Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona et pourquoi l'éclat des vrais grands fera toujours écho à travers les âges

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Est-il possible de comparer les joueurs entre les époques? Le regain d'intérêt pour la carrière de Diego Maradona pose la question de savoir qui était le plus grand footballeur de l'histoire.

Lionel Messi obtient le vote moderne. Le talisman de Barcelone a vu Cristiano Ronaldo dans la bataille contemporaine pour la primauté. Il ne pourra peut-être pas se débarrasser de l'ombre de Maradona si facilement.

Messi et Ronaldo ont recodé des statistiques ahurissantes. Ils ont fonctionné à l'ère du superclub, où la concurrence est devenue de plus en plus biaisée en faveur d'un petit nombre d'équipes. Leurs moulages de soutien ont, en général, été de la plus haute qualité. Malgré cela, les niveaux élevés de fitness aujourd'hui signifient que le jeu est plus rapide que jamais. Le commentaire dédaigneux le plus courant au sujet d'éminents joueurs du passé est qu'ils seraient trop lents pour la Liga ou la Premier League.

    

            
              
                
                
                  

  
  
  
  
  
  
  

  
  
  
  

                
              
            

            
            

  
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Graeme Souness n'est pas d'accord. "Les grands joueurs de toutes les époques seraient formidables aujourd'hui", a déclaré l'homme qui était le meilleur capitaine de Liverpool. "Il n'y a jamais qu'une poignée d'hommes de haut niveau. Cela ne change jamais. Ce qui a changé, ce sont les emplacements. Ils étaient un excellent niveleur. »

L'amélioration de l'entretien des terrains signifie que les surfaces de jeu souvent marécageuses ou nues d'antan sont rarement vues. "Vous auriez dû essayer de déplacer le ballon avec une ou deux touches sur ces lancers dans les années 1970 ou 80", a poursuivi Souness. "Vous aviez besoin d'une grande technique."

    

            
              
                
                
                  

  
  
  
  

                
              
            

            
            
          
            
        
            
    

    
        
    
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                    1/101 Le compte à rebours du siècle
                    
                    

Cette semaine, The Independent décompte les 100 plus grands joueurs du 21e siècle. Nous révélerons 20 joueurs par jour, révélant aujourd'hui les joueurs qui ont placé 100-21.

                    
                    
                
            
            
            
                
                
                
                    2/101 100. Yaya Touré
                    
                    

Un brillant milieu de terrain qui avait tout: habileté, ténacité, puissance, buts, énergie. Ses capacités défensives l'ont mis en avant à Barcelone avant que ses prouesses offensives n'en fassent une telle arme pour Manchester City. Il a remporté deux Ligas, trois ligues de Premier League, une Ligue des Champions, a été capitaine de la Côte d'Ivoire à la Coupe d'Afrique des Nations et a été Joueur africain de l'année à quatre reprises. LO

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                    3/101 99. Harry Kane
                    
                    

Ses statistiques brutes sont tout simplement phénoménales. 130 buts en Premier League pour Tottenham Hotspur, en seulement 186 matches. 27 en 42 pour l'Angleterre. Deux fois vainqueur de la Premier League Golden Boot. Un vainqueur de la Coupe du monde de Golden Boot. Talisman de Tottenham. Capitaine d'Angleterre. Et toujours à seulement 26 ans. Dans 10 ans, attendez-vous à voir Kane dans le top 20 d'une liste similaire. LB

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                    4/101 98. Daniele De Rossi
                    
                    

Un homme dur de milieu de terrain férocement compétitif et combatif, qui a fait plus de 600 apparitions pour sa Roma bien-aimée et plus de 100 pour son équipe nationale. Un milieu de terrain complet, qui pourrait en un seul passage gagner le ballon, avancer vers l'avant et soit libérer un coéquipier avec une passe ponctuelle, soit marquer lui-même. Et ne vous laissez pas berner par sa réputation de combustible: en 2016, il a placé sa précieuse médaille de vainqueur de la Coupe du monde dans le cercueil de Pietro Lombardi, le maillot italien du tournoi. LB

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                    5/101 97. Bastian Schweinsteiger
                    
                    

L'allemand méticuleux a orchestré le milieu de terrain du Bayern Munich à huit titres de Bundesliga et une Ligue des Champions, faisant plus de 500 apparitions pour le club. Il a également été l'un des leaders de la campagne allemande gagnante de la Coupe du monde 2014 et a porté une aura au centre du terrain que peu de joueurs peuvent prétendre avoir reproduit. TK

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                    6/101 96. Vincent Kompany
                    
                    

