The Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo war appears to have passed into modern football mythology, but that leaves us no closer to a definitive answer as the next-gen megastars jostle for position.
Trophies, strength of leagues, raw stats, unquantifiable magic and a host of other aspects have come together to form our criteria for the list, and I know you’re going to wholeheartedly disagree with it.
To whet your appetite even further, to demonstrate the sheer strength of the top 10, we have omitted defensive titans Rúben Dias and Virgil van Dijk, Manchester United’s creative behemoth Bruno Fernandes and PSG megastar Neymar from our rankings.
10. Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd)
Ronaldo is one of the big sliders on this list after previously sitting firmly in the top two for over a decade.
It’s safe to say his best days are behind him as he approaches the final gambits of his career, joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr on a free transfer There’s no shame in that and he remains a lethal tool in their arsenal, even though it has been a rocky start to the season where he’s not been playing much and also had a poor World Cup outing.
Ronaldo has evolved from pacy winger to talismanic centre forward and remains one of the best in the business when it comes to keeping his cool and scoring clutch goals at the death.
9. Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich)
Mane’s impact at Liverpool is maturing long after his departure given the Reds’ current strife. His absence really does feel very apparent despite some of the bristling young talents on Merseyside.
The Senegalese winger netted 16 Premier League goals last term and he’s started life in the Bundesliga with 6 goals in 14 league appearances to introduce himself to his new club where he is, undoubtedly, the main man.
Mane’s incisive running has punctured many teams in his career and his big move offers him one more platform to tear up a division.
8. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Benzema has made a booming return to the list as he continues to enjoy an Indian summer after almost two decades in the game.
The Real Madrid talisman has been overlooked by Madrid for Galactico-style big-money names in recent years, but they always end up turning back to the reliable Frenchman who enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2021/22.
He hasn’t just made this list based on his 27 goals in 32 La Liga games last season, he has produced four back-to-back 20-goal seasons prior to this one with a stack of assists that are testament to his work rate, selflessness and influence in determining Madrid’s success.
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Salah’s direct running could be viewed as rudimentary by footballing snobs, but there’s no denying his effectiveness.
He may not boast the all-round game that many above him in this list have developed, but there are few better players in the world at picking the ball up out wide and driving across – or into – the box at speed.
He is Liverpool’s talisman, their icon, their Egyptian king. He may have blossomed later in his career than many superstar names, but he will go down as one of the all-time Premier League greats without a doubt.
6. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane is quite simply one of the world’s best strikers and well worthy of his seat at the top table in terms of world talents overall.
Kane has recorded comfortably more than 20 goals every time he has played more than 30 Premier League games for Tottenham in a season. During the other campaigns, severely hampered by injuries, he has still notched up big tallies.
The England talisman is more than just raw statistics though. His range of passing, his technique, his vision and playmaking abilities set him apart from almost every other striker on the planet. He is an outrageous talent who deserves trophies in his locker.
5. Erling Haaland (Man City)
We reach the first player on the list with extremely strong potential to reach the hallowed No.1 spot on this list within a few years.
Haaland has been magnificent since exploding onto the professional football scene. He was prolific at Red Bull Salzburg and made a mockery of the Bundesliga in a Dortmund shirt. He scored 86 goals in 89 games for the latter.
At 6’4″, he is a powerhouse that few can contain. Defences across the Premier League are learning this lesson the hard way as he transfers his superb form. Erling Haaland has scored 21 goals in 15 league appearances for Manchester City this season.
4. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Haaland’s main competitor for the title of ‘best player in the world’ is without a doubt Kylian Mbappe. The top three players on this list are all 29 and older, paving the way for the Frenchman to dominate for years to come.
He boasts acceleration that would put Doc Brown’s DeLorean to shame and at the age of 23 he already boasts 111 goals in 118 PSG league games and 34 goals in 66 France national team caps.
He won the World Cup golden boot as he put on an unforgettable display in the final against Argentina. Mbappe scored thrice in the match to drag the game to extra-time.
When Mbappe is running at you, there’s little you can do but cry and pray for back-up. His close control is second-to-none and clinical finishing ability is the icing on the cake.
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
In terms of raw effectiveness, you could argue Salah should sit ahead of De Bruyne, but in terms of the complete package, skill-set, technical ability, physical merits and mental toughness, De Bruyne may well be top 3 most complete footballers in the world today.
He is the best crosser of a football in Premier League history and has played some of the most outrageous passes you’re ever likely to see. On top of creating goals, he can also rip nets from their stanchions himself.
This is all well and good, but what truly sets De Bruyne apart from the crowd of similar players is his surprising pace and physicality. The Belgian is a stronger than you may expect and at full throttle, he is a rapid mover with the football. He simply has it all.
2. Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)
Lewandowski is one of the most in-form players in the world right now, there is simply no doubt about it. And he has been for some time. It feels like a great disgrace that he hasn’t lifted a ballon d’Or in his berserk career.
The Polish icon boasts a well-balanced portfolio of pace, strength and technical ability, and his movement in the box is sublime. His positioning is always on point and there’s no-one you’d rather trust in a one-on-one situation.
We know it’s not all about raw stats, but we’re going to leave you with some red-hot Lewandowski numbers to absorb. He scored 344 goals in 375 games across all competitions for Bayern Munich, including 41 Bundesliga strikes in just 29 games in 2020/21. He seems to be settling in nicely at Barcelona too, he has scored 13 goals in 15 La Liga appearances this season.
1. Lionel Messi (PSG)
“But, Ronaldo dropped to 10th?!” I hear you cry. There’s no trying to hide the fact that Lionel Messi didn’t set the world alight in Paris last season, well, at least by his ridiculous standards.
There’s no doubt about it that Ronaldo and Messi will go down in history among the top three best football players of all time, alongside the late great Diego Maradona, but while Ronaldo’s role has been boiled down somewhat, we’re still witnessing the full-fat version of Messi.
Messi is the reigning World Cup golden ball winner after a stunning performance all round for Argentina. He was the main man as Argentina win their third World Cup trophy. His influence should never be doubted, his talent never down-played.
Despite his rocky start at PSG, he still turned it around last season to score 11 and assist 14 goals in 33 appearances across all competitions, including the Champions League. He has already started 2022/23 with seven goals and ten assists in 13 league games, meaning we could be about to see another big season from the little wizard.