7) Arjen Robben
The Dutch attacker’s improved fitness over the past few years has enabled him to showcase his talent on a more regular basis. Despite his age, Robben continues to provide a great threat from the right-hand side. Often criticised for his predictable style of play, notably cutting in from the right, his close-control means he is still unstoppable. It is still difficult to understand Florentino Perez’s decision to let go off Robben for a mere 25 million. Nevertheless, the move has done wonders for Robben. He has enjoyed supreme success at the Allianz Arena winning 6 Bundesliga titles, 3 DFB cups and a Champions League title with the Bavarians. Now 33, Robben might well end his illustrious career in Germany.
6) Gareth Bale
While his injury struggles may have hampered his growth at Real, there is no doubt that Gareth Bale has been a success for Spain. The Welsh attacker’s performance at the Euro’16 was a testament to his unbelievable quality. Bale’s injury struggles have attracted great criticism with some claiming he is too expensive to sit on the sidelines for the most part. Nevertheless, on his day, Bale is easily among the top 5 players in world football. He continues to enjoy Zinedane Zidane’s unwavering support. As Ronaldo’s game time gets more limited with his age, this could well be the season where Bale gets out of Ronaldo’s shadow and becomes the main man for the Los Blancos.
5) Alexis Sanchez
It remains to be seen where Alexis Sanchez ends up on the 1st of September. Arsene Wenger’s stance indicates that Sanchez could indeed see out his contract at the Emirates before sealing a move elsewhere; however, if past is considered relevant, Arsene Wenger has been wrong before, and his stance has a price. Robin Van Persie’s situation bears great resemblance to Sanchez’s. It is understandable why Arsene and Arsenal are keen to avoid another Van Persie situation. Any kind of sale to a direct rival would cement Arsenal’s selling club status. Sanchez’s talent and quality has certainly exacerbated the situation. The Chilean’s running and hard work is an inspiration to the entire squad. He ended the last season with 24 goals and was by far Arsenal’s best player.
4) Eden Hazard
The Belgian recovered his form after a terrible 2015/16 season with Chelsea, wherein he only scored four goals as Chelsea ended in a lowly 10th position. The notion that Chelsea play well when Hazard does was only made stronger last season as the magician led the Blues’ charge for the league title. His balance and dribbling skills combined with ferocious pace makes him a defender’s nightmare. His magical goal against Arsenal at the Stamford Bridge was an example of how good Hazard can be when he is given the freedom. It is only Hazard’s injury that has prevented any possible discussion of a move to the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid. However, there is a feeling amongst Chelsea fans that the upcoming season could be the final season of Hazard in a blue jersey.
The fact that PSG were willing to break all records for the Brazilian’s signature testifies his unimpeachable talent. Neymar is unarguably the best player in the world at the moment behind Messi and Ronaldo. An exit from Messi’s shadow could just provide the necessary pill for the world to recognise Neymar as the best player in the world. He is now the face of Paris Saint Germain and their ambition of conquering Europe. Three goals in two competitive games for the French giants means Neymar is settling in well in France, which could mean danger signs for his ex-club Barca, Real and Bayern as PSG are now hot favourites for winning the prestigious Champions League.
2) Cristiano Ronaldo
While there may be some arguments as to whether Ronaldo is still a winger, the fact remains that even if he sporadically plays on the wings, he remains one of the best winger and worthy of being on our list. His ability to put himself in the right place is sometimes difficult to understand. It is as if ball finds its way be on Ronaldo’s feet and then in the net. He proved last season what a big game player he is, with vital goals in the latter stages of the Champions League. Having won 3 Champions League, La Liga and the European Championships in the last few years, Ronaldo has arguably surpassed Lionel Messi to become the best player in the world.
1) Lionel Messi
Ask the most generous of Real Madrid fans who the best player in the world is, and even they would say, Lionel Messi. Such has been the level, the Argentine genius has maintained over the years. Be it the legendary win against AC Milan or the last season’s La Liga tie against Real Madrid, time and time again; the little magician has shown how good he really is. Despite Neymar’s departure, there is no doubt that Barca would be the favourites for the Champions League title again, thanks to Lionel Messi. Over the years, Messi has taken more central positions. Something he would have to get used to now that Iniesta is ageing. As Barca chase a return to glory days this season, the fans would again look at their inspirational attacker to carry them forward.