20. Edinson Cavani
Through playing in Ligue 1, Edinson Cavani sometimes goes a bit under the radar in the discussions of the best centre forwards on the planet. But he demonstrated to everyone at the 2018 World Cup that it doesn’t matter what competition he’s playing in, the Uruguyan will always score goals. Cavani found the back of the net 3 times in 4 World Cup matches and Uruguay were only knocked out to the eventual winners France in the Quarter Finals. The 31-year old centre-forward has also scored 10 goals in 11 Ligue 1 matches and 2 goals in 5 UEFA Champions League matches so far this campaign as PSG sit pretty in both competitions. To make matters more impressive, in the months leading up to the World Cup, he scored 6 goals in 12 Ligue 1 matches to close off 2017-18. Edinson Cavani is still one of the best forwards on the planet at 31-years old, and 2018 was a phenomenal year for the Uruguayan striker.
19. David Silva
One of the most intelligent players on the planet, David Silva has flourished under Pep Guardiola and it’s taken his game to a whole other level. A level that fans of Silva might not ever have thought possible given how fantastic of a career he has had over the years. The midfield maestro has scored 6 goals with 2 assists in 16 matches, earning plaudits from many pundits who are calling him the best player in the Premier League so far this season. The Spanish midfielder has been even better in the UEFA Champions League though, scoring 3 goals with 1 assist and 14 chances created in 5 matches. The 32-year old also had a good World Cup campaign, although he was unable to lead Spain past the Round of 16. David Silva just seems to continue to get better and better and whenever he’s in the Manchester City team, Guardiola’s outfit looks a whole lot more incombustible.
18. Virgil Van Dijk
Virgil Van Dijk has been so good in 2018-19 that many are calling him the best defender to ever play in the Premier League. That may be hyperbolic and the likes of John Terry, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand (to name a few) may have something to say about that. But the truth is, since he’s arrived at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp’s men have been nearly unbeatable and in 2018-19, the Reds have conceded just 8 goals in 20 matches. In that time, Van Dijk has been superb and has hardly missed a minute of Premier League action. The Dutch defender has completed 74.7 passes per game, the 7th best in the league and has been a rock at the back, winning 4.1 duels in the air per game. Despite Salah, Firmino and Mane all being in the team, it’s the Dutchman who has stolen most of the headlines and that trend has rung true in the UEFA Champions League as well. Finally, in Netherlands’ recent return to success, Van Dijk has been insurmountable, scoring 2 goals in 4 UEFA Nations League matches from his position as a centre-back. Virgil Van Dijk is the best defender in the Premier League at the moment and if he continues on at this rate, all the praise about him being one of the greatest of all time may soon turn true.
17. Jan Oblak
As previously mentioned, for a few years now Jan Oblak has had to settle for the title of “2nd best goalkeeper in the world”. 2018 was the year that all that changed as Oblak surpassed David De Gea with his stunning performances for Atletico Madrid. The Slovenian goalkeeper has been fantastic in every competition he’s played in and continues to come up with saves that leave fans scratching their eyes and asking how he could have possibly pulled it off. In 17 La Liga matches Oblak has kept 8 clean sheets and conceded only 13 goals. With 40 saves, he’s maintained a saves per goal conceded ratio of 3.08, the eighth best in the league. He’s maintained his place in the Champions League too as Atletico head into the Round of 16. Oblak was also brilliant in helping Diego Simeone win his third Europa League title, as the Slovenian made 6 crucial appearances. With all of that and after a fantastic year, Jan Oblak is now the best goalkeeper in world football.
16. Raphael Varane
Coming in at number one on the list of the best defenders, Raphael Varane had the best year of his career in 2018. A beast in the air, Varane dominated every opposition attack he came up against and played every single minute of their World Cup winning campaign. His impressive pass completion rate of 87% is even more impressive given how much of his game revolved around spreading long passes around the field during the tournament. Even more impressively, he was part of a France defense that conceded 6 goals in 7 matches and kept 4 clean sheets. Since then Varane has kept up a good level of form for Real Madrid but Los Blancos haven’t been brilliant and currently sit in 4th place. Still though his good performances have continued and the Frenchman has kept up his trend of making positive impacts in all aspects of the game. Raphael Varane was brilliant for club and country in 2018, has a World Cup winners medal, and at this moment in time is the best defender in the world.
15. Sergio Aguero
Since his move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Manchester City have won three Premier League titles. Sergio Aguero has been integral to every one of their league campaigns since 2011, particularly those in which they have won the title. For example, in City’s record breaking 2017-18 season, Aguero netted 21 goals with 6 assists in just 25 Premier League matches. Perhaps the only reason why the Argentine is yet to win a golden boot is because he can never stay fit for a full season. Who knows how many goals the City striker would be able to conjure up if he stayed fit for all 38 matches? The 30-year old striker has been fantastic in 2018-19 so far as well, scoring 9 goals and assisting 6 in his 16 Premier League matches. He’s made Gabriel Jesus almost a non-factor at City this past year, simply because Guardiola cannot afford to leave Aguero out of the lineup. 2 goals in the 2018-19 Champions League and 2 more at the FIFA World Cup help top off this year as absolutely fantastic for Sergio Aguero as he remains one of the best strikers in the world.
