60. Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois was fantastic at the 2018 World Cup and probably the best goalkeeper at the tournament. FIFA thought so anyway, and awarded him the Golden Glove and a spot on the Team of the Tournament. He conceded just 7 goals in 7 matches and made 27 saves for a fantastic total of 3.85 saves per goal conceded. That ratio was bettered by only Kasper Schmeichel of keepers to make the quarter finals. Other than his performances at the World Cup, Courtois has actually had a very average 2018, keeping 4 clean sheets in his final 14 Premier League matches for Chelsea and actually performing dreadfully to start his Real Madrid career. Since moving to Los Blancos, the 26-year old has conceded 20 goals in 14 matches, making only 36 saves in the process. That gives him a saves per goal ratio of 1.8 which is the worst of any keeper for a top ten side in La Liga. So although Thibaut Courtois performed wondrously at the World Cup, 2018 simply has not been his year and his ranking on this list has suffered as a result.
59. Kalidou Koulibaly
In 2018, Kalidou Koulibaly has become one of the best centre backs on the planet. He had been hovering in and around that benchmark for years and 2018 was the year he made it happen. A testament to the Senegalese defender’s talent is that he has managed to play equally unwell under the management of both Carlo Ancelotti and Maurizio Sarri. A beast in the air, Koulibaly is also fantastic with his feet. His 74.2 passes per game is the second best in the league, while his ability to pick out a pass from range has helped him to two assists in 18 Serie A matches this season. He’s also performed well in all six of Napoli’s Champions League matches so far this term and his 5 goals in 35 Serie A matches last campaign played a massive role in helping Napoli finish second in the league. Kalidou Koulibaly now has a reputation as one of the best central defenders in Europe and with all due respect to Napoli, could soon be on his way to bigger things.
58. Leonardo Bonucci
Leonardo Bonucci did not have the best of spells at AC Milan and it’s no surprise, his shock transfer to I Rossoneri never really made any sense. For about a year, he was the best centre back in the world at Juventus and although there was unrest with Allegri, a move to a club much worse off never made any sense. In the same year that he played for AC Milan, he also failed to help Italy qualify for the World Cup, unfairly tarnishing his illustrious reputation. But now Bonucci is back at Juventus and all is well again. The 31-year old centre back has featured in 16 Serie A matches and 6 UEFA Champions League matches, returning seamlessly to Allegri’s lineup. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has played more minutes for Juve this season than Bonucci. As a result, Juventus are on track to win another Serie A title, while Italy suddenly look better again. After a year away from the club he loves, Bonucci has made his return and in doing so has re-established himself again as one of the very best in his position.
It’s been a strange year for Isco. He finished off the 2017-18 campaign as one of the best midfielders on the planet, leading Zinedine Zidane’s men to a third UEFA Champions League title. He then played his heart out at the 2018 World Cup and made a tremendous impact in his 3 appearances, scoring 1 goal and completing over 111 passes per game. But although he was Spain’s best player at the tournament, La Furia Roja crashed out of the tournament at only the Round of 16. Now under two different managers at Real Madrid this season, Isco has failed to make his mark and return to the starting eleven. He’s featured in just 11 La Liga and 3 UEFA Champions League matches, scoring and assisting 2 goals each across the two competitions combined. In that time he’s been exceptional in the UEFA Nations League for Spain…but for whatever still can’t seem to pull it together for Real Madrid. Whatever the reason, Isco has been left out in the cold in 2018-19 and a phenomenal 2017-18 campaign is unfortunately not enough to help the 26-year old place where he deserves on this list.
Jorginho was instrumental to Napoli’s success under Maurzio Sarri, helping them to one third place finish and two second place finishes in Sarri’s three year spell at the club. In their final season together, Napoli accumulated a stunning 91 points, but still lost the Serie A title to Juventus’ 95 point haul. It was natural that when Sarri moved to Chelsea that Jorginho would follow and the defensive midfielder has continued his influence at Stamford Bridge. No player has completed more than the Italian’s 90.4 passes per game in the Premier League this season, just like how he remained untouchable in the passing charts for three years at Napoli. The way he shifts left to right helps Chelsea to stay balanced and organized whenever they have to defend. In attack he is often the conductor and orchestrator in one. Jorginho may not be N’Golo Kante, but he is still one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and deserves a whole lot of credit for Napoli’s success over the years and Chelsea’s success under Sarri this season.
