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Ranking the five best players in the world right now

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For much of the past two decades, there’s been a common consensus on who is the best footballer, or at least two players, in the world.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have collected Ballon d’Ors in record-breaking fashion, during a period in which two of the game’s all-time greats have gone head-to-head for team and individual honours.

Right now, things are less clear on who is football’s finest and as the Messi and Ronaldo era comes towards its end, who are the players vying to be anointed on the footballing throne?

We’ve attempted to rank the five best players in the world right now.

5. Rodri – Manchester City

Rodri’s run without a defeat inside 90 minutes for Manchester City has stretched to 14 months, over 400 days, and 70 games, an idea of his importance to the all-conquering Citizens.

The irreplaceable cog in the club’s winning machine, his role as City’s conductor at the base of the midfield helped lead the club to treble success under Pep Guardiola last season. His manager’s love of midfielders is well-documented and in Rodri he has the perfect player to execute his game plan, an anchor of presence, poise and faultless distribution.

Each of City’s defeats this season has come in his absence, with Rodri leaving a Black Hole-sized void in the engine room whenever he is missing. He breaks up attacks, starts them, and has a welcome habit of delivering crucial goals in big moments, the winner in the Champions League final among them.

4. Harry Kane – Bayern Munich

Harry Kane decided to leave his home comforts of Tottenham for Germany last summer, a transfer designed to help him win the game’s biggest honours. A disappointing Bundesliga season for Bayern Munich should not detract from the goalscoring brilliance of Kane, who has shattered records in Bavaria.

After scoring 30 league goals in a poor Tottenham team last season, Kane has set new standards in a Bayern shirt. No player has ever scored more goals in their debut Bundesliga season than Kane, who has averaged a goal every 79 minutes this season, and has 35 for the season and counting.

Just six short from Robert Lewandowski’s record for a single season, Kane has more than doubled the 16 goals scored by last season’s Bundesliga top scorers, Christopher Nkunku and Niclas Fullkrug, and needed just 11 games to surpass that total.

🏟 43 games
⚽️ 43 goals
🅰️ 11 assists

Harry Kane is dropping one of the greatest debut seasons of all time 🤯 pic.twitter.com/ehvxp7FruW

— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) April 30, 2024

Comfortably clear in the race for the European Golden Shoe, he looks set to become only the second Englishman to win the award.

3. Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

Jude Bellingham might be hogging the headlines at Real Madrid this season but it is Vinicius Junior who head coach Carlo Ancelotti has called the best in the world. Not for the first time, Ancelotti placed that label on the Brazilian after his performance in a 4-0 thrashing of title rivals Girona in February.

The winger is electric at his best, able to slow and speed up the game to his desire. His ability to take players out of the game with dribbles and make intelligent decisions at high speed have seen Vinicius star on club football’s biggest stage.

Vinícius Júnior has now scored as many goals in the knockout rounds of the Champions League as he has in the group stages:

◎ Group stage: 27 games, 10 goals
◉ Knockout rounds: 27 games, 10 goals

Identical records. 🪞#UCL pic.twitter.com/0tIdmL2xlD

— Squawka (@Squawka) April 30, 2024

Since the start of the 2021/22 season, no player has provided goal involvements (31), assists (15), created more chances (66), or completed more take-ons (101) in the Champions League. Already, he’s the highest-scoring Brazilian in the UCL knockout round games, a staggering statistic given the calibre of his compatriots and that Vinicius is still just 23 years old.

2. Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

Kevin De Bruyne’s campaign has been punctuated with injuries this season, though when fit the brilliant Belgian has provided a reminder of his quality.

Incredibly, he has more assists across all competitions than any other player in the Premier League (15), despite featuring in only 39% of Manchester City’s games this season (21 appearances).

Since returning from his long lay-off, he leads Europe’s top five leagues for open-play key passes and expected assists per 90 minutes, while he needs only one more to move above Cesc Fabregas and into second for all-time assists in the Premier League.

Kevin De Bruyne has more assists in all competitions this season than any other Premier League player 🪄

That’s despite only playing 21 of @ManCity‘s 54 matches! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/bpkkvnRAUV

— Premier League (@premierleague) April 29, 2024

There’s arguably no player in world football as complete as De Bruyne right now. The 32-year-old is a magician.

1. Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain

Kylian Mbappe’s decision to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the summer is perhaps needed for the forward to be recognised as the game’s greatest. The sheer explosivity and excitement Mbappe brings, alongside a staggering sum of goals, has placed him in the conversation as world football’s finest talent, though reservations over Ligue 1’s competitiveness is a slight he hasn’t been able to shake.

Mbappe, however, has proven himself on the biggest stages, none more so than the 2022 World Cup. His eight goals were the joint-most scored in a World Cup since 1970, while a hat-trick in the final means no player has ever scored more final goals than Mbappe (4).

In the Champions League, he has entered the all-time top 10 goalscorers, even if the ultimate prize has proven to be elusive for Paris Saint-Germain’s record scorer.

Mbappé killed that 🥵🌟 pic.twitter.com/YaSBhLFzIe

— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) April 24, 2024

If he hasn’t already, an expected summer switch to Spain should provide the chance for a great talent to reach true greatness.

Read – Ranking the best young players in world football right now

See more – Five of the best young managers in world football right now

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