14. Luis Suarez
At 31-years old Luis Suarez is still one of the greatest goal-scorers on the planet and 2018 was another year in which the Uruguayan could not stop scoring. Suarez had a good World Cup campaign with Uruguay, scoring 2 goals in his 5 appearances, helping take his total to 6 goals in 11 matches for his country this year. He’s also fared well in La Liga so far and has found the back of the net 11 times in 16 league matches in 2018-19. Finally, Suarez started off the year with 13 goals in his final 14 league matches of 2017-18, taking Barcelona all the way to the top of La Liga. Luis Suarez’s form has never dipped throughout the year and he continues to score goals for the high-flying FC Barcelona.
13. Ivan Rakitic
Up until 2018, Ivan Rakitic had failed to meet the billing of becoming one of the best midfielders on the planet at Barcelona. When he moved from Sevilla in 2014, that was what was expected of the Croatian and after four years, the Barca man has now made that happen. Rakitic was absolutely superb for Croatia at the 2018 World Cup and was often the unsung hero of their stellar campaign. In all aspects of the game, defense and attack, Rakitic dominated the midfield and helped provide one of the best World Cup midfield triangles since Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets of 2010. But he’s also been brilliant for Barca throughout the year, helping them to a La Liga title in 2017-18 and continuing his fine form as Ernesto Valverde’s side look likely to win again at the end of 2018-19. Between the Champions League and La Liga, Rakitic has scored 3 goals with 3 assists, completing over 80 passes per game. After a fantastic year in 2018, Ivan Rakitic is now known as one of the very best central midfielders in the world.
12. N’Golo Kante
It seems as though no one can stop talking about how N’Golo Kante is playing “out of position” where Sarri is “not getting the best out of the best defensive midfielder in the world.” In some aspects there is validity to that. In other aspects, it is really becoming many football followers making a mountain out of a molehill. Other than Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante has been Chelsea’s best player this season and it doesn’t matter to the Frenchman what position he’s playing in, so why should it matter to anyone else? Kante continues to come up with the goods playing in that ‘number 8’ role and he’s even gotten forward to score 3 goals with 2 assists in 20 Premier League matches; already his best tally in both regards. And although his form for Chelsea has been fantastic, it’s his form for France that has usurped all else in 2018. The 27-year old was fantastic at the FIFA World Cup, winning 15 tackles and 20 interceptions as he played nearly every minute of the tournament. He’s continued his brilliance in the UEFA Nations League since. N’Golo Kante continues to be the best defensive midfielder in the world, and he doesn’t even need to be playing as a ‘number 6’ in order to stake that claim.
11. Kevin de Bruyne
Another standout star in Manchester City’s title winning campaign, Kevin de Bruyne was phenomenal in 2017-18, scoring 8 goals and leading the league in assists with 16 in 37 league matches. He then played a massive role in helping Belgium claim third prize at the 2018 World Cup, scoring 1 and assisting 2 in 6 matches. His 23 chances created at the tournament was only bettered by Neymar and Kieran Trippier, both of whom also feature in The Mastermind Top 100. To start off 2018-19, De Bruyne has struggled through injuries, a natural trajectory given everything he gave at the 2018 World Cup. He’s only started 1 Premier League, but has looked bright in all 6 of those that he’s featured in this season. The Belgian’s injury woes haven’t done anything to tarnish his reputation as one of the best midfielders on the planet. Kevin de Bruyne remains exactly that, the star among stars in a Manchester City team that look to challenge for a second Premier League title in a row.
10. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski has now failed to make his mark at two international tournaments when it’s mattered most, but remains one of the best forwards in the world. Failing to score at the World Cup would have hurt the Polish striker, especially after performing even worse two years prior at Euro 2016. Luckily for Lewandowski, his form for Bayern Munich has been insane yet again in 2018 and he currently leads the UEFA Champions League in scoring with 8 goals in 6 matches. The Bayern striker has also scored 10 goals with 5 assists in his 16 Bundesliga appearances this season, although Niko Kovac’s side sit in second place behind Borussia Dortmund. In other matches for Poland he’s made up for his poor performances at the World Cup, although he still hasn’t scored on the big stage, such as the UEFA Nations League where he’s failed to make a mark again. In short, Robert Lewandowski has had a tremendous year for Bayern Munich, but his form for Poland has not been up to his normally very high standards. Still though, he remains one of the best forwards on the planet and can count 2018 as another successful year to his career.
