ESPN have compiled a list of the 100 greatest players in the world covering every position on the field, which naturally has ruffled plenty of feathers.
Coming up with a top 10 for every position from goalkeeper to striker, the list includes a number of glaring omissions in each category.
As well as football fans online lapping up the ‘PR’ given to their favourite team’s best players – whatever that even means – there’s already been plenty of argument and agenda fuelling.
The cynic in us believes ESPN probably leaves out a few names on purpose to incite such debate, but that doesn’t make it okay. Off the back of their – well – intriguing choices, we’ve been able to put together a pretty insane XI of players who somehow didn’t make the cut.
GK: Andre Onana
It’s a great shame that Onana didn’t make the list, especially considering the likes of Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale have.
The Cameroon goalkeeper is arguably the best in the world with the ball at his feet, has boasted rather impressive stats all season, reached a Champions League final and is now being courted by Manchester United.
It will be interesting to see how the discussion around him changes if he heads to the Premier League.
RB: Nahuel Molina
Regular viewers of La Liga will tell you that Molina has been arguably the best right-back in the division this season.
Whether that carries as much weight anymore is a different debate. But considering his consistent performance levels and the fact he was key to Argentina’s World Cup win, it’s a shambles that he hasn’t made the list at all.
CB: Sergio Ramos
One perhaps led by nostalgia, Ramos actually had a much-improved second season with Paris Saint-Germain, despite their failure in Europe.
The Spaniard is most certainly past his peak and could head to either MLS or Saudi Arabia for the 2023-24 campaign, but would definitely still put in a monstrous shift in a crunch Champions League tie. You can’t buy that knowhow.
CB: Raphael Varane
An injury that ruled him out of the World Cup for France was proof of just how brilliant Varane has been for United this season, with both club and country desperately hoping it was nothing serious.
Sitting alongside Lisandro Martinez – who did make the cut – Varane has looked back to his imperious self. Fitness issues are just about the only argument in favour of keeping him out, but even that’s a stretch.
LB: Jordi Alba
There’s still life in the old dog yet.
If Barcelona weren’t strapped for cash, there’s no way they’d be letting Alba go to retire elsewhere. His final season at Camp Nou was a positive one, blending experience and ability rather seamlessly.
CM: Toni Kroos
A really strange omission, this.
The Kroos-Modric-Casemiro trio is no more, and while the German has begun to show his age more recently, Real still rely on him to add a genuinely elite quality to their midfield.
Can he play 50 games a season at the top level? No. But can he lock down a midfield in a title-deciding game or a cup final? Absolutely. With his slippers on.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) June 28, 2023
CM: Ismael Bennacer
Milan have just sold one of their midfield gems to Newcastle, but those who follow Serie A closely will note that they’ve managed to keep hold of the crown jewel.
Bennacer is incredibly press resistant and his partnership with Frank Kessie saw the duo become arguably the best in the world at the time. The Algeria international has struggled with injury but is undoubtedly one of the most underrated players in world football.
CM: Paul Pogba
It’s been a nightmare season for Pogba, whose big return to Juventus has completely crumbled into nothing after spending the majority of the season out injured.
For that reason, it’s probably fair to leave him out of the top 10. But on pure ability alone, there aren’t many who can produce what he does on his best days. To see such a talented player completely ignored is a shame.
Next season will likely prove make or break for the mercurial Frenchman.
RW: Ansu Fati
After bursting onto the scene at Barcelona, a nasty knee issue quickly curtailed Fati’s rise to the top. But he’s back around the squad now, and has a point to prove with the number 10 on his back.
Messi’s shirt number wasn’t handed to him without reason. The Spaniard is still just 20 years old and has a frightening ceiling to work towards. Doubt him at your peril.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo
There’s an entire population of Ronaldo fans who could probably incite a nationwide riot if they had the means, upon seeing their idol omitted from the top 100 list.
But you can’t really blame ESPN all too much for it when his 2022-23 campaign has consisted of throwing his toys out of the pram at United after looking out of place, failing to carry Portugal to the World Cup like Messi did Argentina, and then moving to the Saudi Pro League.
He is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner though, and undoubtedly one of the greatest ever. It’s pretty shocking to see him not included at all.
Lionel Messi has now surpassed Cristiano Ronaldo for goals in Europe's big five leagues 🌟 pic.twitter.com/YSLSMp2qIh
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) May 28, 2023
LW: Federico Chiesa
Injury is again the overriding narrative when it comes to Chiesa, who has struggled to get straight back to his scintillating best after returning from an ACL tear in November 2022.
The stats don’t look great, but football is more than that. It’s a feeling. And you certainly feel something when he’s got the ball on the left flank and is chopping up defenders over and over again.
It was only a year or so ago that he was mentioned as one of the best around. That shouldn’t be forgotten after one difficult season.