The final list of this year’s compilation is finally here. Real Madrid rightfully have more players than anyone else while Juve and Barcelona aren’t too far behind, but this year’s final list also features the most controversial pick for number one ever. Enjoy!
TOP 100 FOOTBALLERS 2016-17
20. Arjen Robben
We all might have thought his career was going to be on decline after an injury-ruled 2015-16 season, but Arjen Robben was absolutely incredible in 2016-17 and one of Bayern Munich’s most important payers again. He’s 33 years of age now but still has the vibrancy and speed of someone ten years his junior and had no problem at all nailing down a spot in Carlo Ancelotti’s first season at the club. The Dutch wing wizard featured in 26 Bundesliga matches this season, scoring 13 goals with 9 assists, while also winning more Mastermind Player of the Week awards than any other Bundesliga player. Robben might be 33, but he still shows no sign at all of slowing down. Formula Score: 89.23.
19. Gonzalo Higuain
In his first season at Juventus, Gonzalo Higuain led The Old Lady to the Serie A title and Champions League final. The Argentinean forward was exceptional yet again, scoring 24 goals as he appeared in all 38 Serie A matches and 3 goals in 4 Coppa Italia matches as a gold medal never looked in doubt. He also played 12 of the 13 Champions League games, scoring 5 goals and asserting his dominance against several big-hitters. Higuain is an exceptional striker, scores in every single competition he plays in and never seems to let his team down. He linked up fantastically well with both Mandzukic and Dybala this season and being 29 still has a few more years to win that Champions League title he still craves. Formula Score: 89.31.
18. Thiago Alcantara
Thiago Alcantara has arguably been the best midfielder in Europe this season. His form for Bayern Munich was stunning and he was probably Carlo Ancelotti’s key man, game in and game out. Confident in possession of the ball, a pass master, defensively astute and a scorer of great goals, Alcantara has absolutely everything in his locker. The defensive midfielder played in 27 Bundesliga matches this season and really came into his own, completing an average of 95 passes per game, scoring 6 goals, assisting another 5 and making more interceptions per game (4.6) than any other player in the league. Just stunning form all season long no matter the position he was deployed in. Pretty similarly, the 26-year old Spaniard scored 2 goals with 3 assists in 9 matches with 3.1 tackles per game on top of that. Thiago Alcantara is just an incredible midfielder and the complete and total package. This year he has finally established himself where he belongs, as one of the best midfielders on earth. Formula Score: 89.40.
17. Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani has spent so much time playing left-wing and second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic that we have forgotten how good of goal-scorer and centre forward he can be. As soon as Zlatan left the club, Cavani was the main man at PSG and re-established himself as one of the world’s best players. Only Lionel Messi (37) scored more goals in league play than the Uruguayan in 2016-17 and his goals per game ratios across the board are just outrageous, equally and dangerously similar to that of the Argentinean legend. Cavani scored 35 goals in 36 Ligue 1 matches, 2 goals in 3 Coupe de France matches, 4 goals in 3 Coupe de la Ligue matches and 8 goals in 9 UEFA Champions League games, being PSG’s star performer in every single competition. It was an amazing season for the Uruguyan goal-getting striker and Edinson Cavani has firmly re-established himself now as one of the world’s very best. Formula Score: 89.74.
16. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Few would have expected Zlatan Ibrahimovic to make quite the mark he made at Manchester United this season, even despite his mammoth-sized reputation as a footballing legend. The 35-year old played like he was 25 at times, leading Manchester United to two trophies and becoming their most important player in the majority of matches. Ibrahimovic found the back of the net 17 times in the Premier League in 2016-17, adding 5 assists, and also bagged 5 goals with 3 assists in 11 Europa League matches. Even more crucially, Mourinho’s men perhaps would not have been able to win the EFL Cup this year had it not been for the Swede as Zlatan scored 4 goals in 5 matches and came up so crucially in the final when it mattered most. Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the age of 35 is still one of the best footballers in the world and it’ll be very interesting to see how he does next year at the age of 36. Formula Score: 89.74.
15. Paulo Dybala
This season with fantastic displays in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League alike, Paulo Dybala has become one of the world’s best footballing stars. Not only has he been Juventus’ most important player this season but he’s also been better than nearly any other footballer in 2016-17 and continues to lead The Old Lady to better times. Capable of playing a number of different positions, Dybala has all the tools and skills needed to become a world great and it’s amazing what he’s accomplished before even turning the age of 24. The Argentinean striker has adapted to Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival at the club brilliantly well this season but has somehow still managed to be Juventus’ main man despite being deployed in a deeper position. In Serie A this season, the 23-year old notched 11 goals with 7 assists in 31 matches as a number ten while his form in the Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League have been even better. 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 matches have been more than enough to lead The Old Lady to another Coppa Italia title, while his form in the UEFA Champions League on the world’s biggest stage has caught the eye of absolutely everyone, scoring 4 goals in 11 matches and having such a great impact on every single match. Paulo Dybala is one of the world’s brightest stars and if he’s not there already could soon be talked about in the same breath as the Griezmann’s, Bale’s and Hazard’s of this world. Formula Score: 89.86.