9. Harry Kane
The World Cup’s leading scorer, Harry Kane has had another fantastic year in 2018. 2018 might in fact have been the year that Kane established himself as the best natural goal scoring centre forward in the world, especially given Lewandowski’s struggles for Poland. 6 goals in 6 matches to help England finish fourth was something Kane could only have dreamt of achieving prior to the tournament and it was fantastic to see the Tottenham striker making his mark on the biggest stage of all. The goal-scoring centre forward has continued his fine form since the World Cup, netting 4 goals in 6 Champions League matches as Spurs head into the Round of 16. He’s also bagged 13 goals with 3 assists in 20 Premier League matches as Mauricio Pochettino’s men make another attempt to win the league title. Harry Kane is one of the greatest goal scorers on the planet and just seems to get better and better with every year that goes by.
8. Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann was arguably the player of the tournament when France lost the final in Euro 2016 and he would have been very disappointed about that. But the French forward can now celebrate after a wonderful year in which he sparked the flame that allowed France to go on and win the World Cup. The 27-year old was phenomenal at the World Cup, scoring 4 goals with 2 assists in 7 matches as France lifted the trophy. In every regard since then, he’s maintained the same level for club and country. Griezmann has scored 4 goals with 2 assists in 6 UEFA Champions League matches and notched 7 goals with 6 assists in 17 La Liga matches so far in 2018-19 for Atletico. It doesn’t matter who his strike partner is. It doesn’t matter what league he’s playing in or who he’s playing against. Antoine Griezmann always scores goals and always creates them too, making him one of the most complete forwards on the planet. 2018 was a fantastic year for the French forward and his loyalty to Atletico despite all his accomplishments is highly commendable.
7. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard is one of many players inside the top ten to consistently be ranked here. The Belgian wing wizard has been one of the ten best footballers in the world since pretty much his arrival at Stamford Bridge. What is different now is that 2018 was possibly Hazard’s best year of all as he steered clear of injury to make a massive impact on Belgium’s World Cup campaign and Chelsea’s run of form under Maurizio Sarri. Hazard was brilliant at the 2018 World Cup, scoring 3 goals and assisting 2 in 6 matches as Belgium claimed bronze. Even more impressive has been his form in the Premier League this season. No other player in the Premier League has achieved a better goals + assist tally than his 10 goals and 9 assists thus far. He leads the Premier League in assists and across Europe’s top leagues only Lionel Messi has achieved more. As if that’s already not impressive enough, Hazard ended the 2017-18 season with 7 goals in 17 Premier League matches, bringing his total up to 12 in 34 for the season. But he already looks likely to better his high-flying form that he showed in 2018-19 and is absolutely loving life under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea right now.
2018 has been a year in which Neymar has received a heavy amount of criticism and most of it has completely ignored how well the Brazilian forward has played throughout the year. The majority of criticism revolving around Neymar this year has arisen due to his over-exaggerations to being fouled and targeted at the 2018 World Cup. But the ironic thing is that this criticism has been over-exaggerated more than Neymar could ever embellish anything if he tried. For more on that check out Why Crticism of Neymar’s Diving Antics Have Been Exaggerated in 2018.
In actuality and in spite of the criticism, the Brazilian forward was exceptional at the World Cup, winning more fouls than anyone else as already mentioned, but also creating a stunning 23 chances in just 5 appearances. He scored 2 goals with 1 assist in his 5 matches, and only Isco, Messi, Hazard and Mbappe completed more take-on’s than the Brazilian at the tournament. We also can’t forget that his performances at the World Cup came just weeks after recovering from a broken foot – which by the way is an injury that takes more than two months to heal even with the best physiotherapists in the world by your side. Since the World Cup, the PSG man has been brilliant for impending Ligue 1 champs PSG, scoring 11 goals with 5 assists in just 12 matches. He’s also managed 5 goals with 2 assists in the Champions League and 5 goals in 7 matches for Brazil in international friendlies this year. He’s demonstrated absolutely no signs of weakness since his broken foot and his performances at the World Cup in particular are absolutely inspirational given what he had to go through to get there. Neymar remains one of the best players in the world and his low ranking at #6 in comparison to previous rankings at #3 and even one appearance at #2, is not as a result of anything of his own doing.
5. Kylian Mbappe
Hailed as a future Ballon d’Or before he even turned 20, Kylian Mbappe is looking more likely to fulfill that promise than any teenager since the man listed above him – Neymar. Mbappe’s form in front of goal in 2018 has been scary, especially considering he is right winger, not even a striker or centre forward. The French forward stunned the world with his performances at the World Cup, picking up the Silver Ball as France won the tournament. Mbappe’s personal success at the tournament included 4 goals in 7 matches, while also completing more take-on’s at the tournament than anyone not named Eden Hazard. Since then Mbappe has started just 9 Ligue 1 matches, making a total of 12 appearances overall. But that hasn’t stopped the 20-year old from scoring 13 goals with 4 assists in that time, the most goals + assists in Ligue 1. He’s also notched 3 goals with 4 assists in 6 Champions League matches, continuing his trend of scoring and assisting more than number of games he’s played in. Mbappe’s form in front of goal and just in every regard has been scary in 2018 and he really does look likely to become that future Ballon d’Or winner that all in the world expect him to become.
