Here is the second batch of the Top 100 Footballers of the Year for 2018 – numbers 80-61. Enjoy!
For more on what goes into determining The Mastermind’s Top 100 of 2018 click here. For the first set (100-81) click here!
80. Gonzalo Higuain
Why Gonzalo Higuain left Juventus for AC Milan is still a bit fuzzy. It wasn’t as though the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo would signal the end to the Juve career of one of the best strikers in the world. But that is exactly what has happened and without the supporting cast and crew of players like Dybala and Pjanic, Higuain has struggled to find the back of the net. The 31-year old has scored just 5 goals in 14 Serie A matches this season; an unusual tally for someone who’s scored 76 goals in his last three league campaigns. When you look at his form at the beginning of 2018, it’s not a whole lot better. The Argentine striker scored just 6 goals in 13 Serie A appearances for Juventus to help them lift the league trophy. So although Gonzalo Higuain has been one of the greatest goal scorers on the planet for the last decade, perhaps his move to AC Milan was perfectly timed by Juventus as his career comes to a sad close.
79. Harry Maguire
These days Harry Maguire looks like the closest thing the Premier League has to Virgil Van Dijk – who many are starting to crown one of the best defenders to ever play in England. 2018 was the year Harry Maguire became England’s hero, Leicester’s standout star and one of the best centre backs in the world. He could have hardly asked for a better year. Just like Perisic, what Maguire achieved at the 2018 World Cup is amazing given that he never missed a minute of Premier League action in 2017-18 for Leicester City. 7 matches, 1 goal, 1 assist and more duels won in the air than any other player to make the semi-finals, Maguire was fantastic at the World Cup for England and many would not have assumed him to be an automatic starter at the tournament at all. Since the World Cup he’s arguably been even better and has undoubtedly been Leicester’s standout player in his 14 league appearances this season. After a stellar 2018, the question of Harry Maguire moving to one of Europe’s elite is no longer a matter of if, but when.
78. Alex Sandro
Despite his phenomenal performances for Juventus in the Serie A and UEFA Champions League for years now, Alex Sandro continues to be underrated. Sandro is one of the best fullbacks in the world and his failure to make a mark on Brazil’s World Cup campaign is only a testament to the brilliant career that Madrid’s Marcelo has managed. His best season of his entire career came just last time around in 2017-18 with 4 goals and 4 assists in 26 Serie A matches on route to another league title. And despite more competition for places this year in the form of De Sciglio and Joao Cancelo, Alex Sandro has continued to be Juve’s number one fullback, making 14 appearances in the Serie A this season and assisting 2 goals. Alex Sandro is one of those players that can seemingly do it all, hardly ever puts a foot wrong but still does not get the credit he deserves. Given that he plays for one of the best football clubs in history, that is all the more confusing.
77. Edin Dzeko
2018 has been a strange year for Edin Dzeko but the Boznian has continued to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Despite only scoring 2 goals in 14 Serie A appearances this season, Dzeko has scored more goals (5) in the UEFA Champions League in 2018-19 than anyone not named Messi or Lewandowski. He’s also been in fine form for Boznia in the UEFA Nations League, scoring 3 goals in 4 appearances. So it’s a bit unclear why he has struggled so much in Serie A this season and whether that is a result of how poor Roma have been or if his lack of goals is actually a key contributor to how poor Roma have been. For all his pain this season, Dzeko managed a decent tally of 6 goals in 14 Serie A matches during the beginning months of 2018 and his form has been up to par for Boznia, so he does not deserve to fall too heavily down this list from where he was last year.
76. Marco Verratti
In terms of ability, few midfielders are better than Marco Verratti. Unfortunately the PSG man has had a torrid time with injury in 2018 and now for the second season in a row has struggled to put a consistent run of form together. When he’s played for Thomas Tuchel’s side he’s been decent and they’ve missed him when he’s not there. But he hasn’t met the same level of play that all expect of the Italian who has for a long time been hailed as the next Andrea Pirlo. Verratti has made 12 Ligue 1 and 5 UEFA Champions League appearances completing his usual amount of passes and tackles per game, but he hasn’t been that same chance creator that many know Verratti to be. Regardless, Verratti is still a key cog in one of Europe’s elite clubs and looks likely to play a role in Thomas Tuchel’s record-breaking Ligue 1 side.
