Top 50 Players in the World 2013: Part 2 – 40-31
Part 2 is heavily loaded with Bundesliga talent, and five of the ten currently ply their trade in the German top flight with either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.
View the longlist and voting process here.
40 Daniel Sturridge (► New Entry)
Liverpool and England
Since Luis Suarez’s arrival on Merseyside in 2011 he has spearheaded Liverpool’s attack alone. Players came and went but Suarez remained partner less. However there was hope for the Uruguayan when Liverpool prised Daniel Sturridge from the grip of Chelsea in January of this year. £12 million he cost, cheap for an English striker.
The twosome got off to a flyer – Sturridge bagged three goals in his first three appearances and was thriving in his preferred centre forward role. The Kop were having flashbacks of the Dalglish/Rush days and duly nicknamed their new strike force SAS. The 24-year-old scored 10 goals in 14 appearances last season, including his first career hat trick in a 3-1 win over Fulham.
Sturridge’s form this campaign has showed no signs of letting up either as he more than filled the void left by Suarez’s 10-match ban. The striker has scored nine in 12 this season, six of those coming in the season’s first five matches. He was awarded player of the month for September for his frighteningly good start to the season. His name has already been written in Liverpool’s illustrious history by becoming the quickest player to reach the 20-goal mark – achieving the feat in only 26 games.
His domestic exploits led to international recognition from Roy Hodgson who started Sturridge in England 4-1 victory over Montenegro a game in which he won and scored a penalty. He also started the 2-0 win over Poland.
The talismanic striker’s bright start to the campaign has been marred by an ankle injury that is likely to side-line him for up to eight weeks, much to the pleasure of the Premier League’s elite defenders and Liverpool’s domestic rivals.
39 Gianluigi Buffon (▼ 25th)
(Juventus and Italy)
Now 35, Buffon has enjoyed a characteristically successful year on both a club and international level. Kicking off 2013 in perfect style, by signing a new contract in January (keeping him at Juventus until 2015), Buffon has relished his role as commander of a mean Juve defence which has conceded only ten goals and kept eight clean sheets so far this term.
Nominated for the FIFA Goalkeeper of the year award yet again, Buffon’s massive 6”4 frame has been ever present for “The Old Lady”, as he reached the milestone of his 500th Serie A appearance in late November.
Helped along by a string of outstanding and domineering displays by Buffon “Il Bianconeri” rampaged to their second consecutive Scudetto (Buffon racking up an impressive 141 saves in 52 appearances for Juve last season). Having started the season brightly, you can bet good money that Buffon will get his gloves on more silverware before this season is out.
Buffon’s leadership qualities are evident, epitomised by the fact that he is captain of both his club and his country. He has enjoyed a thoroughly successful year on the international stage, surpassing Fabio Cannovaro’s appearance record in October, gaining his 137th cap for the “Azzuri” and he looks a dead cert to be Italy’s number one this coming summer in Brazil.
Whilst Buffon’s agility is on the wane with his age, his commanding presence, his leadership and his dominance of his penalty area still make Gianluigi Buffon one of the finest goalkeepers in the world.
38 Mats Hummels (▼ 29th)
(Borussia Dortmund and Germany)
2013 may have fallen short of the last two years success wise but an incredible Champions League journey and domestic cup title was no mean feat as Dortmund kept pace with one of the best teams the Champions League era of European football has seen in Bayern, even outplaying them in this year’s Supercup final 4-2.
It is indeed alongside his Bayern adversary Jerome Boateng that he’s brought elegant style of defending to the national set up, as Germany ensured World Cup qualification without breaking sweat.
Currently suffering from a recurring ankle injury that’s put him out until early 2014, Dortmund have found themselves in a slight defensive crisis in his absence.
Losses at home to Arsenal and Leverkusen and a 3-0 hammering from Guardiola’s Bayern show that without Hummels, Dortmund are no longer the same force to be reckoned with.
Hummels is the type of player so technically adept, you struggle to reason why he ever ended up playing in defence in the first place, but whoever had the idea was a genius. His anticipation, decisiveness and distribution make him the ideal modern defender.
At just 24, Hummels has already achieved as much as half of this year’s list’s entrants, and with the World Cup getting closer and closer, you wouldn’t bet against him improving on that further.
37 Toni Kroos (► New Entry)
(Bayern Munich and Germany)
It’s fair to say 2013 has been a very good year for Toni Kroos. His composed passing and vigour in the middle of midfield helped fire Bayern Munich to the treble as they claimed the league title, cup and Champions League.