Il est difficile de définir son importance pour Manchester City et la Belgique, mais il est sûr de dire qu'il était l'un des joueurs les plus importants d'une génération. Il y a peut-être une poignée de défenseurs centraux techniquement meilleurs, mais ses actifs incorporels étaient essentiels à la culture du club et du pays où il n'y avait pas d'héritage de victoire auparavant. JR

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                    7/101 95. Karim Benzema
                    
                    

L'un des rares attaquants de cette liste qui peut vraiment prétendre être l'attaquant complet, capable de jouer un jeu de liaison large ou central, profond ou sur l'épaule du dernier défenseur, avec la possibilité de flairer des buts et des scores scrappés beautés aussi. Sa récolte de médailles parle de lui-même et il approche les 300 objectifs de carrière. Mais pour sa relation tendue avec l'équipe de France, il aurait marqué encore plus. LO

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                    8/101 94. Sol Campbell
                    
                    

Battement de cœur de la défense d'Arsenal lors de la saison des Invincibles, double vainqueur en 2002 et pilier de l'équipe d'Angleterre pendant près d'une décennie, Campbell est l'une des figures défensives déterminantes de l'ère de la Premier League. TK

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                    9/101 93. Pepe
                    
                    

L'un des grands méchants du jeu, mais un arrière central dur et méchant qui serait très haut sur la liste de tous les grands attaquants contre lesquels il voulait le moins jouer. Alors que son courage et sa détermination se démarquent, personne ne dure une décennie au Bernabeu sans posséder une qualité exceptionnelle, avec trois titres en Liga (qui a échappé au club depuis son départ) et autant de ligues de champions, Zinedine Zidane serait sage d'acquérir un pareil joueur maintenant. JR

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                    10/101 92. Edwin van der Sar
                    
                    

Le quadruple vainqueur de la Premier League a fait plus de 300 apparitions en Angleterre et a pris l'habitude de prospérer sous pression, remportant le titre d'homme du match lors de la victoire finale de Manchester United en Champions League en 2008. TK

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                    11/101 91. Arturo Vidal
                    
                    

Seuls les meilleurs joueurs du monde jouissent de longs et fructueux séjours dans des clubs comme la Juventus, le Bayern Munich et Barcelone. Il Guerriero est devenu un magnifique milieu de terrain, agressif et dominant au milieu du terrain mais tout aussi efficace en arrivant tard dans la surface pour terminer les attaques. Un héros dans son Chili natal, pour son rôle dans la victoire de la Copa América en 2015. LB

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                    12/101 90. Angel di Maria
                    
                    

Un joueur clé de la glorieuse équipe du Real Madrid qui a remporté la Liga en 2011/12 et la Ligue des Champions deux saisons plus tard. Largement considéré comme un flop lorsqu'il a quitté Manchester United après une seule saison misérable, l'Argentin s'est complètement réinventé au Paris Saint-Germain, l'attraction vedette de l'une des équipes les plus chères jamais réunies, contenant des goûts de Neymar, Kylian Mbappé et Edinson Cavani. LB

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                    13/101 89. Diego Forlan
                    
                    

Figure d'amusement dans ses premiers jours de Premier League à Manchester United, Forlan a eu le dernier rire avec une brillante carrière à la fois internationalement avec l'Uruguay et en Espagne, où il a accumulé des buts pour Villarreal et l'Atletico Madrid, gagnant deux fois la chaussure d'or européenne. LO

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                    14/101 88. Radamel Falcao
                    
                    

Dans sa pompe Falcao était probablement le meilleur attaquant de la planète. Au cours d'une période prolifique de quatre ans avec Porto et l'Atletico Madrid, il a marqué 142 buts en 178 matchs et ses blessures n'ont pas entravé sa carrière, il ne fait aucun doute que le recordman colombien serait beaucoup plus élevé sur cette liste. LO

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                    15/101 87. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
                    
                    

A excellé dans une équipe d'Arsenal complètement médiocre pendant deux saisons maintenant, marquant à un rythme meilleur qu'un but tous les deux matchs dans une équipe qui a connu des difficultés depuis le départ d'Arsène Wenger. Mais c'est surtout pour ses réalisations au Borussia Dortmund qu'il fait cette liste. Il a marqué près de 150 buts en Bundesliga pour cette équipe merveilleusement attaquante – dont 31 en une saison – remportant le prix du joueur de l'année de la Bundesliga et du meilleur buteur. Il y a eu peu de buteurs aussi rapides ou aussi décisifs devant le but au cours des deux dernières décennies. LB

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                    16/101 86. Robin Van Persie
                    
                    

