It has come down to this. The final installment is here. Numbers 10-1 in The Footy Blog’s top 100 footballers. Three months ago I came up with this project and thanks to the help of the panelists and you, the Footy Show fans, it has grown into something bigger than I ever could have imagined. I was absolutely delighted with the respected minds who agreed to be apart of this project. If you are still not aware of them or are not following them on twitter I suggest that you do so. The game is better for having these guys covering it.
Gary Al-Smith, a freelance African football specialist for ESPN Soccernet, kicker, ITV, SuperSport, among others. @garyalsmith
Andy Brassell, a freelance writer and broadcaster on European football. His work can be regularly read and heard via outlets including BBC FiveLive/World Service, ESPN Soccernet, The Independent and FOX Soccer. @andybrassell
Michael Cox, the sole writer at zonalmarking.net, winner of the Best Football Blogger in the Soccerlens Awards. He has also written for the Guardian, Blizzard, FourFourTwo.com, ESPN and The Score’s Footy Blog. @zonal_marking
Miguel Delaney, a European football writer with articles published in the Independent, Independent on Sunday, Irish Examiner, London Evening Standard, Blizzard and Champions. He is also the owner of the Football Pantheon website and has written ‘Stuttgart to Saipan: the players’ stories’ about the Irish international team. @MiguelDelaney
Adam Digby, football writer for ESPN Soccernet, In Bed With Maradona, SI.com and co-founder of JuventiKnows.com. @Adz77
Marco Foroni, a Champions League presenter and Serie A commentator for Mediaset Italia. He has worked for Sky Italia covering 2 world cups, 7 Champions League Finals and 11 English Premier League, Spanish Liga and Serie A seasons as a commentator. @mforok
Raphael Honigstein, the English football correspondent of Süddeutsche Zeitung and writes regular columns for the Guardian and Sports Illustrated. He’s the author of “Englischer Fussball. A German view of our beautiful game” and can be seen on ESPN’s Soccernet Press Pass and CNN World Sport. @honigstein
James Horncastle, a European Football Writer with articles published in the Guardian, Blizzard, Champions, Four Four Two, OSM + WSC. Also Guest Podder on Guardian Football Weekly. @jameshorncastle
Oliver Kay, Football Correspondent for The Times newspaper. @oliverkaytimes
Ben Lyttleton, a European football writer for publications in the UK, Asia and South America. He is also a contributor to the Sports Illustrated website and The Score’s Footy Blog. @benlyt
Gabriele Marcotti, the World Football Correspondent for The Times and host of The Game podcast (available on ITunes). He can also be heard on the BBC and is a frequent contributor ESPN’s Soccernet Press Pass. He also writes a regular column for the Wall Street Journal online, Sports Illustrated.com, the Sunday Herald and contributes to the Melbourne Age, Champions magazine and Titan Sports. He is the author of three books: Paolo Di Canio: the Autobiography, The Italian Job and Capello: Portrait of a Winner. @marcotti
Janusz Michallik – ESPN football commentator and ESPNPressPass pundit . Former US international. @JanuszESPN
Pierluigi Pardo, a Serie A and Champions League commentator for Mediaset Italia. He has been working for Sky Italia since his birth covering 2 World Cups and 7 Champions League Seasons. He is the official commentator of “Pro Evolution Soccer” the football videogame by Konami and wrote the Official autobiographies of Samuel Eto’o and Antonio Cassano. @Pierpardo
Colin Udoh, Award-winning Nigerian football writer. TV analyst. Press Officer, Nigeria national football team. @ColinUdoh
Jonathan Wilson, writer for the Guardian, Sports Illustrated and The Irish Examiner, and is a columnist for the Japanese magazine World Soccer King. A former football correspondent of the Financial Times, he is the editor of the quarterly magazine of football journalism, The Blizzard. He is the author of five books. Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics was named NSC Football Book of the Year in 2009, and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football and The Anatomy of England were shortlisted for the NSC award in 2007 and 2011. His most recent book is a biography of Brian Clough, Nobody Ever Says Thank You. @jonawils
Other writers such as Simon Kuper, Sid Lowe, Tim Vickery, Grant Wahl and Henry Winter all expressed an interest in this project but were unable to contribute due to other commitments. If there’s someone you want on the panel for next year please leave your suggestions in the comments below. The above 16 joined Footy Blog Editor Richard Whittall, host James Sharman and myself and each named their top 30 players as well as five honorable mentions.
