Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for the seventh time in his career, extending his record as the player to win it the most times.
The Argentine captain capped off a wonderful year for himself by pipping Robert Lewandowski and Jorginho to the award, making him the first Ligue 1 player to win the honour since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1991.
Messi had previously won each of his six awards with FC Barcelona, the club he played his entire career for before a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain.
The award was met with a mixed response from fans, with many believing Bayern Munich and Poland striker Lewandowski deserved the honour.
But in the end, Messi’s victory in the Copa America and Copa Del Rey as well as finishing as the top goalscorer in both tournaments and La Liga was enough to secure him the record breaking achievement.
Lewandowski finished second while Chelsea’s Jorginho rounded off the podium in third, having helped his club win the Champions League and led Italy to winning Euro 2020 in the summer.
Karim Benzema finished fourth, while N’Golo Kante finished fifth. The Premier League continued to dominate the top ten as Cristiano Ronaldo finished sixth, Mohamed Salah finished seventh and Kevin De Bruyne finished eighth, while PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Gianluigi Donnarumma completed the top ten.
FIFA ensured that Lewandowski didn’t go home empty handed however, as the inaugral “Striker of the Year” award was given to the man who scored 64 goals in 54 games last season en route to yet another Bundesliga title.
Chelsea were crowned the inaugral “Club of the Year” winners, while Pedri was confirmed as the Kopa Trophy winner -given to the best Under-21 player in the world.
Messi’s victory moves him two clear of Ronaldo in the record hunt, as the Portuguese legend finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.
It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.
The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.
Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.
The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.
If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.
The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.
The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.
Rafael Van der Vaart
The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.
The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.
There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.
2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.
Matthijs De Ligt
The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.
Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.
The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.
2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.
The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.
Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.
Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.
The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.
Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.
It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.
There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.
When you think about the best teams of the modern era, there are two that stick out like a sore thumb.
During a period where Spanish football was the home of the best players and managers in the world, it was obviously Barcelona and Real Madrid that had periods of dominance across Europe and domestically.
But what would have happened if you put those two teams, at their best, head-to-head with each other? We’re here to break it down and try and figure it out.
Barcelona between 2008 and 2011 were and are considered one of the greatest club sides in the history of football.
Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they revolutionised the way attacking football was played up until this day. They dominated possession, scored countless goals, passed opponents to death and were the home to arguably the greatest player of all-time in Lionel Messi.
Their 4-3-3 system with attacking full-backs and technically secure players all over the pitch set the benchmark as they won two Champions League trophies, three La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, a Copa Del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups across three-and-a-half seasons.
Real Madrid couldn’t compete with them during that period, but they made their own mark half a decade later when they not only became the first team to retain their Champions League trophy but they also made it three-in-a-row.
Add to that a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and two World Club Cups under Zinedine Zidane (plus an extra World Club Cup under Santi Solari after Zidane’s resignation), this is a team synonymous with success and winning.
The brilliant goalscoring of Cristiano Ronaldo, the majestic midfield play of Luka Modric and Tony Kroos, the playmaking from full-back by Marcelo and the leadership of Sergio Ramos at the back, this was a complete squad.
The difference between these two powerhouse teams is that Real Madrid were able to adapt their style of play depending on the opponent.
Against weaker opposition they had the ability to dominate the ball and carve open defences to score goals, while pushing high up the pitch to sustain pressure.
When they came up against quality outfits though, Zidane would ensure they sat a bit deeper defensively, were compact in midfield and explosive on the counter attack with the pace of Ronaldo, Benzema and even Gareth Bale leading the way.
Barcelona on the other hand were the same no matter what. Much like today’s Guardiola, it was all about controlling the ball and dominating possession. Short passes, lots of sharp movements and rotation across positions and technical security meant they were unshakeable on the ball.
But the Catalan legend also instilled a hunger in the team to win the ball back as soon as possible when they did lose it, famously starting a seven-second press that if the opponent was able to surpass would usually result on them being in on goal.
It’s fair to say that Zidane’s Madrid side would ultimately allow Barcelona to have the ball in midfield and be compact, while using their own technical abilities and brilliant quality to try and pick them off on the counter as they did to so many top sides during their Champions League wins during that period.
