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From Touré to Haaland: how our top 100 male footballers list has evolved


Nine years ago, when we did our first 100 best male footballers in the world list, we had 11 judges on the panel. In 2020 we had 241, including Cesc Fàbregas and Juan Pablo Ángel.

But it is not only the number of judges that has changed, the whole footballing landscape has evolved. In 2012 Chelsea won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich but Barcelona were still considered the best team in the world. That was reflected in our top 10 with Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta all included.

Yaya Touré, Andrea Pirlo and Robin van Persie were also regarded to be among the 10 best players in the world with players such as Joe Hart, Ashley Cole and Emmanuel Mayuka included in the full top 100.

Click on the forward and back arrows to move down the years or use the play/pause button to let the top 10 of the past nine years evolve in front of your eyes.


The consistency of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo throughout the nine years is remarkable. They were the top two for the first six years of the 100 and have never been positioned below fourth in the nine years from 2012 to 2020.

Otherwise the top 10 has often been influenced by the Champions League winners or the victors of the European Championship or the World Cup. In 2014, for example, Germany’s Thomas Müller and Philipp Lahm both made the top 10, as did Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann and N’Gole Kanté four years later.



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