As the glut of “best of” features continues to fill the internet, The Guardian has released its annual list of the Top 100 footballers in the world. It's compiled using the opinions of more than 100 former players, coaches and analysts from across the globe.
While most publications focus on the very top spots, and whether Messi or Ronaldo should be crowned champion (this year it’s Messi), we've broken down the best players by club and country.
As The Guardian itself notes, Spanish players continue to dominate, with a full team plus substitute bench (16) making the list. The Spanish La Liga has trailed the English Premier League for the last few years, but is now level with a total of 28 top players.
But looking only at the number of top players doesn’t give the whole picture. So we’ve dug into the data to see the strengths of teams and leagues based also on where their players appear on the list. If we only looked at the total number of players here is what we see:
It looks like Bayern Munich is the strongest team, while both Manchester clubs have a strong presence. However, looking at the total scores for each club (with shading indicating individual players), a different picture emerges; one that puts Barcelona top, with only Bayern Munich anywhere close to the Catalans.
Manchester United get pushed further down the order while Manchester City moves up a place. The shading shows that clubs such as PSG have many players on the list, but the majority of them are low down. Arsenal, meanwhile, is propped up by its two big signings: Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
The results are even starker in the domestic leagues. While La Liga and the English Premier League were joint top in number of players on the list, the Spanish league far surpasses the English league in terms of total quality. The Bundesliga also sneaks into second place, pushing the EPL into third place.
This time the shading represents clubs in each league. Barcelona has more points overall than all of the English clubs combined. The saving grace for the English league is its competitiveness, with the four top clubs fairly evenly spread.
These lists are never perfect. Several external factors play a role in deciding who comes top, including the amount of media coverage and the players and clubs' most recent performances. Moreover, too much emphasis is placed on individual players rather than team effort. However, it’s interesting to take a look at the data and reveal some things not picked up by the Guardian’s initial analysis.