Defining the 30 Best Players in the World Using One Word

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Describing Lionel Messi in one word is far harder than you'd imagine. | GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images
By Tenet
Tenet

We football fans love to wax lyrical about our favourite players.

Be it in a 15-tweet thread on Twitter, in a five-page blog post or in a three-day-long podcast, we can’t help but use a million and one words to describe exactly how good we think the greatest footballers in the game really are.

So, to go against the grain, and against all of our football fan instincts, here's an attempt to describe
the best footballers in the world with just one word.

Robert Lewandowski - Goals

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski scored 55 goals during the 2019/20 season. | Pool/Getty Images

This is a pretty obvious one. The man has scored 55 goals in 47 games this season.

He’s a goal machine.

Lionel Messi - Records

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Lionel Messi has won more awards than most have had hot dinners. | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Maybe you were expecting Leo Messi to be labelled the ‘GOAT’ here, but 'records' is just as suitable given he's broken nearly every one in football history. Such as...

  • Most Ballon d’Or awards.

  • Most goals in a calendar year.

  • Top scorer in La Liga’s history. 

  • Top scorer in Barcelona’s history. 

  • Argentina’s all time top goalscorer.

There's loads more, too. But we'd be here all day.

Neymar - YouTube

Joey Barton once famously labelled Neymar a ‘YouTube player’, and while he was obviously wrong and Neymar is obviously one of the best players of the last decade, we do love watching YouTube compilations of the Brazilian doing rainbow flicks.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Penalty

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo is pretty reliable from 12 yards. | Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

CR7 scored 31 goals during the 2019/20 Serie A season and we’re pretty sure every single one of them was a penalty.

Thomas Muller - Champion

Thomas Muller
Muller won his second UCL title in Lisbon | Pool/Getty Images

He's brilliant, and he's just won absolutely everything. Including the Champions League, again, with Bayern Munich.

Kevin De Bruyne - Precision

Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne is a genius with the ball at his feet.....but is prone to a bit of burning. | Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Name a man who can pick a pass better than Kevin de Bruyne. We'll wait.

Trent Alexander-Arnold - Cross

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Alexander-Arnold loves notching up the assists. | Michael Regan/Getty Images

The best crosser of a football since David Beckham.

Joshua Kimmich - Perfect

Joshua Kimmich
Kimmich can do just about anything. | Pool/Getty Images

Joshua Kimmich is the perfect footballer. He’s the best full-back in the world, the best midfielder in the world. He can play anywhere. He can do anything. He’s a 10/10. Perfect.

Paulo Dybala - Left-footed

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Dybala is one of the world's best - but only on his left peg. | MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

You know, it's like Paulo Dybala physically can’t kick a football with his right foot.

His left foot is fantastic though.

Serge Gnabry - Lethal

Serge Gnabry
What a season Serge Gnabry has had... | Pool/Getty Images

It’s fair to say that every single shot that Serge Gnabry has taken in the Champions League during the 2019/20 season has flown into the top corner of the net. He’s ridiculously clinical.

Kylian Mbappe - R9

Paris Saint-Germain v Celtic - Friendly Match
Mbappé's talent is incredible for someone so young. | Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Mbappe is R9 Ronaldo 2.0.

Jordan Henderson - Captain

Jordan Henderson, Mohamed Salah
Jordan Henderson has captained Liverpool to Premier League and Champions League glory. | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Hendo has proven the doubters wrong and lifted the Champions League and Premier League titles as captain of Liverpool.

Not bad going for someone who was up for sale a few years earlier.

Antoine Griezmann - Expensive

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann's Barcelona career hasn't gone to plan to date. | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann's first year at Barcelona has been nothing short of a nightmare.

He'll have a chance to make amends next year, but he's yet to prove himself as worth his huge €120m price tag.

Harry Kane - Instinct

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Kane is a relentless goalscorer at club and international level. | OWEN HUMPHREYS/Getty Images

It's been great to see Harry Kane back scoring goals in the Tottenham team.

He's one of the most instinctive finishers in world football.

