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Top 100 Players in World Football in 2013

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 24, 2013

Top 100 Players in World Football in 2013

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    Welcome to Bleacher Report's Top 100 of 2013!

    We've graded and ranked the best individuals across the calendar year, taking into account domestic, continental and international performances and sorting them accordingly.

    The first few slides denote the basics—i.e. how the players were picked, what criteria we used and who's been ruled out of contention—then we move into honourable mentions and the final 100.

    As always, we want to hear from you. Pop your comments below!

What's the Criteria?

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    In crowning the top 100 players of the year, we take into account all games from January 1, 2013 to December 15, 2013. It's the true calendar year, spanning the tail end of last season and the first half of this one. 

    There's a also a minimum appearance trigger of 30, meaning any player who's made less than that number cannot be considered and is therefore absent.

    If you're wondering why Ilkay Gudogan or Giuseppe Rossi aren't among our top 100, it's because injuries stopped them entering the conversation.

    All domestic league and UEFA Champions League/Europa League games were considered in grading the players, along with any major international games where possible.

How Are the Players Graded?

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    To grade the players, we reverted back to the same method used in our Premier League 100 in August.

    We produced a method of scoring each player out of 100 in accordance with his position and individual attributes.

    We selected the top five attributes critical to each position on the pitch, then weighted those attributes in order of importance to the position.

    Each player was slotted into a position that matched their strengths, with differences drawn between target men and poachers, playmakers and anchors, and wide forwards and inverted wingers.

    An example metric can be seen in the EPL 100 project.

    We graded 205 players on our metric to ensure we left no one out, with the top 100 making the official list. South America, Asia, North America and, of course, Europe, were covered.

    In the event of a tie (in score out of 100), we've simply asked: "Who would benefit a team more at this moment in time?" and ranked them accordingly.

Notable Omissions

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    Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund

    He's been battling a spinal injury since the beginning of the season and, after scoring in a Champions League final and putting in a man-of-the-match showing vs. Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup, he's come back down to earth.

    Projected position: 11-20

     

    Lukasz Piszczek, Borussia Dortmund

    He underwent surgery in the summer and has only just returned, but he's making substitute appearances rather than starts. Another we don't feel comfortable giving a verdict on.

    Projected position: 31-40

     

    Giuseppe Rossi, Fiorentina

    Missed almost the entirety of the 2012-13 season due to yet another cruel injury but has come back with a bang. Unfortunately ruled out for failing to hit the appearance trigger.

    Projected position: 51-60 

     

    Mario Gomez, Fiorentina

    Barely played at Bayern Munich due to the presence of Mario Mandzukic, then moved to Fiorentina and picked up a rather nasty injury.

    Projected position: 61-70

     

    Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

    Has missed so many games he doesn't even qualify for the list, which must be a concern for Manchester City. On his day, one of the best defenders in the world.

    Projected position: 25-35

Honourable Mentions

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    We quickly realised, when constructing the list of 100, that there are many, many world-class players who've had a wonderful 2013.

    Here we list those who didn't make it and there are some truly stellar names on the list.

    JuanfranDavid SilvaDidier DrogbaMarkel Susaeta
    Max KruseFernandoLuka ModricGianluigi Buffon
    RamiresYehven KonoplyankaEliaquim MangalaPedro
    Gonzalo HiguainBacary SagnaWojciech SzczesnyFelipe Melo
    GabiAshley ColeStephan LichtsteinerStefan Kiessling
    Juan ZunigaMarcelo DiazPatrice EvraDarijo Srna

100. Will Johnson, Portland Timbers

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    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 76.4

    Will Johnson, traded to the Portland Timbers in late 2012, has almost single-handedly breathed life into the club since arriving.

    He played a more defensive role for Real Salt Lake but has exploded offensively with his new team, creating from a more advanced position and pinging in goals such as this.

    The Canadian had a big hand in leading the Timbers to the top of the Western conference and into the semifinals of the playoffs.

99. Dede, Cruzeiro

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 76.6

    Dede signed for Cruzeiro from Vasco da Gama early in 2013, despite offers from Europe, and played a key part in A Raposa’s excellent defensive displays, as they conceded just 37 goals in the Brasileirao, second only to Gremio, on their way to winning the title.

    Such was his form for the club, Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari called up the 25-year-old to the Selecao and Dede obliged by scoring his first goal for the national side with a bullet header against Zambia in October.

    Dede has a massive frame, boasts impressive physical strength and stands an aerial titan in defence. He's done extremely well to recover.

98. Jackson Martinez, FC Porto

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 76.8

    FC Porto may be struggling this season, but Jackson Martinez is still in scintillating individual form.

    He's the prototypical target man suited to the modern game and, despite doubts surrounding him as he came out of South America, he's settled into the European game with ease.

    He boasts great physical size and strength, an ability to hold the ball and a keen sense for a pass in the final third. He's deadly with his head and decent with his feet, making him a menace in any situation—except maybe this one.

97. Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 76.8

    Dani Carvajal is the perfect representation of Real Madrid's smart selling/buy-back system.

    He left the club for Bayer Leverkusen for €5 million at the start of the 2012-13 season but performed so well in the Bundesliga that los Blancos opted to take him back 12 months later and start him ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa.

    For the Werkself, his remarkable link-up abilities, composure on the ball and marauding runs were a real highlight, and he's now come in to play a major role under Carlo Ancelotti.

     

96. Ezequiel Garay, Benfica

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    Position: Ball-playing centre-back

    Score: 77

    Ezequiel continues to draw admiring glances from Europe's top clubs and it's no wonder, as he's the best defender in the Liga Sagres and a regular presence in the Argentina setup.

    He has good size and shows good strength, but his best asset is his ability on the ball. Benfica have come to rely on his classy distribution and high quality passes to get them going from the back.

    How long will he stay in Portugal?

95. Axel Witsel, Zenit St. Petersburg

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 77.4

    Behind only Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel is Marc Wilmots' second most integral player when it comes to picking the Belgian starting XI.

    That's a product of the hard work the midfielder has done in asserting his skill and value following his blockbuster move to Zenit St. Petersburg and, at 24, he represents one of the finest young anchors in world football.

    He boasts great physical strength and firmness in the tackle, really shackles playmakers and strikes fear into opposing midfielders.

94. Victor Valdes, Barcelona

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    Position: Sweeper 'Keeper

    Score: 77.5

    Consider the jury still well and truly still out on Victor Valdes—despite him making more than 350 appearances for Barcelona's first team.

    He is possibly one of the most divisive players on the planet: For every person who adores his sweeping ability, there's another who bemoans his lack of positional awareness in claiming crosses or feeling for his near post.

    For us, he's somewhere in the middle of the two extremes and scored rather well on his anticipation and footwork.

93. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

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    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 77.7

    Jack Wilshere's been knocked off his perch a little due to the rise of one of his colleagues, but he's still put together the most impressive year of football in his short career to date.

    He ended last season in fine fettle, and it's remarkable how much progress he's made in an injury-free patch. He's the prototypical box-to-box presence and his comfort on the ball running forward is a positive for England to harness and build on in the years to come.

