The best players in the world - ranked

  • Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are no longer the undisputed top two in world football
  • Europe boasts some incredible talents fighting for the tag of best on the planet
  • Real Madrid and Man City players dominate the rankings
Jude Bellingham is among the planet's best footballers
Jude Bellingham is among the planet's best footballers / OSCAR DEL POZO/GettyImages

With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having entered the twilight of their careers, debates regarding the best footballer in the world are now much more complicated.

There are plenty of superstars across the planet, with the bulk of the most talented players plying their trade in Europe, but when it comes to comparing the top performers, the playing field is significantly more level.

Here's 90min's ranking of the best players in the world right now - and this list is categorically accurate, so don't even bother complaining.

52. Nicolo Barella

Nicolo' Barella
Nicolo Barella is a magician in midfield / Image Photo Agency/GettyImages

A truly indefatigable midfielder in the heart of a relentless Inter side, Nicolo Barella has the perfect blend of elegance, technique and aggression.

The diminutive Italian is ferocious in the challenge and tireless in pressurising the opposition, but has the necessary grace to unlock defences.

It's no surprise that Barella has risen to the top of European football so swiftly, embodying the best attributes of the legendary Italy midfielders that have come before him.

51. Gabriel

Gabriel Magalhaes
Gabriel enjoyed an incredible season with Arsenal / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

There may not be a more underrated centre-back on the planet than Arsenal's Gabriel.

The Brazilian is seemingly overshadowed by his more glamorous and stylish partner, but William Saliba wouldn't have enjoyed such a seamless transition into Premier League life if it wasn't for Gabriel.

The more brutish of the two, Gabriel has eliminated the brain fades which undermined his early years in north London. His aggression and physicality work hand-in-hand with Mikel Arteta's ideals, and he's immense when tasked to defend his box, too.

50. Viktor Gyokeres

Viktor Gyokeres
Gyokeres is one of Europe's most highly-sought strikers / Carlos Rodrigues/GettyImages

Viktor Gyokeres is a striker giants around Europe are snooping around and for good reason.

The Sweden international bagged goal after goal as Sporting CP won the 2023/24 Primeira Liga in Portugal. How long he'll stay at the club with such interest in his services remains to be seen.

49. Alejandro Grimaldo

Alexandro Grimaldo
Grimaldo was a major feature in Leverkusen's title win / Jürgen Fromme - firo sportphoto/GettyImages

Signing Alejandro Grimaldo on a free transfer proved to be a transformative bit of business from Xabi Alonso.

The former Benfica left-back was a constant source of goals in his first season at Bayer Leverkusen, helping the German side go unbeaten domestically.

48. Artem Dovbyk

Artem Dovbyk
Dovbyk was the top scorer in La Liga in 2023/24 / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

Long gone are the days of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo topping La Liga's goalscoring charts. Girona striker Artem Dovbyk is the current Pichichi Trophy holder, powering the City Football Group outfit to Champions League qualification.

The Ukrainian still needs to back up his impressive first campaign in Spain but the early signs are more than positive.

47. Gavi

Pablo Martin Paez Gaviria 'Gavi'
Gavi will be a regular for Barca in the coming years / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

They don't make many midfielders more tenacious than Barcelona's Gavi.

The all-action Spain international makes life hell for his opponents, never giving them any time to settle and snapping into any challenges he can make.

He was largely absent throughout 2023/24 due to a severe injury and Barca must be more cautious with his comeback than they have been with others in recent years.

46. Lois Openda

Lois Openda
Openda has thrived at RB Leipzig / Maja Hitij/GettyImages

Lois Openda has had no issues adapting to the Eredivisie, Ligue 1 or the Bundesliga during his career so far.

Now bossing it with RB Leipzig in Germany, the Belgian striker is going from strength to strength. With searing speed matched with clinical finishing, Openda could earn a move to a European giant in the coming years.

45. Serhou Guirassy

Serhou Guirassy
Guirassy had a breakout campaign with Stuttgart / Rene Nijhuis/MB Media/GettyImages

Something of a late bloomer, Serhou Guirassy had done little in his career before 2023/24 to suggest a 28-goal campaign in the Bundesliga was en route.

The Guinea international has found his home with Stuttgart and his ruthlessness in front of goal was pivotal as they secured Champions League qualification.

44. Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker
Walker consistently comes out on top in one-v-one battles / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

Kyle Walker may not boast the technical attributes that make some of his Manchester City teammates such glossy footballers, but the function he serves enables Pep Guardiola's side to suffocate almost every team they face.

The right-back is famously rapid and uses his strength to great effect, coming out from duels with Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius Junior with great respect in recent years.

43. Pedri

Pedro 'Pedri' Gonzalez
Pedri is brilliant when fit for Barca / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

Barca haven't done well enough to stop midfield star Pedri from being overworked and the Spain international has been dogged by injuries during his brief career so far.

However, if the Las Palmas youth product can stay fit for a prolonged period, his stock around the world will only grow.

Pedri is an archetypal Barca midfielder possessing supreme vision, technical skills and dribbling and will be a feature for the Spanish national team over the next ten years.

42. Alexis Mac Allister

Mac Allister should only improve at Liverpool / PAUL ELLIS/GettyImages

Alexis Mac Allister became a global superstar for his role in Argentina's 2018 World Cup triumph, having previously won admirers for his tenacious and skilful efforts at Brighton & Hove Albion.

The midfielder has shown his undoubted quality since joining Liverpool and has a knack for scoring belters from distance.

41. Alexander Isak

Alexander Isak
Isak is improving rapidly at Newcastle / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Alexander Isak fell foul to Newcastle United's horrific injury problems throughout 2023/24. Had he stayed fit for the full year, the Swede may have given Golden Boot winner Erling Haaland a tougher run for his money.

The Magpies forward is rapid when chasing passes, boasts brilliant close control and is becoming more ruthless in front of goal with each season.

40. Frenkie de Jong

Frenkie de Jong
De Jong is marvellous in full flight / David Ramos/GettyImages

Dutchman Frenkie de Jong hasn't scooped as much silverware as he might have anticipated when he joined Barca from Ajax in 2019, but his magical performances have at times held the Catalan giants together in recent years.

Linked with an exit almost every year, the silky midfielder doesn't let the speculation get to him and continues to make opposition players look silly with his dribbling and game awareness.

39. David Alaba

David Alaba
Alaba can do it all / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

David Alaba often starred at left-back during his time with Bayern Munich but is more regularly seen operating in central defence these days with Real Madrid.

The Austrian's versatility has helped him shine in all areas of the pitch, being just as adept at snuffing out attacks as he is at starting them with his brilliant passing range.

38. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo is still banging goals in / Yasser Bakhsh/GettyImages

While Cristiano Ronaldo's stock has fallen since his lucrative switch to Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, the Portuguese forward is still hammering goals in with impressive regularity in the Middle East.

The 39-year-old still has that killer instinct in the opposition penalty area and boasts the athletic frame of someone ten years younger. He won't last forever, but for now he is still a world-class talent.

37. Bruno Fernandes

Manchester City v Manchester United - Emirates FA Cup Final
Fernandes is Man Utd's most important player / Crystal Pix/MB Media/GettyImages

Manchester United dropped off alarmingly after coming third in Erik ten Hag's debut season at Old Trafford.

Thankfully for the Dutchman, he was still able to bag an FA Cup trophy, with Bruno Fernandes his on-field general during a stunning upset victory over Man City.

The Portugal international is always alert to his surroundings and can pop up with a goal from anywhere.

36. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Alexander-Arnold is already a modern Liverpool great / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

Trent Alexander-Arnold's wizardry from right-back was a major feature of Jurgen Klopp's dazzling spell in charge of Liverpool.

The local lad is one of the most prolific assisters in the top flight and is beginning to get chances with England in central midfield, with Gareth Southgate growing more aware of his deadly creativity and set-piece delivery.

35. Rodrygo

Rodrygo Goes
Rodrygo is an underappreciated star at Real Madrid / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

One of the most underappreciated attackers in the modern game, Rodrygo has often been left in the shadows by his Real Madrid teammates. Whether it's Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior or Jude Bellingham, the Brazilian hasn't always claimed the plaudits he deserves.

However, he remains an exceptional dribbler and scorer of big goals for Los Blancos, regularly popping up in the latter stages of the Champions League with crucial strikes.

34. Bruno Guimaraes

Bruno Guimarães
Bruno Guimaraes has been transformative for Newcastle / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

The heartbeat of Newcastle United's transformation under Eddie Howe, there are few better all-action midfielders on the planet than Bruno Guimaraes.

The Brazilian can do it all for the Magpies and has been a constant in a side ravaged by injuries during the 2023/24 campaign. Without him, Newcastle would be much, much worse off.

33. Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos
Kroos still dictates games with authority / Boris Streubel/GettyImages

Toni Kroos has won most of the game's most prestigious prizes both at club and international level, with the maestro calling quits on his career after Euro 2024.

Real Madrid fans have enjoyed the honour of watching the great German over the past decade, with few players able to dictate football matches quite as expertly as the former Bayern Munich star.

32. Cole Palmer

Cole Palmer
Palmer's 'ice cold' celebration / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Chelsea seem to be limping from season to season these days but the arrival of Cole Palmer reaped instant rewards in comparison to many of their other recent acquisitions.

The former Man City youngster enjoyed a ridiculous goalscoring season at Stamford Bridge and very little seems to faze him.

31. Ilkay Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan
Gundogan has every skill a midfielder needs / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

Ilkay Gundogan so often came alive in the penalty area when Man City needed him to, playing a huge role in each of the five Premier League titles he won at the Etihad Stadium.

The Germany international was club captain during the latter stages of his City career before sealing a free transfer to Barca.

Off-field drama has dominated the headlines in Catalonia in recent years but Gundogan was a model professional during an impressive first term in La Liga.

30. Thibaut Courtois

Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid CF warms up during the...
Courtois has been out injured this season / SOPA Images/GettyImages

An anterior cruciate ligament tear kept him out of action for the majority of the 2023/24 campaign, but Thibaut Courtois has enough credit in the bank to still be ranked among the world's best goalkeepers.

His 2022 Champions League final performance for Real Madrid remains one of the great individual displays in Europe and he will be hopeful of getting back to those levels soon having now made his injury comeback.

29. Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski is still a supreme striker / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

No matter where, no matter when, no matter how, Robert Lewandowski continues to score goals at a frightening rate.

The Barca forward took little time to adapt to life in La Liga following his move from Bayern Munich as his goals powered his new side to the Spanish title. He backed that up with 19 in his second campaign in Catalonia despite constant speculation over his future.

28. Ederson

Ederson strokes home a penalty for Man City - just one of many unbelievable skills the Brazilian possesses / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Without revolutionary goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's existence, football may never have got to see the enigma in goal that is Ederson.

Bizarrely for a well-conditioned 6'2 goalkeeper, shot-stopping is probably the weakest part of his game, but he more than makes up for his occasional handling lapses with flawless footwork and incredible positioning.

Few between the sticks have ever read the game as well as Ederson and few have possessed his skills with the ball. Laser-like passing? Easy. A flat accurate delivery covering 75 yards? No problem. Unstoppable penalties? You bet.

27. Son Heung-min

Heung-Min Son
Son has shone since Harry Kane's exit / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

The Tottenham forward could have shrunk following Harry Kane's exit but has stood taller instead, providing a focal point for Spurs either from the left flank or up top this season.

Ange Postecoglou has managed to keep him firing for the Lilywhites, with Son Heung-min still an often unstoppable force in the Premier League.

26. William Saliba

William Saliba
Saliba is making waves with his performances at Arsenal / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

When William Saliba returned to Arsenal in the summer of 2022 having spent three years back in France on loan at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille, there was talk of him leaving the Emirates Stadium on a permanent basis.

But Mikel Arteta instead opted to not only integrate Saliba into his squad but make the elegant centre-back an immediate starter alongside Gabriel Magalhaes. It has proven to be an inspired decision, with the Frenchman seemingly capable of doing absolutely everything.

'The sky is the limit' is a cliché often overused in football when describing a player's talent, yet somehow that may not do Saliba justice.

25. John Stones

John Stones
Stones was key to Man City's success last season / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

The transformation of John Stones into a defender-cum-midfielder for Man City in the 2022/23 season helped propel Pep Guardiola's side to a sensational treble.

The England international has struggled with injuries this year but remains an integral part of the swashbuckling City machine when fit.

24. Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz
The youngster has been key to Bayer Leverkusen's run / Lars Baron/GettyImages

One of the leading stars of the Bundesliga at just 21, Florian Wirtz has been essential to Bayer Leverkusen's incredible campaign under Xabi Alonso.

The German was a relentless provider of goals and assists for Leverkusen as they secured a historic domestic double, shaking off a significant injury during the early stages of his career with little fuss.