75. James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez has struggled massively to reach the same heights of his 2014 World Cup heroics for Colombia and continues to struggle in a Bayern Munich side that currently sits behind Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Despite 3 goals in 8 appearances, James has not been a regular in Niko Kovac’s side and has often missed out in favour of Leon Goretzka and Thiago Alcantara. On the good side, the 27-year old midfielder was bright at the 2018 World Cup, assisting 2 goals in his 3 appearances and his 2017-18 campaign was very stellar. James scored 4 goals and created 25 chances in just 9 appearances to finish off the 2017-18 campaign and bring his total to 7 goals and 11 assists in 23 Bundesliga matches. However, his year has been ruined in part by injuries and his own inability to break into Niko Kovac’s side. James Rodriguez will need to step it up in 2019 or his reputation as a world beater may be tarnished.
74. Angel di Maria
Angel di Maria has had his ups and downs since his move from Manchester United to PSG, but 2018 was a good year for the Argentine, even if he’s still nowhere near the player he once was at Real Madrid. Between the Champions League and Ligue 1 this season, di Maria has scored 5 goals with 7 assists in 22 matches. He failed to make an impact at the 2018 World Cup apart from one stunning goal against France, but on the bright side, 9 of his 11 goals in the 2017-18 campaign came in 2018 in just 14 Ligue 1 appearances. The 30-year old’s form for PSG has met the standards that would be expected of the current version of di Maria, but still not up to the same high standards that he has made for himself in previous seasons.
73. Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema is another player that has failed to find the back of the net at the same rate that would be expected of a player of his caliber. The French forward always seems to come up clutch when it matters most and he was essential in helping Real Madrid win their third straight Champions League title. However, he hasn’t been able to step up in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence and Madrid have floundered as a result in fourth place. Benzema himself has scored just 6 goals in 16 La Liga matches this season, a slightly better tally than his 5 goals in 32 La Liga games in 2017-18. The 31-year old has however been in very good form through 5 UEFA Champions League games, scoring 3 goals and providing another 2. Still though, something is not right about Karim Benzema and he continues to fail to score goals at the rapid rate he’s expected to.
72. Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker may be prone to rash decisions at times, but he is still arguably the best right back in the Premier League and one of the best in the world. The 28-year old played very well for England at the World Cup, featuring in five matches and he’s been superb for Manchester City throughout 2018. To start off this season, Walker has made 15 Premier League appearances, on track to equal the 32 appearances he made in 2017-18 when he helped Pep Guardiola’s team become record-breakers in several regards. If Manchester City are to achieve glory again in 2019, Walker is going to be instrumental to their success, just like he was in 2018.
71. Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva’s career has been on the decline for the past few years, but he still clings onto a place on The Mastermind Top 100 year after year. Silva has actually enjoyed one of his best seasons at Paris-Saint-Germain in 2018 and he’s earned plaudits in both Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League for his performances. But perhaps even more impressive was the form the 34-year old demonstrated at the 2018 World Cup, making FIFA’s World Cup Team of the Tournament despite just 5 appearances. His passing, ability in the air, defensive awareness and ability to organize a defense have all been in full display throughout 2018 and a career in decline is still showing no signs of actually truthfully slowing down. Thiago Silva is still one of the best centre backs in the world.
