Two weeks 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 60-41.
LUKE SHAWEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Luke Shaw ended the 2020-21 as the undeniable best left-back in the Premier League, on form to be one of the very best in the world. He brought that form over with him to the Euros with England, playing a massive part in Southgate’s charge toward the final. But unfortunately, Luke Shaw left his form on the plane ride home from the Euros, and has regressed back into his old ways since. His insane form for the first half of the year earns him a place high up on the list, not to mention that voters had very few other top quality left backs to put ahead of him. But 1 assist in 12 league appearances so far is far from the Luke Shaw we saw in 2020-21, and it’s no surprise he’s lost his place in the side since Ralf Ragnick entered the door.
Luke Shaw completed 96 carries into the final third in 2020-21, the second highest in the league.
KYLE WALKEREmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 69
An understated member of Manchester City’s impressive unit, Kyle Walker has had a phenomenal 12 months for both club and country. The 31-year-old was instrumental to England’s success at the Euros, and played a vital role for Manchester City as they made it to the final of the UEFA Champions League, after already claiming the Premier League and EFL Cup. Impeccable in defensive transitions thanks to his unbelievable recovery speed, you notice when Kyle Walker is not in the Man City eleven.
Kyle Walker has completed 110 passes into the final third in the Premier League this season, the sixth highest in the league.
MARCO REUSEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Finally injury free, Marco Reus has been exceptional for Borussia Dortmund this year. The Dortmund captain led BVB’s charge toward their impressive DFB Pokal Cup win, and their incredible end of season win streak that took them up to third in the table at the end of 2020-21. This season Reus has only grown in importance under Marco Rose, impressing in both attack and defense. For a player with a reputation as large as Reus to hardly have a bad game all year long at 32 years old is quite impressive, and something The Guardian voters clearly didn’t take into consideration in their rankings.
Marco Reus has been the target of 918 passes this season so far, the 4th highest among all Bundesliga players.
REECE JAMESEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Reece James has been immensely impressive all year long in several different roles for both club and country. The Chelsea fullback has contributed 4 goals and 5 assists to the Blues’ stellar run of form this season, the second highest of any defender in the Premier League. Quite impressively, that’s already more than double the 1 goal and 2 assists he managed in 2020-21, fighting with Azpilicueta for the starting birth on the right. James has now firmly established himself as one of the best in the world, and will likely hold down the role for years to come at Stamford Bridge.
Reece James has completed 50 crosses in the 2021-22 Premier League season so far, the fourth highest in the league.
marco verrattiEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 85
Marco Verratti was on fire at Euro 2020, often responsible for dictating the tempo of Italy’s matches en route to their big tournament win. The Italian has continued to impress in PSG’s Champions League matches since, but his form in Ligue 1 play as dropped significantly. In fact, Pochettino’s preferred other midfield options, and the 29-year-old has picked up 6 bookings in his 9 Ligue 1 appearances. While evidently a phenomenal midfielder who comes alive when it matters most, Marco Verratti has never been consistent enough at PSG to truly fulfill his promise.
Marco Verratti has attempted 93 passes per 90 this year in all competitions, which ranks within the 99th percentile of players in his position.
JUDE BELLINGHAMEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
It’s been just a little over a year since Jude Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund as a seventeen year old, and he’s now thought of as one of the best central midfielders in the world. Already a leader for Dortmund at 18-years-old, the former Birmingham man has been essential to Marco Rose’s Dortmund this season, scoring 3 goals with 8 assists in his 21 combined UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga fixtures. Perhaps even more impressively, he ranks toward the top of all central midfielders in world football in just about any statistical category you could find. The future is not only bright, but scary when you think about how good Jude Bellingham could become.
Jude Bellingham has won 46 fouls in the 2021-22 Bundesliga season, more than any other player in the league.
LEROY SANEEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Leroy Sane took some time to get going at Bayern Munich, but the German winger has been on fire under the influence of Julian Nagelsmann this season. Sane’s bagged 10 goals and 9 assists between league and Champions League play already, helping lead Bayern’s incredible charge toward another Bundesliga title. While he still had to fight for a place with Kingsley Coman last season, Sane also impressed in 2020-21, scoring 9 goals with 9 assists in league + Champions League matches. Still only 25 years old, Leroy Sane is set to become a Bayern Munich staple for years.
