Top 100 Male Footballers 2021 Edition (100-81)

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One week ago today, we launched our voting polls for the best player in each position across the calendar year. It’s all part of our annual Top 100 Footballers list, where this year, you get to have your say. In just one week, we had hundreds of votes in each category, helping us develop a comprehensive list of the very best footballers on planet earth this year. Here is our Top 100 Footballers of 2021, as voted by you and the likes, starting first with numbers 100-81.

100

FLORIAN WIRTZ

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LAST YEAR – N/A

After bursting onto the scene last year as a seventeen year-old, Florian Wirtz has had quite the rise to stardom. The German midfielder has started the season off immensely, dovetailing around Patrik Schick en route to 5 goals and 8 assists in 15 matches so far. He’s also impressed as one of the top players in this season’s Europa League, while already surpassing his solid goals and assist tallies of 2020-21 in both competitions.

Stat: Florian Wirtz currently sits first place in the Bundesliga for goal-creating actions this season, even despite landing second behind Thomas Muller in assists.

99

kalvin phillips

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LAST YEAR – N/A

After leading Leeds’ stunning second half of the 2020-21 season and securing a surprise top half finish, Kalvin Phillips performed admirably at the Euros for England. The defensive midfielder formed a stellar partnership with Declan Rice at the heart of everything good for England, starting all seven matches as the Three Lions ventured all the way to the final. He’s been in and out due to injury since the start of the 2021-22 campaign, only a slight blip in a fantastic year for the 26-year-old.

Kalvin Phillips currently sits fourth in the Premier League for tackles and eighth for pressures applied, despite missing a third of Leeds’ matches this season.

98

TOMAS SOUCEK

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LAST YEAR – N/A

Tomas Soucek has gone from a late-arriving goal-scoring central midfielder to more of a complete one, forming an insurmountable partnership with Declan Rice at West Ham. The central midfielder’s been a staple for both club and country this year, as both achieved more success than anyone would have expected.

Tomas Soucek has won 5.2 aerial duels per 90 this year, which ranks in the 99th percentile of players in his position.

97

JORDAN HENDERSON

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LAST YEAR – 30

Jordan Henderson’s low ranking in 2021 has little to do with his ability, and much more to do with his ability to stay fit. The Liverpool captain has performed admirably when available, but unfortunately has spent the majority of the year out due to injury, including losing his starting spot at the Euros with England. Henderson has however had a bright start to 2021-22, oozing class in possession and recovering his stellar partnership down the right with Salah and Alexander-Arnold.

Jordan Henderson has completed 96 passes into the final third in just 16 appearances so far, to which only Alexander-Arnold has more for Liverpool.

96

CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU

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LAST YEAR – N/A

Christopher Nkunku never fully established himself as an essential piece to the Leipzig puzzle under Julian Nagelsmann, even despite positive goal contributions in both of the German’s two seasons in charge. But this season the Frenchman has been in unbelievable form, scoring 7 goals in 6 UEFA Champions League matches and another 7 with 5 assists in the opening half of the Bundesliga campaign.

No Bundesliga player has received more progressive passes in 2021-22 than Christopher Nkunku, showcasing just how often Leipzig look to find their danger man in space.

95

DUSAN VLAHOVIC

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LAST YEAR – N/A

Perhaps the breakthrough player of the year, Dusan Vlahovic has been extraordinary for Fiorentina, scoring 16 goals in 18 matches this league campaign. The Big Serb also played a massive part in Serbia’s big World Cup Qualifying campaign, helping his nation secure an automatic spot to the 2022 tournament ahead of Portugal. In the Erling Haaland mold without the reputation and stature, Dusan Vlahovic’s career can only go up from here.

Dusan Vlahovic has won 47 fouls in Serie A this season, more than any other player in the league.

94

WOUT WEGHORST

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LAST YEAR – N/A

On the surface, it’s easy to see Wout Weghorst as a big man who heads in the goals. But when looking deeper, you see a player massively capable of holding up play, linking with others, running the channels, pressing from the front and contributing so much more. When you add in the Dutchman’s 20 goals with 8 assists last season as Wolfsburg finished fourth, it’s hard to find many better forwards in the world at the moment.

Only two players have pressured the opposition more times this season than Wout Weghorst’s 348.