The difference however, is that this Madrid side never came up against this Lionel Messi.
The little Argentine was a totally different animal under Guardiola, which is terrifying considering all he has achieved since they parted ways in 2012.
I have no doubts that Ronaldo would likely have a say on the game himself, because during this period of time he was at his goalscoring best and most clutch. But Messi could effect the game without just putting the ball into the net.
David Villa and Pedro were also huge goalscoring threats from the wing, while Dani Alves in his peak was arguably the best right-back of all-time. It’s hard to imagine this Real Madrid side keeping this peak Barcelona side goalless for 90 minutes and while I wouldn’t bet against them scoring themselves, ultimately the greatest player of all-time would separate the two best club sides we’ve seen in this era of football.
Prediction: Real Madrid (15-18) 1-2 Barcelona (08-11) / Messi masterclass.
Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona FC after 17 years and is going to be a Paris Saint-Germain player next season.
The move comes after the Argentine initially agreed to sign a new deal with the Catalan side, just 12 months after making a scene publicly about wanting to leave after not agreeing with the direction the club was going in.
But after a season in which he seemed to find joy once again and added what would turn out to be a 35th and final trophy with the club, he was denied the chance of finishing his career in the Camp Nou by La Liga rules.
La Liga rules state that a club’s annual wage to turnover ratio can be no more than 70% but Messi’s renewal would take the club up to 115%.
The main issue isn’t that however, but yet another fallout from the Super League fiasco that took place earlier this year. The Spanish FA had been overlooking Barcelona being above their limit for years, but with Barcelona and Real Madrid refusing to agree to a deal that would see La Liga sell a portion of their equity for cash but bury the Super League forever, president Javier Tebas has decided to enforce the rules.
Many questioned why Messi wouldn’t just play for free if he wanted to stay at the club so badly, but even if he did their wage bill would be at 95% of their turnover. It made no difference, Messi can’t play for Barcelona this season while the league actually choose to enforce their rules.
So that leaves a handful of clubs that are actually able to afford him and allow him to continue his career at the highest level.
Manchester City just spent £100m on Jack Grealish from Aston Villa and gave him the number 10 shirt, but they also want Harry Kane desperately and are under investigation for FFP breaches. Manchester United are more interested in building a young squad to develop and while Messi is obviously someone you want in your team, they have a structure in place they clearly aren’t willing to break.
Chelsea were also a possible destination but they’ve just splashed £98m on Romelu Lukaku for their strike force after a £250m outlay last summer on the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, meaning they made the decision to not offer 34-year-old Messi astronomical wages.
With Real Madrid obviously out of the running, Italy not a viable option because of the financial situation in their country and Bayern Munich never in the running, it left just PSG.
This is a PSG side run by the super rich Qatar Sports Investment group. They sponsor Barcelona as a club and currently can afford to pay both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe after spending a combined £360m the two superstars.
Yet they’ve still managed to agree a two-year deal with Messi where he will earn a reported £25m per-year net in wages and £20m in a signing on fee. In reality, they had zero competition for his siganture.
The deal has been labelled as ‘boring’ as Messi joins a super-rich side who already dominate their domestic scene, despite not winning the league title last year, and is already filled with other superstars. They wanted romance, like when Diego Maradona joined Napoli, for further evidence that Messi is the best ever.
But that’s not his problem. He wants to compete at the highest level for as long as he can and when you’re as good as he is, any team you could potentially join will already have several top talents in the club. Adding Messi into a group of already super talented footballer basically instantly makes them favourites.
It’s not Messi’s fault that only some clubs can afford him, because he deserves to be the highest paid player in the world. He’s the best ever and having won six Ballon d’Or’s already and on course for a seventh later this year, it’s not like he’s living off past glories either.
He will make PSG unanimous favourites for the Champions League, a trophy he and they are desperate to win and he will part of one of the most entertaining teams on the continent going forward.
The only losers here are La Liga and Barcelona, the rest of us should enjoy him for the last few years of his career when he’s finally in a team worthy of his talent. He’s no longer carrying players lucky to play with him on his back in a constant hunt for success. This is going to be fun.