Leroy Sane has the second highest +/- per 90 in the Bundesliga this season, at 2.6.
NICOLO BARELLAEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Immensely impressive for Inter Milan in the title winning year, Nicolo Barella then went on to star for Italy at the Euros, starting 6 of their 7 matches. He’s not only carried on his excellent form into 2021-22 but upped his game instead, assisting 7 goals in 17 matches already as Inter top the table again. Still just 24 years old, Nicolo Barella will only continue to grow and add more to his incredibly diverse repertoire as the years go on.
Nicolo Barella currently leads Serie A in goal-creating actions this season, with 12.
THIBAUT COURTOISEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 46
A fantastic goalkeeper for years and years at the top of his game, Thibaut Courtois has continued as Real Madrid and Belgium’s undeniable starter, as both achieved small-scale success throughout the year. The Belgian’s kept 7 clean sheets in 15 matches so far as Los Blancos top the 2021-22 table, and his outrageous save percentage of 80.6% is practically unrivalled around the world. Evidently, Thibaut Courtois is still one of the best in the world, and the frightening thing – he’s still yet to reach 30 years of age.
Thibaut Courtois has conceded just 0.69 goals per 90 this season, within the 99th percentile of goalkeepers around the world.
LUIS SUAREZEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 39
Luis Suarez led Atletico Madrid’s march toward the 2020-21 La Liga title, bagging 21 goals in 32 matches. The Uruguayan striker has continued his form in front of goal with 7 in 18 this season, but his overall play has dropped dramatically. Now more of a goal poacher than anything else, Luis Suarez’s career is evidently winding down.
Luis Suarez completed 10 nutmegs last season in La Liga, the most in the league.
FABINHOEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 36
Out injured for the first few months of the year, Fabinho’s return to Liverpool dramatically improved their form and played a massive part in the side’s third place finish in 2020-21. Fabinho has only carried on his positive form in 2021-22, continuing to be responsible for everything good at the heart of Liverpool’s illustrious midfield three. While his role for Liverpool is imperative, Fabinho’s never been able to break into the Brazil squad for real, with Casemiro and even United’s Fred staking their claim instead.
Fabinho’s made 2.9 clearances per 90 this year, which ranks within the 96th percentile of players in his position.
JAN OBLAKEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 22
Known for being one of the best goalkeepers in the world over the past decade at Atletico Madrid, Jan Oblak helped his team to their second La Liga title under Simeone last season with his insane shot stopping ability. This season has been a bit different for the Slovenian and his squad, with drops in form in not only his position but everywhere else. His save percentage reached over 80% last season, but has come all the way down to just 51% in 2021-22, one of the lowest ratios in La Liga. This is another tale of two halves of the year for a player on our list, with the Jan Oblak of early 2021 probably beating every other keeper, and the Oblak of late 2021 paling in comparison.
Jan Oblak made more saves than any other keeper during the 2020-21 La Liga campaign, stopping 97 shots.
ALISSON BECKEREmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 23
Alisson has had quite the year, continuing to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and beyond. The Liverpool shot stopper commands his penalty area exceptionally well, is a key member of his team’s build-up, and has boasted a save percentage just below 70% this season. A major reason why Liverpool finished in the top four at all, Alisson is instrumental to his club’s success.
Alisson Becker has kept 9 clean sheets in 17 matches this season, the joint-second best in the league.
MARQUINHOSEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 43
An exceptionally classy footballer who can play in multiple positions, Marquinhos has had another stellar year. The Brazilian defender has been a rock for PSG since the start of the 2021-22 season, with the Parisians losing just 1 of their 19 games so far. Integral to both club and country, other defenders who have won trophies may surpass him, but few have actually played better in 2021.
Marquinhos has completed 73 passes per game in Ligue 1 this season, the fifth highest in the division.
HARRY KANEEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 19
The start of 2021 was a dream come true for Harry Kane on a personal note. He ended the 2020-21 Premier League season as the top scorer and top creator, and put his foot down on a move to…anywhere else but Tottenham. But then it all came crashing down. Kane failed to perform at the Euros to the extent he managed two seasons prior at the World Cup, and then stuttered toward hopelessness as his transfer saga dragged on and he remained at Tottenham. With just 3 Premier League goals this campaign, we’re yet to truly see the real Harry Kane. But the old version still scored a remarkable 12 goals in 8 matches for England during World Cup Qualifying matches and 16 in 16 across the calendar year, helping partially save his tumbling 2021 reputation.
