Part one of my top 20 footballers of the year weren’t met without both criticism and praise on social media. But that’s what football is – opinions. Hopefully part two here and now will cause equal debate. Here’s my top 10 for 2017:
10. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)
A true phenomenon. The Welsh winger possesses all the attributes required of a bona fide world-class star. His strength and speed has been dazzling the crowds across all stadia in La Liga. A key player for Real Madrid and at just 27, he clearly has more to give at the highest level.
9. Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid & France)
While many would argue that 2016 was a better year than 2017 for the striker, few would expect a slump in form for 2018. A gifted striker, Griezmann has an eye for goal that most strikers can envy. His off-the-ball positioning makes him a lethal opponent for any defender. It’s no wonder all of the major clubs want the 26-year-old’s signature.
8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium)
At his peak, Hazard is pretty much an unstoppable force. But his peak isn’t consistent enough to earn him a place in my top 5. That said, he is a dazzling and multi-talented star who would fit into just about any elite team worldwide. He will be 27 next week – is the best yet to come?
7. Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid & Slovenia)
In the Diego Simeone era of Atléti, the one consistent powerhouse of their success is Oblak. He stands over 6’2 and has a knack of making his goal seem frustratingly small for his opponents. His footwork, distrubution and agility, coupled with his clean sheets record, make him the envy of many a striker. Only 24, the Slovenian is surely destined to be one of the great goalkeepers of his era.
6. Sergio Agüero (Man City & Argentina)
As of right now, Agüero has scored 134 goals in 195 games. This makes him lethal. He’s always been lethal. In fact, he doesn’t often have an off day. A dead cert starter for club and country, he’s will be 30 next summer – approaching the end of his prime. But make no mistake, by next summer, he will be in a prime position to help his club win another Premier League trophy, and country to possibly another World Cup final?
5. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich & Poland)
The 29-year-old has always been a top goalscorer. Since arriving in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2010 from Lech Poznan, Lewandowski has been scoring time after time in Germany’s highest tier. He’s now is his eighth season in Germany, but he’s already the second-highest foreign scorer in Bundesliga history and 11th in the all-time scoring charts with 164 goals in 240 matches. An elite number 9.
4. Neymar (PSG & Brazil)
It’s no surprise that PSG had to break the record transfer fee for the Brazilian and splash out an obscene €222 million for the 25-year-old. At Barcelona, he was always living in the shadow of Leo Messi. At PSG, he has become the centre point of focus and, in turn, he has made them more exciting and watchable and will be a driving force in helping the French side go one step closer of reaching their ultimate goal of a Champions League victory. A star on and off the pitch and improving on and off the pitch.
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City and Belgium)
The Belgian attacking midfielder has probably got the best vision of any player on the planet right now. His passing skills are a phenomenon in their own right. His other attributes such as his technique and long range strikes make him one of the deadliest players right now. If he carries on with the same form his displayed in 2017, he could easily become the world’s greatest player in no time.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
When Cristiano signed for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, I didn’t think that at almost 33, he would be a consistent elite level player, capable of single handedly changing games. I firmly believe that he will probably put most players to shame when he will be 40, should he stay active that long. A five-time Ballon d’Or winner and multiple other individual and team titles, Ronaldo has always been nothing short of remarkable. His status as one of the best in the history of the sport is already cemented.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Real Madrid)
Messi is, in my opinion, the greatest footballer to ever play the sport. I know people will argue about Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, Ronaldo, Di Stefano, Beckenbauer and Baresi. But Messi has had something else. It’s almost as if he was put on this planet to play the sport. Head and shoulders above everyone else, the only person who even comes close is number two on this list. He has been the sole reason why Barcelona keep winning. I don’t mean since the summer. I mean since he first put on the Blaugrana shirt.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)