Once the lists were submitted the players were marked off the ballots by the following points system:
1st – 50 2nd – 40 3rd – 35 4th – 32 5th - 30 6th – 28 7th – 25 8th – 24 9th – 23 10th – 22 11th – 21 12th – 20 13th – 19 14th – 18 15th – 17 16th – 16 17th – 15 18th – 14 19th – 13 20th – 12 21st – 11 22nd – 10 23rd – 9 24th – 8 25th – 7 26th – 6 27th – 5 28th – 4 29th – 3 30th – 2 and honorable mentions were each given 1 point.
The points were calculated and over the last two weeks we have been releasing this list in groups of ten. If you are new to this and want to read each one then click the top 100 icon below the title of this blog to see the breakdowns. Here is a condensed look at the list so far.
Footy Blog’s list of top 100 footballers
100.Diego Lugano 99.Pepe 98.Marvin Martin 97.Shinji Kagawa 96.Samir Nasri 95.Vagner Love 94.Santiago Cazorla 93.Karim Benzema 92.Darijo Srna 91.Carles Puyol
90.Kaka 89.Rafael van der Vaart 88.Lucio 87.Andre Ayew 86.Roberto Soldado 85.Yoann Gourcuff 84.Nuri Sahin 83.Diego Forlan 82.Samir Handanovic 81.Artuto Vidal
80.Javier Mascherano 79.Daniele De Rossi 78.Pepe Reina 77.Joe Hart 76.Yann M’Vila 75.Sergio Ramos 74.Kevin-Prince Boateng 73.Mats Hummels 72.Danny 71.Nigel De Jong
70.Marco Reus 69.Marcelo 68.Maicon 67.Antonio Cassano 66.Alexandre Pato 65.Javier Hernandez 64.Fabio Coentrao 63.Thomas Vermaelen 62.Neven Subotic 61.Didier Drogba
60.Ezequiel Lavezzi 59.Edin Dzeko 58.Mario Balotelli 57.Robinho 56.Eric Abidal 55.Victor Valdes 54.Ashley Cole 53.Juan Mata 52.Patrice Evra 51.Hulk
50.Alexis Sanchez 49.Pedro Rodriguez 48.Gianluigi Buffon 47.Carlos Tevez 46.Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 45.Gareth Bale 44.Angel Di Maria 43.Hernanes 42.Andrea Pirlo 41.Nani
40.Vincent Kompany 39.Radamel Falcao 38.Javier Pastore 37.Gonzalo Higuain 36.Philipp Lahm 35.Thomas Muller 34.Antonio Di Natale 33.Mario Gotze 32.Arjen Robben 31.Xabi Alonso
30.Eden Hazard 29.Franck Ribery 28.Wesley Sneijder 27.Mario Gomez 26.Yaya Toure 25.Luka Modric 24.Dani Alves 23.Sergio Busquets 22.Manuel Neuer 21.Samuel Eto’o
20.Neymar 19.Iker Casillas 18.Cesc Fabregas 17.Edinson Cavani 16 David Villa 15.Sergio Aguero 14.Nemanja Vidic 13.Mesut Ozil 12.Gerard Pique 11.Luis Suarez.
10. Thiago Silva (AC Milan and Brazil) – 270pts. In the summer of 2010 in South Africa at the World Cup, Thiago Silva watched every Brazil match from the bench. Less than two years later he has been voted as the best defender in world football today. At 27, the Brazilian is in the prime of his career and was a key member of AC Milan’s title winning team that secured the Scudetto in May. The awards didn’t stop there for the central defender as he was named the inaugural winner of the Armando Picci Award given to the best defender of the season in Italy who shows outstanding technical abilities, sportsmanship and a strong personality. Already has two man-of-the-match awards to his name this season in Serie A and was his team’s hero in their Champions League clash at the Nou Camp when he headed home a final minute equaliser against the European champions to cap a complete performance.
9. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich and Germany) – 325pts. The Bayern Munich midfielder is the 15th and final name to appear on this list that played in the Bundesliga in 2011 and it’s not difficult to see why he was voted the best of the 15. Already at 90 caps for his country it is not out of the question that the 27-year-old could challenge Lothar Matthaus (150) for the record number of appearances for his country. Like Matthaus in his prime, Schweinsteiger is the complete midfielder. Originally used as a wide player in his younger years, the Bayern Munich vice-captain is now used in a central role showing wonderful tendencies with and without the ball.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan and Sweden) – 375pts. The only man in the game with eight titles in the last eight years with five different clubs, the brash Milan striker certainly is as good at finding winners medals as he is at creating headlines with his quotes. Voted by the panel as the best player in Serie A – he is the last of 19 players in the top 100 who played in Italy in 2011 – Ibrahimovic was the man who made Milan believe they could win again, scoring thirteen goals before the end of January in their title winning season. The fact that he got more red cards (2) than goals (1) in the last four months of the season shows his inconsistency and those who don’t rate the Swede this highly will keep a keen eye on him the rest of this season after he once again has started the first half of the campaign in top form, scoring 11 league goals in his last 10 games.
