Very few things are likely to spark fiercer debate then a so-called definitive list of the top 100 footballers on the planet, but the leading UK football magazine FourFourTwo have stuck their head above the parapet, as they do every 12 months, and done just that.
So how do you evaluate greatness? How can you compare a keeper to a striker, and full-back to a winger, and a rising star to a been-there-done-that veteran?
According to the magazine, whilst accepting that their methods are far from a qualified science, they manage to overcome these difficulties by applying the following principles.
“(1) This list is our judgment of the best players in the world right now. It takes as its yardstick performances throughout last season and the early stages of 2008-09. So form mattersâ€¦”
“(2) â€¦but itâ€™s not everything. If Lionel Messi were injured for a year, would you really exclude him from your list of the best players in the world?”
“(3) Although weâ€™ve considered players from every league in the world, the English, Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues dominate. Itâ€™s one thing to impress as a big fish in a little pond, quite another to do it against top-class opposition. Ask Mateja Kezman.”
So onto the list itself, and the top 10 has very few surprises. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way, replacing last year’s winner Kaka, who slipped down to fifth spot. Rio Ferdinand, who last year ranked 24th, jumps all the way to 9th, laying claim to being the world’s best defender at present.
The top 10 reads:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
3. Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
4. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
5. Kaka (AC Milan)
6. David Villa (Valencia)
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan)
8. Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid)
9. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
10. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
In a secondary list, observing to what extent different club sides contributed with the most players in the top 100, the results tallied as follows:
1. Chelsea 12 players
2. Real Madrid 12
3. Man United 8
4. Barcelona 7
5. Juventus 7
6. Inter Milan 6