The 100 Best Footballers in the World

The Guardian’s 11-strong international panel of experts set about ranking the best footballers in the world, and end up with their top 100.


Diego Forlan
Age: 33   Nationality: Uruguayan
Team: Internacional

The striker became the most capped Uruguayan of all time at the 2011 Copa América and is also the country’s record scorer. That seemed implausible when he left Manchester United in 2004, disheartened after two and a half largely fruitless seasons. But he was a remarkable success at Villarreal, scoring 54 goals in 106 league games and took the club, which had not played in Europe until 2002, to the Champions League semi-finals, in 2006. Won the Uefa Cup with Atlético Madrid two years later and was voted player of the tournament at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Now playing in the Brazilian top flight

Marcus Christenson



Age: 26   Nationality: Brazilian
Team: Zenit St Petersburg

The Brazilian forward with the brilliant name and a suspect temper (yes, really), scored 57 goals in 91 games for Porto until last summer, when Chelsea were preparing a £38m bid to lure him to Stamford Bridge. In the end, Zenit St Petersburg spent around £40m on him, only for the Brazilian to fall out with the manager Luciano Spalletti and threaten to quit the club after being substituted. However, Fifa rules that prevent players from competing for more than two clubs in a season mean Hulk must stay in Russia until at least next summer. He has six goals in 18 caps for Brazil. Was once banned for four months after a tunnel brawl. Nickname allegedly acquired from his father, who was a fan of The Incredible Hulk

Marcus Christenson

Joe Hart
Age: 25   Nationality: English
Team: Man City

Joe Hart has endured an erratic few months, making several big-game blunders that have called his reputation into question. These should not be glossed over, but what has made them stand out so much is the fact that he had so often seemed near to flawless before this jittery spell. Ever since his early days at Shrewsbury Town and Birmingham City he has shown confident leadership and rare ability that make it likely he will overcome his current dip

Paul Doyle


Mats Hummels
Age: 24   Nationality: German
Team: Borussia Dortmund

How Bayern Munich must regret loaning Mats Hummels to Dortmund in 2009. The young defender had failed to break into the first team – “I was the third-choice centre-back but when one of the first two got injured I still wasn’t picked” – and he did not hesitate over a permanent move. And that was despite his father working for Bayern at the time. Now he is the natural leader of the German champions and the national team, his Beckenbauer-esque playing style a joy to behold

Marcus Christenson


Cesc Fabregas
Age: 25   Nationality: Spanish
Team: Barcelona

Cesc Fabregas 2

For a player who has never quite been an automatic first-choice starter, Cesc Fábregas has had a hell of an impact on international football. At Euro 2008 he scored the vital penalty that broke Spain’s jinx and sent them through against Italy. In 2010 he played in Andrés Iniesta to score the winner in the World Cup final. In 2012 there was a decisive semi-final penalty. Playing as a false No9 in the final he was crucial. Very much a Barça player but more direct than Xavi and Iniesta

Sid Lowe


David Silva
Age: 26   Nationality: Spanish
Team: Man City
After an hour of Spain’s World Cup 2010 defeat to Switzerland, Vicente del Bosque removed David Silva – Spain improved in his absence, and he played little further part in the tournament. But he felt excluded from the group, so Del Bosque desperately found a way to include him in the side at Euro 2012, and Silva’s opener in the final justified that decision. The nature of the goal – a classic passing move, finished by the player whose selection underlined Del Bosque’s faith in Spain’s footballing identity – means Silva has contributed the most telling moment of this legendary Spanish side

Michael Cox


Radamel Falcao
Age: 26   Nationality: Colombian
Team: Atletico Madrid

They call him the Tiger and he is an insatiable predator, a perfectly honed hunter, stalking the pitch looking for chances to pounce. When he does he is devastatingly effective: right foot, left foot, head, from inside the box and out, this is a guy that does not miss. Arguably the world’s best No9 at the moment, he has racked up over 50 goals in just a year and a half at Atlético Madrid, winning the Europa League and destroying Chelsea in the European Super Cup with a first-half hat-trick. Everybody is after him right now and just how good he is can be defined by the buy-out clause in his Atlético contract. It currently stands at €60m and here is the thing: it does not even seem that expensive

Sid Lowe


Lionel Messi
Age: 25   Nationality: Argentinian
Team: Barcelona

Messi celebrationThere was only one name and one position on which all 11 members of the panel were in unanimous agreement: the world No1, Lionel Messi. How could we not choose him? The debate has moved to another plane: it is not so much a question of whether Messi is the best player in the world right now, as whether Messi might just be the best player there has ever been. Last season he scored 50 league goals, making him the top scorer in La Liga history. He has been top scorer in the Champions League for four seasons in a row, twice scoring in the final. He has scored in the final of the Copa del Rey, the Club World Cup and the European and Spanish Super Cups. It is hard to find sufficient superlatives for him

Sid Lowe

Check out the entire interactive piece on the top 100 here on the guardian’s website.

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