Kylian Mbappe ensured that there is a new era upon us in the UEFA Champions League as he scored again against Barcelona to ensure Paris Saint-Germain’s progression into the quarter-finals with a 5-2 aggregate win.
After scoring a hat-trick in the first leg at the Camp Nou, Mbappe opened the scoring on the night converting a controversial penalty after Clement Lenglet alleged to have fouled Mauro Icardi in the box. Lionel Messi pulled one back six minutes later with a thunderbolt from outside the area, before he missed a penalty in first-half injury time.
Barcelona were unable to break the French champions down in the second half, with Mbappe a constant threat on the counter-attack as the Parisians settled for their first leg advantage to take them through.
It was the third time that Mbappe and Messi have been on the pitch together and the third time that the 22-year-old has come out on top, scoring six goals in those games.
With conversations circling about a potential passing of the torch from Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi to Erling Haaland and Mbappe, the truth is that Mbappe hasn’t been passed anything – he’s taken it.
In the same game that he became the youngest player to score 25 Champions League goals, Mbappe showed a maturity to his game that meant that while he was a constant threat he was also able to ensure that he did his job defensively at all times too.
It could potentially be the final game Messi plays in the Champions League as a Barcelona player, but it will be the tie more remembered for Mbappe’s level of performance in the first leg in particular.
After bursting onto the scene at AS Monaco, Mbappe has continued to develop at a rapid rate and at 22 years of age is already one of the best players in the world. There is almost certainly a Ballon d’Or or several waiting in his future and the world is genuinely at his feet.
While the likelihood of Mbappe reaching the heights and levels that Ronaldo and Messi reached are slim to none, there is no doubt in the mind of many that he is the heir to the throne and this tie only moved to further prove that football is in good hands going forward.
He is the best of his generation by a distance and it will go down in history as Mbappe took the crown, rather than had it passed down to him.
We’ve been blessed over the last few generations of footballer to see some of the best of all time perform at their absolute peak.
Chelsea fan Omoze Edeki, otherwise known as Omozay on Twitter, has gathered all her football knowledge together without using any player more than once, she’s collated different attributes and built her perfect footballer.
Brain Mesut Ozil
There are no words to even describe how intelligent Ozil is as a player. Throughout his career, whether that be at Real Madrid or Arsenal, the one thing Ozil was hailed for was his football IQ.
Heading Ability John Terry
One of, if not the, best players when it comes to being a threat aerially. The technique that he does which provides those bullet headers is just out of this world. It’s the quick jump and power that allows him to be so dangerous in the air as well as his positioning. Being the highest goalscoring defender in Chelsea’s history says it all.
Hands Petr Cech
Petr Cech from the Czech Republic, the man was a brick wall in his prime. Paramount to the success of Chelsea’s first two Premier League titles, that was just the start of his legacy as one of the best goalkeepers to touch world football.
Tackling Paolo Maldini
At his very best there isn’t a defender that could accurately time his tackles like Maldini. His presence in defence was one of the many reasons why he is considered one of the greatest defenders of all time, even to the point of Milan retiring the number three shirt.
Agility Eden Hazard
Hazard has always been known to use his agility to swerve past oncoming defenders who have been tasked with stopping him in his tracks. The way he uses his body and low centre of gravity, coupled with his pace is always a nightmare for defenders. I will never get the West Ham goal at Stamford Bridge in the 18/19 season. What a player.
Passing Andres Iniesta
A legend and one of the best midfielders of all time. It was very hard to choose this as I had two other options but Iniesta is my choice. The range of passes this man possessed was not normal. Whether it was to put a player through towards goal, to slice open a defence, or to set the tempo & hold possession – he had it all.
First Touch Ronaldinho
I like to refer to Ronaldinho as the master of all trades. His skill set was out of this world and his first touch is by far the best of any player I’ve watched. For me, he is the first touch king.
Speed Gareth Bale
Now this is a bit of a weird one because there are a lot of players who could have been chosen. But whenever someone mentions players who used their pace as one of their strengths, the first person that comes to mind is Gareth Bale. At his peak he was considered one of the if not the fastest player in world and was one of the big reasons why he developed into a world class footballer.
