Think of the best players in the world in 2022. Close your eyes and take this one seriously. See anyone special?
We’ve considered a few things when conjuring our own definitive ranking of every one of the best footballers on Earth right now. Of course, principally, talent. Pure ability is the most valuable currency to our list, while we’ve allowed some leeway, due to injuries or poor collective form of a club.
There are some players here who have made the list due to historic brilliance – they’re still good players and we want to be as fair as possible, here.
Then there’s influence and importance. Players towards the top end of this list are sorted not just by how much they can affect games but how much they do. And overall, this is how the list is looking…
Remember, if you don’t agree with the list, let us know at @fourfourtwo (opens in new tab) and tell us why. Are we biased against your team? Have we made a glaring error in leaving off your favourite? And have we not included enough of a certain position?
Let’s whiz through these, then.
100. Jan Oblak
Atletico Madrid are not what they once were but Jan Oblak’s standing as one of the world’s best goalkeepers is untouched. The Slovenian glovesman is still just 29 and could well retire as one of the best of a generation: he’s already one of his club and country’s most revered footballers of all time.
99. Granit Xhaka
The redemption of Granit Xhaka is well-discussed but the Arsenal midfielder’s excellent season has merely brought qualities to the fore that we always knew he had. The imperious leadership, rocket shot (nicknamed the Xhakaboom) and incisive left foot have made him one of the Premier League’s best this season – and the renaissance has been exquisite for Gooners.
98. Frenkie de Jong
You don’t court the world’s best for no reason. Frenkie de Jong burst onto the scene for his technical brilliance and ability to dance through opponents – and he still has that in abundance, despite Barcelona’s fall from grace during his time there. The Dutchman is a beautiful player to watch at his best and still could be one of the best in the world in years to come.
97. Kai Havertz
Chelsea fans will forever adore him for that goal but Kai Havertz still has so much more to give. Whether he’s a forward, attacking midfielder or winger, we still don’t know yet – and yet his close control combined with his towering figure makes him difficult to defend against when he’s in his pomp. He’ll only go from strength to strength.
96. Marco Reus
Now 33, Marco Reus turned the world down to wind up with Dortmund, growing old at BVB in a way that few stars do. in shunning bigger boys, he’s carved out a career as one of the most intelligent and bewitching attackers of his time – and he’s still deadly, excellent to watch and beloved by fans. And not just those in yellow and black.
At Monaco, he was one of a pair in midfield – sometimes filling in at right-back when needed. At Liverpool, he’s evolved to become one of the best lone defensive midfielders of the last decade. Fabinho is still the glue in most great Liverpool performances, too.
94. James Maddison
Few deserve their World Cup call-ups more. James Maddison has entered god mode for Leicester City this season, becoming the output machine that has propelled the Foxes up the table and cutting through Premier League defenders like cones in training. He’s been outstanding all season and one of the best playmakers in the world.
93. Joao Felix
Joao Felix is so phenomenally talented – and yet Atletico Madrid don’t exactly play to his strengths. The Portuguese might seem low on this list for a player who cost over £100m but at 23, Felix still has the world at his feet and is still waiting for the explosive season that Vinicius Junior had last year.
92. Darwin Nunez
Slowly but surely, Darwin Nunez is finding his feet at Liverpool as one of the most contradictory strikers that the league has to offer. He’s so incredibly powerful that it’s as if he can’t quite reign it in at times; he’s a flat-track bully who can destroy smaller sides and yet even seasoned defenders can’t deal with his movement sometimes. He’ll only grow in stature as he gets to grips with English football.
91. Theo Hernandez
Plenty of Real Madrid stars have sunk without a trace after being spat out to Italy – yet Theo Hernandez has quietly become one of the best left-backs on Earth at AC Milan. The Frenchman is accomplished in both directions and a major player in Milan’s Scudetto win last season – and still just 25, with room to develop further.
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