L'un des meilleurs pieds gauches de l'histoire de la Premier League a honoré deux de ses clubs les plus vénérés, devenant une star à la fois à Arsenal et à Manchester United. Le Néerlandais avait un penchant pour le spectaculaire mais a souffert de blessures, et c'est un signe de ce qui aurait pu être qu'au cours des deux saisons de Premier League, il a joué plus de 30 matchs, il a remporté le Golden Boot dans les deux. LO

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                    17/101 85. Carlos Tevez
                    
                    

Un véritable ravageur d'un attaquant qui prospérait dans les atmosphères les plus chaudes et surmontait régulièrement l'adversité. Il a également marqué de nombreux buts, 116 buts en huit saisons avec United, City et la Juventus (qui ont probablement tous apprécié le premier Tevez), mais c'est ainsi qu'il a déclenché ses coéquipiers en forçant la première erreur ou en provoquant des contre-attaques qui ont vraiment fait de lui un tel joueur. joueur inestimable. JR

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                    18/101 84. Gaizka Mendieta
                    
                    

Le maestro du milieu de terrain pouvait contrôler les matchs et les décider aussi, et était au cœur de la brillante équipe de Valence qui a atteint les finales consécutives de la Ligue des Champions en 2000 et 2001. Il est devenu l'un des joueurs les plus chers de tous les temps quand il est passé à la Lazio, mais il n'atteindrait plus jamais les sommets qui faisaient de lui une légende au Mestalla. LO

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                    19/101 83. Virgil van Dijk
                    
                    

Le talisman défensif a jeté un sort de leadership sur l'équipe gagnante de Liverpool en Ligue des champions 2019 et a mené toute la campagne sans être dribblé. Peu de défenseurs ont exercé une telle influence globale de quelque côté que ce soit dans la mémoire récente. TK

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                    20/101 82. Hernan Crespo
                    
                    

L'un des meilleurs finisseurs d'une génération, mais peut-être sa meilleure qualité était son mouvement; en particulier dans la boîte, où personne n'était plus meurtrier pour trouver un mètre d'espace et punir ses adversaires. Fort et menace aérienne, il a peut-être été malheureux de suivre Gabriel Batistuta avec l'Argentine, sinon il aurait été encore plus apprécié. Certainement aussi talentueux que Sergio Aguero et avec peut-être plus de sang-froid dans les plus grandes occasions – un joueur sous-estimé. JR

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                    21/101 81. Rio Ferdinand
                    
                    

Un joyau d'un défenseur central, qui était peut-être en avance sur son temps, en ce moment, il serait encore plus précieux en raison de sa polyvalence pour prospérer sous n'importe quel manager, peu importe la philosophie ou le style de jeu. Devenu un vrai vainqueur et leader à United et formé l'un des plus grands partenariats de l'histoire du football international aux côtés de John Terry avec l'Angleterre – qui aurait évidemment dû faire beaucoup plus avec une fondation aussi exceptionnelle pour leur équipe. JR

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                    22/101 80. Toni Kroos
                    
                    

Un métronome au milieu, l'un des meilleurs passeurs du monde du football et le cœur battant d'un certain nombre de clubs très performants, notamment l'Allemagne, vainqueur de la Coupe du monde en 2014. Quatre couronnes de la Ligue des champions comme un rouage clé pour le Bayern Munich et le Real Madrid soulignent sa qualité, mais si vous voulez critiquer c'est qu'il y a toujours eu l'air que d'autres en font plus autour de lui. HLC

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                    23/101 79. Juan Roman Riquelme
                    
                    

Un n ° 10 traditionnel qui a été sans marque de marque le «nouveau Maradona» quand il a commencé à incendier la division Primeira avec Boca Juniors. Son transfert de 10 millions de livres sterling à Barcelone en 2002 ne s'est pas exactement déroulé comme prévu – avec un autre Argentin talentueux prêt à se consacrer à la place au club folklorique – mais Riquelme a réussi lui-même en Espagne avec Villarreal sous Manuel Pellegrini. Un véritable artiste qui a brillé dans un rôle de meneur de jeu avancé, avant de plonger plus profondément dans le milieu de terrain alors que ses jambes vieillissantes perdaient leur rythme. LB

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                    24/101 78. Thomas Muller
                    
                    

Muller a relevé des objectifs importants pour le Bayern Munich et l'Allemagne tout au long de sa carrière. L'attaquant a marqué près de 250 buts combinés pour le club et le pays, ce qui a aidé le Bayern à remporter huit titres de Bundesliga et une seule Ligue des champions et Coupe du monde des clubs. Muller ne sera pas le dernier joueur à exceller avec le Bayern et l'Allemagne, mais il pourrait bien être le dernier type de son type de joueur, plaçant l'importance du timing et de l'occupation de l'espace avant tout dans le jeu. KV