Dribbling Lionel Messi
The real GOAT. Messi is known for many things and will go down as the greatest player to ever play the game, but one aspect of his game that always amazes me is his dribbling. The ball is like a magnet to his feet, nothing can repel it away not even the greatest defenders. One of my earliest memories of Messi was his goal against Getafe when he was 19-years-old – receiving the ball from the half way line and going past players as if they weren’t there.
A joy to watch, Neymar is one of the most skilful players to ever grace the game and is the true definition of made in Brazil. To a certain degree I can understand why football players get frustrated with him, if I was being disgraced so easily with the skill set that Neymar possesses then I too would lose my head. They don’t make ‘em like him anymore.
Crossing David Beckham
There’s a reason why there is a movie called ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Nobody can ever forget the one attribute that Beckham had over any footballer during and even after his years as a footballer. His precision to find anyone, anywhere at any time on the pitch with a whipped or driven pass was second to none.
Right Foot Cristiano Ronaldo
It was only right that I chose Ronaldo. Can’t think of any other right footed player that I adore more than him. He is one of the greatest players ever. That right peg of his has always been a problem and has seen him become the highest goalscorer in the history of the game.
Left Foot Roberto Carlos
One of my earliest football memories as a child and being amazed by what I saw was seeing Roberto Carlos’ fre-kick against France in 1997. I didn’t actually watch the match but three years later it came up on my television and I could not believe how it was possible for a human to shoot at goal from that distance coupled with that power. He is one of the greatest full-backs of all time and helped revolutionise the role, paving the way for the likes of Andrew Robertson and Alphonso Davies today.
Inclusive in those ties is a clash between two super-teams as Paris Saint-Germain take on Barcelona, as Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman go head to head for the first time since their Premier League days.
Barcelona hired former captain Koeman back in the summer and after a rocky start, the Catalan side seem to have finally found their way under him as they sit in third place in La Liga between the two Madrid sides. They came through a tough group with Juventus in the group stages, missing out on top spot thanks to a final match day defeat to the Turin giants.
Both sides have recently found some really good form, with the Paris side winning eight of ten games under Pochettino. Koeman on the other hand has seen his side win ten of their last 13 fixtures, but they were beaten when they took on Athletic Club in the Super Cup final and then lost to Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg recently too.
Their cup form hasn’t been good, failing to win any of their last three inside 90 minutes and defensively they are shaken by injuries right now.
Gerard Pique has returned to training after being out with injury since November, while the likes of Samuel Umtiti, Sergino Dest and Sergio Roberto continue to be sidelined. It means academy prospects Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo have stepped in for large parts of the season and become regulars in the side, for better or worse.
PSG have had their own injury problems, with star man Neymar ruled out for a month and likely to miss both legs of the tie with a groin issue. Angel Di Maria and Juan Bernat are both struggling with injury too, although Presnel Kimpembe has recovered from injury and picked up where he left off in good form in defence.
With Neymar and Di Maria’s injuries, it means the burden falls on 22-year-old Kylian Mbappe. The French sensation is PSG’s top scorer this season with 16 goals and has found himself played in all three roles across the attack since Pochettino’s arrival at the club. Mauro Icardi has returned from injury and found his goalscoring touch too, but the game runs through Mbappe.
For Barcelona, it may be a new manager and a young team but the objective remains the same – give the ball to Lionel Messi. The Argentine had a slow start to the season but seems to have found a new relationship with Antoine Griezmann who has seven goals and four assists in his last ten appearances, while young midfielder Pedri has adapted well to his role in Koeman’s system.
The tie really does depend on whether or not Lionel Messi turns up. On his day, he is still by far and away the best footballer in the world and can essentially win games such as this on his own. The absence of Neymar makes PSG more obvious in their approach which means that Barcelona can prepare much better for it, although an obvious problem for them will be whether their defensive issues halt their ability to stop him.