70. Riyad Mahrez
Riyad Mahrez has been good in 2018, but perhaps hasn’t hit the high standards that would be expected of him after making an illustrious move to Manchester City. He’s been very good in the UEFA Champions League with 1 goal and 4 assists in 5 matches but in the Premier League he hasn’t been up to the high standards of a Manchester City player, scoring 5 goals with 2 assists in 18 Premier League matches. Interestingly, it’s his numbers in dribbles that have been way down under Guardiola, perhaps as a result of City’s style of play. Perhaps in needing to be less selfish, his game has actually suffered as a result. That being said, Mahrez has had a great 2018 campaign, if he hadn’t he wouldn’t be featuring in this list. He was phenomenal in his final season at Leicester, scoring 12 and assisting 10 in 36 Premier League matches and all he needs is a little more time on the ball and he’ll be right back up there again under Pep Guardiola.
69. Ciro Immobile
Ciro Immobile may have failed at Borussia Dortmund, but he’s always scored goals in Italy and that was no different in 2018 for Lazio. Immobile netted 9 goals in 13 matches to finish off the 2017-18 campaign, bringing his tally to a stunning 29 goals in 33 Serie A appearances. In the Europa League, he was equally good, scoring 8 goals in 9 matches. His fine form has continued into 2018-19 for Lazio, scoring 10 goals in 16 matches so far this campaign. It’s true that he’s unlikely to ever reach the same heights he achieved in 2017-18, but if he continues to score at the rate he currently is, Immobile should perpetually be thought of as one of the best strikers and deadliest goal scorers on the planet.
68. Hugo Lloris
Many say that despite lifting the 2018 World Cup with France that Hugo Lloris has not had the most fantastic of years in 2018. In fact it is probably true in saying that the Spurs captain has endured his worst run of form in a year since joining Tottenham Hotspur. But it is in large part down to his own very high standards. Keepers like Alisson and Kepa have been around in the spotlight for such short of a time that they are receiving praise after praise for their exploits and rightly so; but Lloris has at times been just as good without receiving any of the credit. Criticism directed toward Lloris’ performances this year have largely been exaggerated and both Tottenham and France would not have performed to the same levels without him. He’s actually only conceded 15 goals in 15 appearances this season, making 45 saves in the process. Meanwhile Tottenham sit in third. For France at the World Cup, Lloris played 6 of the 7 matches and conceded just 6 goals. So although it has seemingly been Lloris’ worst year in a while, he has actually still played very well, remains toward the top in nearly every goalkeeping statistic out there and now has a World Cup to his name. Perhaps 2018 wasn’t so bad for Hugo Lloris after all.
67. Axel Witsel
Apart from Marco Reus, Axel Witsel has been Borussia Dortmund’s most important player in their title charge during the 2018-19 campaign so far. Witsel’s calmness and composure in Dortmund’s midfield has brought so much assurance to a midfield that has for a long time been crying out for a player like him. He has the best pass accuracy in the Bundesliga with 93.7% and of non Bayern-Munich players only Niklas Moisander has completed more than his 71.9 passes per game. With an average of 91.4 passes per game and 94.5% of his passes completed, Witsel’s been even better in 5 UEFA Champions League appearances this season. As if his performances for Borussia Dortmund haven’t been enough, the 29-year old was also phenomenal at the 2018 World Cup, playing a part in six of the seven matches. After a fantastic 2018, Axel Witsel now has a reputation as one of the best holding midfielders in the world and he is going to be essential if BVB are to win the 2018-19 Bundesliga title.
66. Lucas Hernandez
One of the biggest rising stars of 2018, Lucas Hernandez established himself as one of the best left-backs and centre-backs in the span of just a single year…and he’s only 22 years of age. Hernandez was phenomenal for France at the World Cup, playing all 7 matches, assisting 2 goals and keeping the renowned Benjamin Mendy out of the starting eleven. Although he’s only managed to make 10 La Liga appearances so far this season due to injury, Hernandez has continued his fine form in Atletico Madrid’s defense, regardless of the position Simeone deploys him in. Perhaps most importantly is how the French fullback made the left-back spot his own in the absence of Filipe Luis during the 2017-18 campaign and with 8 appearances, played an instrumental part in helping Atletico Madrid win the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League. Now with a World Cup medal around his neck, Hernandez has a reputation as one of the best defenders in the world at the age of 22.
