The Best Football Players
Terry Clarke explains who the best football players in the world are.
Coming to a consensus on the best players in the world can be difficult, as there are so many top-class athletes plying their trade at the very top of the game in Europe and around the world. However, these four stars are currently ahead of the rest in terms of their numbers and ability to lift a side to glory:
Lionel Messi, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, has dominated the conversation about the world's best for more than a decade now. The diminutive Argentinian is a Barcelona legend, having scored 552 goals in 636 games and has won the game's biggest honours, including the Champions League on four occasions. Messi is renowned for his exceptional dribbling, agility and finishing skills.
However, perseverance and training have been crucial in Messi's meteoric rise from the back streets of his hometown of Rosario to world stardom. The 30-year-old struggled with a growth hormone deficiency during his childhood but medical treatment after relocating to Spain saw him fast-tracked through Barca's youth academy. He eventually made his debut as a teenager and the rest is history. Messi has won five Ballon d'Or awards and holds a number of records, including the most goals in a calendar year (91) and in a single season in Europe (73).
Cristiano Ronaldo is another player who has worked exceptionally hard to maximise his potential. The Portuguese star also had health issues as a youngster but came through the ranks at Sporting Lisbon, where he caught the eye of Manchester United. A move to the Red Devils in 2003 was the beginning of a trophy-laden journey in European football. Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League before completing a then record $107 million switch to Real Madrid in 2009.
The 33-year-old has been breaking records ever since. His goal return at the Bernabeu is simply staggering: he has found the net 449 times in just 436 games. Ronaldo has also won two La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies during his almost decade-long stay in Madrid. Unlike Messi, he has also tasted success at international level, after winning the 2016 European Championships with Portugal.
Ronaldo is renowned for his incredible training ethic, so it is no surprise that fitness enthusiasts have been eager to uncover his secrets. The star striker begins with a few warm-up exercises before advancing to more intensive workouts. He says: "In training we do a few laps of the pitch, stretching and cardio warm-up exercises. Make sure you do something similar in your training, even if it is jogging to the gym or a warm-up on the treadmill or bicycle." Ronaldo also believes mixing cardiovascular and weight training is best to improve every area of the body and keep things interesting.
Mo Salah is the man of the moment, after enjoying an incredible breakout season with Liverpool in the Premier League. The Egyptian scored a record 32 goals during the 2017/18 season and has been instrumental in the club's run to the Champions League final, where they will face European giants Real Madrid. Unlike Messi and Ronaldo, Salah's star has taken a little longer to shine but he now appears to be rivalling that famous duo with his exceptional skill, control and eye for goal.
Salah began his career in Egypt with El Mokawloon, where he spent two years before moving to Basel and then Chelsea. Salah did not prosper at Stamford Bridge but finally came into his own in Italy, with Fiorentina and Roma. Liverpool paid a relatively modest sum to secure his services last summer and he has quickly emerged as one of the world's best in his complete forward role. Salah will go against Ronaldo in the Champions League final later this month and both will be favourites to score in sports betting markets.
Neymar is now the world's most expensive player after PSG paid $262 million to buy the Brazilian from Barcelona last summer. The skilful attacker has hit the ground running in Ligue 1, scoring 28 goals in 30 games, but Champions League glory eluded him during his debut season after the French side crashed out in the last 16. There are now rumours that the 26-year-old could move to Real Madrid in the summer.
Neymar honed his skills on the streets as a youth before joining Santos FC. A move to Barcelona followed in 2013 and he won the Champions League 18 months later. Like Messi and Salah, Neymar has a great dribbling ability, though he is arguably even more skilful and reliant on tricks, turns and swivels than the other two. Neymar's training is focused on improving his acceleration, balance and power.
Best of the rest
Attackers are grabbing the world headlines, but the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Paulo Dybala in midfield, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos in defence, and Manuel Neuer and Jan Oblak in goal are all worthy mentions when discussing the world's best.
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About the Author
Terry Clarke has a keen interest in English football and in particular favours the Premier League.
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