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Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10-1)

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In my previous article, I argued that the process by which we decide who the world’s best players are has been grossly distorted.

A combination of mainstream media hype (backed up with its ‘statistics’ – often little more than a ruse to get people gambling) and a nostalgic longing for the return of the great playmaker – a natural human urge towards hierarchy and order expressed on the pitch by those players who, commentators love to remind us, ‘dictate the tempo of the match’ (Spain) or ‘make the difference’ (England) – has reduced the role of the fan to that of consumer.

Abandoning our reason, we channel our passions into the banal tunnels dug by sensationalist pundits salivating over inane comparisons, half-witted ‘match analysis’ and pure marketing hype.

We’re forgetting that the beauty of football lies in the sheer multiplicity of possibilities abounding on the field; the best player does not always run the fastest, score the most or tackle the hardest. They need not even play for the best teams.

Now, with the increasing tendency towards a more ‘total’ form of football, we can appreciate more than ever the sheer variety of players whom we can admire and applaud. Finally. The Top Ten:

  1. 10. Yaya Toure

  2. toure Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    The powerful Ivorian’s advanced role typifies the cautious approach adopted by Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, but Toure’s muscularity is supported by good use of the ball and excellent decision-making. Ranks so highly on this list because he can play any central midfield role at the very highest level. A highly under-rated player who was harshly unappreciated at Barcelona.

    Video: Yaya Toure Barcelona Compilation

  3. 9. Didier Drogba

  4. drogba Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    Another powerful Ivory Coast international. Drogba’s ups and downs with Chelsea are well-documented, but he remains one of the ablest strikers in the game, his physical prowess allowing Chelsea to pin down opposition sides with simple long balls. As if that weren’t enough, Drogba boasts pace and a superb finish which mark him out as one of the most feared forwards in Europe. Almost universally acknowledged as a better player than Fernando Torres, Drogba will probably still leave Chelsea this summer. A pity.

    Video: Didier Drogba Compilation

  5. 8.  Ashley Cole

  6. cole Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    Full-backs aren’t supposed to rank this high in lists of the world’s best players, especially if they’re as universally loathed as (C)Ashley Cole. But then the England international is that good. Almost impossible to get past for even the best wingers, Cole originally made his name as an attacking left-back with Arsenal. Though he now reigns in those swashbuckling forays forward, he is still capable of getting down the flank to overlap the winger at pace. The perfect full-back.

    Video: CR in Ashley Cole’s Pocket

  7. 7. Cristiano Ronaldo

  8. ronaldo Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    Were it not for his irritating need to shoot without a moment’s hesitation as soon as the goal is in his sights, the Portugal international might actually be better than his counterpart (and arch-nemesis) Lionel Messi. As it stands, blistering pace, a ferocious shot and a good deal of technical ability mark Ronaldo out as one of the biggest attacking threats in the world game, though few seem to have noticed that he can no longer beat his man with trickery alone like he could at Manchester United.

    Still, just to fuel the Messi-Ronaldo debate, here is Ronaldo getting the upper hand with the winning goal at the Copa del Rey Final in midweek, with a goal that Messi could never score: Ronaldo 1-0 Messi

    Video: Cristiano Ronaldo in 2011

  9. 6. Mesut Ozil

  10. ozil Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    Yes, a Real Madrid player ranked higher than Ronaldo. The truth is, Madrid’s rhythm is disrupted far more when the German international is left out of the side than in Ronaldo’s absence. Tricky, with great vision, pace and strength, Ozil boasts a keen (and bulbous) eye for goal and has already displaced Kaka from the first eleven. Should Mourinho stay in Madrid, the Turkish-born forward should grow into the fulcrum of the side. Even if Ronaldo scores 100 goals in a season. Did I mention that Ozil is just 22?

    Video: Mesut Ozil 2010/2011

  11. 5. Lionel Messi

  12. messi2 Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    Coming in at 5th is The Best Player In The World. Messi’s dazzling runs, irrepressible goalscoring record and increasingly brilliant vision are, alas, not enough to put him at number one in this list. The fact is that with Argentina (hardly a team struggling up front), Messi appears to be half the player. Would he still be a top player without Xavi, Iniesta and co. to supply him with perfect passes and runs? Yes. Would he be universally acknowledged as the most exciting thing to have happened since sex was invented in around 1963? I doubt it.

    Video: Lionel Messi Exploits in 2011

  13. 4. David Villa

  14. villa Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    His recent slump aside, Villa’s ability to make darting runs in behind defenses, carry the ball inside from the left channel and finish off chances with astonishing regularity make him the best forward in the world. Overshadowed by Fernando Torres before the latter began to lose form, Villa has been a phenomenal goalscorer since his days at Valencia. He is doing what Barcelona bought Thierry Henry to do, only better. While there is still debate as to whether Messi really is better than Ronaldo, there is no challenger to David Villa.