    He's still learning when and where to do his riskier work, but he scored highly for physical attributes, dribbling, passing and shooting.

92. Ronaldinho, Atletico Mineiro

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 78

    2013 was a mixed year for Atletico Mineiro’s Ronaldinho. While a Brasileirao title challenge failed to materialise, the former Barcelona star did lead the Galo to Copa Libertadores glory after a stunning comeback in the final against Paraguay’s Olimpia.

    Alternating between playing on the left flank and as a No .10, Ronaldinho combined spectacularly with Bernard, now at Shakhtar Donetsk, to provide service to in-form striker Jo.

    He also chimed in with a few of his own—notably this spectacular chip against Arsenal de Sarandi—by utilising his age-old, famed skill set of sublime technique, quick feet and deadly accuracy.

91. Mohamed Salah, Basel

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 78.2

    Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah has used 2013 to put himself firmly on the map.

    He excelled last season in the Europa League for Basel, scoring against both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in successive impressive showings.

    This campaign, in the Champions League, he has tormented the Blues again, scoring in both home and away legs to cause Jose Mourinho fits.

    He's dynamic, quick, confident and clever in his runs; with the ball at his feet, he's a nightmare to stop and he's developed a keen eye for goal, too.

     

90. Jesus Navas, Manchester City

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    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 78.4

    Jesus Navas was the epitome of patchy during his last season at Sevilla but that, in truth, was due to the fact that he was one of their only real creative weapons for long stretches of the season.

    Teams identified that by nullifying Navas and stopping his midfielders finding him on the wing, the Rojiblancos became stunted offensively.

    Now he's moved to Manchester City, his impact is once again obvious; as one of many attacking outlets, his pace, direct attacking nature and excellent crossing has come to the fore.

    He's one of the quickest in the game and can damage any team.

89. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 78.5

    Daniel Sturridge has used 2013 wisely, creating a springboard for himself to make an impact at the 2013 World Cup in Brazil.

    His 19 goals in the Premier League this year is a tally bettered by very few and that clinical nature was all that was missing from an otherwise well-rounded game.

    Dropping deep, playing passes, splitting wide—he's comfortable in every area of the pitch and his confidence is in the sky.

88. Diego Lopez, Real Madrid

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 78.5

    Diego Lopez joined Real Madrid to cover for the injured Iker Casillas, but his performances were so great, he's nicked the starting role in goal.

    It creates an uncomfortable situation in the capital as, despite Lopez's obvious brilliance, reams of fans are baying for the return of "San Iker" regardless.

    Lopez is not the perfect goalkeeper—he lacks leadership skills and doesn't exactly command his line, but his reflexes, reach and agility are among the very best in the world.

87. Selcuk Inan, Galatasaray

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    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 78.7

    Galatasaray's heavy (and unlucky) losses to Real Madrid in 2013 have masked how strong the team really are.

    Selcuk Inan is the signal controller of the Turkish giants’ midfield, leads the side, sets the tone and keeps them ticking over with high-percentage passes.

    He’s quietly become as reliable on the ball as the likes of Xavi but is largely ignored outside of his own country. For Gala that means few are interested in poaching him and that can only be a positive for Roberto Mancini.

    One of the truly underrated players in Europe.

86. Michael Carrick, Manchester United

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    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 79

    The second half of Michael Carrick's 2013 has been sub-par and that's the reason he isn't higher on this list.

    The Manchester United team as a unit—bar Wayne Rooney—has struggled under the new management while the former Tottenham man has also missed the last month with an injury.

    His form in the second half of last season gifts him a spot, though, where we saw all the technical and positional qualities in his game come to the fore.

    There are few better in the Premier League when it comes to minding the midfield, providing a solid base and setting the tempo of the match.

85. Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 79.2

    Antoine Griezmann has had a sensational year for Real Sociedad.

    He was a key attacking cog in their 2012-13 season, helping the side into the Champions League for an important financial windfall, and has begun to catch fire once again during the current campaign.

    He plays off the left flank primarily but can switch to other locations, boasts phenomenal technique and looks dangerous every time he gets on the ball.

84. Theo Walcott, Arsenal

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    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 79.4

    Many criticise Theo Walcott, but his production simply cannot be ignored.

    He scored 12 and assisted 12 in the 2012-13 season while toying with a centre-forward's role, but he's resumed service as a wide forward now Olivier Giroud has hit form.

    He's spent two months out injured this campaign but returned to action with an impressive brace against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

    As a wide forward, his pace is a true asset and the reason he didn't score higher was that his (improving) decision-making process doesn't yet rival the best.

83. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Borussia Dortmund

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 79.5

    Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of the most energetic, dynamic No. 10s in world football—even rivaling the likes of Kaka's prime years (in style, not quality)—but still has a lot of learning to do.

    In the Ukrainian Premier Liga, he was dominant, bursting forward and opening his legs with ease to create and score goals for Shakhtar Donetsk.

    Bundesliga defences have attempted to halt his production by defending deeper now he wears the famous Borussia Dortmund jersey, and his passing range and guile in tight spaces must improve.

    Not a bad start to life on the biggest stage of all, though. Not by a long shot.

     

82. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Position: Surging centre-back

    Score: 79.6

    Much of the Tottenham Hotspur crew have suffered during the 2013-14 season, but Jan Vertonghen has been one of the few bright spots. Add that to his stellar 2012-13 campaign and that's a recipe for a successful calendar year.

    Spurs are really missing the Belgian right now, as their previously impregnable defence has started shipping goals due to a suspect defensive selection.

    Vertonghen's ability to play centre-back or left-back makes him indispensable, and he's the prototypical surging defender who is capable of breaking games with passes and dribbles.

81. Juan Mata, Chelsea

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 79.8

    The parties celebrating Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge were cut short when it became clear Juan Mata wasn't his favourite player.

    We graded the Chelsea playmaker our No. 1 overall player coming into the new Premier League season, such was his impact across the 2012-13 campaign, but either Mou wants him extensively rested or he just doesn't see him as his future go-to guy.

    As a result, Mata's stock in our rankings takes a real hit. Had he been allowed to replicate his triumphs last season, he'd be troubling the top 20 but, as it stands, his creativity, vision and magnificent passing range can only take him so far.

80. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 80

    Consistency is the only thing holding Eden Hazard back in our rankings, as he is so close to becoming the complete player with the complete skill set—despite being so young.

    He had his ups and downs under Rafa Benitez, but he's been the major benefactor of some excellent Jose Mourinho coaching and the results are beginning to show.

    The Belgian has excellent balance and poise, has a thicker lower half than you'd expect and possesses mazy dribbling skills. He beats you in every way possible, he just needs to do it every week.

79. Romelu Lukaku, Everton

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 80.3

    Romelu Lukaku is proving why it was so important for him to get out on loan this season, and while Chelsea fans are ruing the decision right now, they are set to welcome back a phenomenal striker next year.