Harry Kane had 47 shots on target in 2020-21, more than any other player in the Premier League.
DECLAN RICEEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
There are very few players who made both our 2020-21 Premier League Team of the Year and this season’s Team of the Season Halfway Through, and most of them play for Manchester City. But one impeccable midfielder who does not play for City to achieve exactly that is the formidable Declan Rice, who’s played an insurmountable role for both club and country in 2021. Growing in reputation into one of the very best defensive midfielders in the world, Rice has stood out in every single competition he’s played in, barely missing a game all year. One of the most complete players in world football at the moment, it’s crazy to think the West Ham captain is still only 22-years-old.
Declan Rice has made 53 interceptions since the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season, the second highest in the division.
VIRGIL VAN DIJKEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 9
Virgil Van Dijk didn’t even play in the first half of the year, and still makes the top fifty on our list. That’s just how big of a reputation the Dutchman has, and how incredible he’s been since returning in 2021-22. You’d hardly notice Van Dijk’s been injured at all, performing remarkably well at the heart of Liverpool’s defense and claiming a spot on our Team of the Season Halfway Through 2021-22.
Virgil Van Dijk’s completed nearly 93% of his passes in the Premier League this season, the fifth highest in the league.
CIRO IMMOBILEEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 26
Criminally underrated throughout his career, Ciro Immobile has had another fantastic year full of goals. While he didn’t play his very best at the Euros, Immobile still had a fine campaign as part of Italy’s win, contributing to 4 goals in 6 matches. Since then he’s continued to hit the high notes with Lazio, scoring 16 goals in 21 matches between the Serie A and Europa League. Few players have scored as many goals in the last decade than Ciro Immobile, and that is something that needs to be commended once again.
Ciro Immobile has 15 goals + assists in Serie A this season, the second highest of any player in the league.
THIAGO SILVAEmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – 29
Thiago Silva has done a remarkable job since moving to Chelsea, just when everyone would have thought his career would slow down. The Brazilian legend played a massive part in their Champions League success last season, one season on from making the final with Tuchel’s PSG, and has arguably been the best centre-back in the Premier League this campaign. We can only hope we’re as cool as Thiago Silva at 37 years of age.
Thiago Silva has carried the ball over 3,000 yards this season, the 4th highest in the Premier League.
ANTONIO RUDIGEREmbed from Getty Images
LAST YEAR – N/A
Under Frank Lampard, Antonio Rudiger hardly played. Thomas Tuchel has not only restored faith in Rudiger and made him a regular starter, but he’s turned the German into one of the greatest defenders on the planet. Rudiger now plays an un-droppable role in their back-three, bullying some of the best centre forwards in the league into despair. His form for Chelsea did not necessarily translate over to his national team in 2021, but it did help his club team win the UEFA Champions League.
Antonio Rudiger has not missed a minute of Premier League action so far this season, the joint-highest in the league.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, the poster boys of a modern day football front three and all that can be accomplished, are all out of contract at the end of the 2022-23 season. The electric trio defined Liverpool’s success in the late 2010s, including a Premier League and UEFA Champions League triumph, and a runners-up medal in both competitions. But now approaching or already hitting 30 years old, Liverpool need to start to prepare for life without their illustrious front three. So with that, in this tactical transfer series, we attempt to identify the next Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. We’re looking for players not only capable of leading the Reds to more title triumphs, but players young enough to do so over the next five years. Today, we start with finding the next Roberto Firmino.
At the time that Dean Smith took over from Daniel Farke at Norwich, the Canaries were rooted bottom of the table with just 1 win. They looked destined for relegation without any hope of survival, regardless of how Smith might do in charge. But now, after two back to back wins against Everton and Watford, Norwich suddenly have a real chance of survival. Here is a quick tactical analysis of Dean Smith’s 4-2-3-1 with Norwich City.
John and Declan take a deep dive into the world of Everton, exploring the club’s continued struggle to find their identity and get a grip on reality. The boys then take a look ahead to this weekend’s match-ups, including a testy affair between Tottenham and Chelsea, and the John vs. Declan derby as Manchester United host West Ham United. Follow the show @mastermindsite on social media to never miss an update.