93

DAVID DE GEA

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LAST YEAR – 97

From his embarrassing Europa League penalty miss to his stunning saves at the end of Solskjaer’s time in charge, it’s been an eventful year for David De Gea. While evidently no longer at his best, David De Gea has finally found his best form again in recent months, helping carry United through a difficult period.

David De Gea failed to save a single penalty in the Europa League final, but he’s saved over 60% of his penalties this season, excluding penalty shootouts, ranking in the 95th percentile this year.

92

raphinha

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LAST YEAR – N/A

A dynamic winger with pace and trickery to match, Raphinha has developed a reputation as one of the most frightening wingers in the Premier League. While Leeds stutter toward relegation potential, Raphinha’s continued to carry them above water.

Raphinha’s 5.88 progressive passes per 90 ranks in the 88th percentile in his position.

91

JAMIE VARDY

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LAST YEAR – 48

While Vardy’s career is evidently slowing down, nobody’s told his finishing boots. A golden boot win in 2019-20 was always going to be a difficult act to follow, and Jamie Vardy followed it up by banging in 15 goals with 9 assists in 34 matches last season, as the Foxes finished fifth. He’s continued to score for fun in the Premier League in 2021-22, netting 9 goals in 16 matches so far.

Jamie Vardy currently sits third in the Premier League scoring charts, behind only Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah.

90

DUSAN TADIC

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LAST YEAR – N/A

It’s difficult to compare Dusan Tadic’s heroic exploits for Ajax to his colleagues competing for trophies in more complex leagues, but when he does it on the world stage, it’s hard to ignore. That’s exactly what’s happened for Tadic as it did during Ajax’s incredible UEFA Champions League run two years ago. The Serbian captain scored 2 goals with 6 assists in Serbia’s historic World Cup Qualifying campaign, capping off his already impressive 7 goals and 11 assists in 17 Eredivisie matches. Incredibly underrated for playing in a lesser respected league, Dusan Tadic still has what it takes to be one of the world’s best at 33 years old.

In 2021, Dusan Tadic broke Lionel Messi’s 2011 record for most assists in a calendar year, with the Serbian assisting 37 goals this year.

89

PRESNEL KIMPEMBE

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LAST YEAR – 78

PSG and France have both been short of trophy success this year, but Presnel Kimpembe has been a consistent performer for both club and country. PSG already look destined to reclaim title glory in 2021-22, with Kimpembe a key figurehead at the back.

Presnel Kimpembe’s 96% pass completion rate is one of the best in world football this year, and bested Ligue 1 in both 2020-21 and the 2021-22 season so far.

88

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

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LAST YEAR – 83

Antoine Griezmann’s dream for years – to play for Barcelona, was ultimately incredibly short-lived. Griezmann has now come back to the club that made him into a world beating hero, and hasn’t been the same after moving back to Los Rojiblancos. While he had a decent Euros campaign, a decent season with Barcelona and has enjoyed a decent start to life at Atletico, it’s all just been very decent for a player that we expect so much more from.

It has not been the best of starts for Griezmann back at Atletico, but he does rank within the top ten in the league in goal creating actions – with 7.

87

GIORGIO CHIELLINI

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LAST YEAR – N/A

A year or two ago we all thought Giorgio Chiellini’s career was all but finished. Then, against the odds, he started Italy’s opening matches at Euro 2020, playing a massive role in their big tournament win. Since then, Chiellini has continued as a regular in Massimo Allegri’s plans at Juventus, continuing to showcase that age is just a number.

Giorgio Chiellini has made 1.2 blocks per game in his 18 Serie A appearances this season, the joint-third best in the division.

86

PAUL POGBA

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LAST YEAR – N/A

Paul Pogba’s injury struggles pegged his progress back all year long, but when he made it onto the pitch, he was absolutely unstoppable. Pogba dazzled at the Euros as arguably France’s best player, and then kicked off the 2021-22 season with 7 assists in 9 matches for Manchester United in the Premier League. Combine that with France’s UEFA Nations League win this year, and it’s been a year of both personal and team triumph for the Frenchman. If only he could stay fit long enough, Pogba really would be one of the highest ranked players in the world.

Paul Pogba has assisted 0.4 goals per 90 minutes this year, which ranks with the 99th percentile of all players in the world.

85

KINGSLEY COMAN

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LAST YEAR – 46

Kingsley Coman has been picked ahead of Leroy Sane since the German’s arrival from Manchester City, but this season has been different. When deployed, the wing wizard has been up to his usual tricks and silky smooth moves. But he hasn’t been deployed as much as he would have liked, with Sane now a firm choice favourite under Julian Nagelsmann.

