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FourFourTwo’s 100 most influential people in football right now: 70-61

Words: Emyr Price, Jeff Kassouf, Michael Yokhin, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Amit Katwala, Mike Holden

70. Ralf Rangnick

The 58-year-old is undoubtedly one of the best coaches and sporting directors in football. Rangnick was responsible for building Hoffenheim from scratch, taking over in 2006 and achieving promotion from the third division to the Bundesliga. Now he's doing the same with RB Leipzig, who are the most important part of the Red Bull project.

Rangnick, who also acts as the sporting director at Red Bull Salzburg, masterminded the unique development that enabled Leipzig to take Germany by storm and qualify for the Champions League in their maiden Bundesliga season.

They might not be popular, but Rangnick and Red Bull are doing it the right way, purchasing young, talented players and investing in a state-of-the-art football academy. With superstars in the making like Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita in their ranks, the future looks bright for RB Leipzig, who have already qualified for the 2017/18 Champions League in their first Bundesliga season.

While Rangnick continues to be responsible for virtually every aspect at the club, expect the East Germans to become serious rivals to Bayern Munich in the near future. MY

69. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani

Al Thani, one of the world's richest men, was prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar until 2013, and as such was hugely influential in the winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Significant suspicions surrounded the controversial decision, but Al Thani denied that Qatar bribed senior FIFA officials, claiming that critics are driven by Islamophobia. "All the talk is about Qatar, because it comes to a small, Arab, Islamic country," he huffed in 2015.

The World Cup project has proved to be extremely problematic, and FIFA eventually decided to stage the tournament in winter, but it looks like Qatar is set to keep it despite numerous reports that the country uses slaves to build stadiums.

Al Thani doesn't hold an official post at the moment, but he continues to be very influential as a member of the ruling family, and football will be hearing a lot more about Qatar in the next five years. MY

68. Jonathan Barnett

One of the most powerful agents on the planet, Barnett set up the Stellar Group in the early 1990s and now has a vast stable of players including Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Joe Hart, Luke Shaw and Gylfi Sigurdsson. "We can go through them all, but you’d run out of tape," said Barnett, smiling, in an interview with TheGuardian back in October 2015.

He continued: "As far as global football is concerned, we’re the largest football agency, player-wise and everything else. Jose Mendes is probably the only person close to us. But Jorge is different. He does much more work with clubs; we solely work with players. It’s a different operation."

A lifelong Arsenal fan who orchestrated Ashley Cole’s controversial move to Chelsea in 2006, Barnett made no secret of his pride when he had the world’s most expensive player to his name – and the pleasure he derived from teasing Mendes over the fact. MH

67. Gary Lineker

Depending on your point of view, Lineker is either an immigrant-loving, traitorous saboteur, or a national treasure who’s the closest thing we’ve got to an opposition leader at the moment.

On screen, when he’s not gurning through crisp adverts, Lineker is a consummate professional who you always suspect has better informed and more reasoned opinions than the pundits he’s paid to extract soundbites from.

As the face of Match of the Day and BT Sport’s Champions League coverage, he’s the face most people see when they watch their football, and it was nice to see his genuine fandom coming through as Leicester won the Premier League last season.

Lineker’s social media persona has caused controversy among some of the more right-leaning papers, but it’s not all that different from how he is on screen or in real life – well-informed, eloquent and saying pretty reasonable stuff that most sane people would find it hard to disagree with. If only everyone was more like Gary. AK

66. Aurelio De Laurentiis

Napoli were in danger of disappearing in 2004 after going bankrupt, but De Laurentiis took over and refounded the club in the third division.

Their progress has been phenomenal ever since, and the Partenopei became one of the top Serie A teams once again under the flamboyant president, who loves to take the establishment on and sees Juventus as a true enemy.

The 67-year-old is a film producer, and he tends to treat football as a good script as well. Aside from hurling abuse at departed striker Gonzalo Higuain, one of his big ideas is to build a new stadium with 40,000 fewer seats than Napoli’s current Stadio San Paolo, and in September he vowed to never watch another game there until he’d built his own.