23. Federico Valverde

Fede Valverde
Valverde is a pivotal star for Real Madrid / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Real Madrid are about to enter a glorious era with so many future superstars set to strut their stuff at the Bernabeu. However, without industrious midfielders like Federico Valverde, there'd be little chance of the new Galacticos succeeding.

Arguably the best out-and-out central midfielder in world football, the Uruguay international has learned from the best in Kroos and Luka Modric, showing his eye for a pass regularly, and he does so much dog work to allow his more illustrious teammates to shine.

22. Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann is at home in Madrid / Florencia Tan Jun/GettyImages

The Frenchman continues to go under the radar at Atletico Madrid but his sensational attacking returns speak for themselves.

Antoine Griezmann has been a chief creator and finisher for the Spanish side in recent seasons and has such an effortless understanding of how to make difficult things look simple.

21. Victor Osimhen

Victor Osimhen
Osimhen is a nightmare for defenders / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Napoli's star striker seems set to leave the club this summer, with a number of Europe's elite sides ready to fight tooth and nail for his signature.

Victor Osimhen was crucial to Napoli's first scudetto in over three decades during the 2022/23 season and still found the back of the net frequently the following campaign despite the struggles of his side.

20. Declan Rice

Declan Rice
Rice broke the British transfer record in 2023 / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Declan Rice's £105m British record transfer fee sounded alarm bells in the ears of sceptics who were unable to fathom why a player worth so much would still be playing for West Ham United at 24 years of age.

The truth of the matter is Arsenal were the first side to come anywhere close to West Ham's more than fair valuation of a midfielder who can play every role to an exceptional standard.

Arsenal have reaped the benefits of having Rice in their team and he's a future Gunners skipper in the making.

19. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala
The German is a true gem for Bayern / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

Bayern may not have enjoyed the most fruitful season but Jamal Musiala's brilliance offered some respite to the club's supporters in difficult times.

The German attacking midfielder is just breathtaking to watch, weaving in and out of opposition defenders with ease and often having the end product to match his quick feet.

18. Ruben Dias

Ruben Dias
Dias has done it all at Man City / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Ruben Dias became the first player since 1989 to be named FWA Football of the Year in his debut season at Man City, such was his brilliance in central defence.

The Portuguese was also named the Premier League's player of the season, picking up the club's gong too, and has gone from strength to strength in a City side that finally lifted the Champions League in 2023.

Dias has four Premier League titles to his name and countless more are likely to follow if he has anything to do with it.

17. Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva
Silva is still dazzling at the Etihad / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

A man for the big occasions, Bernardo Silva is such a graceful footballer. The twinkle-toed Portuguese continues to dazzle but doesn't attract praise quite as easily as some of his Man City teammates.

Silva is often linked with an exit from the Etihad Stadium but there is a reason Guardiola is so keen to keep him in Manchester.

16. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
Messi is still impressing in MLS / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The record Ballon d'Or winner is still sparkling in the pink of Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, now sharing the field with old Barca teammates Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.

Lionel Messi is still making a mockery of defenders in 2024, even if the quality of opponent he's facing on a weekly basis isn't quite the same standard he's used to.

15. Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka
The youngsters has been integral to Arsenal's recent success / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Arsenal's ascent under Mikel Arteta has been massively helped by the form of Bukayo Saka, with the young winger an absolute menace from the right wing for the Gunners.

The England international has taken on a significant goalscoring burden for the Gunners and is an absolute joy to watch in full flight.

14. Lautaro Martinez

Lautaro Martinez
Martinez has been inspired for Inter this term / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

After securing another Serie A title for Inter, Lautaro Martinez scooped the division's Paolo Rossi Award - also known as the Capocannoniere - as the most prolific goalscorer.

The Argentine forward does have the tendency to blow hot and cold at times, but he has been absolutely relentless in the black and blue of Inter for the majority of the campaign.

13. Alisson

Alisson Becker
Alisson is arguably the most talented goalkeeper on the planet / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Arguably the most talented goalkeeper on the planet, Alisson was immense for Liverpool again during Jurgen Klopp's final season in charge despite some nagging injury concerns.

The Brazilian continues to outperform his expected goals conceded total by a significant margin, with few stoppers better at sweeping from the back and coming out on top in one-v-one situations.

12. Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk
The Liverpool skipper is back to his best / Michael Regan/GettyImages

One of the best defenders in world football, Virgil van Dijk has rediscovered his form after a difficult 2022/23 campaign.

