The best players in the world – ranked

With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having entered the twilight of their careers, debates regarding the best footballer in the world are now much more complicated.

There are plenty of superstars across the planet, with the bulk of the most talented players plying their trade in Europe, but when it comes to comparing the top performers, the playing field is significantly more level.

Here are 90min’s ranking of 25 best players in the world right now – and this list is categorically accurate, so don’t even bother complaining.

Al-Ahli SFC v Al-Nassr - Saudi Pro LeagueAl-Ahli SFC v Al-Nassr - Saudi Pro League

Ronaldo just makes the cut / Khalid Alhaj/MB Media/GettyImages

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner just sneaks into the top 25 in world football, with Ronaldo still posting some remarkable numbers during his time with Al Nassr.

The Portuguese finished 2023 with 54 goals to his name, an impressive tally regardless of the general quality of his opposition these days.

Florian WirtzFlorian Wirtz

The youngster has been key to Bayer Leverkusen’s run / Lars Baron/GettyImages

One of the leading stars of the Bundesliga at just 20, Wirtz has been essential to Bayer Leverkusen’s incredible campaign under Xabi Alonso.

The German has been a relentless provider of goals and assists for Leverkusen as they hunt a historic treble this season, with the youngster having shaken off a significant injury during the early stages of his career with little fuss.

Robert LewandowskiRobert Lewandowski

Lewandowski is still a supreme striker / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

No matter where, no matter when, no matter how…Lewandowski continues to score goals at a frightening rate.

The Barcelona forward took little time to adapt to life in La Liga following his move from Bayern Munich and has often been a shining light in dark times this season.

Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid CF warms up during the...Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid CF warms up during the...

Courtois has been out injured this season / SOPA Images/GettyImages

An ACL tear has kept him out of action for the 2023/24 campaign, but Courtois has enough credit in the bank to still be ranked among the world’s best goalkeepers.

His 2022 Champions League final performance for Real Madrid remains one of the great individual displays in Europe, with the Belgian hopeful of walking out at the Santiago Bernabeu before the end of the season.

Heung-Min SonHeung-Min Son

Son has shone since Harry Kane’s exit / Chloe Knott – Danehouse/GettyImages

The Tottenham forward could have shrunk following Harry Kane’s exit, but he has stood taller instead, providing a focal point for Spurs either from the left flank or up top this season.

Ange Postecoglou has managed to keep him firing for the Lilywhites, with Son still an often unstoppable force in the Premier League.

Bukayo SakaBukayo Saka

The youngsters has been integral to Arsenal’s recent success / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Arsenal’s quick ascent under Mikel Arteta has been massively helped by the form of Saka, with the young winger having been an absolute menace from the right wing for the Gunners.

The England international has taken on a significant goalscoring burden for the Gunners this term and is an absolute joy to watch in full flight.

Antoine GriezmannAntoine Griezmann

Griezmann is at home in Madrid / Florencia Tan Jun/GettyImages

The Frenchman continues to go under the radar at Atletico Madrid but his sensational attacking returns speak for themselves.

Griezmann has been a chief creator and finisher for the Spanish side this season and has such an effortless understanding of how to make difficult things look simple.

John StonesJohn Stones

Stones was key to Man City’s success last season / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

The transformation of Stones into a defender-cum-midfielder for Manchester City last season helped propel Pep Guardiola’s side to a sensational treble.

The England international has struggled with injuries this year but remains an integral part of the swashbuckling City machine when fit.

Bernardo SilvaBernardo Silva

Silva is still dazzling at the Etihad / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

A man for the big occasions, Silva is such a graceful footballer. The twinkle-toed Portuguese continues to dazzle but doesn’t attract praise quite as easily as some of his Man City teammates.

Silva almost left the Etihad last summer, but there is a reason Guardiola was absolutely desperate to keep him in Manchester.

Jamal MusialaJamal Musiala

The German is a true gem for Bayern / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

Bayern may not have enjoyed the most fruitful season, but Musiala’s brilliance has offered some respite to the club’s supporters in difficult times.

The German attacking midfielder is just breathtaking to watch, weaving in and out of opposition defenders with ease and often having the end product to match his quick feet.

Antonio RudigerAntonio Rudiger

Rudiger has been formidable at the Bernabeu / Diego Souto/GettyImages

You know what you’re going to get with Rudiger, the ruthless German defender a perfect blend of modern and old school centre-back.

The Real Madrid man has stepped up for the La Liga giants this season amid an injury crisis in the heart of defence, rarely putting a foot wrong under Carlo Ancelotti’s guidance.

Alisson BeckerAlisson Becker

Alisson is arguably the most talented goalkeeper on the planet / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Arguably the most talented goalkeeper on the planet, Alisson has been immense for Liverpool again this season despite some nagging injury concerns.

The Brazilian continues to outperform his expected goals conceded total by a significant margin, with few stoppers better at sweeping from the back and coming out on top in one-v-one situations.

