10 Best Players Left in Champions League After Round of 16

Lucas Parolin@@Lucas_ParolinCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2013

10 Best Players Left in Champions League After Round of 16

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    With only three rounds left in the 2013 Champions League, the field is getting narrower...and, thus, we are starting to see a definite pecking order.

    Let’s kill some of the suspense: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are still the two best players in the world (who’s better, though, is still up for debate).

    Who are the other eight players that compose the top ten list of Champions League players, though? That’s a debate that can go on forever. There are still plenty of world-class players in the tournament, but only a few will come out on top when all is said and done.

    Let’s take a look at the top 10 players left in the 2013 Champions League. But, first, here are the honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

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    Wesley Sneijder

    In other years, Sneijder would have definitely been higher on this list. Make no mistake, though: Galatasaray signed him for a reason: to make noise in the Champions League. They might just do that.

    Mario Gotze

    Mario Goetze is the best young player in the world today (and that includes Neymar). He led Borussia Dortmund to the 2011-2012 Bundesliga title and seems poised to do even more. Stay tuned on this guy.

    Thomas Muller

    Another of the very promising German youth, Thomas Muller is Bayern Munich’s top scorer. Bayern Munich happens to lead the Champions League in goals, with 18. Enough said.

    Xavi Hernandez

    Injuries have kept him down, but a strong showing in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over AC Milan (highlighted by the assist to David Villa’s goal) showed that he can still perform like he used to. In short, don’t sleep on him just yet. 

10: Mesut Ozil

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    Any list that starts with Mesut Ozil ought to be a good one. 

    Real Madrid has scored a Champions League-high 18 goals so far. Much of that can be attributed to Mr. Ozil.

    Not only does he have three assists so far in this tournament, he has been impressive in the star-studded Real Madrid midfield. Ozil manages to stand out with players like Xabi Alonso, Angel di Maria and Khedira surrounding him.

    He is not Real Madrid’s main man yet (more on that later), but he is certainly one of their highest offensive weapons. 

9: Manuel Neuer

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    Without Casillas, there is no question that Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the Champions League right now...bar none.

    His very first Champions League, in 2005, opened everybody’s eyes. This guy was here to stay.

    He has only improved since, giving us amazing saves like this one against Arsenal. Neuer is at the right place at the right time and always seems to enlarge in size when called upon.

    Forget about best goalie in the Champions League: this guy is the best goalie in the world.

8: Bastian Schweinsteiger

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    Call him Bayern Munich's lungs.

    Schweinsteiger’s greatest attribute has to be his fitness. No other player in the world can cover the space between both 18-yard lines like he can.

    On paper, Schweinsteiger’s position is a defensive-minded one. However, his fitness allows him to literally sprint forward and appear as a surprise man between the defense. That is why he already has two goals this Champions League.

    And yet, we are always surprised when he scores.

7: Thiago Silva

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    Strong like a bull and fast like a horse.  That is how you describe Thiago Silva in very few words.

    The premier defensive player in the world right now, Thiago Silva has had a near-perfect 2013 (would have been perfect if it weren’t for some injuries in the beginning of the year).

    Still, Thiago Silva is the defender every coach dreams of having: he goes in for tackles strongly, but he is also quick enough to defend the weak side as well as through balls.

    Getting past Thiago Silva is nothing short of a battle, and that is what makes scoring on Paris St.-Germain so difficult.

6: Xabi Alonso

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    Once, Liverpool fans sang that they had the best midfield in the world, with Xabi Alonso.

    Alonso changed colors a long time ago, but he is still one of the premier midfielders of this generation. There is no one better in the entire world at both recovering the ball and distributing it, period. Some can do one of those two things better than him, but nobody can do both simultaneously like he does.

    With Xabi on their team, Real Madrid never has to worry about transition defense. He's got that covered.

5: Andres Iniesta

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    There have been very few midfielders in world football better than Iniesta in the last two decades.

    His showing in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over AC Milan was nothing short of stupendous. You can credit him with the assist to Messi in the second goal and with the complete dominance over the entire midfield throughout the entire game.

    Iniesta is so vital to Barcelona’s tiki-taka style that it is literally difficult to imagine the Blaugrana without him.  He has also only elevated his game since his trusty sidekick Xavi went down with a nagging hamstring injury.

    It is absolutely safe to say that Barcelona goes as Iniesta goes.

4: Andrea Pirlo

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    If football had a dictionary, one would find Pirlo under “class.”

    The World Cup winner (and owner of football’s sweetest beard) has been playing (and impressing everybody) for such a long time that he sometimes becomes an afterthought. Not here, though.

    At the advanced age of 33, Pirlo is still the main catalyst in Juventus’ midfield. The ball does not move unless Andrea touches it first.  It just goes to show that he leads his team in assists, with three (tied with Arturo Vidal).  He has also played the second highest amount of minutes.

    Not bad for a 33-year-old.

3: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    What Ibrahimovic does on the field is nothing short of incredible. There might not be a faster or stronger forward in world football right now.

    Ibrahimovic’s only fault is his constant bickering with managers and teammates. Some also say the Swede is far too arrogant. But, let’s be honest, if we had the same raw skill he possesses, we would probably be a little arrogant, too.

    Ibrahimovic may rely too much on his athletic skills sometimes, but he is so far ahead of the opposition in that sense that it works every time for him.

    Ibrahimovic’s resume still lacks a UEFA Champions League, but his addition to a star-studded PSG may have been just what the doctor ordered for Zlatan. 

2: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Not this year, folks.

    Cristiano Ronaldo is no doubt the best player to ever come out of Portugal, one of the best players of his generation and, simply put, one of the greatest players to ever kick a soccer ball around, but he still only deserves the No. 2 spot. Which, might we add, is not too shabby.

    Watching a Real Madrid game sometimes feels like simply waiting for Ronaldo’s time to strike. He dictates the game so well with his physicality, raw strength and marvelous touch.

    Many also overlook his intelligence on the pitch. All of those attributes have given him the scoring lead in the Champions thus far, tied with Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz.

    Cristiano Ronaldo is indeed a one-in-a-million sort of player, but he is still behind the No. 1 player in the world.

1: Lionel Messi

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    Some things don’t change. Or, at least, haven’t changed yet.

    A lot of people doubted Messi and Barcelona after their 2-0 loss to AC Milan. Their response was a historic 4-0 win over the Italian team, which made them the first team to ever come back from a 2-0 deficit in the Champions League when playing at home.

    No doubt, Messi was the main instigator of that win. His two goals were masterpieces and he absolutely controlled the game with his speed and superb touch. Every single Barcelona attack touched his feet.

    Truth is, Barcelona will always be a threat as long as they have the little magic Argentinian on their side. Lucky for them, he will be wearing purple and red until 2018, at least.

    What about you? Who are your top 10 players left in the Champions League? Let us know below!