Presenting Gokhan Inler masked as a lion in 2011 was one of his famous jokes, but De Laurentiis is a very serious shrewd dealer in the transfer market who loves to find unexpected jewels that the club can later sell on at a huge profit. The latest arrivals include brilliant young players like Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski and Marko Rog, and Napoli fans can legitimately dream of winning a first title since the days of Diego Maradona. MY

65. Nelio Lucas

Neymar, David Beckham, Usain Bolt: just three global football superstars whose marketing is managed by Neilo Lucas's controversial company Doyen Sports Investments.

Doyen are unquestionably one of the biggest investment funds in European football today, yet their speciality (and chief catalyst behind their rapid rise to the top) – third-party ownership of players' economic rights – has earned them a questionable reputation to say the least.

Before it was outlawed two years ago, TPO was a practice described by FIFA president Gianni Infantino as a system akin to “modern slavery”, and seen by others as a transfer business with similarities to a cattle market.

Not that Lucas seems too bothered. His lavish 35th birthday celebration in London a couple of years ago was attended by football luminaries including Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani, plus the owners of Fulham, a host of Russian oligarchs and the odd Swiss tax lawyer. EP

64. Martin Glenn

Glenn became the FA’s CEO in 2015 and, within the space of a year, had encountered two substantial crises: England’s elimination by Iceland at Euro 2016 and Sam Allardyce’s scandal-driven departure barely a few months later.

Handily, Glenn is a blend of private sector savvy (he’s a former chief executive of United Biscuits) and old-school traditionalism (he was previously a grassroots coach), and has shown both a dynamic attitude towards problem-solving and a willingness to back the much-maligned England DNA scheme, evidenced by his role in appointing Gareth Southgate as head coach of the senior side.

While the cogs turn beneath him, his role is to provide the surface layer protection needed for English football to evolve, out of sight. It helps that Glenn – unlike some of his predecessors – appears outwardly to understand the nature of the problems posed by modern football and isn’t just the latest executive to believe that all issues can be solved by a silver bullet appointment. SSB

63. Andrew Wilson

EA Sports… it's in the game. Quite literally, and very prominently these days. 

The Australia-born Wilson – EA's main man – has been heading things up since 2000. Fuelled by his love of the beautiful game, Wilson and his company have slowly but steadily madeFIFAthe dominant force in sports gaming, ousting former market leaderPro Evolution Soccer.

It was a remarkable turnaround. EA were plummeting in the four years prior to his appointment, shipping billions and even being given the unwanted tag of "Worst Company in America" by Consumerist. Fast-forward to 2014 and Wilson was at the helm as EA doubled its stock price. The FIFA series is now EA's best-established brand – and, in fact, now the biggest sports franchise title in the world.

Over 100 million copies have been sold worldwide since its first release in 1993, facilitating the incredible rise of sports e-gaming which has led to pro club-affiliated players, investment from the likes of Ronaldo, and a FIFA-recognised Interactive World Cup. EP

62. Alex Morgan

Morgan’s past two years have solidified her place as an influencer in the sport. A few months after she’d won the World Cup, in 2015, the Californian became the face of new franchise Orlando Pride, which came to being at the time it did based largely on its ability to acquire her.

This past December, she signed a short-term deal with Lyon that also saw her name and likeness splashed across the club’s marketing campaigns and YouTube channel. That deal happened after Lyon owner Jean Michel-Aulas’ public, awkward pursuit of the U.S. star on Twitter.

Morgan’s income is in the seven figures annually, between team salaries and endorsements – a number unheard of in the women’s game. It speaks to her value on and off the field, and her ability to reach a wide demographic of fans.

Morgan is still trying to carve her place among the world’s elite, though, which is part of why she joined Lyon. Still, her influence remains wide-reaching, evidenced by those big moves to Orlando and France, as well as the sizeable endorsement demands on her. JK

61. Dan Ashworth

At St. George’s Park, a talented team of coaches and sports scientists with world-class facilities are busy plotting the future for the English national team – one hopefully free from farce and failure – under the watchful eye of technical director Dan Ashworth. The 46-year-old was a youth player at Norwich, and started his coaching career at Peterborough United’s academy.

He joined the FA in 2013, and is now in charge of coaching for the senior squad and implementing the ‘England DNA’ strategy; a plan for how England teams of all age levels should play, with the eventual aim of winning the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Or the 128-team World Cup in North Korea in 2026.

Crucially, Ashworth was integral in the search for a successor to Roy Hodgson, and with close friend Gareth Southgate now in the post, he wields huge power at the FA. AK

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