Unfortunately for him, though, he missed out on the latter because of an injury which ruled him out of action for the concluding part of the season.
A regular starter, he works well with Bayern’s other central midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez and the trio have been heavily influential this year. After all, Kroos must be incredibly easy to play with. He keeps things ticking, plays it simple but then can branch out and produce key long passes.
Highly renowned football journalist Jonathan Wilson described the 23-year-old as “perhaps the archetype of the modern attacking midfielder”.
Kroos also had a helping hand in Germany’s qualification for the World Cup next year. He netted three times in qualifying as Joachim Low’s men finished top of Group C on 28 points. And he is set to feature prominently in Brazil in six months’ time
Undoubtedly, Kroos is one of the very best central midfielders around and his exemplary performances for Bayern over the course of 2013 have been a pleasure to watch. If things run as smoothly as this year, Kroos should enjoy a very fruitful 2014 indeed.
36 Javi Martinez (► New Entry)
(Bayern Munich and Spain)
After becoming the engine room driving Bielsa’s Bilbao, this year all eyes were on the defensive midfielder to see if his form could be replicated for in the Bundesliga and, more importantly, the Champions League.
A series of towering displays to match his towering physique have answered any questions about his ability to step up a level. And of those numerous performances Martínez produced in his debut season one stands out more than others.
Bayern’s demolition of Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, in particular the 4-0 home victory, highlighted how good a midfielder Martínez is. Not only did he succeed in nullifying Barcelona’s creative tandem of Xavi and Iniesta - he also broke with purpose, making his counterpart Sergio Busquets look decidedly one-dimensional by comparison.
The arrival of Pep Guardiola as Bayern coach has seen Martínez’s career hit a slight bump into the road, with the Spaniard seemingly no longer guaranteed a starting place. Rather curious considering Pep was an admirer whilst in charge at Camp Nou.
Next years World Cup may come to quickly for Martínez, he is more than ready but Barcelona’s midfield trio along with Xavi Alonso all trump the 25-year-old in terms of experience.
Despite recent hiccups a certainty is that – in Javier Martínez – Spain and Bayern have the future of midfield domination at their disposal.
35 Mario Gotze (▲ 39th)
(Bayern Munich and Germany)
The diminutive playmaker broke the hearts of the “Black and Yellows”(die Schwarzgelben) when he defected to fierce rivals Bayern Munich over the summer in order to meet up with childhood idol Pep Guardiola.
One of the main forces behind his former team’s remarkable Champions League run last season, the Dortmund academy graduate has made a bright start to life in Bavaria despite intense competition from Thiago Alacantra and Toni Kroos. Mario Götze has started 9 of a possible 15 matches for die Roten this calendar year.
Götze broke the domestic transfer record for a German player earlier this year in his controversial move to South Germany at 37 million euros, emphasising the wunderkind’s prodigious talent. Renowned for swift feet, mercurial vision and tremendous technical capabilities, the number 10 was heralded as “one of the best talents that Germany’s ever had” by former DFB technical director Matthias Sammer earlier this year.
His performances have been recognised by Joakim Löw too as he has started to challenge more senior members of the national team squad for a first team place by playing six games and scoring three goals for “der Mannschaft” in 2013.
In conclusion Mario Götze has built on his incredible potential this year with a string of sublime performances, His summer move will allow him to work with and learn from many of the best football players on the planet and at 21 he can only get better.
34 Vincent Kompany (▼ 13th)
(Manchester City and Belgium)
While Manchester City have been earning rave reviews for their attacking play and plentiful goal return under Manuel Pellegrini, the man who remains most important to the Premier League title contenders is their skipper Vincent Kompany.
The articulate Belgian international has had an up-and-down time in 2013, thanks largely to injury. Over the course of the calendar year Kompany has missed 25 of Manchester City’s 46 matches (so far), something which had undoubtedly had an effect on his performances.
Groin and hamstring injuries have restricted his playing time this term and his absence has been felt: three of City’s four defeats in the Premier League have come when their captain was unavailable.
Make no mistake, when fully-fit and on top of his game, Kompany is one of world football’s premier central defenders.
Decisive, quick across the ground, aerially dominant and an intelligent reader of the game, the 27-year-old is perhaps the Premier League’s most outstanding centre-back.
