Football is all about opinions, it is often said. However, this isn't entirely true. Football is all about winning, and about one team scoring more, or conceding fewer, goals than the other. However, thoughts always turn to the players who make this all possible. For this reason, we've decided to take a look at who the best football players in the world are. This is just for fun, as of course everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a great player - but we'll look at the top ten (in our opinion) by ability, and also by salary.
Top 10 Best Football Players
It's impossible to say that a football is quantitatively the best, as even if the player, for example, contributes a lot of goals, what he brings to his team is so much more than that. It's also about whether his presence improves the team around him. There are some players who make their team-mates look twice as good as they otherwise would, while also being game-changers on the pitch themselves. Below we attempt to put together a top-ten.
1. Lionel Messi - Barcelona and Argentina
Lionel Messi has spent his entire career playing club football for Barcelona in La Liga. Although not as physically-imposing as his rival Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi makes up for this with mazy runs, his ability to change direction in a second and score goals from crazy angles making him the all-round player who keeps on giving, both for Barcelona and for Argentina.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid and Portugal
The current FIFA Ballon d'Or-holder, Cristiano Ronaldo is indispensable to Real Madrid, his club, and to Portugal, his national team. A fast, super-strong and incredibly fit player, Ronaldo also has the male-model good looks that make him endlessly marketable. However, it is goals in which his contribution can be measured these days - he scored more than a goal every game on average in La Liga last season.
3. Luis Suarez - Barcelona and Uruguay
Frequently a controversial player, Luis Suarez has been in plenty of trouble in his career, having bitten opponents on the pitch three times, and having been accused of racially-abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in a match in 2011/12. However, it is his ability to conjure up goals, while also creating scoring opportunities for his team-mates, that seems to elevate the teams for which he plays to new heights.
4. Thibault Courtois - Chelsea and Belgium
Arguably the world's best goalkeeper, Thibault Courtois has excelled for both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, his natural physique, with enormous hands and an extraordinary reach, allied to surprising agility for such a tall man, and an unrivalled command of his penalty area. The number-one "number one", given the traditional number on goalkeepers' shirts.
5. Philipp Lahm - Bayern Munich and Germany
A right-back who has displayed exceptional leadership skills for both Bayern and Germany, Lahm was one of the mean reasons for Germany displaying the mental strength to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He also displayed his all-round skill by switching to a central midfield role when Pep Guardiola became Bayern coach, and not looking any worse for the change.
6. Andrea Pirlo - Juventus and Italy
Even in his late-thirties, if you want a man to pick a killer pass, Pirlo is that guy. Playing as if he has an age on the ball, the bearded Italian is capable of relentlessly accurate long and short balls that set up team-mates from his deep position. He's also a regular goalscorer through curling free-kicks, and penalties.
7. David de Gea - Manchester United and Spain
Another goalkeeper, David de Gea is likely to wear the Spain jersey for the next decade. Not the tallest man between the sticks, but de Gea is like an acrobat, throwing himself in front of the ball, but also making sure all players on the pitch know he is in control of his area, in a way that makes him the ideal man to co-ordinate a defence.
8. Paul Pogba - Juventus and France
The youngest player in this list, Paul Pogba is capable of playing in any midfield role, frequently winning the ball and using his impressive physicality to propel it forward instantly. No-one messes with Pogba on the field, and he is a major positive influence on everyone around.
9. Sergio Aguero - Manchester City and Argentina
Sergio Aguero is best-known in the Premier League for scoring the last-minute goal that won Manchester City the 2011/12 title. That goal typified the player - a driving run that was not picked up by defenders ending in a thunderous shot. Aguero almost always improves Manchester City's team when he plays, and that's why they make sure he is paid well enough to remain where he is.
10. Neymar - Barcelona and Brazil
Possibly the most talked-about footballer in the world, Neymar is the great creator in the Brazil team, and is Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez's partner in the current Barcelona "dream team". The youngster can do anything and everything with the ball - and often does.
What Influences a Soccer Player's Salary?
There are many factors that can raise or lower a footballer's salary. Like in any walk of life, how much a player is paid reflects that player's value to the team in which he plays - but also the value to his club. Although we will only discuss currently-active players here, David Beckham, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, Milan, Paris Saint Germain and England player, was arguably more valuable to his teams because of his marketability, which meant he won his clubs a lot of endorsement deals, although of course he was an exceptional player too.
You'll usually find that players' salaries are affected by marketing reasons, but also by whether their agents are good negotiators on their behalf, how their careers have progressed, and what the players contribute on the pitch - which is, of course, the most important thing in football. All figures are estimated, and all figures cover only take-home pay, not additional money from sponsors.
Highest Paid Football Players
1. Cristiano Ronaldo - £31m
Ronaldo is such a difference-maker to Real Madrid that it's no wonder he is well-paid - but the amount is due to the way his marketability sells the club to sponsors and fans alike.
2. Lionel Messi - £26.5m
Messi may not have the looks of Ronaldo, but he is right up there with him in terms of footballing ability - and indeed it's been the subject of global debate as to who is better. This contract reflects the way Barcelona's image and culture is wrapped up in Messi, its outstanding player.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - £19m
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or "Ibra" for short, is the Swede from a Croatian family who has played for many of Europe's greatest football clubs and is currently at Paris Saint Germain, bringing a different kind of challenge to any defenders who cross his path. His feather-light touch makes it almost impossible to dispossess him of the ball, and means he can score some absolutely crazy goals with any part of his feet. He's a black-belt in Taekwondo, and is always quotable on account of being so confident he is arrogant.
4. Radamel Falcao - £14.6m
Falcao's salary may fall, but thanks to the agency of the powerful Jorge Mendes, who also manages Ronaldo and manager Jose Mourinho, Falcao, who is one of football's most dangerous penalty-area predators, has always been rewarded amply for his efforts. The former Porto, Atletico Madrid, Monaco and Manchester United striker suffered a serious knee injury in 2014, but can be expected to get back to banging in the goals at his next club.
5. Wayne Rooney - £11.4m
The only Englishman among the world's highest-earning football players, Wayne Rooney made his debut for Everton at the age of 16, and has been a consistent goalscoring force since then, joining Manchester United in 2004. The current captain of United and England is seen as one of the few world-class players produced by football's birthplace in the past generation. He renegotiated his contract with United in 2013.
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