Martin ØdegaardMartin Ødegaard

Odegaard is the conductor for Arsenal / MB Media/GettyImages

Arsenal’s most important creative force, the skipper has the rare ability to dictate play in the final third with his incredible vision and defence-splitting left foot.

Odegaard has been vital in Arsenal’s push for Premier League and continental glory this season, with the Norwegian often decisive on the big stage.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi

Messi is still impressing in MLS / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The record Ballon d’Or winner is still sparkling in the pink of Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, now sharing the field with some of his old Barcelona teammates like Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.

Messi is still making a mockery of defenders in 2024, even if the quality of opponent he is facing on a weekly basis isn’t quite the same standard he’s used to.

Victor OsimhenVictor Osimhen

Osimhen is a nightmare for defenders / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Napoli’s star striker seems set to leave the club this summer, with a number of European’s elite sides ready to fight tooth and nail for his signature.

Osimhen was crucial to Napoli’s first scudetto in over three decades last season and is still finding the back of the next with incredible regularity this term.

Lautaro MartinezLautaro Martinez

Martinez has been inspired for Inter this term / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

As Inter head towards another Serie A title, Martinez is set to finish the season as the division’s most prolific goalscorer.

The Argentine forward does have the tendency to blow hot and cold at times, but he has been absolutely relentless in the black and blue of Inter for the majority of the campaign.

Virgil van DijkVirgil van Dijk

The Liverpool skipper is back to his best / Michael Regan/GettyImages

The best defender in world football at present, Van Dijk has been back to his imperious best for Liverpool this year as the Reds vie for the Premier League title.

The Dutchman, who is now captaining the Reds, scored the winning goal in the Carabao Cup final earlier this term and has been rock solid at the back for Jurgen Klopp’s side all season.

Vinicius JuniorVinicius Junior

Vini Jr. has been fantastic for the La Liga giants this season / Flor Tan Jun/GettyImages

Vinicius Junior has the luxury of playing alongside some of the world’s best all over the field, but the Brazilian is just as integral to the 14-time European champions.

The 23-year-old’s speed and trickery make him a full-back’s nightmare and he has proven he can play as part of a front two under Ancelotti this term.

Rodri - Soccer Player - Born 1996Rodri - Soccer Player - Born 1996

Rodri has proved irreplaceable / Visionhaus/GettyImages

When Man City lose – which is a rare occurrence – it’s normally because Rodri isn’t involved. The Spaniard is a destroyer in defensive midfield, hoovering up the ball at every opportunity, but he also has the ability to pick defences apart and pop up with crucial goals.

Rodri scored the winner for the Cityzens in last season’s Champions League final, cementing his spot in Man City folklore.

Harry KaneHarry Kane

Kane has thrived in Munich / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

Kane took no time in adapting to life in Bavaria, quickly finding his goalscoring touch following his summer move to Bayern from Tottenham.

The England captain could still break Lewandowski’s record for most goals scored in a Bundesliga season and has quickly won favour with the Allianz Arena crowd – even if his trophy curse looks set to continue.

Mohamed SalahMohamed Salah

Salah shows no signs of slowing down for the Reds / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Salah guarantees goals for Liverpool and has even become a more regular provider for his teammates as he’s aged. Despite having now hit 31, the Egyptian continues to dominate the scoring charts for the Reds.

With his old forward partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino having left Anfield, Salah is now able to soak up the full adoration of the Liverpool crowd.

Erling HaalandErling Haaland

Haaland has continued his relentless form / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Haaland smashed the goalscoring record for a single Premier League season during his debut Man City campaign, netting 36 times in 35 matches for the champions last term.

The Norwegian may not be the most technically gifted footballer the world has ever seen, but his ruthlessness in front of goal makes him one of the planet’s most devastating stars.

Kevin De BruyneKevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne is a maestro in Man City’s ranks / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

A significant injury at the start of the current campaign kept De Bruyne out for several months, but he swiftly found his feet after a long layoff and is now back to his electric best for Guardiola’s side.

The Belgian can do things with a football no other player can, with his passing unmatched in world football.

Jude BellinghamJude Bellingham

Bellingham has adapted quickly in Spain / Diego Souto/GettyImages

There were question marks about how quickly Bellingham would be able to settle at Real Madrid after his summer switch, but he silenced any doubters within his first few games at the Bernabeu.

The Englishman has scored countless crucial goals for the La Liga leaders this term and is already one of the world’s best midfielders at just 20.

Kylian MbappeKylian Mbappe

Nobody is as good as Mbappe right now / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Mbappe is almost certainly teaming up with Bellingham in the Spanish capital next season, with the Frenchman in flying form ahead of a long-awaited move to Real.

The attacker has averaged approximately a goal per game this campaign so far and Paris Saint-Germain have often struggled without him in the team. He will be an enormous loss for them next term, but their loss will be a sensational gain for Real.


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