Heck, occasionally (rarely) he may be caught diving in, but don’t all defenders? And let’s be honest, he wins far more than he misses. Add the obvious mental advantage that the rest of City’s players gain from his mere presence and he’s worth his weight in gold.
Now as Pellegrini looks to lead City to glory both domestically and in Europe, Kompany will have a vital role, marshalling and leading from the heart of their defence.
2014 promises to be a big year, with his club challenging for trophies and his country tipped to make a splash at the World Cup.
Hopefully the 27-year-old will be able to stay fit to lead by example on the field.
33 Cesc Fabregas (▼ 32nd)
(Barcelona and Spain)
2013 was an interesting year for Cesc Fàbregas. The former Arsenal skipper went from experiencing his first league title to enduring a humiliating 7-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The league title came at a canter, with Barcelona accumulating 100 points and only experiencing defeat on two occasions.
On a personal level Fàbregas enjoyed a productive year, despite not being regularly used in his favoured centre midfield position. He was more often that not deployed in the false-nine role, especially in the absence of a certain Messi.
This is a position he has regularly filled for the national team. He made 11 appearances for the La Selección in 2013, taking part in the Confederations Cup, and notching two goals.
In light of this, summer transfer rumours surrounded him – with Manchester United submitting a number of bids. Fàbregas successfully used this as leverage to seek confirmation regarding his importance to the club.
Barcelona’s number four ended the 2012/2013 season with 14 goals and 12 assists from his 48 appearances. This campaign sees him only one assist short of last season’s total already, as well as seven goals.
Since his move back to Catalunya, it could be argued that he has fitted in with ease. Although, does not stand out as much among the midfield talent at the club, with Iniesta and Busquets taking much of the plaudits.
However, having turned 26 this year, Fàbregas is entering the peak years of his career. In addition to this, with Xavi’s performance levels decreasing in recent times, it won’t be long before he finds himself playing in his favoured position, for club and country.
32 Paul Pogba (► New Entry)
(Juventus and France)
Beginning his year as part of the Juventus starting 11, Pogba has refused to relinquish his position in the side with a series of accomplished performances. This, alongside his ability to play in several midfield positions has made it impossible for Antonio Conte to leave the young Frenchman out of his team which saw him key in Juve’s Scudetto and Supercoppa Italiana triumphs.
However Pogba has impressed on the international stage as well as domestically. He captained France to their first ever Under-20 World Cup victory, leading the side with several well-rounded performances which saw him win player of the tournament. He brought these performances to the senior side, and established himself as starter for Les Bleus on the way to securing a spot in Brazil next summer with them.
Pogba has also made a name for himself as a wonder goal specialist this year, with fabulous strikes against Udinese and Napoli doing the rounds on social media sites and wowing millions of viewers. Both these goals encapsulate Pogba’s game right now; technically brilliant, powerful and full of confidence.
As if his sterling calendar year internationally and domestically wasn’t enough, Pogba was recently awarded the Golden Boy award, meaning he has been officially recognised as Europe’s best player under the age of 21.
Years don’t get much better for a 20-year-old.
31 David Alaba (► New Entry)
(Bayern Munich and Austria)
David Alaba’s rise over the last year has been amazing. Despite playing as a central midfielder with the national team, Alaba has adapted himself very well as Bayern’s first choice left-back. The former Austria Wiena defender played a vital role in Bayern’s historic treble winning season under Jupp Heynckes.
Alaba is a hard-working full back, who loves bombing forward by dribbling his way past defenders and is equally good while tracking back and stopping the crosses being deployed. His overlapping runs from the left side and his excellent partnership with Franck Ribery has been one of the key reasons for Bayern’s dominant display as well as the French winger’s sensational form.
His performance in the Champions League was well appreciated by many. The Austrian started all of the knockout fixtures in the Champions League last season and his impressive displays against the likes of Barcelona and Juventus attracted a lot of attention from various clubs. He played the full 90 minutes in the Champions League final win over Dortmund.
Alaba’s impressive work rate, dribbling skills and his ability to adapt to the way his team-mates play has helped him keep his spot under new manager Pep Guardiola. With Austria as well, Alaba has maintained his impressive form playing a key role in wins over Faroe Islands and Republic of Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers and although the side failed to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, Alaba still has a lot of years ahead of him to fulfill that dream.
The future looks bright for the 21-year-old who has now established himself as a regular in arguably the best club side right now and has been rewarded for his services with a new contract that keeps him at the club till 2018.
Keep an eye out for Part 3 coming early next week!