The Dutchman, who is now captaining the Reds, scored the winning goal in the Carabao Cup final in February and was back to his imperious best during the 2023/24 campaign.

11. Martin Odegaard

Martin Ødegaard
Odegaard is the conductor for Arsenal / MB Media/GettyImages

Arsenal's most important creative force, the skipper has the rare ability to dictate play in the final third with his incredible vision and defence-splitting left foot.

Martin Odegaard was vital in the Gunners' unbelievable campaign, with the Norwegian often decisive on the big stage.

10. Antonio Rudiger

Antonio Rudiger
Rudiger has been formidable at the Bernabeu / Diego Souto/GettyImages

You know what you're going to get with Antonio Rudiger. The ruthless German defender is a perfect blend of modern and old school centre-back.

The Real Madrid defender has stepped up for the La Liga giants this season amid an injury crisis, rarely putting a foot wrong under Carlo Ancelotti's guidance.

9. Phil Foden

Phil Foden
Foden is becoming one of the world's best / David Ramos/GettyImages

Ever since Pep Guardiola became Man City manager, local lad Phil Foden has been destined to become one of the best players in the world.

While his quality has never been in question, the 2023/24 campaign has seen the England international step up as a clutch performer, and he was deservedly named the Premier League Player of the Season as Man City won the title.

8. Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah
Salah shows no signs of slowing down for the Reds / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Mohamed Salah guarantees goals for Liverpool and has even become a more regular provider for his teammates as he's aged. Now into his early 30s, the Egyptian continues to dominate the scoring charts for the Reds.

With his old forward partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino having left Anfield, Salah - arguably the best right winger in the world - is now able to soak up the full adoration of the Liverpool crowd.

7. Vinicius Junior

Vinicius Junior
Vini Jr. has been fantastic for the La Liga giants this season / Flor Tan Jun/GettyImages

Vinicius Junior has the luxury of playing alongside some of the world's best all over the field but he is just as integral to record European champions Real Madrid.

The Brazil star's speed and trickery make him a full-back's nightmare and he has proven he can play as part of a front two under Ancelotti this term.

6. Harry Kane

Harry Kane
Kane has thrived in Munich / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

Harry Lane took no time in adapting to life in Bavaria, quickly finding his goalscoring touch following his move to Bayern from Tottenham.

The England captain almost matched Lewandowski's record for most goals scored in a Bundesliga season (41) and has quickly won favour with the Allianz Arena crowd - even if his trophy curse has astonishingly continued.

5. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland
Haaland has continued his relentless form / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Erling Haaland smashed the goalscoring record for a single Premier League season during his debut Man City campaign, netting 36 times in 35 matches for the champions last term.

The Norwegian may not be the most technically gifted footballer the world has ever seen but his ruthlessness in front of goal makes him one of the planet's most devastating strikers.

4. Rodri

Rodri - Soccer Player - Born 1996
Rodri has proved irreplaceable / Visionhaus/GettyImages

When Man City lose - which is a rare occurrence - it's normally because Rodri isn't involved.

The Spaniard is a destroyer in defensive midfield, hoovering up the ball at every opportunity, but he also has the ability to pick defences apart and pop up with crucial goals.

Rodri scored the winner for the Cityzens in the 2022/23 Champions League final, cementing his spot in club folklore.

3. Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne is a maestro in Man City's ranks / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

A significant injury at the start of 2023/24 kept Kevin De Bruyne out for several months but he swiftly found his feet after a long layoff and is back to his electric best for Guardiola's side.

The Belgian, whose contributions led City to a fourth successive Premier League title, can do things with a football no other player can, with his passing unmatched around the world.

2. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham
Bellingham has adapted quickly in Spain / Diego Souto/GettyImages

There were question marks about how quickly Jude Bellingham would be able to settle at Real Madrid after his summer switch, but he silenced any doubters within his first few games at the Bernabeu.

The England international has scored countless crucial goals for the La Liga leaders this term and is already one of the world's best midfielders at just 20.

1. Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe is the best player in the world / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Kylian Mbappe is almost certainly teaming up with Bellingham in the Spanish capital next season, with the Frenchman in flying form during his last year at Parc des Princes.

The 2018 World Cup winner is famed for his electric pace and devastating finishing and is PSG's all-time record goalscorer.

He may not have led the Ligue 1 giants to a Champions League title but the France captain will have every chance of finally lifting the trophy once his move to the record winners goes through.