Top 100 Male Footballers 2021 Edition (20-1)

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It’s time for the finale! 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, ending our countdown with numbers 20-1.

20

NEYMAR

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LAST YEAR – 8

Neymar hasn’t played an awful lot of football this year, but when he has, he’s been on fire. One of the smoothest dribblers in the world, Neymar’s formed an excellent partnership with PSG’s Kylian Mbappe in recent years, with the Brazilian contributing to a total of 28 goals in 40 matches across the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons in Ligue 1 and Champions League play. If he could only start every match, Neymar would likely be higher on this year’s countdown.

Neymar dribbled past his opposition 107 times last season, the highest in Ligue 1.

19

JOAO CANCELO

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LAST YEAR – N/A

Joao Cancelo endured a reasonably difficult first season at City, failing to fully establish himself. But in 2020-21, Cancelo’s career would change forever, with the Portuguese defender becoming a staple for City in several different positions. Now an un-droppable figure for Guardiola’s team due to his versatility and exceptional skill, Cancelo has contributed to the third most amount of goals of any defender in the Premier League in 2021-22. His inability to play for Portugal at the Euros seriously hampered his nation, and City’s run to the Champions League final didn’t include him quite as much, but since then, Cancelo has become one of the best footballers in the Premier League.

Joao Cancelo leads the 2021-22 Premier League season in five statistical categories, including carries into the final third, passes into the final third, pass targets, progressive carries, and touches.

18

ROMELU LUKAKU

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LAST YEAR – 27

The best player of the 2020-21 Serie A season, Romelu Lukaku led Inter Milan’s charge toward the title, with an insane 24 goals and 11 assists in 36 matches. He then spearheaded Belgium’s impressive attack at the Euros, scoring 4 goals in 5 appearances before they were knocked out by eventual winners Italy. Since moving to Chelsea, Lukaku hasn’t been able to hit top gear and already appears to be making noise about wanting a return to Italy. That said, his injury struggles hampered his progress at Stamford Bridge, and he’s played an instrumental role to the team’s success when he’s been fit, scoring 7 goals between Premier League and Champions League matches in his limited minutes.

Romelu Lukaku has scored the third most goals per shot on target this season in the league, with 0.7.

17

ALPHONSO DAVIES

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LAST YEAR – 42

Has their been a better left back in world football this year? No. The only man who could come close would be Joao Cancelo, and that’s only if you consider him to be a left-back. Alphonso Davies has dominated the Bundesliga and international CONCACAF scene this year, playing an undeniably important role for both club and country, in several different positions. Not only did the 21-year-old help lead Bayern to another Bundesliga title in 2020-21, he also led Canada’s imperviousness in World Cup 2022 Qualifying, with the nation now in poll position to qualify for their first tournament since 1986. Canada went unbeaten across the calendar year, with Davies the man leading the way each and every game. It would be hard to find a better left back in the Bundesliga this season as well, with 3 assists in 16 appearances so far as Bayern top the table. The best left back in the world at this present time, Alphonso Davies is still just 21 years old.

Alphonso Davies has dribbled past more players than anyone else in the Bundesliga this season, an insane 56 times. He also leads the league in progressive carrying distance, total progressive carries, carries into the final third, and carries into the penalty area.

16

BERNARDO SILVA

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LAST YEAR – 86

Bernardo Silva has arguably been the best player in the Premier League this season not named Mohamed Salah, having now scored 7 goals in his 19 appearances thus far, and stealing Kevin de Bruyne’s place in the team. The Portuguese midfielder also played an understated role in City’s climb to the Champions League final last season, and held down an important role in the starting eleven despite the vast competition. Absolutely unstoppable with the ball at his feet, Bernardo had his best year in a City shirt in 2021.

Bernardo Silva has dribbled past 42 players this season, the third highest in the Premier League.

15

RUBEN DIAS

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LAST YEAR – N/A

The man responsible for improving Manchester City’s defense to extraordinary heights, Ruben Dias has been the best centre-back in world football across the calendar year. Not only has he become captain of City after just one full season at the club, he’s become one of their keys to success, making everyone else around him look infinitely better.

