perfect examples of a 2017 footballer - multi-talented, professional, driven. If he keeps going like this, he may well reach Lahm-like heights and become one of the planets best players (let alone right backs).
Highlight: His audacious back-heel goal in a 5-0 win against Freiburg on Matchday 8 was voted October Goal of the Month, and was further proof of just how complete a player he already is.
Words: Jonathan Harding