55. Daniel Carvajal
Real Madrid have had a tough time in both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League in 2018-19 without the leadership of Zinedine Zidane. However, Carvajal is one of a few Madrid men who have performed very well in spite of that. His injury woes this season could in fact be a contributor to Real Madrid’s poor performances as when he plays, Los Blancos usually win. Carvajal has featured in 13 matches this season between the Champions League and La Liga, scoring and assisting a goal each and completing nearly 90% of his passes. He was also brilliant in the run-in to Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League victory, assisting 3 goals in 8 matches. If Carvajal can just go a year without injury, he could establish himself as the very best right-back in the world.
54. Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon is no longer with Juventus, but he has continued to perform, conceding just 3 goals in his 8 Ligue 1 appearances for Paris-Saint Germain so far. PSG are never a side that concede a lot of goals and the back four, led by Thiago Silva, have been exceptional this season. But still, Buffon’s 7.67 saves per goal conceded is the best of any keeper in Europe’s top five leagues and it’s a testament to the talent Buffon still has to offer at the age of 40. The Italian legend’s final season at Juventus was another good and he played his part in 21 Serie A and 9 UEFA Champions League matches. His career is winding down and he’s not a guaranteed starter at PSG (Areola has started 9 league games to Buffon’s 8), but when he plays, Gianluigi Buffon continues to demonstrate why he’s still one of the best in the world.
53. Saul Niguez
Atletico Madrid have been one of the biggest footballing dynasties of the past decade, particularly under Diego Simeone. A major contributor to their success and arguably their most consistent player in recent times is Saul Niguez – who has just finished his sixth year at the club. Saul has been exceptional for Atletico in 2018, leading their charge to the UEFA Europa League final, where they smashed Marseille 3-0. In total, the 24-year old played 9 Europa League games, scoring 3 goals and as he always seems to do, winning nearly 3 tackles per game. Although he’s made a name for himself as a James Milner-esque versatile midfielder, Simeone has been intelligent to play Saul as a left-back in recent weeks. The Spaniard has all the makings of a fantastic defender and his 45 tackles in 16 matches is the 6th highest tally in La Liga. He’s also been brilliant for Spain in the UEFA Nations League so far, scoring 2 goals in 4 matches, often playing a more advanced role. Saul Niguez has to be one of the most versatile players on the planet and it doesn’t seem to matter where he plays, he always comes up with the goods for Atletico Madrid.
52. Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku hasn’t been great since returning from the World Cup but 2018 has still been a very fine year for the Belgian striker. The highlight of Lukaku’s year was undoubtedly his performances at the 2018 World Cup, scoring 4 goals in 6 matches to help Belgium claim a bronze medal. His performances for Belgium have been excellent throughout the year, scoring 14 goals in 14 matches this year for his country. For Manchester United he hasn’t been as clinical, but still found the back of the net 6 times in 13 appearances to cap off 2017-18 for the Red Devils. It’s his form in 2018-19 that hasn’t been up to par and he’s garnered a hefty amount of criticism for his lack of goals. Lukaku has failed to score in 5 Champions League appearances this season and his tally of 6 goals in 16 Premier League appearances is not all that superior. So although the 25-year old has been brilliant in 2018 for Belgium in every competition he’s played in, he’s failed to show the same kind of form for Manchester United and as a result has fallen down this list.
51. Leroy Sane
Leroy Sane has had a wonderful year and had he made Joachim Low’s World Cup squad Germany just might have made it a whole lot farther in Russia. The German winger has proven to be one of Guardiola’s most consistent players and now in his third season in the top flight of England continues to score and assist goals like few others in the league. Sane has found the back of the net 6 times and provided a further 7 assists in his 17 Premier League matches and 2 times in 3 UEFA Champions League matches this season. He also finished off the 2017-18 season with 4 goals and 29 chances created in 13 matches. Overall Sane has had a very good calendar year and had he just been given a chance to shine in Russia, we may be talking about Leroy Sane in even higher regards.