14. Gareth Bale
Sorry Gareth Bale, you are far too low on this list. In reality, Bale is without a question one of the top six footballers on the planet. But unfortunately, the Welsh striker just spent far too much of the season out injured after his massively impressive exertions at Euro 2016. He only featured in half the matches Real Madrid played, so even though they won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, his role in the team and what he could have done had he been fit is rather questionable this season. All and all, even when he played he rarely looked his same lethal self, scoring just 7 goals with 2 assists in 19 La Liga matches and 2 goals in his 8 Champions League appearances. Overall it was not the best of seasons for Gareth Bale as he struggled to recover from his exertions at Euro 2016 but he still has to be considered one of the best footballers on the planet. Formula Score: 89.86.
13. Gianluigi Buffon
Lifting the UEFA Champions League is still the one elusive thing that Buffon has not managed to attain in his highly successful career, but this season was perhaps the Italian legend’s best ever season. He was just immaculate in goal for Juve and he really has just aged like Italian wine, better with age. 39-years old and the best in his position over the past two seasons. That is just unheard of in the world of sports and it really has to be commended how much he has accomplished in not just his career as a whole but in the twilight of it as well. The Italian keeper conceded just 0.80 goals per game in Serie A this season, keeping 12 clean sheets in 30 matches but was even better in the UEFA Champions League, conceding just 0.58 goals per game, and keeping 8 clean sheets in 12 matches as Juve made it to the final and he was an easy selection for Team of the Tournament. Gianluigi Buffon is one of the world’s best footballers not just now but ever and fully deserves his highest ever selection on the Mastermind’s Top 100. Formula Score: 89.90.
12. Luka Modric
He may not have the most impressive statistics in goals or assists, but Luka Modric offers so much to Real Madrid and is always essential to everything they achieve. His ability on the ball is unmatched while defensively he always makes his mark on an opponent. Even if he only scored 1 goal with 2 assists in 25 matches, he was still one of La Liga’s best players, being a stalwart in Zidane’s side and helping lead Los Blancos to the league title. His form in the UEFA Champions League was amazing and his role in helping Madrid keep control of the ball and assert their dominance over every single one of their challengers was incredible to watch. His goal and assist tallies might have been lacking but it was still one of the Croatian’s best ever seasons. Formula Score: 89.93.
11. Alexis Sanchez
I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not the biggest Alexis Sanchez fan, but boy is he effective on a football pitch. He works so very hard and never fails to find the back of the net. One of the best players of the 2016-17 Premier League season, Sanchez was unlucky not to make the PFA Team of the Year as he scored 24 goals with 10 assists in 38 appearances. Featuring in every Premier League match is impressive enough in it and of itself but to score 24 goals on top of that is just incredible. The 28-year old also scored 3 goals with 3 assists in 8 UEFA Champions League matches and 3 goals in 5 FA Cup matches, asserting his prowess in every single competition he played in. He may be a bit of big baby on occasion but Alexis Sanchez continues to be one of the most effective footballers in the world and Arsenal would have been nowhere near a Europa League birth this season without him. Formula Score: 90.37.
10. Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos was the controlling factor behind Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League win. So dominant in possession of the ball and a delivery into the box that is unrivaled around the world, Kroos can change a football match on the drop of a dime and did so on several occasions this season. The German midfielder was incredible in every single competition this season, and despite scoring just 1 goal with 1 assist in 12 Champions League matches, was easily one of the best players of the tournament. His most impressive bit of form came in La Liga this season where he scored 3 goals with 12 assists in 29 matches, more than any other midfielder in the league. His calmness and quality in possession of the ball is always unmatched and Toni Kroos really could be the best midfielder on the planet. Formula Score: 90.51.