    The Belgian has everything, combining power, speed, precision, finishing and passing skills to scare central defenders to death.

    He can outmuscle you, roll you, outpace you or slip a pass in behind you. It's infuriating for defenders.

78. Fernandinho, Manchester City

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 80.5

    Fernandinho has had a super year, performing with consistent brilliance for both Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City.

    In Ukraine, he was a cult hero, leader of the Brazilian contingent in the dressing room and a regular on the scoresheet. In Manchester, he's a reserved character, charged with protecting the defence in the wake of Yaya Toure's storming forward runs.

    He excels at both roles and doesn't actively search for the limelight; he just does his job and Manuel Pellegrini will be delighted with him so far.

77. Mario Balotelli, Milan

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 80.5

    Upon joining Milan in January, Mario Balotelli proceeded to catch fire.

    He scored 12 goals in 13 appearances, leading the Rossoneri to a Champions League berth that looked, for a long stretch, like it was going to fall to Fiorentina.

    But the 2013-14 campaign has been a nightmare for everyone wearing red and black, and that the Italian enigma has begun missing penalties and squandering chances isn't helping.

    He's just not been at his clinical best since May.

76. Nemanja Matic, Benfica

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfield

    Score: 80.6

    Nemanja Matic is a potential £30 million transfer waiting to happen next summer, such is his prototypical talent at holding midfield.

    He graded extremely well on our metric, despite not turning too many heads at Benfica, and what's most impressive is his size and range when looking to intercept.

    He's a big guy but has the agility to ensure he doesn't get caught in no-man's land between zones and his tackling technique is very strong. Just one of many Serbians excelling for the Eagles.

75. Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 80.8

    Alvaro Negredo slumped a little during the second half of the 2012-13 season, but it's fair to say lofty expectations—a product of scintillating form earlier in the campaign—were a major contributor.

    Sevilla were on a downward spiral and "the Beast" was part of that. Come summer, the chance to change scenery arose and he took it with a firm grip.

    His dominant frame, eye for goal and immediate connection with Sergio Aguero have enabled the Spaniard to displace Edin Dzeko and become a fan favourite at the Etihad Stadium.

    He emanates pure strength, yet oozes technical talent; he's one of the best No. 9s in football right now.

74. Joao Moutinho, Monaco

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    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 81

    Joao Moutinho combines many traditional elements of the traditional central midfielder's role—an art very much lost to the game right now given the obsession with defining midfielders as "offensive" or "defensive."

    He has quietly put together one of the most complete skill sets in Europe, and in acquiring his services this summer, Monaco have been able to utilise them to great effect.

    He's actually playing a little further forward than he's accustomed to in Ligue 1—it's a very defensive league, so he's wasted in deeper areas—but excels in providing good energy, hard running, attacking guile and defensive effort.

73. Leighton Baines, Everton

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 81.2

    Leighton Baines' year ended on a bit of a bum note as he fractured his toe, but his importance to Everton's 2013 successes can not be understated.

    As left-backs go, he's the cream of the crop when it comes to goal returns, assists and cross accuracy, serving up ball after ball on a plate for his plethora of strikers on show.

    He dominates the left-hand touchline and creates havoc with the "underlap" run into the penalty area of the attack—coaches should be showing tape of Baines to those who are learning their trade.

     

72. Arda Turan, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 81.4

    Arda Turan's rise over the course of 2013 has been astounding and, in many ways, he epitomises everything good about Atletico Madrid.

    He's grown with the club and blossomed into a world-class terror. In 2012 he was a shadow of the player he is today, transforming from a safe and inconsistent outlet to a dagger in opposing managers' sides.

    His direct running with the ball at his feet, aggressive dribbling and confidence in forcing the issue impressed when assessing him. He is Diego Simeone's No. 2 threat behind the mercurial Diego Costa.

71. Everton Ribeiro, Cruzeiro

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 81.4

    Cruzeiro’s Everton Ribeiro enjoyed a stellar season for A Raposa as they dominated the 2013 Brasileirao campaign, clinching the title by 11 points.

    Operating as the right-sided attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, the 24-year-old hit the net seven times and laid on 11 more on his way to claiming the CBF’s Player of the Season award.

    Premier League champions Manchester United are reported to be interested, and the player, via Sky Sports, admitted in an interview that he would welcome the chance to play for the Red Devils.

70. Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 81.6

    If the top 100 consistent players of 2013 were to be ranked, Pablo Zabaleta may just be No. 1.

    It's difficult to remember the last bad game he had, and even when Manchester City lose, he puts in a solid 7/10 performance that keeps the right flank nice and solid.

    His tracking of runners, commitment to chasing back and stamina in getting up and down the pitch account for much of his talent, but he's also a wise player; he rarely makes a bad choice on the pitch.

    It is truly remarkable how high a percentage of his bursts forward end in goals for the team.

69. Marquinhos, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 81.8

    Marquinhos, at 19 years of age, has already cost a cumulative €36 million.

    He arrived at Roma last season from Corinthians after just a handful of senior appearances, and while Zdenek Zeman made a lot of mistakes during his second tenure at the club, he did have the sense to start this Brazilian early and often.

    Over the course of 2013, he's made huge strides and in moving to Paris Saint-Germain has shouldered the responsibility of being the fifth most expensive defender in history.

    His instincts are superb, he transitions to wide areas expertly and holds his position well. Bulk up a little, without losing speed, and he'll be as imposing as he is technical.

     

68. Blaise Matuidi, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfield

    Score: 82

    Much of the attention in Paris is awarded to the the team's attacking starlets, but Blaise Matuidi is a key cog in midfield and plays a huge role in maintaining this side's dominance.

    He's a physical specimen, but unlike players such as Mohamed Diame, he's also developing an elite, composed skill set and uses it efficiently.

    Matuidi breaks up play brilliantly, shuttles forward with confidence and guards his zones with competency; his stamina is borderline unrivalled, able to go at full speed for hours.

67. Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund

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    Position: Surging centre-back

    Score: 82.1

    It's been a chequered year for Mats Hummels, who's battled increasing doubters, lapses in concentration and a succession of injuries throughout 2013.

    At one stage he was regarded as one of the finest centre-backs in world football thanks to his strength, size and ball-playing skills that initiate attacks. Now some are wondering if he's even in the top 10 in his position.

    He's fantastic on the ground but suspect in the air, can put together 89 minutes of excellence but let one ball roll and concede a fatal goal. In short, he's frustrating and extremely difficult to gauge.

66. James Rodriguez, Monaco

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 82.3

    James Rodriguez has been a consistent menace to defences all year.

    The pressure was on following a big-money move from FC Porto to Monaco, but he's already secured himself two goals and seven assists to prove he can handle the adulation and extra attention.

    His agility, top-end speed and goalscoring threat make him a problem for defences moving inside or out, and after starting his career as a No. 10, he's naturally adept at taking the ball into the central zones.

    At 22, he's already the spark for Colombia's high-powered national team, signalling some future in the game for him.