The way the two teams are playing right now, it should be one hell of a tie. Both teams have retained their home advantage in a round that has seen plenty of fixtures rescheduled for neutral venues, which will be a positive. But with PSG at home in the second leg, it makes me believe that the French side will go through.
Koeman will have his way of playing and will stick to it no matter what, like a true Barcelona coach does. He has his and the club’s ideals in mind at all times and it means PSG will be able to get through it quickly and efficiently and their attackers are in great nick.
The pace of the attack, with the steel and technical quality of the midfield should see PSG able to get a relatively convincing win in the end and despite Messi’s magic, his teammates just won’t be able to rise to the level required.
Barcelona 1-2 Paris SG Paris SG 3-1 Barcelona (Paris SG progress 5-2 on aggregate)
Being a 90’s baby means I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some of the G.O.A.T footballers, from Zidane to Ronaldinho and more recently Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
All of them have different abilities and excellence in different areas – so without using a single player for more than one attribute, I’m going to build my perfect footballer.
Brain Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo had the ability as a player to almost stop the game in real time and scan the length of the pitch in the middle of an attack. If he was a yard behind in pace, he made up two anticipating the ball and was fascinating to watch. He even himself famously said, “football is played with the head, and your feet are just the tools.”
Heading Ability Didier Drogba
A man mountain on the pitch and a character off it, Drogba ranked very highly for me in terms of players who had an eye, or rather a head, for goal. Scoring some of the greatest goals of his career with his head, Drogba had as much skill up top as he did down at his feet. With heading being almost a dying part of the modern game, an aerial threat like the Ivorian’s is hard to come by. Huge mention to Alan Shearer in this category as well.
Physique Zlatan Ibrahimovic
I have to go with Zlatan for this one. It’s hard to ignore the slender, ripped physique of the man that has allowed him to play at the very highest levels of the game worldwide for over two decades. Not many players have the longevity and the strength to compete like Zlatan has.
Hands Gianluigi Buffon
One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time who has consistently performed at top level for over 20 years, you cannot deny the shot-stopping ability of this Italian beast. Buffon made incredible saves with ease in his pomp and that makes him my top candidate for this category, alongside being the most capped player in Italian history. A testament to his greatness.
Tackling Carles Puyol
This Spanish international had a defensive career matched by very few, and in terms of trophies is as decorated as any. Puyol was a master tackler and timed challenges with precision we could only dream of seeing today, meaning he only received one red card in his whole career.
Known for the silky way he dribbles past defenders and his showboating, Neymar for me just simply floats across the pitch with or without a football at his feet. He can zip effortlessly all ways around a defender, has a wicked change of direction and on his day is a sublime watch.
The man who is known for completing the vast majority of his passes in every game and controlled the tempo when the ball was at his feet, Xavi was another easy pick for me here. Any type of pass – short, crossing, through balls; he could do it with ease and accuracy and was a joy to watch for me.
First Touch Andres Iniesta
Iniesta for me is one of the best to ever do it when receiving a ball. It didn’t matter if it was a long or short pass, the ease with which he could bring it under his spell on the first touch was a thing of beauty to see.
Speed Kylian Mbappe
This category was one of the hardest to choose because the fastest players change year on year, but I went with this man due to the heights he has reached at such a young age, and consistently for the past 3 years has ranked as one of the fastest players in the world.
Dribbling Franck Ribery
In the 2000’s, this Frenchman was massively underrated in certain areas of the game, but was amazing to watch when taking on defenders one on one. Stats also don’t lie – for dribbling attempts in a single year, Ribery attempted an enormous 1084 dribbles (2013), compared to Messi’s 331 and Ronaldo’s 252.
If you know and watch football even the tiniest bit, you still know how great this man was. One of my favourite footballers of all time, he had the ability to get you off your seat with the way he moved a football, gracefully but with purpose anywhere on the pitch. He is a master of the art of football.
Crossing Kevin De Bruyne
A lot of people would’ve opted for Beckham here, so to be different I opted for one of the best attacking midfielders in the world right now, Kevin De Bruyne. He has lit up the Premier League with his accurate passing, eye for goal and electric crosses and has statistically ranked in the best crossers amongst Europe’s top leagues for a few seasons now.