65. Bernardo Silva
Without Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City seemed doomed. Okay, not doomed. But no one would have imagined they’d play exactly the same way and to exactly the same extraordinary level. In large part, the reason why Manchester City have managed to maintain such a high standard in De Bruyne’s absence is down to their Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva. Silva has proven his worth, his versatility and his talent in 2018, especially in De Bruyne’s absence where he’s scored 5 goals and 4 assists in 18 Premier League matches this season. He also had a very good end to the 2017-18 season, scoring 5 goals in 16 appearances. For a player who is far more well known for his ability to provide rather than score, Silva comes up with the goods more often than anyone would expect. In addition to his fine form for Manchester City, Bernardo continues to impress for Portugal, playing in 4 World Cup matches and 3 UEFA Nations League matches as they topped Group 3 ahead of Italy and Poland.
64. Dele Alli
With just 4 goals in 13 Premier League appearances this season, Dele Alli’s form on paper in 2018-19 so far is underwhelming. However, Alli has become a different type of player in recent seasons and his game does not now solely rely on scoring and providing goals. He does so much for Tottenham Hotspur, one example of which was when he marked Chelsea’s Jorginho out of the game in a 3-1 win. For England, the exact same can be said as although he only found the net on one occasion in Russia, he was integral to everything The Three Lions achieved at the tournament. Alli is unlikely to do better goals and assist wise this season than his 9 goal-10 assist tally in 2017-18, but his overall performances for Tottenham Hotspur have been very good and it’s amazing how big of reputation he has given that he’s still only 22-years old.
63. Thiago Alcantara
Once hailed as one of the twenty best footballers on the planet by The Mastermind, Thiago Alcantara has fallen off the pace since 2017. Although he’s looked comfortable in Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich this season, Alcantara is still yet to find his best form again and could really do with a Pep Guardiola-esque manager who can play to his strengths. The 27-year old midfielder has actually been one of Bayern’s bright spots in 2018-19, making 80.1 passes per game and nearly 3 tackles per game in his 14 appearances so far. He’s also looked bright in the UEFA Champions League as Bayern topped their group and for Spain in the UEFA Nations League. But something still doesn’t feel quite right about Thiago Alcantara’s play and a player who seems to always find a way into the limelight has hardly been there at all in 2018. Despite all of this, Thiago remains one of Niko Kovac’s most important players as his team looks to gain ground on Borussia Dortmund in the second-half of the Bundesliga season.
62. Marc Andre-ter Stegen
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has developed into one of the very best goalkeepers in the world in the past few years as he continues to follow in Victor Valdes’ footsteps very nicely. At the tail-end of the 2017-18 season, ter Stegen kept 7 clean sheets in 16 matches, conceding just 12 goals as Barcelona claimed the La Liga title. This season, Barca look set to do the same again as they lead the league with 11 wins and just 19 goals conceded in 17 matches. The unfortunate thing for Jasper Cillessen is that he cannot even get a game in the UEFA Champions League. Ter Stegen continues to impress in Europe too, conceding only 4 goals in 5 matches. In recent months he’s also stolen the number one spot away from Manuel Neuer for his country and looks very comfortable filling the boots. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is currently one of the best goalkeepers in the world and had the best year of his career in 2018.
61. Ederson Moraes
Since his arrival at Manchester City, Ederson Moraes has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers on the planet. He’s earned praise for his footwork and ability to pick a pass out, but his reflexes and ability to make a stop are equally stellar. Ederson has conceded only 20 goals in 19 Premier League appearances this season so far and is the only goalkeeper to achieve an assist. He’s also featured in all six of City’s UEFA Champions League games, completing nearly 90% of his passes. Ederson is a goalkeeper who can do absolutely everything a goalkeeper would be expected to do and more and with him being just 25-years old it can only go up from here.
Make sure to check out all the other big reveals. See you soon and happy reading!
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TOP 100 FOOTBALLERS 2018
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