     

65. Dario Conca, Guangzhou Evergrande

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    Position: False Nine/Deep-lying forward

    Score: 82.5

    Dario Conca, once a much-maligned figure for taking such a huge salary in moving from Brazil to East Asia, has been delivering masterclasses up front all year long.

    As B/R's Chris Atkins notes, manager Marcello Lippi has installed a certain tactical discipline in the side and that's sourced in their clever forwards.

    Conca played the false-nine role perfectly in the Asian Champions League final, using his guile, movement and link-up ability to great effect.

     

64. Oscar, Chelsea

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 82.6

    Oscar arrived at Stamford Bridge last season facing an uphill battle to breach the starting XI, but his hard work, commitment and incredible natural fitness have seen him rise to the top.

    Jose Mourinho now favours him as his designated No. 10 ahead of the mercurial Juan Mata and his faith has been rewarded by a string of great showings from the Brazilian.

    The former Internacional man is a great technician, possesses a strong shot and remains incredibly unselfish in his play despite his obvious talent.

    He's also incredibly versatile—a major plus-point for us—and can play deeper in midfield (in a three), behind the striker or on either side.

63. Isco, Real Madrid

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 82.6

    Isco excelled for Malaga at the beginning of 2013 and, after ripping teams to shreds at the U21 European Championships in Israel this summer, transferred to Real Madrid for a cool €30 million.

    His talent is obvious, undeniable; his agility in tight spaces, outrageous first touch and sublime technique wow spectators on a weekly basis, and despite being just 21 years of age has truly accepted the mantle a Blancos playmaker must take up.

    He can play a little deeper in a 4-3-3 or in the hole/out wide in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He graded out highest for his vision and creativity in our metric.

     

62. Carlos Vela, Real Sociedad

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 82.8

    Carlos Vela has finally found a settled platform for him to grow and excel on in the Basque country—so much so that he hopes Arsenal don't activate his buy-back clause any time soon, as per the Daily Mail.

    His driving runs and darts into space have become a big feature in la Real's play now, and coach Jagoba Arrasate has wisely built a team around the Mexican forward.

    He may be lacking in size, but the fast-paced attack he's been placed in brings out all of his strengths.

61. Lars Bender, Bayer Leverkusen

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    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 83

    Arsenal had the right idea in showing interest in Lars Bender this summer (via the Daily Mail), and while the Gunners may have outgrown the German thanks to Aaron Ramsey's dominance, most other Premier League clubs should be taking notes.

    If he can add goals to his game, he becomes the complete midfielder, and even without a scoring threat, he offers energy, leadership, defensive nous and tactical awareness.

    He can break forward and move vertically with the ball, challenge aerially and reshape a team. The state Bayer Leverkusen can find themselves in when Bender is missing is astonishing.

60. Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 83.2

    Cesc Fabregas is having one hell of a 2013-14 season so far, but the focus will fall on whether or not he maintains this level for the second half.

    He started the last campaign in scintillating form but dropped off alarmingly, and while injuries played a part, a one-month leg ailment cannot account for five months of disappointment.

    His passing range is looking exceptional in Gerardo Martino's vertical system and many of Lionel Messi's goals under the new regime have come from clever 20-yard-plus balls through the centre from Cesc.

    He's serviceable when filling in up front, but he's at his very best when playing the hybrid CM/AMC role. More of the same, Cesc!

     

59. Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 83.3

    Angel Di Maria is supposedly angling for a move away from Real Madrid this winter, and if the club are foolish enough to sanction it, they'll be upsetting their fans yet again.

    The Argentine has been largely excellent throughout his time in the Spanish capital, providing an excellent mirror threat to Cristiano Ronaldo and emerging with key contributions at key times.

    His raw pace, eye for goal, superb dribbling skills and good crossing ability make him an ideal fit on either flank in any role. We love that versatility.

58. Juan Cuadrado, Fiorentina

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    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 83.3

    There are few more terrifying sights than that of Juan Guillermo Cuadrado tearing towards you with the ball at his feet. His speed, close control and weaving dribbling ability make him an absolute nightmare in open space.

    Vincenzo Montella has moved him around to great effect, and while we've graded him as a winger (because that's where's playing now), he plays his best football as a wing-back galloping into space.

    The only way to stop him is to limit his space—even then, he's still supremely dangerous.

57. Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 83.5

    Sergio Ramos is a red card threat in every game he plays, but that shouldn't detract from the fact he is a world-class defender who remains one of the most versatile in the game.

    He’s played so many roles and boasts such all-round talent, he might well be able to play in any position—be it right-back or centre-forward—and excel, combining composure, technique, poise and dedication.

    He’s been by far the most consistent Blancos centre-back over the course of the year (though none have been immense), and what impressed us the most was his aerial prowess (spring), aggression and leadership skills in the line.

56. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Borussia Dortmund

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    Position: Traditional Winger

    Score: 83.7

    For a more "traditional" looking winger to reach the top of the modern game, there's a certain set of extra requirements they now need to reach.

    Ultimately, if you can't cut in and shoot on goal, a large portion of managers aren't interested in utilising you, but Jakub Blaszczykowski combines speed, work-rate and strong short passing with the regular elements of his game.

    Juergen Klopp created a Polish connection between Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, and their dove-tailing on the right for Borussia Dortmund is a special sight in full flow.

    "Kuba" has an excellent cross, good top-end speed and puts the hard yards in.

55. Hugo Campagnaro, Internazionale

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    Position: Surging centre-back

    Score: 83.7

    Hugo Campagnaro has been one of the most consistent, influential and impactful centre-backs in world football this year, yet he receives very little credit outside of Italian and Argentine circles.

    Walter Mazzarri has linked up with him in Milan after enjoying a fruitful relationship with him at Napoli, and he's instantly become the No. 1 centre-back on Internazionale's roster.

    Campagnaro is solid aerially and strong in the challenge, but his true value comes in his surging forward and influencing the attack.

54. Ivan Rakitic, Sevilla

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    Position: Central midfield

    Score: 83.8

    Sevilla have had a questionable calendar year thanks to a revolving door policy in the transfer window, but Ivan Rakitic has been a consistent machine in the middle of midfield.

    He originally made his name as a No. 10, but his overall game has now expanded and covers every blade of grass on the pitch.

    He retains great technique and a strong shot from distance but has added dogged determination, hard work, tracking and tidy play in deeper areas.

    He is one of three recent Rojiblancos stars who are still with the club.

53. Daniele De Rossi, Roma

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 84

    Daniele De Rossi has been a key figure in a still-unbeaten Roma side this year with 16 appearances under his belt in Serie A.

    He was dropped in late 2012 but brought back into the fold at the beginning of the calendar year and has rejected multiple moves abroad to stay with his beloved Giallorossi.

    They're reaping the benefits of his loyalty and, since returning, he has settled back into his usual commanding, destructive role; he's the midfield general everyone craves, capable of breaking up attacks and passing majestically in the same motion.

    He's the complete player: guile, core strength, feistiness and immense footballing IQ.

