1) Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is without question the best player in the world. Having a tremendous season in 2012, Messi is the definition of a soccer icon. At a diminutive five-foot-seven, Messi scored 91 goals in 69 games in 2012, beating Gerd Mueller’s all-time record of 85 goals in one calendar year. He was the first to score five goals in a Champion’s League game. He has the most La Liga hat-tricks all-time, has scored in 10-consecutive matches and potted 12 goals for the Argentinian national team last year. Messi has also won the Ballon d’Or — the award given to the world’s best player — a remarkable four-consecutive times. Messi’s ability to not only score but single-handedly create offence for his team is what makes him far and away the best player in the world.
2) Cristiano Ronaldo
(Real Madrid Club de Futbol)
CR7 is the most versatile player in the game. He could almost play blind-folded, knowing exactly where his players are. Ronaldo is a force of nature always and can almost match Messi stride for stride. Ronaldo is already one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time. He scored 46 goals to Messi’s 50 goal performance in the La Liga 2011–12 season. Ronaldo has become one of the most coveted players of anyone in the European football scene. Since joining Real Madrid, Ronaldo has scored approximately 176 goals, more than what Liverpool FC has scored in three seasons combined in the English Premier League.
3) Andres Iniesta
Andres Iniesta is a nightmare for defenders and excellent at controlling the pace of play whenever he has the ball on his foot. A world-class player, Iniesta recently won Player of the Tournament at EURO 2012 and was named the European Player of the Year in 2012. Iniesta is an attacking force that can strike for goals with his agility, balance and ball control. Originally a defensive midfielder, Iniesta works with his teammates like no other on both sides of the ball.
4) Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the most well-rounded players in the world. Ibrahimovic is an incredibly acrobatic player and not simply because of his insane bicycle-kick goal in a friendly match between Sweden and England. A clinical finisher, Ibrahimovic is capable of scoring in a number of different ways. Winner of the 2012 Golden Foot Award for outstanding athletic achievement, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is internationally recognized as one of the world’s best players and most interesting personalities.
5) Robin Van Persie
Robin Van Persie has been labeled and re-labeled throughout his career. However, the only label that seems to remain attached to Van Persie is ‘elite’. Arsenal FC fans see him as a traitor after departing for Manchester United this season, but he has been terrific since the switch. After his best club season in 2011–12 — scoring 30 goals with Arsenal — Van Persie is fitting in nicely with rivalled Manchester United and club manager Sir Alex Ferguson. A ferocious attacking player with a deadly shot, Van Persie is one of the most feared offensive threats in the world.
6) Radamel Falcao Garcia
Radamel Falcao’s consistency and leadership for the Colombian national team set him apart. Falcao is on a goal-a-game pace with incredible attacking and playmaking skills. Falcao is a natural goal scorer and can adapt to changing styles of play, meaning Falcao has the potential to be a star for years to come. With a strong showing in La Liga in 2012, Falcao has led his Athletico Madrid to win the Europa League Championship and the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea.
7) Neymar da Silva Santos Jr (Santos FC)
For such a young player, Neymar has been delighting fans in the Brazilian League of his home country. Neymar has speed, amazing acceleration and agility on the ball. Neymar is able to get into attacking positions and, when given the chance, he is a lethal finisher. At times pressure has gotten to this young player who has struggled in several big games, but look for big things in the coming years from Neymar.
8) Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas plays with the perfect mixture of tenacity and skill. Fabregas can change a game in an instant with his tremendous ball skills and creative abilities on the pitch. The former captain of the English side Arsenal, Fabregas was known as an elite player from a very young age. Fabregas has the potential to be one of the world’s greatest, especially considering he won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in just his first season with Barcelona.
9) Iker Casillas Fernandez
(Real Madrid Club de Futbol)
Iker Casillas is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the game. Casillas is cool, calm and collected, making improbable saves. As the captain of Real Madrid, Casillas is a leader on the pitch and can organize his players in the best fashion to win close games. Lately, it has been a tough year for Casillas, recovering from a broken left hand and having to miss out on a Champion’s League bout with Manchester United. For five-consecutive years Casillas has won the International federation of Football’s Best Goalkeeper Award and is the only player to do so in history.
10) Gerard Pique Bernabeu
Although Pique’s stats may not show it, he is a complete and tactical defender that can ruin any attack and stop the opposition in an instant. Pique is able to use his extreme strength to rub out attackers and cover the whole backline with his incredible marking skills. Mentally, Pique is brilliant with excellent vision.