4. Mohamed Salah
What can be said about Mohamed Salah that hasn’t already been said over a thousand times? The Egyptian wizard came into the Premier League for a fee of around 30 million pounds to go on and score 32 goals in his first season with the Reds. His heroics in scoring 10 goals in 12 UEFA Champions League matches nearly helped Jurgen Klopp claim what became another elusive Champions League title for him. Had he not needed to be substituted in the final due to injury the story of the Champions League final could be a whole lot different too. After a solid World Cup campaign for Egypt, 2 goals in 2 matches, Salah has flourished in a new role as the central striker in Klopp’s Liverpool lineup. He’s taken to the role fantastically well, scoring 13 goals with 7 assists in 20 Premier League matches and 3 goals in 6 Champions League games. Mohamed Salah always seems to find a way to score, even when he’s not playing well and that comes as a true testament to his incredible ability. For 2018 he nearly won the Ballon d’Or himself and may have had Liverpool just hung on to win the UEFA Champions League.
3. Luka Modric
Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric has had a magnificent 2018 – so much so that he broke Ronaldo and Messi’s 10-year streak of winning the award…yes that goes all the way back to 2008. In large part, his performances for Croatia at the World Cup were what won him the award, but he likely would not have been able to claim the honour had Real Madrid not won their third straight Champions League title either. Speaking of his Golden Ball winning performances in Russia, it was probably the best of any midfielder the tournament has seen since Zidane of 1998. Modric controlled everything for Croatia in Russia and had they not had their star midfielder, they likely would not have made it anywhere close to winning the tournament – which they almost achieved. Although not being able to reach the same heights since returning from Russia, he was instrumental at the end of the 2017-18 campaign in helping his club win the Champions League, featuring in 11 matches. Luka Modric is definitely in the conversation for best footballer of 2018 but it is still hard to rank him ahead of the Goliaths that are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Especially on a list that also takes into account reputation and the best footballers in the world for 2018, not necessarily the best footballers of 2018. Even then, World Cups aside, Messi and Ronaldo may just beat him. That however does not take anything away from the amazing achievements of Luka Modric in 2018 and just how impressive his World Cup campaign with Croatia was.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Luka Modric may have helped Croatia to soar to heights no one ever expected, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics at the World Cup were something close to superhuman. The Portuguese striker scored 4 goals in 4 matches for his country at the tournament, ultimately failing to lead Portugal past the Round of 16, but still earning a selection to the Team of the Tournament. On top of that, he’s won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid with his a stunning 15 goals in 13 matches. His 26 goals in 27 La Liga matches last campaign is also highly commendable. This season after a shock move to Juventus, the Portuguese striker has maintained his good form to score 14 goals in 18 matches, adding another 5 assists to his name. It is true that no player hogs the ball like he does, while it is also true that no player shoots the ball as many times that he does. So although his high goal tallies are natural, they still would not be so high if he was not Cristiano Ronaldo. This year though, he will have to settle for second place to his arch-rival Lionel Messi on The Mastermind Top 100. Beating out the likes of Salah and Modric despite the fantastic years that they had is highly commendable though and at 33-years old Cristiano Ronaldo continues to show no signs of slowing down.
1. Lionel Messi
Argentina failed at the World Cup, so why is Messi ranked number 1? Becuase he is quite simply the best footballer on the planet, perhaps ever. 2018 was a fantastic year for the Argentinian striker and he finally breaks Ronaldo’s three year spell at the top of The Mastermind Top 100. Despite Jorge Sampaoli’s tactical ineptitude, Lionel Messi performed very well at the World Cup, scoring 1 goal, assisting 2, completing the second most take-on’s at the tournament and winning 4 fouls per game. But his achievements don’t stop there. Messi currently leads Europe’s top five leagues for assists with 10, which is less than the 15 goals he has scored in his 15 La Liga appearances. The Argentinean striker has also bagged 6 goals in just 4 UEFA Champions League matches this term, adding to the 6 in 10 matches that he achieved last season. Speaking of his achievements in 2017-18, his 34 goals with 12 assists in 36 league matches was better than anyone else in Europe, even Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. Lionel Messi is king again despite not being able to lead Argentina to anything noteworthy at the World Cup. He’s the best footballer in the world again and ends The Mastermind Top 100 with a boisterous bang.
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TOP 100 FOOTBALLERS 2018