52. Robin Van Persie, Manchester United

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 84.2

    Robin van Persie's move to Manchester United was a risk for both parties, but it's paid off handsomely to the tune of a Premier League title.

    He's largely shunned the injury tag that's haunted him for so long (despite finishing the year with an ailment) and struck an immediate partnership with Wayne Rooney.

    He and the England international began dovetailing, interchanging and swapping to great effect, which in turn brought RvP's best attributes—his clever movement and ability to finish from any angle—to the fore.

    The Dutchman's clever stance on the game will ensure he remains at the top level for several more years to come.

51. Carlos Martinez, Real Soceidad

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 84.3

    It's very possible that Carlos Martinez has been La Liga's best right-back over the last 12 months.

    He stepped up time and time again for Real Sociedad in the race for a Champions League spot last season and often made the club's suspect defence look a lot better than it was.

    He combines strong discipline with great reading of the game and a well-rounded physical skill set. La Real started the new campaign slowly but have picked up significantly in recent weeks, and it should come as no surprise to see Martinez performing out of skin to close out 2013.

     

50. Per Mertesacker, Arsenal

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 84.5

    Per Mertesacker was the subject of a deadline-day panic spree from Arsene Wenger several years ago but, in time, the transfer has more than paid dividends.

    Laurent Koscielny draws much of the attention thanks to his all-action displays, but he partners a German anchor whose leadership and positional skills allow him to go searching for the ball.

    Mertesacker is probably the slowest player in our top 100, but he's so clever that he makes up for his physical flaws. He's landed the perfect partner in Koscielny and their games bring the best out in each other.

49. Samir Handanovic, Internazionale

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 84.6

    Samir Handanovic has emerged as one of the finest shot-stoppers on the planet, thanks to his incredible reflexes and braveness on the line.

    He was a bargain acquisition from Udinese—a veritable talent line in North-East Italy—and has stepped up the task of performing consistently for one of the world's biggest clubs.

    The praise he so often deserves continues to evade him in most parts of the world, but here we honour the best goalkeeper in Serie A right now with a lofty spot.

48. Mehdi Benatia, Roma

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 84.7

    Mehdi Benatia has shot to prominence as the leader of a stellar Roma defensive line, but in truth he's been consistently excellent for years now.

    At the Olimpico, he is already beloved, filling in for former golden boy Marquinhos and bringing some stability and command to Rudi Garcia's defence.

    His reading of the game is exceptional, allowing him to snuff out attacks early on and turn them into counter-attacks. He's been the staple in a Giallorossi defence that has conceded just seven goals this season.

47. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Borussia Moenchengladbach

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 84.9

    It seems Marc-Andre Ter Stegen's days at Borussia Moenchengladbach are numbered, as a decision from the goalkeeper over a potential move to Barcelona is to be made soon, as per Football Espana.

    He is currently ranked as Kicker's third-best shot-stopper in the Bundesliga and, despite heavy speculation over his future, his performances have rarely dropped.

    Many will remember Ter Stegen for his gaffe on international duty for Germany, but those who watch him regularly see a fine 'keeper on the cusp of world-class status.

    He plays with his feet, saves a large percentage of penalties and possesses insane reflexes.

46. Xavi, Barcelona

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    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 85.1

    Xavi is in decline, and Gerardo Martino's vertical attacking system is shortening his lifespan in this Barcelona side, but he's still a magnificent footballer.

    He's being phased out and marginalised so we're seeing less of him, but when we do grab a glimpse, he's his same old self: controlled, calm, majestic, setting the tempo and inspiring his teammates.

    The Spanish international legend will be a key part of his country's assault on consecutive World Cup wins next summer, but closer to home, he's losing the battle to Cesc Fabregas.

45. Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 85.2

    As confirmed by UEFA, Diego Godin signed a new contract to extend his stay at Atletico Madrid until 2018 in November. For Diego Simeone and for fans of the proud capital club, that's music to the ears.

    Godin has settled in and become a leader in a well-organised, disciplined back four that concede very few goals. Partnering up with Miranda, he's been excellent and their solidity is a big factor in the full-backs bombing forward in such consistent, attacking fashion.

    Godin takes no prisoners and tackles firmly but also boasts tactical nous to see him through against the roughest and toughest of opponents.

44. Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 85.2

    Thibaut Courtois' rapid progression has caught most by surprise—and left Chelsea in a very uncomfortable position.

    Stick with tried-and-trusted Petr Cech and risk upsetting the Belgian shot-stopper or make the switch this summer when he returns from his third successive loan spell at Atletico Madrid?

    In some ways Courtois still has a lot to learn and it's a risk because he does get by with the help of his ridiculous spread-eagled frame. But his reflexes are fantastic and he's comfortable claiming crosses, so all the tangible skills are catching up.

    Wouldn't want to be Jose Mourinho in this situation.

43. Paul Pogba, Juventus

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    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 85.2

    Upon receiving his FIFA Golden Boy Award, Paul Pogba told Tuttosport, via Football-Italia, that it really had been a "golden year" for him.

    At just 20, he's won a Serie A title with Juventus, broken into the French first team and won the U20 FIFA World Cup—not bad for 12 months' work, huh?

    When released in a box-to-box role, he is a scary prospect, with great physical strength and speed accompanying sublime ball control and shooting skills.

    He's also deputised as a regista in place of Andrea Pirlo and performed admirably, but it's when he's allowed to stretch his legs that he does the most damage.

42. Yaya Toure, Manchester City

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    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 85.3

    You probably thought it impossible, but Yaya Toure actually appears to be getting better and better under Manuel Pellegrini.

    With a rock-solid midfield partner in place, the Ivorian can stretch his legs and bust out galloping runs with the ball, intimidating opponents and putting goalkeepers on edge.

    He's added a scintillating free-kick delivery to his already complete game, and when he combines all the elements on one fateful day, he's unstoppable, unrivalled.

    At the time of writing, he's already scored 11 goals this season. Phenomenal.

41. Radamel Falcao, Monaco

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    Position: Poacher

    Score: 85.4

    Radamel Falcao graded out as our highest poacher by a distance, and when it comes to sticking the ball in the back of the net with reliability, there really are none better.

    Diego Simeone actively limited the Colombian's touches of the ball outside of the final third while he was at Atletico Madrid, instead preferring to keep him fresh nearer the goal.

    His finishing is fantastic in and around the 18-yard box, his heading is top-notch and he's surprisingly strong given his smaller stature.

    In terms of movement and goal return, he's up there with the very best.

     

40. Alessio Cerci, Torino

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 85.5

    Alessio Cerci: Ever the reliable outlet for Torino in 2013 yet often (cruelly) left out of the conversation regarding Serie A's top players of the year.

    He's been tried in an assortment of positions, but he's at his best when playing off a big striker (Ciro Immobile) that allows him to drop into pockets of space and get his foot on the ball.

    He's bagged nine goals and seven assists already this season, with most coming from that free role up front. Playing him as a prima punta or a wide man just doesn't do his skill set, or ability to influence games, justice.

39. Filipe Luis, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 85.6

    Filipe Luis, at 28 years of age, has officially turned the corner and become a world-class full-back.