Right Foot Cristiano Ronaldo
I don’t think this list would even be complete without including the two greatest players of this era. The albeit contested greatest goalscorer of all time, the weapon that is CR7’s right foot has allowed us to see some amazing goals for club and country, and has cemented him in history.
Left Foot Lionel Messi
As above, these two categories practically picked themselves for me. You cannot deny the prowess these two possess in front of goal, and it’s hard to even ever imagine a player with the ability in both feet of the two greats.
The beautiful game has enabled us to see so many different footballers, who have and still are taking us through so many different emotions.
Football is a game where we have seen tears of joy, heartbreak and sorrow, all which can happen within 90 minutes.
In my almost three decades of watching the sport, I have had a lot of favourite players and have taken a liking to their attributes. All of this has assisted me in creating in what I believe to be, the perfect footballer.
Football Brain Fernando Redondo
A cerebral footballer player, it was like watching a symphony. He controlled not only his team but that of the opposition. A brilliant, intelligent, tactical mind. A truly superior player.
Heading Ability Cristiano Ronaldo
You didn’t think I was going to create my perfect footballer and leave out Cristiano Ronaldo, did you? His heading ability is second to none. The spring, the hang, the power? Unmatched. His header against Roma in the Champions League for Manchester United, or the one against United for Real Madrid where he jumped twice the height of Patrice Evra? Ridiculous.
Physique Paul Pogba
We have seen many different physiques and body types dominate world football – I mean look at the difference between Messi and Ronaldo. There is no one truly dominant one. However, the physique I most admire is that of Paul Pogba. Standing at 6ft 2′, his frame is perfect for my ideal footballer. Strong core, long legs and perfect body symmetry.
Hands Rory Delap
Only one answer for me regarding this and that is the great Rory Delap. Not the most authentic footballer but ask any Premier League Team between 2009 and 2012 who the player they feared the most with the ball in their hands was. He is renowned for having one of the most feared throw-ins in football, an absolute cannon which could cause trouble if the ball went out anywhere in the opposition half.
Tackling Ivan Cordoba
What a player this man was. His man marking ability and timing in the tackle was second to none. What made his efficiency even more effective was the fact he was only 5ft 8′. You don’t normally see defenders that small this day and age. His tackling stood out in the early 00’s when Inter Milan were on the rise and eventually won five Serie A titles in a row.
Agility Franck Ribery
With a frightening change of direction and speed, my choice for agility will be Frank Ribery. Even now in Serie A at 37 years of age, his burst of acceleration and movement still has younger players confused. During his prime for Marseille and Bayern Ribery was one of, if not the, most agile wingers in world football.
One of the best and most underrated creative players and playmakers of his generation. His vision and weight of pass is amongst the all-time greats with both execution and aesthetics. Passing range and ability to provide assists for teammates – we all remember the back heeled assists for Benzema and Zidane, right?
First Touch Lionel Messi
Out of his many glorious attributes, this is the one that I believe is the most important to his success as a player. Lionel Messi is often and widely regarded by many as the best dribbler of all time and is still going strong at the age of 33. This is all made by his first touch. It usually takes players out the game before he even starts dribbling. A glorious deft touch which constantly leaves defenders in his wake.
Speed Kylian Mbappe
This was a very tricky area. It’s not just having the speed, it’s how the uses it. Mbappe has freakish speed which he has displayed at every level. Whether it’s running past a player or galloping down the pitch on the counter attack. Not many players have that top level speed and intelligence to go along with it.
Dribbling Eden Hazard
This was close between him, Andres Iniesta and the late, great Diego Maradona for me. However, If Messi takes the throne for first touch, then Hazard takes the throne for dribbling. An absolute wizard with the ball at his feet with the ability to glide past four or five players at will on a weekly basis. With his low centre of gravity and stocky frame, it is almost impossible to get the ball off Eden Hazard when he is in full flow.
Without question. There has been no player, past or present, that has displayed the array of skills this man has on a football pitch. It is impossible to even compare. He stands alone.