    Video: What Barca wanted Henry to do

  15. 3. Rio Ferdinand

  16. ferdinand Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    An absolutely impeccable defender, in spite of his recent struggles with injury. Strong, a brilliant reader of the game who is strong in the tackle and good on the ball, Ferdinand’s leadership of Manchester United’s back four has been almost as important to the team’s succcess as Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals in recent years. Just as strong as John Terry, with less of a tendency to give away free-kicks, Ferdinand can justly claim to be England’s best central defender of recent generations.

    Video: Best of Rio

  17. 2. Andrea Pirlo

  18. pirlo Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    The epitome of the ‘cultured midfielder’. Pirlo’s range of passing and utter control in possession evoke only the best memories of the greatest players to have graced the game. His placement at number two highlights the importance of remembering that players should not be overlooked because of the team they play for (which seems silly when you consider that the man has won pretty much everything there is to win with Italy and AC Milan). A colossus of a player, now entering the final stages of his career but still able to take complete control of a game all on his own, with one of the most feared long range shots in the game.

    Video: Pirlo – The Best Playmaker

  19. 1. Andres Iniesta

    iniesta Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternative List of the Top 25 Football Players in the World (10 1)

    The complete player. It’s almost scandalous that Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez should take so much acclaim when such a wonderful player is in the same team. The ball appears glued to Iniesta’s feet, yet rarely will you see him over-indulge. Always looking for the early ball, the scorer of the winning goal of the World Cup Final shoots, tackles, crosses and runs with the best of them. Unlike Xavi, Iniesta can play out wide, which often leads to his redeployment away from his preferred central position. He won’t score anywhere near as many goals as Messi, but Iniesta could play in any league, for any team, at any level and still have the same subtly brilliant effect of making everyone around him play better. Faultless.

Previous Articles:
Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternate List of the Best 25 Footballers in the World
Beyond Lionel Messi: An Alternate List of the Best 25 Footballers in the World (25-11)

Comments (16)

  1. Andrea Pirlo #2? Controversial, certainly…

    • let me guess….he didn’t play in the EPL so he’s untested….bla bla bla

  2. vidic>ferdinand

  3. Top 25 without Wesley Sneijder? And, Pirlo is way past his prime.

  4. What the hell is Pirlo doing in 2nd he shouldn’t even be in the top 10 great player though just not 2nd.

  5. Wow not a single player from arsenal o.0 You hate arsenal dun you.

  6. no rooney ?

    ha ha good joke.

  7. And once again, samuel eto’o is no where to be seen.
    What does he have to do to start getting recognition as being a truly great player???

  8. Obviously,the author did not watch Real – Barcelona in Champions League,on Wed! There is not and it will never be a player of the caliber of Lionel Messi,period.We should be gratefull that we were alive during HIS times!
    Who doesn’t realize this fact probably never played or watched the game in his life.

  9. Xavi>Inesta+Messi

  10. hey wt happened 2 goalkeepers? and also VIDIC?

  11. you said ronaldo 1 messi 0
    well watching the semi final i pretty much thinks its fair to say 1-1 or even 1-2 to messi….you say messi coulnt score the header that ronaldo did, and to some part i agree with you, but ronaldo could never score the 2nd goal messi did
    SAY NO MORE

  12. Wow, what a silly list… can’t take it too seriously.
    Xavi only 11 while Pirlo is 2nd?
    Villa better than Messi and Ronaldo?
    Ronney out, but Khedira in?

  13. 1.ronaldo/neymar
    2.kaka
    3.pato
    …..
    …..
    …..
    …..
    …..
    messi

  14. Rio Ferdinand? yeah ok mate. especially at third too?

    where is Steven Gerrard from Liverpool?
    or Frank Lampard?

  15. Obviously, you can see many people have reading comprehension difficulties and are unable to read what you wrote.

    I completely agree about the “irritating combination of base statistical analysis and pseudo-romance” that pundits have displayed (Gerrard, Ronaldo, Messi ect….). However, it is also difficulty how you fully gauge players’ abilities.

    The two disagreements I do have of players left out are Ricardo Carvalho and Robin van Persie. I don’t think anyone has any idea how good Carvalho is. He adapted brilliantly from a physical league (EPL) to a technical league (Liga), and I suppose he would do even better in the cerebral league (Serie A).

    I must say, I was particularly happy to see Muller, Falcao, Modric and Lavezzi in, though I rate the latter three higher.

    I STRONGLY disagree with Gareth “one-trick pony” Bale being in there.

    Nonetheless, great post!