Ruben Dias ranks second in the Premier League for passing percentage, progressive carrying distance, completed passes, and pass targets in 2021-22.

14

BRUNO FERNANDES

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LAST YEAR – 15

In all the discussion about Manchester United this season, many forget that they finished second in last season’s Premier League title race, came very close to winning the Europa League, and started the 2021-22 season off in stellar form. Bruno’s been imperative to all of it, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists last season, and 5 goals with 3 assists this season in league play alone. Add his form in Champions League and Europa League matches into the mix, and you get another 9 goals with 10 assists in just 20 matches. Given how much football he played in 2021, a decline was always likely, and Bruno’s de-acceleration has been far exaggerated, with the Portuguese midfielder still United’s best player.

Bruno Fernandes created 94 chances in the Premier League last season, more than any other player. He’s also created the most chances from open play in the league across the calendar year, with Trent Alexander-Arnold only surpassing him through set-piece situations.

13

N’GOLO KANTE

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LAST YEAR – 38

The form of N’Golo Kante has been incredible this year, but it’s also been overblown. He was Chelsea’s key figure in their rise to the Champions League final, playing some of the best football of his entire life. But to declare him to be one of the best footballers of 2021 on the basis of that alone would be silly, given other players have played so much more football this year. He was fantastic at the Euros, and he’s been fantastic for Chelsea in 2021-22 to help his claim, but it’s very likely that he might not have even started all those 2020-21 Champions League matches had it not been for an injury to Mateo Kovacic. But we digress, N’Golo Kante is one of the best midfielders on the planet, and fully deserves the bronze medal he’s receiving among defensive midfielders in 2021.

N’Golo Kante has won nearly 6 combined tackles and interceptions per 90 this year. His total ranks within the top 5% of players in his position, despite playing for a side so utterly dominant in possession.

12

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

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LAST YEAR – 17

Trent Alexander-Arnold has had another unstoppable year at the heart of Liverpool’s back-line and attack, creating more chances than any other Premier League player across the calendar year. The 23-year-old is already up to 2 goals and 8 assists in 17 Premier League matches this season, whilst topping the charts in many other categories like completed crosses, progressive passes and passes into the final third. Need we remind you, he’s a right-back. Exceptional all year long for club and country (when given the opportunity), Trent ranks as our highest scoring defender in the year of 2021, ahead of a host of illustrious names.

Only Mohamed Salah has assisted more goals than Trent Alexander-Arnold this season in the Premier League, with Salah’s 9 slightly outdoing Trent’s 8.

11

GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA

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LAST YEAR – N/A

To be named both the Player and Goalkeeper of the Tournament at major international competition takes quite some doing, but Gianluigi Donnarumma achieved exactly that with his stunning form at the Euros, and his penalty kick heroics. Exceptional for AC Milan in their rise toward a Champions League place, Donnarumma finished his Serie A career off in style by accumulating the most minutes and most clean sheets in the league. The 22-year-old then moved to PSG following his fantastic summer with Italy, and has only grown in confidence since. He’s knocked Keylor Navas out of the number one position with ease, boasting a save percentage of 74% in Ligue 1, and nearly 88% in Champions League matches so far this season. The best keeper in the world this year, Donnarumma has quite a reputation to live up to in 2022, as the comparisons to Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon continue to pour in.

Only Thibaut Courtois boasts a better save percentage (88%) than Gianluigi Donnarumma’s in Champions League play this season, as the Italian has saved 87.5% of the shots that have come his way.

10

JOSHUA KIMMICH

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LAST YEAR – 5

For large parts of this year, Joshua Kimmich was a serious contender for a place in the top five footballers on earth. Kante and Jorginho may be earning all the plaudits for their trophies this season, but Kimmich has arguably been better than both, performing a vital role for Bayern and their insane dominance in the Bundesliga. Incredibly impressive in all facets of the game, Kimmich scored 4 goals and assisted 10 in last season’s league title win, more than any other defensive midfielder could dream of accomplishing. This season, he’s battled with COVID, but still found his way to 3 goals and 3 assists in 11 matches. Showcasing fantastic form at the Euros with Germany and World Cup Qualifying, in a completely different right-wing-back role, Kimmich’s hardly had a bad game all year.

