In part four of the Top 50 Players in the World, there are three Brazilians, three Manchester-based players and a controversial Uruguayan on Merseyside.
View the longlist and voting process here.
Part 1 (50-41): 50 Ezequiel Lavezzi, 49 Thomas Muller, 48 Joe Hart, 47 Hulk, 46 Franck Ribery, 45 Juan Mata, 44 Phillip Lahm, 43 Roberto Soldado, 42 Arjen Robben, 41 Mats Hummels
Part 2 (40-31): 40 Gonzalo Higuain, 39 Alexis Sanchez, 38 Nani, 37 Karim Benzema, 36 Victor Valdes, 35 Gareth Bale, 34 Sergio Busquets, 33 Manuel Neuer, 32 Falcao, 31 Antonio Di Natale
Part 3 (30-21): 30 David Villa, 29 Eden Hazard, 28 Angel Di Maria, 27 Iker Casillas, 26 Luka Modric, 25 Wesley Sneijder, 24 Yaya Toure, 23 Mario Gomez, 22 Mario Gotze, 21 Xabi Alonso
20 Nemanja Vidic
Manchester United & Serbia (▲25th – 640 points)
Manchester United captain, Nemanja Vidic, is regarded as one of the best defenders in the world and it’s easy to understand why. In the 814 minutes (just over 9 games) that Vidic has been on the pitch this season the Red Devils have only conceded 2 goals. Vidic brings a calming and commanding presence to the United back line not to mention an ability to chip in with vital goals, as five goals last season can testify.
The 30 year old was a virtual unknown when he arrived at Old Trafford in 2006 from Spartak Moscow however he soon settled into life in the Premier League helping Sir Alex Ferguson to three titles, one Champions League and a FIFA World Cup Championship.
The 56 times capped former Serbian International has also a number of personal accolades in his collection , his most recent being named on the 2011 FIFA/FIFPro 2011 team of the season, one of only two English based players, the other being Wayne Rooney, to make the team.
Vidic is currently out for the rest of the season after injuring his knee in the Champions League defeat to Basel and it’s no surprise that Manchester United look more vulnerable at the back without him. [Trevor Keane]
19 Vincent Kompany
Manchester City & Belgium (►New Entry – 678 points)
It seems slightly incredulous that Vincent Kompany is only twenty-five years old. He became a regular in the Anderlecht side aged just seventeen and has already played over 300 club games, despite spending more than half a season out with an Achilles injury.
Given his current reputation as perhaps the best centre back in the Premier League, the £6M that Manchester City paid Hamburg for him in August 2008 may have to go down as one of the deals of the decade. He has everything the modern defender needs, being comfortable on the ball, dominant in the air and with the intelligence to read the game and snuff out trouble before it arises. If City are to effect the domination they desire, then Kompany will have to be at their heart. [Simon Furnivall]
18 Mesut Ozil
Real Madrid & Germany (▼10th – 703 points)
Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the Bernabeau could have seen the German midfielder lose form, or fall out of favour as the ‘Special One’ put his own stamp on the first team; however, quite the opposite has arose as Özil has nailed down his spot as one of the first names on the team-sheet, no mean feat considering former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka’s return from injury, keeping the diminutive playmaker on his toes – you could also perhaps take that rather literally.
Unthinkable control of the ball makes Özil an incredible asset – having the ball stuck to his feet allows the likes of Di Maria and Ronaldo to do their business with the luxury of being in possession. Often placing the perfect weight on his passes, his left-foot is one of the best in the world and the only improvement on his current game would be adding more goals to his tally. [David Chalmers]
17 Thiago Silva
AC Milan & Brazil (►New Entry – 715 points)
The news in May last year that Thiago Silva signed a contract extension until 2016 was music to the ears of Rossoneri fans.“When my contract ends in 2016, I want to speak to Adriano Galliani to sign for five more seasons, I want to become a symbol of AC Milan.” The Brazilian is now considered to be one of best defenders in the world and is regarded by many as the best centre back in Serie A. Anyone who witnessed his performances in helping Milan to their first Scudetto success in seven years would find it difficult to argue with this.
The 27 year old Rio native has been imperious at the back for the Milan club and is tipped to take over as club captain once Massimo Ambrosini hangs up his boots. He has also put in some fine performances in Europe and his towering header at the Nou Camp last September was one of the more memorable moments of the Champions League season so far. AC Milan have long been associated with great defenders such as Baresi and Maldini and should Thiago Silva fulfill his commitment to the Rossoneri and produce the levels of performance that we have become used to lately, his name would not look out of place amongst the aforementioned Milan legends. [Angelo Fiorini]
16 Daniel Alves
Barcelona & Brazil (▲20th – 716 points)
Dani Alves’ high-energy and lung-busting displays for Barcelona have continued throughout 2011 with the 28-year-old even required to perform in some new positions this season.
The former Sevilla star has diversified from his favoured right-back position at times to play as part of a back three and even been utilised as a right forward. However, it’s clear that Alves’ strengths still lie as an attacking full-back in Barcelona’s free-flowing system.