9. Antoine Griezmann
Last season, Antoine Griezmann established himself as one of the world’s best footballers. His form in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League was superior to just about everyone else and his play for France at Euro 2016 was even better. This season, the French forward hasn’t maintained quite the same level of play but has still been exceptional and so crucially key to both Atletico Madrid and France in their bid to qualify for World Cup 2018. The 26-year old scored 16 goals with 8 assists in 36 La Liga matches this season and although that was 6 goals less than last season, it is still a highly respectable tally for someone that we do have to remember is playing most of his time as a number ten for Diego Simeone’s side. Also crucially, Griezmann scored 6 goals with 2 assists in 12 UEFA Champions League matches as Atletico reached the semi-finals and bagged 4 goals in 5 Copa del Rey matches with the Red and Whites again going out in the semi-finals. Antoine Griezmann may have struggled for form slightly more than he did in 2015-16 but was still one of the very best players of the 2016-17 season and still deserves to be thought of as one of the very, very best players in the world. Formula Score: 90.51.
8. N’Golo Kante
Despite making less tackles and interceptions per game than he managed with Leicester last season, Kante has arguably been even better this season for Chelsea. Even in games where Chelsea haven’t been dominant, Kante has, and so he was integral to helping them grind out some seriously impressive results in 2016-17. Also there’s a reason as to why he hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions this season. Chelsea have simply kept more possession of the ball than Leicester ever managed to in 2015-16. He hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions, because he hasn’t been required to do so at quite the same rapid rate in 2016-17. When he’s been required to do the kind of ball-winning that he demonstrated with Ranieri’s side last year, he’s done so brilliantly well, even making a single-match league leading tally of 14 tackles against Liverpool in February. The Frenchman’s role in Antonio Conte’s infrangible Chelsea unit just can’t be understated and it’s hard to imagine they would have made this kind of an impact on the 2016-17 Premier League season without him in central midfield. Kante is one of the best players in the league, had possibly his best season ever as a footballer and is now the 2016-17 PFA Player of the Year and the highest ranked midfielder on The Mastermind’s Top 100. Formula Score: 90.75.
7. Eden Hazard
2016-17 might have been Eden Hazard’s best ever season as a footballer. Antonio Conte really just got the most out of the Belgian winger this season and it was so impressive to see after he had what was probably his worst ever season just 1 year ago. What more needs to be said about Eden Hazard that hasn’t already been discussed? The 26-year old silky smooth dribbler was consistently of Conte’s brightest performers, scoring 16 goals with 5 assists in 36 Premier League matches as the Blues lifted the trophy and netting 3 goals in 4 matches for Belgium in World Cup 2018 Qualifying. Watching him perform against teams like Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City to the magnitude that he did was incredible to watch and he really did re-establish himself as one of the world’s finest footballers. Kante’s brilliance aside, Hazard was very unlucky to miss out on the PFA Player of the Year award and no matter what happens from here will definitely go down as one of Chelsea’s all-time greatest players. Formula Score: 90.99.
6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Few players in world football are as clinical as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker from Gabon scored a stunning tally of 31 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches this season, leading the way and beating Robert Lewandowski to the golden boot on the final day. The only two above him in the race for the Golden Shoe (Messi and Cavani) were able to make more appearances, proving how lethal he is at finding the back of the net. He was just so crucial in every single match Dortmund played in and as often said of the striker, even when he wasn’t even playing his best, he still managed to bang in the goals. The 28-year old was also clinical in the Champions League, leading Dortmund’s run to the quarter finals and scoring 7 goals in 9 matches. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cannot be thought of as anything less than one of the best strikers on the planet and with his goals per game ratio and influence on Borussia Dortmund this season he has now surely established himself as one of the top ten footballers in the world. Formula Score: 91.00.
5. Robert Lewandowski
Clinical as can be, Robert Lewandowski never disappoints for Bayern Munich and other than a brief backslide in form at Euro 2016, the same can be said of his form for Poland. The 28-year old striker just missed out the Bundesliga Golden Boot in 2016-17, netting 30 goals with 5 assists in 33 matches. His form in the Champions League and league cup were equally impressive as he found the back of the net 8 times in 9 CL matches and 5 times in 4 DFB Pokal games. But most outstanding of all has been his play for Poland in helping them practically qualify for World Cup 2018 already, bagging a stunning total of 11 goals in just 6 appearances. Robert Lewandowski is one of the very best strikers in the world, has a knack for scoring goals unlike just about any other and will probably go down as Poland’s best ever player. Formula Score: 91.53.
4. Luis Suarez
It wasn’t Luis Suarez’s best ever season. That of course, came last season for the Uruguayan. However, he was still in stuttering form for the majority of the season and linked up amazingly well with his fantastic strike partners Neymar Santos and Lionel Messi. Suarez himself led the league in assists with 13 and bagged an insane tally of 29 goals in 35 La Liga matches. It wasn’t his form in La Liga that was lacking however, it was his play in the UEFA Champions League where Barcelona really missed his true talent. He only scored 3 goals with 2 assists in 9 matches, perhaps a key underlying factor why they were so poor at this year’s tournament. But what he lacked in the Champions League he made up for in the Copa del Rey as Barca lifted the trophy once again and he netted 4 goals in 6 matches. As long as he’s alive and playing football, Luis Suarez is always going to be one of the best strikers and top goalscorers on the planet but his form in the Champions League this season resulted in him missing out on the top three. Formula Score: 92.14.