Joshua Kimmich’s missed the last two months of action in the Bundesliga this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from completing the second most progressive passes in the league, with 106 in his 11 matches. Yikes.

9

CRISTIANO RONALDO

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LAST YEAR – 4

Often thought of to be the problem at Manchester United, Ronaldo has still scored an insane amount of goals in 2021, for every team he’s played for. At 36 years of age, Ronaldo bagged an incredible 29 goals in 33 Serie A matches last season, single-handedly scraping Juventus over the line into the UEFA Champions League for this season. With a couple penalty kick goals, he then led the Euros with 6 goals in 7 matches despite Portugal’s failure to make it to the final. Since moving to United, Ronaldo has posed some tactical concerns for the team, but he’s still been clinical, scoring 8 in 15 Premier League games and 6 goals in 5 UEFA Champions League matches. This may be the final year that Ronaldo features in our top ten, but his legacy as one of the all time greats will never fail to live on.

Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the most shots per 90 in the Premier League this season, with 3.95.

8

THOMAS MULLER

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LAST YEAR – 10

Bayern may have failed to win more than just the Bundesliga this season, but Thomas Muller’s still been one of the best players in the world, leading the league in assists in both 2020-21 (18 assists in 32 games) and 2021-22 (13 assists in 17 games). Yes, Muller has one of the best strikers to ever play the game dovetailing around him. But Lewandowski would not be the same scorer without the fantastic service from Thomas Muller, who continues to do it for his national team too at 32 years old. A key figurehead for Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern, Thomas Muller is our top attacking midfielder of 2021.

Thomas Muller not only leads the Bundesliga in assists this season, but also key passes, passes into the final third, pass targets, and shot-creating actions.

7

KYLIAN MBAPPE

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LAST YEAR – 7

Evidently one of the best footballers on the planet, fans from around the world continue to hold their breath and wait to see what Kylian Mbappe could accomplish in a more difficult league. He always performs on the big occasion, such as his form in the UEFA Champions League and a decent campaign with France at the Euros, but it’s hard to truly compare his 9 goals and 8 assists in 17 Ligue 1 matches against other forwards around the world. It’s perhaps easier to compare the 12 goals and 7 assists he’s contributed in the past two Champions League seasons (16 matches), and to praise the fact that he ended the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season as the top scorer, bagging 27 goals and 7 assists.

Kylian Mbappe has contributed the most goals + assists in each of the last four Ligue 1 seasons, including 2021-22, where he’s collected 17 goal contributions so far.

6

JORGINHO

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LAST YEAR – 62

What a year it has been for Jorginho. The Italian midfielder helped lead Chelsea’s Champions League victory and Premier League resurgence at the start of 2021, before winning the Euros with a fantastic series of displays for Italy. Since coming off that insane high, Jorginho has continued to be one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League in 2021-22, only growing his reputation. People will say it’s just about his trophy wins in 2021, but Jorginho has ran the show for both club and country all year now and fully deserves to be crowned the best midfielder in 2021.

Jorginho has scored six penalty kick goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other player.

5

LIONEL MESSI

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LAST YEAR – 3

Lionel Messi is 34 years old now, and evidently on the decline, but somehow, claimed another Ballon d’Or in 2021. That is despite just scoring 1 goal with 4 assists in Ligue 1 since arriving at PSG, and only 1 goal in Argentina’s Copa American win. On the basis of this, Messi would make our Top 100 on reputation only. But luckily for the Argentinean, he has a few other key facts to his name in 2021, including netting 30 goals with 9 assists in his final season at Barcelona, and 10 goals in 11 UEFA Champions League matches across this season and last. It’s not the Messi that everyone has come to know and love, but it still keeps him in good standing as one of the best footballers in the world, and all-time.