7. Robin Van Persie (Arsenal and Netherlands) – 376pts. By now you’re likely fully aware of the stats. Thirty-five Premier League goals in 2011, the second most in a calendar year behind Alan Shearer’s 36 in 1995. Seventeen Premier League goals this season in 20 games. It certainly has been a fantastic year for the Dutchman who has elevated himself to world class standards now he’s finally been able to stay fit for a long period of time. You don’t have to look hard to see people talking highly of the 28-year-old including his manager, Arsene Wenger, who recently had this to say about his talisman: ”Robin is special, a very intelligent player. His movement in the box is fantastic, his goalscoring record is just incredible.” Van Persie may be more valuable to his club than any player on this list and is actually the only player in the top ten who does not have a team-mate at club level in the top 50.
6. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England) – 444pts. With just two other Englishmen and four other Manchester United players in the top 100 it is not difficult to understand just how important Wayne Rooney is to both his club and country. Arguably the most intelligent footballer England has produced in years, Rooney is more than just a goalscorer and when he drops deep is very often the most important connection in the triangles he works with his wingers and centre-forward partner. Has 13 goals from 16 Premier League starts this season and at 26 has a chance to break many records before he is done. Recently became the youngest player in the league’s history to make 300 appearances.
5. David Silva (Manchester City and Spain) – 471pts. The 24th and final player from the Premier League and a worthy winner of the league’s best player as he is currently the frontrunner to pick up the Player of the Year award by the end of the season. The Spaniard has been the biggest benefactor of the talent level rising around him as his creative spark that he produced often last season is now leading to more goals for City with him already leading the PL assists chart with 10, coming from 17 starts. The best of nine Manchester City players who made the top 100.
4. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) – 558pts. Forever known as the man who won Spain their first ever World Cup, Andres Iniesta is the kind of player any era would have been lucky to have as its best player. The fact that in 2012 we can say that three players in the game are better than him goes to show how strong the game is today. There is certainly no better player in the game right now as versatile as the 27-year-old who is often deployed in many positions within a match by Pep Guardiola and Vicente Del Bosque. Iniesta simply glides across a football field, a magnificent dribbler and reader of the game whose chemistry with his friend Xavi is unrivaled by any team-mates in the world. Less than four years ago the pair went to Euro 2008 as great players who had won far too few trophies than their talents deserved. They left Vienna with winners medals and haven’t stopped since, winning a remarkable 13 trophies from 16 competitions for Barcelona under Guardiola and the World Cup in 2010.
3. Xavi (Barcelona and Spain) – 660pts. A run of three straight Spaniards ends with the best of the bunch. The best of ten Spanish players in the top 50 and one of an incredible 17 inside the top 100, Xavi, one of the best passers this game has ever seen, rightfully stands above them all. Award winning writer Sid Lowe, who covers Spanish football for the Guardian, once said nine words to me about him that I’ll never forget: “Xavi is the best player Spain has ever produced.”
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) – 742pts. When Cristiano Ronaldo met Lionel Messi in the 2009 UEFA Champions League final he was the best player in the world in most people’s eyes including the Ballon d’Or voters. Although that’s no longer the case it is no debate that Ronaldo is better now than he was when he arrived to play that night in Rome. In the two and a half seasons since that game the 26-year-old has scored an incredible 126 goals for both club and country in 141 games. His record for Real Madrid is even better, netting 116 goals in 117 official matches. His performances for Portugal haven’t matched those the locals at the Bernabeu are used to seeing but that was quickly forgotten in October when he scored two in a man-of-the-match performance against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the country’s crucial second leg in their Euro 2012 playoff.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) – 950pts. On all 19 ballots only one player was named in the same slot on each and that was Lionel Messi. Nineteen first place votes out of nineteen. He is the undisputed best player in the world today. There is no debate. Today he will become the Ballon d’Or winner for the third time, joining an exclusive club with Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten. Only Platini amongst them won three in three straight years, although it should be noted that the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona were ineligible for the award when they played. That takes nothing away from Messi, though, who is already among the greatest players to ever play the game. Those against such a statement point towards his lack of success for Argentina in a World Cup but you can now make a legitimate argument that the most competitive matches played at the highest level take place in the UEFA Champions League, a competition which Messi has saved some of his greatest performances for and a competition in which he scored in every knock out round last season, including the winning goal in the final at Wembley. In total, scored 59 goals for club and country in 2011 and just last week reached 30 goals for Barcelona for a fourth straight season after netting 38 in 2008-09, 47 in 2009-10 and 51 in 2010-11. Simply the best.