Internationally, 2011 could well be considered a disappointment for Alves with Brazil crashing out of the Copa America to Paraguay at the quarter-final stage. The Barcelona man played in just two of Brazil’s matches in that tournament and Alves has still to re-create the type of performances for country that made him such a hit for his club.
Alves’ place in this list is more than deserved though with the Brazilian being selected as part of FIFA’s World XI of 2011 to recognise his success. [Matthew Wood]
15 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
AC Milan & Sweden (▲29th – 718 points)
A perennial winner, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has astonishingly won eight league titles in the last eight years, with five different clubs. In 2011 he was doing the business for AC Milan, as they finally put an end to the stronghold their city rivals Internazionale had on Serie A.
Although the Swede’s form was much better in the first half of the 2010/11 season, his 14 league goals were vital in getting Milan’s hands on the Italian title. Even though 13 of his tally were scored by the end of January, meaning he received more red cards in the following games than he did goals.
Things have been much better for Zlatan, however, in the second half of 2011. He’s already equaled his total goals tally from last season, with 14 goals in 16 league games, as Milan sit second in the Serie A – a single point off of top spot.
14 Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bayern Munich & Germany (▼8th – 726 points)
Once regarded as one for the future, the public perception of Bastian Schweinsteiger has changed somewhat. Ever since he was an integral part of the much lauded Germany side that got to the semi finals of the 2010 World Cup he has been seen as of the finest midfield talents in world football. Whilst 2010 brought lavish praise and many medals, 2011 was in complete contrast.
Schweinsteiger broke into the Bayern side as a teenager and has had a trophy laden career with the Bavarian giants, winning five league titles and five German cups so far in his career. In January 2011 he was named as Bayern Munich vice-captain to long term friend and teammate Philip Lahm.
Despite not winning any trophies in 2011, Schweinsteiger has had a fairly productive year. He contributed seven goals and ten assists, which led to Bayern Munich being top of the Bundesliga at Christmas and safely through to the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare.
After his fantastic performance at the World Cup in 2010, he remains a key stalwart in an industrious German midfield. It is key that he stays fit for Germany to have a good summer in the Poland and Ukraine. And if he does just that, the other 15 teams in Euro 2012 will be shaking in their boots. [Robert O’ Reardon]
13 Luis Suarez
Liverpool & Uruguay (▲33rd – 736 points)
Forget about the off-field problems. On the field, Luis Suarez’s form in 2011 has been nothing short of sensational. Not too many fans of English football knew quite what to expect when Liverpool splashed out £22m on the Ajax forward this time last year but the transfer has been an overwhelming success.
Any tears that may have been shed when Liverpool lost their golden boy Fernando Torres to Chelsea were instantly wiped away at the sign of a new talent to take up the affections of the Kop. Suarez scored on his debut with a goal from the bench against Stoke City and hasn’t looked back since.
Skill, pace, trickery, unpredictability and determination, Suarez seems to have it all. Perhaps the biggest critique of the Uruguayan has been his lack of goals with nine Premier League goals in the calendar year. However, nobody can doubt his overall contribution and ability to create chances out of nothing. Not only did Suarez enjoy club success in 2011, but the 25-year-old also landed the award for the best player at the Copa America by helping guide Uruguay to victory in the tournament. [Matthew Wood]
Santos & Brazil (►New Entry – 785 points)
There is always hype over the next young Brazilian who will go on to emulate the greats that the country has produced. The difference is that this time it might actually be backed up. For a man just shy of his 20th birthday, he has already achieved a fair amount, including a Copa Libertadores title with Santos. To match his pace, technique and flair, he has been scoring at a rate which suggests real talent, and not just at club level; his international career has begun brightly with eight goals in fifteen appearances. He seems destined for an eventual move to one of the Spanish giants, and for a fee which matches the ever growing hype surrounding a player who might, just might, be one to deliver on it. [Simon Furnivall]
11 Sergio Aguero
Manchester City & Argentina (▲45th – 921 points)
Argentine forward Agüero joined money-bags Manchester City in the summer after having had enough of La Liga – and the Premier League have already had enough of him. An impressive start to life at the Etihad saw Kun form intelligent partnerships with the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Džeko before an injury stopped his season, if only for a moment. A 30-minute brace on his debut proved he means business and a goal in the incredible 6-1 win over Manchester United helped see his name nominated for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, and silencing any critics that said he wouldn’t be able to handle the Barclays Premier League. 21 goals in 26 games so far for City, it’s looking like a season to remember for the 33-times capped player. At 23, his best years lie ahead of him and Manchester City look to be building a side around Kun and David Silva. Tévez who? [David Chalmers]
The Top 50 is in association with the Art of Pele.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pelé as he is known across the world, is considered to be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen – the youngest player ever to win a World Cup (three in total); scorer of 1,283 professional goals – 12 of them in World Cup final tournaments; and “Athlete of the Century”, awarded by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.
In celebration of his achievements Pelé has created a colourful series of artwork that capture the many special moments throughout his truly legendary career. Each piece interprets the significance of defining moments in his life, translating them into vibrant and colourful images. The Art of Pelé brings his story to life – on canvas. Find out more by visiting www.artofpele.com.
Return tomorrow to see part five of the Top 50, counting down from 10 to 4.