Lionel Messi led La Liga in just about every attacking category imaginable in 2020-21, including goals, goals + assists, shot creating actions, goal creating actions, passes into the penalty area, progressive passes, shots, players dribbled past and more.

4

KARIM BENZEMA

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LAST YEAR – 21

It’s amazing to think that at the 34 years old, Karim Benzema has now had his best year in a Real Madrid shirt. The Frenchman has flourished since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, scoring 54 goals with 18 assists in his last 74 competitive fixtures for club and country. That includes fantastic performances all year for France after his recall this year, and both La Liga and Champions League play, where he’s been one of the best players in both competitions. In fact, no player in La Liga has reached anywhere close to the same heights as Benzema, with the Frenchman currently leading Ancelotti’s team toward the La Liga title.

Karim Benzema has bagged 15 goals with 7 assists in just 18 matches so far, the most goals + assists in the league by a considerable distance.

3

ERLING HAALAND

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LAST YEAR – 11

Erling Haaland is a machine. That’s what everyone says, and it’s clear for all to see that the Norweigian wonderkid is superhuman in all that he does. Haaland has scored 13 goals with 5 assists in his 11 Bundesliga appearances this season, in addition to 3 goals in 3 UEFA Champions League matches for the Black & Yellows. Dortmund missed him dearly during his spell on the sidelines this season, and only Lewandowski scored more goals per game than his insane 27 goals in 28 games last campaign. Erling Haaland can’t stop scoring, which is a frightening trait for a 21 year old to possess.

Erling Haaland has scored 0.89 goals per 90 this calendar year, to which only Robert Lewandowski surpasses.

2

MOHAMED SALAH

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LAST YEAR – 6

Just when you thought Mohamed Salah couldn’t get any better, he goes on and does exactly that. Salah has been outrageously good in the Premier League this season, leading the league in both goals (15) and assists (9) across the first 19 matches, as Liverpool have outscored all other teams. He’s topped that off with another 7 goals in 6 Champions League matches this season, the kind of form rarely shown by wingers. With his 22 goals last season, only Harry Kane netted more, and it’s safe to say Salah’s been the far superior player across the calendar year. With only Haaland and Lewandowski scoring more goals in 2021, Mohamed Salah has been in the form of his life.

In addition to leading the league in goals and assists and the two categories combined, Salah also leads the Premier League in shots, shots on target, through balls, goal-creating actions and progressive passes received this season.

1

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

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LAST YEAR – 1

Who else could it be? Sorry, but Messi’s been nowhere near the level of Robert Lewandowski in 2021. The Polish striker broke all kinds of records in 2021, including Gerd Muller’s long-standing Bundesliga goal record, when he found the back of the net a whopping 41 times in 29 appearances last season. He could break that record yet again if he keeps going, as the Bayern man has already scored 19 goals in 17 league matches this season, adding onto his 9 goals in 6 Champions League matches. With another 8 goals in 8 World Cup Qualifying matches for Poland, Robert Lewandowski has been the definition of unstoppable in 2021. Quite undeniably, he’s our best player of the world.

Robert Lewandowski broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals scored in a single-season in Germany during the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, netting 41 goals in 29 matches.


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9 thoughts on “Top 100 Male Footballers 2021 Edition (20-1)

    1. We’d definitely have given a nomination spot to Bukayo Saka following the December he had to end off the year. The likes of Simon Kjaer (101), Manuel Locatelli (102), Andre Silva (103), Wilfred Ndidi (104), and Pedri (105) were the closest to earning a place on the Top 100 without making it. We personally would have loved to see Michail Antonio earn more love but the forwards list was very extensive. Thanks for reading!

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  1. i forget to say that this is a good ranking, congrats, but i want to know why theo hernandez and Pedri arent in the list?

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    1. You’ll have to ask the voters! Pedri finished last of all nominated central midfielders, Theo finished last of all left-backs. Theo perhaps not enough reputation although deserves a place, and Pedri not much given in 2021-22 so far (2 La Liga games).

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