Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

I’m not here to gin you up in righteous anger about the Guardian’s flawed ranking of the 100 best players in the world. It’s just a list, and it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s try to keep that in mind. Still, the list is pretty silly, and if you can keep your blood pressure under control, there’s no harm in looking at some of what makes it so.

You can check out the whole thing here, but let’s go through it a little bit, chunk by chunk:


For the most part, this section is pretty hard to argue with. You can quibble with the specific order of the next few guys behind Lionel Messi, but that’s no biggie. Zlatan Ibrahimović is probably riding a little too high off of his reputation and the fact that Ligue 1 is a joke, but again, whatever. I’d take Sergio Agüero over Ibra any day of the week, though.

The Manuel Neuer ranking is the first that really has me scratching my head. Is he really the best non-forward in the world? Let’s say Bayern were heading into the Champions League final: who would they miss more if he was injured, Neuer or David Alaba, the best full back in the world? Hell, I’d argue that they’d rue an absent Xabi Alonso more than Neuer. Which isn’t to say the German keeper isn’t great, only that the marginal difference between a good net-minder and a great one is much smaller than at any other outfield position.

Yay, more attackers, another keeper, and still no center backs. First off, Paul Pogba is in no way the best central midfielder in the game. He very well could be in a few years’ time, but today, no. Kevin De Bruyne is really good, but not the 14th best player in the world good. James Rodríguez should be above all these guys, save maybe Alexis Sánchez. I love Ivan Rakitić, but Sergio Busquets and Gerard Piqué are both much more important and flat out better pieces at Barcelona. (Speaking of them, those two players at top of their respective positions on the team that won everything last season aren’t good enough for the top 20? Do people actually watch Barcelona play?)


We finally get Busquets, which would be good if the next man wasn’t Javier Mascherano, who should be down in the 60s so that the Barça fans can gripe about how underrated he is. Mesut Özil should certainly be higher, and probably will be next season if he and Arsenal continue on this pace. I’d argue all the Real Madrid players here should be ranked above Gareth Bale. And to this point the list still has more keepers listed than center backs. That doesn’t seem right.


This is where it starts getting downright wacky. Harry Kane over Ángel Di María? Philippe Coutinho over ... well any of these guys? Gonzalo Higuaín, the leading scorer in Serie A, this low? And behind Álvaro Morata, who isn’t even a sure starter for his team anymore? And, seriously, Coutinho?!?!


I said I wasn’t going to rile you up, let’s stop there. If your interest has been piqued, the Guardian has much more info over on their site, like a description of the criteria and the names of the rankers, a breakdown of the broader trends, and a spreadsheet of all the votes themselves. Of course, you just might click on one of these links and see that one person voted Jérôme Boateng as the best player in the world, while another gave that spot to Francesco Totti, and feel the sudden urge to fling your laptop across the room. (If so, don’t worry. These babies are pretty durable now and, besides a little crack in the upper righthand corner of your screen and a missing cap to the letter P key, it will probably still work well enough.)

Suffice to say, even when you assemble a smart, experienced, diverse, theoretically knowledgeable group of voters, you still end up with a list that reads more like a ranking of the most famous players rather than the best. But it’s the thought that counts, and if this ranking doesn’t renew your appreciation for the players that are on the list—over or underrated though they may be—and instead gives you a headache about how bad it is, it’s best not to think about it at all.



Photo via Getty

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