We’ve finally reaching the top ten of the Top 50 Players in the World. All had fantastic years, but what order do they appear in? Today we see three Premier League players, three Spanish players at the Camp Nou and another Uruguayan striker.
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
Part 4 (20-11): 20 Nemanja Vidic, 19 Vincent Kompany, 18 Mesut Ozil, 17 Thiago Silva, 16 Daniel Alves, 15 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 14 Bastian Schweinsteiger, 13 Luis Suarez, 12 Neymar, 11 Sergio Aguero
10 Edinson Cavani
Napoli & Uruguay (▲41st – 928 points)
To say the Napoli striker had an emphatic start to 2011 would be an understatement. El Matador scored two hat-tricks in January and would go on to finish the season with 26 goals in 35 games leaving him second only to Antonio Di Natale in the Capocannoniere charts. In fact, had it not been for a needless suspension which meant Cavani missed the final two games of the season he may well have become the first Napoli player since Maradona to be top scorer in Serie A.
Cavani’s goalscoring exploits were vital in helping Napoli qualify for the Champions League (this was the first time the Neapolitans had reached Europe’s elite competition since 1990) and the striker proved his class by scoring some valuable goals for his side in the group stages of Europe’s elite competition, helping them qualify for the knockout stages ahead of big spenders Manchester City. In between these club successes Cavani helped Uruguay lift the Copa America for a record 15th time. An old Sinatra song would sum up 2011 up nicely for El Matador: “It was a very good year”. [Angelo Fiorini]
9 Cesc Fabregas
Barcelona & Spain (▲17th – 960 points)
In his eight years at Arsenal, Cesc Fàbregas was most known for splitting opposition defences with his through-passes but in the summer of 2011, he left their fans feeling a bit divided. Certainly they felt he was one of their greatest players in terms of talent but having won only one trophy - an FA Cup in 2005 – he couldn’t possibly go down as a club legend? Ultimately, it was not playing with better players which restricted Fàbregas’ legacy and he has got that with his move to Barcelona.
Already, almost by default since moving to the Catalan club, Fàbregas has won three trophies and has made a massive impact in the side. He has scored ten goals in the league and Europe, four goals in all competitions coming from headers showing how perfectly suited his movements are to the team. Indeed, Pep Guardiola has used him in an array of roles, underlying Fàbregas’ intelligence and capability to perform a number of functions. For Arsenal, in his last season at the club, he exclusively played as their main playmaker; here, Guardiola has transformed him into a decoy striker. However, despite the impact Fàbregas has made, it is felt he can improve further; Guardiola talks of the “tactical anarchy” Fàbregas brings, not only to opponent defences with his movement but also to his own side through indiscipline running.
Through all the wonders Cesc Fàbregas has performed, though, in his first season at Barcelona, it is easy to forget he had strong start to the year for Arsenal, culminating in the 2-1 defeat of his club he was to join. Unfortunately, Arsenal were unable to get him off the treatment table enough because in those games he played, he showed himself to be absolutely crucial. His appearance, though, at the Spanish Grand-Prix early summer when he should have been cheering his team-mates on, showed them were his heart ultimately lies – in Barcelona. And how he is enjoying it there. [Anam Hassan]
8 Gerard Pique
Barcelona & Spain (▲9th – 982 points)
There aren’t many players who go on to bigger and better things once they leave Manchester United. Gerard Piqué is among those few. The Barcelona defender returned to his home town club in 2008, frustrated by remaining on the fringes of United’s team, stuck behind the imperious partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Since doing so he has picked up thirteen winners’ medals (adding to the three he claimed while in England) and was a first choice in Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning side. Good enough on the ball to have made a career for himself as a midfielder, and with all the intelligence that a modern defender needs, the scary thing for everyone else is perhaps that Piqué is only twenty-four. [Simon Furnivall]
7 Wayne Rooney
Manchester United & England (▲31st – 1104 points)
With some Manchester United fans still not fully certain over Rooney’s commitment, after the striker publically stated he wanted to leave the club the year before, he responded in the best possible way. In February, he scored a vital overhead kick against local rivals Manchester City in a crucial victory that set United on the way to the title.