50. Dries Mertens
Dries Mertens has been a star for Napoli ever since changing roles from attacking winger with verve and pace to goal-scoring centre-forward in the absence of Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik and transfer of Gonzalo Higuain. Since then, he’s become one of the greatest goal scorers on the planet and 2018 was a year that nothing changed at all for the Belgian forward as he continued to routinely find the back of the net. Mertens this season has done well in a new 4-4-2 system under Carlo Ancelotti to score 7 goals with 5 assists in his 17 appearances thus far in Serie A. Although not the best total of his career, it is very good considering he has only started 9 of those matches and has actually had to bide his time on the bench a bit more than he’s become accustomed to in recent years. However, Mertens has also fared well for Belgium throughout the year, playing well in 3 appearances at the World Cup and regaining a regular starting position since the World Cup with 2 assists in 4 UEFA Nations League matches. Dries Mertens continues to be one of the best centre forwards on the planet and the best part of it all is that he was never even supposed to be a centre forward.
49. Jordi Alba
Jordi Alba has been one of the best left-backs in the world since about 2010, but 2018 just might have been his best year of all. Despite not achieving grand success for Spain in any regard, Alba has been phenomenal for Barcelona, so much so that their back-up left-back has had to move to Everton for more regular playing time. At 29-years old it makes sense that he is more assured and confident than ever, but it is still a surprise that Alba has hardly put a foot wrong all year. The Spanish fullback has scored 1 goal with 4 assists in his 17 La Liga appearances and has added a further 1 goal with 3 assists in 5 UEFA Champions League matches. Barcelona are at the top of both La Liga and their Champions League group and Alba’s role has been instrumental.
48. Gerard Pique
Gerard Pique is 31-years old now but continues to put in good performances for Barcelona and Spain. In fact he’s flourished alongside Samuel Umitit these past two seasons and Barcelona look set for a second straight La Liga title with their solid back-four. The Catalan club have conceded just 19 goals in 17 league games so far and Pique has played every single minute of those 17 games. In that time he’s scored 3 goals, completed 92% of his passes and won 59 duels in the air – the eighth highest in the league. Gerard Pique just never seems to look unsettled and although never fully reaching the potential he perhaps once had to be the best centre back in the world, he remains one of the very best, which for him, has to be good enough.
47. Lorenzo Insigne
Lorenzo Insigne continues to be Napoli’s standout player as they hunt down Juventus for the Serie A title, something that has eluded them since 1990. Insigne has been Napoli’s crowned jewel for years now and he’s continued his fine run of form in front of goal in 2018-19, scoring 7 goals with 5 assists in 17 Serie A matches this season. He’s even taken up a role as a striker this season, which has helped turn him from playmaker into goal-getter. 42 of his league-leading 101 chances created last season came in his final 13 Serie A appearances in 2017-18. The fact that he hasn’t created as many this season – 37 chances created in 17 matches to start – is primarily down to this shift that the Italian striker has now seen in his game. Insigne continues to be brilliant for club and country, no matter the competition he plays in and as long as he’s with Napoli, they will always have a chance at catching Juventus for the Serie A title.
46. Alisson Becker
A primary issue for Liverpool throughout the past decade has been in goal where no keeper has been able to fill the boots of Jose Pepe Reina, who wasn’t absolutely amazing himself. But the Reds finally have their man in Brazilian keeper Alisson Becker, who has helped Liverpool to have the best defense in all of Europe at the halfway point of the 2018-19 season. The Reds have conceded just 7 goals in 19 matches so far this campaign. Alisson himself has made 44 saves, making his saves per goal ratio of 6.2 fall absolutely off the charts. He’s also come up with incredible performances in the UEFA Champions League and his heroics against Napoli have been argued to be the key reason why Liverpool were able to advance into the Round of 16. The 26-year old keeper was fantastic for Roma, equally stellar for Brazil at the World Cup and has been absolutely sublime for Liverpool this season. For three different teams Alisson was fantastic in 2018 and he has earned the reputation he now has as one of the very best goalkeepers on the planet.