Virgil van Dijk - Catalyst

Would Liverpool have won the Premier League had they not signed Virgil van Dijk?

In short: no.

In full: definitely no.

Mohamed Salah - Ripped

Mohamed Salah
Some say Salah is chiselled out of stone. | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Salah may be the only man in the world with -10% body fat.

Sergio Ramos - Heel

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Ramos' ultimate heel move was pulling down Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final. | VI-Images/Getty Images

The Real Madrid legend is football’s answer to Mr. McMahon - ultimate heel that we all love to hate. To paraphrase underground hip hop legend MF Doom: ‘Sergio Ramos is a villain, yes he is.’

Karim Benzema - Glue

Karim Benzema
Benzema scored against Man City, but couldn't help Real progress in the Champions League | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Karim Benzema spent years altering his game to let Cristiano Ronaldo score a ton of goals for Real Madrid. Since Ronaldo moved to Juventus, he's spent time becoming his side's main man.

He's the glue that has held this Real Madrid attack together down the years.

Paul Pogba - Gossip

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Pogba may finally be settling down at Manchester United. | Trond Tandberg/Getty Images

Every single day there are at least 10,000 updates on Paul Pogba’s Manchester United future - the latest of which read that he'll end up signing a new contract.

Maybe the gossip will stop?

Romelu Lukaku - Underrated

Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku has scored goals everywhere he has gone. | Pool/Getty Images

This time last year Twitter was awash with compilations of Lukaku mis-controlling the ball and football fans calling the Belgian forward a ‘fraud’.

This time, well, this year, Twitter is awash with highlights of the 34 goals Lukaku has scored in his fantastic first season in Italy.

Jan Oblak - Consistent

Jan Oblak
Oblak is a model of consistency in Atletico Madrid's goal. | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Oblak is literally the only goalkeeper in world football who doesn’t have a mistake in him.

Erling Haaland - Breakthrough

Erling Haaland is one of the world's brightest prospects
Erling Haaland is one of the world's brightest prospects | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Erling Haaland is one of the hottest prospects in football right now, and has burst on the scene over the last year.

He'll undoubtedly be hot on the heels of Robert Lewandowski for the Bundesliga top scorer award next season.

Raheem Sterling - Tap-in

Raheem Sterling
Sterling missed a huge opportunity against Lyon. | Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

No footballer loves a tap-in at the back post more than Raheem Sterling...even though he missed that open net against Lyon.

Bruno Fernandes - Impact

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Fernandes has perfected a technique first introduced by Jorginho. | CARL RECINE/Getty Images

Credit where it’s due, Bruno Fernandes has transformed Manchester United since his arrival in January.

He can take a mean penalty, too.

Gareth Bale - Golf

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale loves a bit of golf... | Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Welsh international has been making the headlines in Madrid for a long time now, and over the last year, they've come mainly because of his love for another sport...

Alphonso Davies - Pace

Rumour has it that Alphonso Davies once lapped Usain Bolt in a 100m dash.

Matthijs de Ligt - Generational

Matthijs de Ligt
De Ligt has many years of success ahead of him. | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

European football hasn’t seen this level of defensive talent since Alessandro Nesta burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced, not-yet-injury-riddled, 18-year-old at Lazio.

De Ligt is the real deal.

Jadon Sancho - Manchester

Jadon Sancho
Sancho has played for City, and could end up at United. | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

At another point in the season the defining word for Jadon Sancho probably would’ve been ‘Platini’, no, not because of any financial irregularities, but because of his natural ability to weigh a pass to perfection. Now, however, it’s hard not to think of Man Utd when someone mentions Sancho.

It’s the biggest story of the transfer window, and one which will likely linger on for the rest of time.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Clinical

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang is the most feared Premier League striker. | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Auba is the most clinical finisher in the Premier League - bar none. Arsenal are lucky to have him.

Andrew Robertson - Energy

Andrew Robertson
Robertson hasn't forgotten where he came from. | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Robbo can keep running all day. And his unlimited reserves of energy have been key to Liverpool's success in the last couple of years.

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