    If it weren't for Marcelo's near-telepathic connection with Neymar, he'd be waltzing to a starting berth for Brazil, but right now he has to make do with a bench role, despite having a better all-round game.

    Filipe originally made his name as a flamboyant left-back capable of storming the wings and adding quality to the final third. Now, with time, he's completed his skill-set and subscribes to Diego Simeone's solid outlook at Atletico Madrid.

     

38. Francesco Totti, Roma

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 85.8

    Some of you may have noticed, some of you haven't, but Francesco Totti is still a key cog in a Roma machine turning some heads this season.

    The Giallorossi were all over the place at the start of the 2012-13 season—Zdenek Zeman produced a number of strange decisions that included exiling Daniele De Rossi—but Aurelio Andreazzoli restored them to their free-flowing best.

    It was there that Totti began to look world-class again, even at 37 years of age, and he's carried that form into the new season, only to be halted by a hamstring injury.

    Movement, link-up, creativity, vision, technique and finishing: His full complement of skills mask his lack of physical ability.

37. Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 86

    Laurent Koscielny graded out as our highest defender and centre-back in the Premier League 100 this season, and while a few early slip-ups put that decision under the microscope, he's come good now.

    He's toned down his aggression and let his qualitative attributes shine through: He's an exceptional reader of the game, transitions into wide areas superbly and has the pace to track speedy forwards.

    Stepping out of defence to influence play, there are few better and he's averaging a very tidy 92.1 percent pass completion percentage by keeping things sensible and simple.

    He really has enjoyed a spectacular calendar year.

36. Marek Hamsik, Napoli

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 86

    Whether it's Walter Mazzarri or Rafa Benitez, Marek Hamsik is the gift that just keeps on giving.

    He's a goal machine, pure and simple, and has been since he broke into the Partenopei first team in 2007. His repertoire from range is astounding, capable of hitting grass-cutters and bullets from anywhere within 30 yards.

    In space he's a real playmaker and wows the crowd with his technique, but when things get tight, he can struggle to make an impact; that's where we marked him down.

35. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

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    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 86.1

    Aaron Ramsey is capping off the finest calendar year of his young career to date by a large margin, and it's great to see such a precocious talent find his feet after an injury-fuelled nightmare.

    Ramsey has been playing superbly since January 2013—his form did not pick up this season as many would believe—and deserves a top-40 ranking in our list.

    He was unleashed in his natural box-to-box role in February by Arsene Wenger, and his relocation to a favoured (central) position directly coincided with an incredible run of form from the Gunners that hasn't really halted.

    All he needed to be noticed was goals and he's already scored 10.

34. Javi Martinez, Bayern Munich

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfield

    Score: 86.3

    Javi Martinez enjoyed a blockbuster 2012-13 season.

    His attitude was spot on, able to ignore the pressures of a Bundesliga-record €40 million transfer from Athletic Bilbao and play his best football from an early standpoint.

    He got progressively better, and more monstrous, as the season went on, and many will remember the incredible, game-changing job he did in nullifying Andres Iniesta during Bayern Munich's crushing 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona.

    Under Pep Guardiola, he's struggled to find himself a role, cameoing at centre-back in preseason and even as a No. 10 in the Bundesliga. With increased competition and injury issues, Martinez has found it tough going, but he remains a premier defensive midfielder in world football.

33. Koke, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 86.3

    Koke has spent 2013 outlining not only his incredible talent but also his immense versatility.

    He slots in wherever Diego Simeone asks him to—be it in central midfield, behind the striker or on the flank—and performs with great consistency and determination.

    What impressed us most when grading him was his tactical awareness no matter which position he plays, his stamina and his defensive nous. 

    With Atletico Madrid scoring goals for fun, it's easy to forget this is a hard-nosed team built in their manager's image and Koke is a vital part of that outlook.

     

32. Mario Mandzukic, Bayern Munich

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 86.4

    It takes a special kind of striker to displace goal-machine Mario Gomez, but Mario Mandzukic took advantage of the German's injury troubles and made himself indispensable.

    He's a hulking target man, dominant in the air and incredibly accurate in heading the ball; he gives die Bayern an added element in attack—when pretty football fails, "Mandzu" is always there to take a longer pass and distribute with ease.

    His understanding of midfield runners is also extremely impressive, and his partnership with Thomas Mueller in particular (last season) should be taped and shown to aspiring footballers.

    His ranking takes a hit as, since Pep Guardiola took the reins, he's not been an automatic selection and doesn't look 100 percent happy.

31. Miranda, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Central defender

    Score: 86.5

    Miranda's great form for Atletico Madrid landed him in our Champions League Team of the Group Stages, but it's really been an impressive 2013 overall for the Brazilian.

    He is, perhaps cruelly, still a fair way away from landing a spot in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, but Diego Simeone will be hoping that motivation serves him well for the second half of the season.

    Miranda is physical, imposing and confident in executing the basics. In a word, he is solid.

30. Borja Valero, Fiorentina

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    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 86.8

    Borja Valero has had an absolutely magnificent year.

    Despite Vincenzo Montella's many changes to his formation and personnel over the past 12 months at Fiorentina, Valero has provided a consistent, elite outlet of creativity, passing excellence and goalscoring threat.

    He's so cool on the ball, it's insane and many are calling for him to be inducted into the Spain squad to inject some fluidity and freshness into a set-up going stale.

    He never loses it, always provides an option and can open up the defences in the blink of an eye. He is fully deserving of this lofty rank.

29. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 87

    Wayne Rooney, willing or not, is an incredibly versatile player who can solve almost any mini-crisis.

    He ended the 2012-13 season in central midfield and, despite being a naturalised striker, was pinging passes around for fun and finding his outlets with ease.

    Under David Moyes, he's been carrying Manchester United, saving the team multiple times in the absence of Robin van Persie and has already scored 10 goals.

    His movement, link-up play, passing range and finishing are all outstanding.

28. Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 87

    Atletico Madrid fans were concerned this summer after losing Radamel Falcao to Monaco, but fortunately Diego Costa saw it as a big opportunity—and seized it.

    He'd already been playing well, and character concerns aside, had emerged as a near-world-class threat during the second half of the 2012-13 season with los Colchoneros.

    He scored 13 goals with Falcao in the side and, at the time of writing, has 23 from just 19 appearances now the Colombian has left.

    In particular, we loved Costa's immense athleticism, predatory skills and clever movement; he's the complete, all-round, perfect target striker.

27. Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Position: Target man

    Score: 87.3

    Edinson Cavani was the subject of much interest this summer, but Paris Saint-Germain won the race and signed him for a whopping €64 million.

    Pairing him with Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been a delight for the capital club, and Laurent Blanc has figured out a way to play both of his star strikers and receive production from each.

    Cavani has settled into a wide forward's role—although we've graded him as a target man in order to give him the highest possible score—and while some were surprised he could settle there, he's used to the role from his Serie A days.