45. Joshua Kimmich
Joshua Kimmich is just about the only Bayern Munich player to live up to expectations in 2018-19. The 23-year old must be the first name on Niko Kovac’s team sheet every game and with his versatility and ability to play equally well in three different positions, he’s become the Croatian manager’s most important player this season. Kimmich has started off the season wonderfully, assisting 9 goals in 23 matches between his Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League appearances. It doesn’t seem to matter if he’s playing fullback or in central midfield, Kimmich always seems to create chances. His 36 chances created is more than any other Bayern player in the Bundesliga; while he also managed the same feat for Germany at the 2018 World Cup. Joshua Kimmich is simultaneously one of the best right-backs and midfielders in the world and 2018 was another fantastic year for the versatile 23-year old.
44. Cesar Azpilicueta
After two seasons of adapting seamlessly to a role as a right-sided centre-half for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, Cesar Azpilicueta is back to being a right fullback and is simultaneously back to being one of the very best in his position. Azpilicueta has become captain in Gary Cahill’s absence from the squad for the 2018-19 season under Maurizio Sarri and he’s relished the role, playing every single minute of Chelsea’s Premier League campaign so far. In those 19 matches, Azpilicueta has completed nearly 89% of his passes, has completed the 8th highest tally of tackles in the league and 10th highest amount of passes per game. The Spanish defender actually enjoyed what was possibly his best season at Chelsea last year, scoring 2 goals with 6 assists in 37 matches. This season, Chelsea play a different way and he’s impressed more with his defensive organization than picking out Morata and Hazard with long-ball passes like he might have impressed under Conte. That being said, Azpilicueta has been brilliant this season for Sarri’s side and it’s just one more fantastic year to add to his fantastic career at Stamford Bridge that could end up being remembered as one of the finest careers ever at Chelsea.
43. Raheem Sterling
Although failing to score at the 2018 World Cup, Raheem Sterling managed to maintain a place in Gareth Southgate’s historic England team, providing so much for a team that ended up claiming a surprise fourth place finish. The 24-year old has really enjoyed a more advanced role for both England and Manchester City these past few seasons and he’s been bright in front of goal, scoring 9 goals with 6 assists in 16 Premier League appearances this season. That keeps him on track to finish with an almost equal record to the 18 goals and 11 assists he managed in 33 Premier League appearances in 2017-18. Even despite his failure to score at the World Cup, he’s been bright in front of goal for England since then, scoring 2 goals in 3 UEFA Nations League matches as England topped their group. The Man City man continues to impress with all that he provides from verve and pace to a natural goal-scoring touch. At just the age of 24, it’s amazing to think that Raheem Sterling should only get better from here.
Fernandinho is essential to the way Manchester City play and is essential in allowing Guardiola’s men to always be on the front-foot – always in attack. He does all the dirty work, allowing star players like David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne to do everything they are good at and still operate centrally without having to do any bit of serious defending. With 75 passes per game, he’s the starting point of all of Manchester City’s attacks and when he’s called on in defense, he hardly ever puts a foot wrong. The Brazilian midfielder has won 42 duels in the air, made 36 tackles and 26 interceptions in 17 matches this season while also getting forward to provide a goal and three assists. When he hasn’t played the Citizens have missed him dearly and it’s no wonder why they were able to achieve such high heights and score a record breaking amount of goals last season. With a defensive midfielder like Fernandinho, it’s almost as though City never have to actually defend.
41. David De Gea
Since the fall of Manuel Neuer, David De Gea has consistently been the best goalkeeper in the world and the only one to ever rival that has been Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak. But 2018 was not De Gea’s year and it was very much Oblak’s, so the Spaniard will have to settle for second best on this list. De Gea has been good in 2018, just not up to his unusually high standards. He’s made 2.2 saves per goal conceded this season, the 9th highest in the Premier League, but on the other end of the spectrum, he’s kept just 2 clean sheets, the same amount as Crystal Palace’s back-up goalkeeper and less than Fulham’s Sergio Rico. So it hasn’t exactly been daisies and roses for De Gea this season and unfortunately he’s failed to make a mark for Manchester United since about the tail-end of the 2017-18 season.
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TOP 100 FOOTBALLERS 2018