If Messi and Ronaldo weren’t such brilliant footballers, Neymar would have already won several Ballon d’Ors. Including most importantly, the previous one in 2016. The Brazilian was key in leading his nation to a gold medal at the Olympics and kicked off the 2016-17 campaign by showing no signs of fatigue at all. In several matches this season, the Brazilian was the one who was leading Barcelona to glory; not Messi, not Iniesta and not Suarez. For example, that incredible 6-1 comeback victory over PSG would not have been possible at all had it not been for the versatile winner as it was he who completely dominated the entire match. In total, Neymar scored 13 goals and assisted 11 more in 30 La Liga matches, achieving a higher WhoScored? rating (8.52) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. Whether he was playing wing-back or centre forward, Neymar was essential to Barcelona this season and has so many standout statistics to take away from the 2016-17 such as creating 90 chances, making 1.3 tackles per game, completing more dribbles (168) than any other player in Europe and similarly drawing more fouls (126) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. We haven’t even mentioned yet the fact that he scored 4 goals with 8 assists in 9 UEFA Champions League, more assists than anyone else despite getting knocked out in the quarter finals. In a footballing world that is dominated by two names, Neymar is ensuring there has to be discussion of a third and could soon be prepared to surpass both. An exceptional footballer, if Neymar doesn’t win the Ballon d’Or in 2017, 2018 just might be his year. Formula Score: 94.01.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo might be the greatest player the UEFA Champions League has ever seen. He’s led his team to two back to back titles now, the first ever team to manage that feat and has also scored more goals in the competition’s history than anyone else. Ronaldo was insanely good in 2016-17 and if he ever had a shot at beating Messi to the number one spot on The Mastermind Top 100, this was that year. Unfortunately, his form in La Liga when compared to Messi’s was just not as good and that is the main reason why the Argentinean has beaten the Portuguese forward to the number one spot for a sixth time in a row on the end of season version of the list. His form in the UEFA Champions League was incomparable to practically anything ever seen before, scoring 12 goals with 5 assists in 13 matches and leading Real Madrid all the way to the final with a string of impressive high-scoring games. The Portuguese legend also netted 25 times in 29 La Liga matches and twice at this summer’s Confederations Cup to earn a selection to the Team of the Tournament. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s already bagged 11 goals in 6 FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches as Portugal look destined to earn their deserved spot very soon. Cristiano Ronaldo is not just the second greatest footballer of the present day but for my money is also the second greatest ever and even his biggest critics, can’t help but respect what he has managed to accomplish over the course of his career. Formula Score: 95.68.
1. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi. Number one yet again; making it now six seasons in a row. Seriously, this was closer than it has ever been and it almost doesn’t feel right to put Ronaldo behind him this year given that the Portuguese forward led his team to both the UEFA Champions League and La Liga titles while Messi only managed the Copa del Rey. But hear me out, Messi despite his team’s shortcomings was still better across nearly every single competition the two performed together in. Ronaldo had more injury troubles which stagnated the start of his season, but Messi still managed 15 more Mastermind Team of the Week appearances in league play alone. The 28-year old was insanely good in La Liga this season, reaching feats that shouldn’t even be humanly possible. He left all of his challengers for the European Golden Shoe in the dust, scoring 37 times in just 34 La Liga appearances and adding a further 9 assists to that outrageous goal tally. And despite Barcelona’s shortcomings in the Champions League, the global star still scored 11 goals in only 9 appearances in the competition, a better goals per game ratio than anyone else. Finally, he led Barcelona to another Copa del Rey title, bagging 5 goals in 7 matches. Even despite the extraordinary heights he reached in 2016-17, it still doesn’t feel right to put Messi at the number one spot yet again but truthfully, the Argentinean’s form in nearly every single competition, particularly La Liga was just too immense to overlook. Hence, Lionel Messi stays king and remains the only ever player to reach number 1 on an end of season Mastermind Top 100. Formula Score: 95.80.
So there it is! The Top 100 Footballers of 2016-17. What are your thoughts? Who should be higher? Who should be lower? And was Messi the deserved victor of this year’s incarnation of the list? Comment below to let The Mastermind know! And make sure to check the other big reveals if you haven’t done so already. Thank you so much for reading and we’ll see you again sometime very soon.