Kingsley Coman has completed 23 carries into the penalty area so far this season, the fourth highest in the Bundesliga, despite only making 10 league appearances.

84

BENJAMIN PAVARD

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LAST YEAR – 55

As Benjamin Pavard grew of age in Bayern Munich’s back-line, many expected progress to the point where he would now be at the level of the other top members of Bayern’s sturdy eleven. But that hasn’t really panned out, and instead Pavard remains a very solid right-back who does the defensive work very well, and stands out with his ability on the ball and presence out from the back. It’s not as though he’s the weak link in one of the best defensive units in the world, but he will need to adapt should Nagelsmann prioritize wing-backs in the future.

Paul Pogba has assisted 0.4 goals per 90 minutes this year, which ranks with the 99th percentile of all players in the world.

83

RAPHAEL GUERREIRO

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LAST YEAR – 77

At the height of his game, Raphael Guerreiro’s incredible attacking potency and intelligence can be unrivalled. In fact, it is. He ranks within the 90th percentile or higher in every attacking stat you can find. But when it comes to the defensive side of the game, he’s not the very best, by any means. Combine that with an inability to stay fit for an entire season year after year and you get a player who can’t stay consistent enough to ever truly establish himself as of the Andy Robertson level. Still a fantastic footballer who bangs in the goals like few others do from his position, but 2021-22 has not been his best.

Raphael Guerreiro has scored 3 goals in the 2021-22 Bundesliga campaign so far, more than any other fullback in the league.

82

DIOGO JOTA

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LAST YEAR – 82

In a Liverpool attack where Diogo Jota has had to compete with one of the best forwards of the 2010s, the Portuguese forward has done a massively impressive job. He currently sits only behind his teammate Mohamed Salah in the Premier League scoring charts, growing in importance with each and every game. Although he never hit top form at the Euros, there’s never been a moment this year where he hasn’t played an important role toward either Liverpool’s or Portugal’s overall play and tiny successes.

Diogo Jota boasts an impressive XG of 0.75 goals per 90, the highest in the Premier League this season.

81

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

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LAST YEAR – N/A

It’s been a remarkable year for Emiliano Martinez, just one year on from being outcast at Arsenal. Not only did Martinez pick up a Best Goalkeeper Award at this summer’s Copa America, which Argentina won, he’s also been Aston Villa’s saviour all year long. Following the departure of Jack Grealish, life at Villa was always going to be tough this year. But Martinez ensured the knock-on effects were minimal, continuing to build his reputation as one of the standout keepers in the Premier League.

Emiliano Martinez finished the 2020-21 season with the second highest saves per goal ratio of keepers to make 10+ appearances, at 3.09.


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Calin Calaidjoglu – U21 Talent Watch – Player Analysis

After catching the eye for Montreal Impact’s Academy in 2018, the career of future Canadian international Calin Calaidjoglu has gone quietly under the radar. Currently plying his trade in his native Moldova, that much is understandable. But Calaidjoglu recently impressed in his side’s UEFA Conference League tie against Slovenian side NS Mura, and has enjoyed a bright start to the 2022-23 season. While CPL clubs tend to recruit even younger players, the 21-year-old would have plenty to offer if a move were to be made back home. In this tactical analysis, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of Calin Calaidjoglu at the age of 21, and the CPL clubs that would most benefit from his playing style. Here is our analysis!

Explaining the Tempo Setter – Player Role Analysis

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Game of Numbers – #3 – The Evolution of the Target Man

Target Men are often seen as the bottom of the barrel centre-forward in terms of footballing ability. But increasingly, it’s becoming more difficult to quantify ‘Target Men’, recognizing the vast skillsets they employ. The likes of Aleksandar Mitrović and Sasa Kalajdzic are easier to distinctly categorize as ‘Target Men’ for their physical, imposing frame that allows them to score headed goals for fun. But it becomes more difficult to keep the likes of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez in that same specification, recognizing the vast array of traits they possess, particularly speed on the break. Target Men have historically been seen as slow, technically inept individuals who use their physicality, whether that be height or strength, to get one up over the opponent. But more and more, we are seeing an evolution of the ‘Target Man’ in 2022, to include a vast array of traits.

9 thoughts on “Top 100 Male Footballers 2021 Edition (100-81)

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