Crossing Kevin De Bruyne
Sorry Becks. Ideally this is would be you, but I found a player who can do this with both feet. A lovely delivery with either the left or right foot and with just as much variation. Aesthetically it might not be easy on the eye to most, but I love it.
Right Foot Thierry Henry
The finesse king. The best player to ever play in the Premier League and the best striker of my generation by an absolute mile. Thierry Henry’s right foot needs to be immortalised. Nothing it couldn’t do – well apart from score in a final, but I’ll give him a pass.
Left Foot Adriano
“I played with great champions. I played with players that were already…wow. I played with players that I saw were a talent and became…wow, but the one I felt could do it longer, and he didn’t do it, was Adriano when I was at Inter. He could shoot from every angle, nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal.” — Zlatan Ibrahimović.
I have seen many left foots in my life. So many devastating goals, passes, tricks and flicks. However, I have never seen one quite as revered as Adriano’s. The Emperor.
I was born in 1993 which means I have been blessed enough to see to see some of the greatest footballers of recent memory, and even of all-time.
All of them have excelled in different areas that if you combined them together, would make the perfect footballer. But which players would have which attribute if you did merge them all together? Without using a single player for more than one attribute, lets build the perfect footballer from top to bottom.
Brain Phillip Lahm
One of the most intelligent footballers I’ve ever seen, he was world class in three different positions during his career. Able to play in both full-back roles as well as central midfield, Lahm has one of the best football IQ’s ever seen.
Heading Ability Sergio Ramos
It was between two but Ramos gets the nod due to the other player being picked elsewhere on this list. Ramos’ aerial ability is phenomenal in both boxes, with the central defender scoring over 100 goals during his career including a vital header the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.
Physique Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Standing at 6ft 4′ and standing at the top of the European scene for the best part of two decades, Zlatan’s physique is paramount to his success. Still scoring goals at age 39 without a problem, his longevity makes him the perfect choice here.
Hands Peter Schmeichel
If my player ever had to do a Kyle Walker and go in goal for whatever reason, then I’d want him to have the hands of the Great Dane. The greatest goalkeeper I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, he has to get the pick here.
Tackling Alessandro Nesta
For me, the best defender I’ve ever seen. A calmness on the ball that is more often associated with modern defenders, Nesta was the epitome of old school when it came to tackling. He mastered the art of defending and was one of the best when it came to nicking the ball back from an opponent.
Agility Sadio Mane
This may seem like a strange pick on paper but I can’t think of many players more agile than the Senegal international. He can go both ways as comfortably as the other and incredibly quickly, making him a nightmare for defenders.
Passing Xavi Hernandez
Quite simply the best passer of a football in his generation. He was the focal point of the greatest midfield we’ve ever seen in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side and had a phenomenal range. Whether short, long, through the lines or one-touch to beat a press, he had it all.
First Touch Zinedine Zidane
The first name that comes to mind when someone talks about a player’s first touch is Zidane and therefore he’s my pick. I’ll never forget my reaction when he took down Barthez’s long throw with a flick and beat a man all with a single touch. Genius.
Speed Thierry Henry
I could have put this man in plenty of these categories but I opted for this one because of the way he used to glide across the pitch. In his peak he would outrun anyone even with the ball at his feet, as his famous Bernabeu goal proved.
Flying past opponents with absolute ease I could easily have switched Neymar and Ronaldinho around here. His creativity, speed, agility, ability with both feet and skill in tight spaces make Neymar the obvious choice.
The man that truly made me fall in love with the game of football. The smile on his face while he was getting kicked to pieces tells you all you need to know. He showed me football is an art and the things he could do with a ball still to this day bring me to my feet. What a footballer.
Crossing David Beckham
Well, duh. Without a doubt in my mind David Beckham is the greatest crosser of a ball that has ever played football. He could put the ball wherever he wanted, from anywhere on the pitch. Genuinely one of a kind.
Right Foot Cristiano Ronaldo
It had to be. One of the greatest players of all time, I couldn’t not pick his greatest weapon that got him that accolade.
Left Foot Lionel Messi
The best player of all-time, much like Ronaldo there was no other option. It’s essentially a magician’s wand and he can do absolutely anything he wants with it. The easiest pick on this list.