Rooney later received a two-game ban for swearing into a pitch side camera before scoring the only goal in the Champions League semi-final away leg against Schalke.
The striker then sealed his place back in the United faithful’s hearts as he converted a penalty against Blackburn to hand the Manchester club a record-breaking 19th league title.
He then picked up where he left off by notching against West Bromwich Albion on the opening day of the following season and topped that by notching a hat-trick as United demolished Arsenal 8-2.
However, the final note of Rooney’s 2011 was a sour one. The striker was sent-off whilst playing for England against Montenegro after a petulant kick out at a defender. His original ban three game ban was reduced to two to be will served at the 2012 European Championships. [Chris Quinn]
6 David Silva
Manchester City & Spain (►New Entry - 1822 points)
If clichés are to be believed then David Silva should be Premier League failure. He’s small, lighweight and, of course, foreign so ticks all the boxes for someone who shouldn’t be able to “do it on a cold Monday night in Stoke”.
However, 18 months down the road from his big money transfer to Manchester City from Valencia, the Spaniard has won himself many supporters for his guile and ability to pick a hole in even the tighest defence.
Despite standing at only 5ft 7ins in height and weighing just 67kgs, Silva is very strong on the ball, aided by a low centre of gravity and superb close control. His vision is exceptional, with his through ball for Edin Dzeko’s late goal in the 6-1 drubbing of Manchester United typifying his ability. It’s very hard to find a football fan with a bad word to say about him, and most just enjoy watching him in action, even if it is at the expense of their side.
Having really come into his own towards the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Silva has four goals and nine assists to his name in the league so far this season and is surely a strong contender for the various end of season Player of the Year awards.
City have done well with playmakers over the past 10 to 15 years with both Georgi Kinkladze and Ali Benarbia rightfully thought of as two of the club’s best players in that period, but Silva is rated higher than both by a lot of supporters.
Given that he has just turned 26, Silva’s peak is yet to come which is fantastic for City fans, though maybe not such good news for those of other clubs. [Neil Sherwin]
5 Robin van Persie
Arsenal & Holland (►New Entry - 2046 points)
Due to his injury-prone ways, nobody really regarded Robin van Persie as one of the greatest players in the world. He is a great player, that goes without saying, but he was never in conversation when it came to discussing the ‘top top’ players of this planet. Until 2011. The Arsenal forward has catapulted into fifth place in the Top 50, after not even getting close last year.
We’ve heard it many times at this stage, but the Dutchman’s stats in 2011 needs reminding. He scored 35 goals in the calender year, just a single goal behind the all-time record held by Alan Shearer. So far this season he’s netted 19 times in 22 games. Not bad, eh? With van Persie currently in the best form of his career, both on the field and out of the treatment room, he’s single-handedly kept Arsenal going this season with some very important goals. We won’t go as far as saying that Arsenal are a one-man team, but the Dutchman is just so good at the moment that he giants anyone around him. Fingers crossed he can stay fit for 2012.
4 Andres Iniesta
Barcelona & Spain (►4th – 2273 points)
It would have been a miracle if 2011 was anywhere near as successful as 2010 for Andrés Iniesta, it This year has been about team triumphs rather than individual glories, he didn’t score the winner in the World Cup final nor did he finish in the top 3 for the Ballon d’Or. However, he has collected 5 winning medals this year, Andrés has had another emphatic year as Barcelona’s no.8 he was influential in securing both the Champions League and La Liga and started the 2011/2012 season off to a flyer with the crucial first goal in the second leg of the Super Cup again Real Madrid. A hamstring injury against Milan in the Champions League in September saw Iniesta miss a month. But he has been ever present since then this season and has not been involved in a Barcelona defeat. With Barcelona’s backs seemingly against the wall in the race for the title Barcelona will be counting on Andrés’s influence more than ever. [Nicholas Roberts]
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.