    Walter Mazzarri, then-manager of Napoli, would move him wide with frequency mid-game as he switched formations. He's repaid PSG with 14 goals from 16 starts and there's plenty more to come.

26. Neymar, Barcelona

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    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 87.4

    There are few players in world football who come under more scrutiny than Neymar, but that's the career you live out when you're a €55 million man charged with leading your country to impending World Cup glory.

    So far he's done a fine job of relieving Lionel Messi in this Barcelona attack, and while he's capable of playing as a centre-forward, we're grading him as a wide forward to optimise his score.

    His agility in tight spaces, eye for goal and immense dribbling skills have been on show on a weekly basis in Europe now, and trust us when we say he was the doing the same things for Santos in the Brasileiro Serie A at the start of the year.

     

25. David Alaba, Bayern Munich

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    Position: Full-back

    Score: 87.6

    Over the course of 2013, David Alaba has established himself as the world's best left-back.

    At the age of just 21, he's developed all the necessary skills to excel in the position, despite training as a natural central midfielder. There are few able to match his physicality and he's an absolute machine with the ball at his feet.

    His excellent crossing ability stems from the original passing range he developed as a youngster playing in the centre, and his ability to link with Franck Ribery makes them near-impossible to stop.

     

24. Gareth Bale, Real Madrid

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    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 87.6

    In 2013, Gareth Bale really came alive for Tottenham Hotspur. It was his post-Christmas form, yielding an incredible 17 goals in all competitions, that convinced Real Madrid to shell out a world-record fee for him.

    After a rocky first two games at the Bernabeu, he adapted seamlessly and his record currently stands at nine goals from 11 starts in a Blancos shirt.

    He's typically playing opposite Cristiano Ronaldo as a wide forward, and his searing pace, rasping long shot and free-kick prowess tick all the boxes with the crowd.

    Combine that with high-level decision-making and raw athletic ability, and you've got a match made in heaven.

23. Dante, Bayern Munich

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    Position: Ball-playing centre-back

    Score: 87.7

    Dante is a true late bloomer.

    The 2011-12 season with Borussia Moenchengladbach, when he was 29 years of age, was the first that really showcased his talents and Bayern Munich had no hesitations in snapping him up for a bargain €5 million.

    Since then he's made huge strides forward, winning a historic treble in his first season and providing the one true consistent outlet at centre-back for Jupp Heynckes.

    His anticipation and positioning, good size and prowess on the ball make him a complete defender.

22. Sergio Busquets, Barcelona

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    Position: Anchor defensive midfield

    Score: 87.9

    When you're looking to assess defensive midfielders, statistics can be misleading.

    Sergio Busquets is one of the finest players in world football, but on the stats sheet, he doesn't even come close to an average La Liga guy such as Roberto Trashorras.

    Why? Busquets spots danger and nullifies it without touching the ball, and if you're searching for the epitome of anticipation, positioning and, above all else, raw defensive instincts, this is the prototype.

    Not only is he a monster in breaking up play, but his passing between the lines is becoming key to the way Barcelona are evolving as a team. He also has the height to challenge aerials and unlimited composure on the ball.

     

21. Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich

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    Position: Sweeper 'Keeper

    Score: 88.1

    World football coaches and managers are now pointing at Manuel Neuer as the prototype for the modern goalkeeper to follow.

    His ability stepping off his line, sweeping up behind the defence and claiming aerial balls to relieve pressure is unrivalled, and it breathes confidence into his side knowing he is so capable—even with the ball at his feet.

    He's become a tactical tool, used against Barcelona to alleviate the pressing game Tito Vilanova employed in the Champions League last season, and his reflexes top the charts.

20. Andres Iniesta, Barcelona

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    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 88.2

    Barcelona may not have convinced everyone so far this season under Gerardo Martino, but Andres Iniesta is having yet another superb season.

    He appears ageless, timeless; teams have no reply to the way he glides between challenges and jinks his way through a tangling of desperate legs. His touch, technique, dribbling and agility are borderline unrivalled in the ranks of football.

    He’s been as reliable ever, and after signing a new deal with la Blaugrana until 2018, clearly has no plans to slow down just yet.

19. Andrea Barzagli, Juventus

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    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 88.3

    Want to know a little secret? Andrea Barzagli, a €400,000 pick-up from Wolfsburg, is the glue that holds one the world's best defences together.

    The Italian reads the game like few others currently playing, and if it weren't for his tactical nous and immense foresight for danger, the struggles of Giorgio Chiellini—who hasn't had a great year and isn't in our top 100—would have been under the microscope.

    He scored 90/100 in his anticipation and positional skill, carrying him to a strong position in the rankings.

18. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 88.5

    Mesut Ozil traded Spain for North London this summer, opting to leave Real Madrid following the arrival of Gareth Bale and become top dog elsewhere.

    Cristiano Ronaldo bemoaned the departure of the German, suggesting Ozil had been his prime creator and possessed a deep understanding of his movements and runs.

    It's high praise, but it's fully justified: Ozil is a wizard on the ball, and his manipulation of space, steady feet and incredible technique earned him a very high ranking here after another superb year's work.

    The £42 million fee it took to bring him to Arsenal doesn't appear to have inhibited him, and he's already registered five goals and nine assists for his new team.

17. Toni Kroos, Bayern Munich

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    Position: No. 10

    Score: 88.5

    Toni Kroos is adored by Bayern Munich fans but often doesn't get the credit he deserves from the rest of the world.

    He can hit a stinger from distance and does so with regularity at key moments, while he's also physical enough to drop a little deeper and pick up a flat CM position in a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1.

    His versatility is important for Pep Guardiola's system and Kroos appears to have won plenty of favour with his new coach, but what impressed us the most is his ability to engineer and find space outside the box.

     

16. Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund

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    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 88.7

    Now Mario Goetze is gone, Marco Reus has become the go-to guy for Borussia Dortmund in attack.

    He's responded to that pressure, and while Robert Lewandowski is a constant goal threat up front, Reus alleviates that burden by chipping in with regularity.

    With nine goals and six assists already, he's picked up where he left off last season, and there are few players in world football better than Reus with the ball at his feet.

    He's quick, he's agile, he's got one hell of a shot and he's tough to tackle; a superb player all-round.

     

15. Andrea Pirlo, Juventus

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Position: Regista

    Score: 88.8

    Andrea Pirlo is a wonderful player who truly graces the turf during games.

    He plays a rather regal role deep in midfield, orchestrating from the back as a regista, where his passing range, composure and creativity leap to the fore.

    He is, however, underrated in one key area: tackling. Many associate him solely with attacking play, but he's positionally superb and gets the job done in every department.

     

14. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Harry Engels/Getty Images

    Position: Target man

    Score: 89

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had yet another fine season, with perhaps the only disappointment being Sweden's failure to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    Like a fine cheese, he seemingly gets better with age, and the Zlatan we see before us represents the complete, modern striker who is capable of turning a game on its head in an instant.

    He has deadly ability from any range, boasts immaculate close control and has forged a wonderful striking partnership with new colleague Edinson Cavani.

