FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: 80-71
Featuring a pair of Tottenham terrors and two Milan-based goal machines...
80. Carlos Bacca
The exception to the norm at Milan: Carlos Bacca isn't young, Italian nor a product of the Rossoneri youth sector. Yet while the San Siro outfit are looking to rebuild their crumbled reputation around the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Manuel Locatelli, it's the 30-year-old Colombia international who has kept them afloat.
Bacca has bagged 26 goals in his first 55 games, maintaining pace with the strike rate he recorded at Sevilla (49 in 108) despite the team around him struggling to create chances. Simply put, no matter how badly Milan have performed, Bacca has still been finding the back of the net with deadly accuracy. – AD
79. Ilkay Gundogan
The midfielder spent two years out of the FFT100 after his headline-grabbing year of 2013, in which he scored in the Champions League final for Borussia Dortmund. But the 26-year-old has earned a FFT recall after a year in which he's impressed in both Germany and England, either side of a five-month injury lay-off.
Linked with a move away from Dortmund for some time, it said much about Gundogan's talent that Pep Guardiola was prepared to make him his first signing for Manchester City in June, despite the player dislocating his knee cap in training little more than a month previously.
A key man in BVB’s resurgence last season, he's flourished since returning to fitness at City too, combining passing skills with an ability to join the attack and get on the scoresheet. Gundogan even netted four times in the space of four autumn days, bagging a brace at West Brom and then following it up with a double in the unforgettable Champions League win over Barcelona. – CF
78. Kevin Gameiro
The Frenchman has been a regular goalscorer throughout his career, but he kicked on to another level in the second half of 2015/16. Gameiro netted 20 times for Sevilla after the turn of the year, eight of which came in the Rojiblancos’ run to a third consecutive Europa League trophy.
Typically reliable in front of goal, he crucially scored three times in the semi-final against Shakhtar Donetsk, before his equaliser 17 seconds after half-time turned the tide against Liverpool in the Basel-hosted final. The 29-year-old’s form prompted Atletico Madrid to pay €32mn to take him to the Vicente Calderon, where he’s already been among the goals.
A penalty-box predator, the former Strasbourg, Lorient and PSG forward may not score too many spectacular goals, but Gameiro has long understood the value of the tap-in. Even the slightest lapse of concentration in defence will be punished when he's around. – CF
77. Samuel Umtiti
Few players could join Barcelona at 22 and immediately see regular first-team action. Samuel Umtiti, however, doesn’t like to hang around.
The centre-back made his international debut at the Stade de France in the hosts’ Euro 2016 quarter-final (and misplaced none of his 76 passes). He kept his place for the semi, then the final. And all it took for him to get that chance was Adil Rami being banned, Mamadou Sakho being absent, Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu being injured and Eliaquim Mangala being crap.
Umtiti took that chance and is now doing the same at Barcelona. In September, manager Luis Enrique admitted his surprise at how the defender, after only four games, “has adapted very quickly to a position where the club has always had handicaps”. The signs were there: he was superb in Lyon’s flying finish to 2015/16, when 11 wins in 14 games earned them a Champions League place. Nonetheless, Umtiti is progressing even faster than expected. – HD
Next: For me, yes