    Ibra is a big reason why Paris Saint-Germain can win the Champions League this year.

13. Mario Goetze, Bayern Munich

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 89.3

    Mario Goetze has been one of 2013's biggest storylines.

    Having built up a head of steam for Borussia Dortmund in the early part of the year, Bayern Munich decided to poach him for €37 million—right on the eve of the Champions League final between the two clubs.

    He was unable to participate due to a hamstring tear, but BVB clearly missed him on the day; his silky skills, perfect passing and raw agility make him an ideal fit for the No. 10 role in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and his eye for goal improves with every month.

    The man Dortmund fans now call "Judas" scored against them on his return to Signal Iduna Park in November.

12. Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 89.5

    With all the mercurial talent on show at Bayern Munich and the club's "Guardiolafication" during the summer, it's easy to forget about the honest, hard-working, reliable Thomas Mueller.

    He embodies everything good about die Bayern's rise to the top in recent years, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better at interlinking from the wide areas and interchanging with forwards.

    His partnership with Mario Mandzukic was a joy to watch under Jupp Heynckes; now under Pep, his understanding with Arjen Robben has reached new levels.

    Don't underestimate what the industrious Mueller brings to this side.

11. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 89.7

    Bastian Schweinsteiger has been battling injuries and fatigue for several seasons now yet still manages to turn in top-class performances when it really matters.

    When he's on his game, there are no more complete central midfielders than him, boasting an all-round set of defensive and attacking skills that impacts both ends of the pitch.

    His positional discipline was key to Bayern Munich's victories in the latter stages of the Champions League, and he's learnt to take better care of his body following a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign.

10. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 89.7

    Sergio Aguero has enjoyed a phenomenal start to the new season, scoring 22 goals from 20 starts in Manuel Pellegrini's high-powered attack.

    His ability to dip in and out of the forward line, play on the shoulder and link with his midfielders allowed him to score well on our metric, and his new-found heading ability makes him a better player than he was 12 months ago.

    When he's all healed up from injury, he's primed to take 2014—and the World Cup—by storm.

     

     

9. Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain

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    Harry Engels/Getty Images

    Position: Ball-playing centre-back

    Score: 89.8

    Thiago Silva is the world's best centre-back and one of very few in his position to be considered world class.

    He graded out obscenely well in every category we set for his role, with his landmark strength being his immense positioning, anticipation, reading of the game and reaction times.

    The former Milan man is also a near-perfect technician in the tackle, ranking as our finest out of every available candidate, while his passing is also extremely reliable.

     

8. Lionel Messi, Barcelona

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Position: False Nine

    Score: 89.9

    Lionel Messi has had a down year, no doubt about it, but when he returns to full fitness he will challenge for the top spot again.

    Injuries have slowed him down and limited his effectiveness at two key points in the year and, if anything, his importance has been severely underlined by his absence at times.

    Barca were removed from the Champions League last season with ease while carrying an unfit Messi, and la Blaugrana's lead at the top of La Liga has slipped while soldiering on without him this time around.

    His movement, link-up, technique, touch and finishing skills are elite. He will return as strong as ever soon enough.

7. Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Position: Target man

    Score: 90

    Robert Lewandowski's exploits this season have been a game-changer for target strikers everywhere.

    His all-round game is simply phenomenal, combining good size and strength in the air with quality movement and elite understanding of how midfield runners work.

    He drops deep and wide with ease, creates pockets of space for midfielders to hit at pace and scores an obscene amount of goals to boot. There is no striker who had a better 2013 when it comes to linking play and manipulating space.

    He's scored 15 goals from 22 starts this season so far, picking up right where he left off in the last campaign.

6. Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich

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    Epsilon/Getty Images

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 90.2

    Arjen Robben has completed the most almighty of comebacks in 2013, going from a peripheral figure at Bayern Munich to a Champions League final goalscorer and winner.

    He struggled with injuries at the start of the 2012-13 season and lost his place on a permanent basis to Thomas Mueller. After the Bundesliga resumed from its winter break and he was still sat on the bench, fears began to arise than the Dutchman's time in Bavaria was done.

    But he came storming back following an injury to Toni Kroos and on his return against Juventus displayed every part of his game that makes him so valuable: searing pace, wonderful technique, great dribbling ability and an unstoppable long shot.

    He's only gotten better, learning to change positions mid-move and passes more regularly. What a weapon.

5. Arturo Vidal, Juventus

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 90.4

    Arturo Vidal has kicked on and improved with every season since moving to Europe in 2007, and Bayern Munich's loss has turned out to be Juventus' serious gain over the past two years.

    The Chilean is, undoubtedly, one of the finest midfielders in the game, combining immense energy and tenacity with strong tackling and genuine attacking output.

    His ability to shuttle forward and create with the ball at his feet is getting better and better, and he's already chimed in with 11 goals this season. Outstanding.

4. Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 90.7

    Franck Ribery's year has been so impressive there are cast-iron arguments in favour of him winning the Ballon d'Or.

    It's a testament to the improvements he's made over the last 18 months, while Jupp Heynckes' work with him in particular has allowed him to trouble the upper echelons of the footballing conversation.

    He's an attacking dynamo; fast as you like, lethal cutting inside to shoot and capable of dancing his way to the byline. But he's also learned the other side of the game and now combines with David Alaba superbly in addition to tracking back and helping.

    It would have been unthinkable at one stage, but Ribery is one of the most improved players on the planet.

3. Luis Suarez, Liverpool

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 90.9

    In a way, it feels like Luis Suarez is trying to make up for lost time.

    His biting ban at the tail-end of last season saw the Uruguayan enter the 2013-14 Premier League season late, but he's quickly risen to the top of the scoring charts after bagging an astonishing 19 goals in 12 games.

    He was in fine fettle before his campaign ended early in April and has essentially picked up where he left off. Perhaps that impressive stint with his national team at the 2013 Confederations Cup was a factor.

2. Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich

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    Alex Grimm/Getty Images

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 91.1

    Despite Philipp Lahm's recent cameos at holding midfield, we've opted to grade him as a full-back in the interest of fairness.

    That's not to say he wasn't excellent in midfield—he was!—but he played the majority of 2013 as a right-back and, of course, assumed that role throughout Bayern Munich's Champions League-winning run.

    It's arguable he has the best defensive skill-set of any full-back at the top of the game and provides die Bayern with immense balance and influence from the flank.

    His anticipation, reading of the game and positional instincts are all extremely valuable commodities.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 92.9

    Cristiano Ronaldo has enjoyed a phenomenal 2013 calendar year. Whatever your thoughts on the "Who's better: Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?" debate, it's undeniable that the Portuguese has had the finest 12 months in football.

    That he is still scoring more goals than he is playing games for Real Madrid (163 in 150) is just phenomenal, while his hat-trick in Solna to push Portugal into the 2014 FIFA World Cup was nothing short of marvelous.

    He grabbed scores of 96/100 for finishing, dribbling and pace, placing him at the very top of the pile. A Ballon d'Or awaits.

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