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                    25/101 77. Mohamed Salah
                    
                    

Le «roi égyptien» est devenu l'un des attaquants les plus redoutés du football mondial depuis son arrivée à Liverpool en provenance de Rome en 2017. Après une période torride à Chelsea, le deuxième sort de Salah en Angleterre a provoqué une histoire de la Premier League en marquant un enregistrer 32 buts en 36 matchs de championnat. Le meilleur buteur de la Premier League en 2018 et le co-vainqueur de la saison dernière, personne ne rit plus des 35 millions de livres sterling que Liverpool a payés pour lui il y a plus de deux ans. KV

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                    26/101 76. Diego Godin
                    
                    

Le genre de défenseur que tout le monde veut dans son équipe et que personne ne veut affronter. Godin est dur, totalement engagé et complètement intrépide, et au sommet de ses pouvoirs lorsque l'Atletico Madrid a remporté la Liga, il était probablement le meilleur défenseur du monde. LO

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                    27/101 75. David Silva
                    
                    

Un maestro du milieu de terrain capable de jouer le jeu à son rythme; accélérer et ralentir tout en peignant un tableau au milieu de l'action effrénée des matchs de Premier League. Silva n'a jamais été agité et peut toujours être invoqué pour se lever dans les moments les plus opportuns, une pierre angulaire de l'ère de Manchester City et un candidat pour leur meilleur joueur de tous les temps, malgré l'argent versé à diverses autres superstars. JR

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                    28/101 74. Eden Hazard
                    
                    

Une telle qualité dans des espaces restreints et une capacité presque inégalée à dribbler au rythme, Hazard est capable de vraie magie, avec ses meilleures saisons de Premier League propulsant Chelsea à deux titres et gagnant. Il y a eu plus d'années de jachère, bien sûr, mais à son meilleur, le danger a été magnifique, y compris en aidant Lille à la gloire de la Ligue 1 en 2010-11. HLC

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                    29/101 73. Cesc Fabregas
                    
                    

Point d'appui de l'équipe d'Arsène Wenger après le déménagement d'Arsenal au Emirates Stadium, Fabregas a combiné sa vision avec une véritable capacité de marquer des buts pour s'établir comme l'un des milieux de terrain les plus complets et les plus excitants du monde. Les trophées étaient proportionnels à la capacité du meneur de jeu de choisir plus souvent avec précision les courses vers l'avant qui ne venaient pas dans le nord de Londres, mais deux titres de Premier League avec Chelsea après que son rêve de s'installer à Barcelone n'a pas été à la hauteur des attentes n'étaient que des récompenses pour le milieu de terrain. Néanmoins, il a tout de même remporté la Liga et la Copa del Rey en Espagne et faisait partie des équipes qui ont remporté les euros 2008 et 2012 ainsi que la coupe du monde 2010. KV

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                    30/101 72. Déco
                    
                    

Un joueur à la maison à toutes les époques qui a fleuri sous Jose Mourinho non pas une mais deux fois. À domicile au No 10 Deco, des matchs contrôlés sans effort pour Porto et dernièrement Chelsea en tant que rouage clé dans deux des meilleures équipes du Special One. BB

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                    31/101 71. Lilian Thuram
                    
                    

A connu les meilleures années de sa carrière légendaire au tout début du 21e siècle, après avoir déménagé de Parme à la Juventus dans un double transfert, avec Gianluigi Buffon. A continué à former un formidable partenariat défensif avec Igor Tudor ainsi que Fabio Cannavaro, avant un chant de cygne en fin de carrière à Barcelone. Il a également remporté le Championnat d'Europe avec la France en 2000. Un défenseur impérieux, qui travaille désormais sans relâche contre le racisme dans le football et la société. LB

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                    32/101 70. Nemanja Vidic
                    
                    

Guerrier. Difficile comme tout demi-centre de Premier League, totémique à certains moments et un pilier de cohérence pour Manchester United. Indomptable dans les airs, son partenariat avec Rio Ferdinand est peut-être le meilleur football anglais de ce siècle, contrastant dans les styles mais avec une compréhension innée des capacités des uns et des autres. Superbe leader pour démarrer. HLC

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                    33/101 69. Marcelo
                    
                    

Le Brésilien est bien connu comme l'un des meilleurs arrières offensifs du football mondial et il est l'un des artistes les plus réguliers du Real Madrid depuis plusieurs années. Arrivé au Santiago Bernabeu en tant que jeune nerveux de 19 ans, Marcelo a été à la hauteur de sa réputation de successeur de Roberto Carlos au niveau du club et au niveau international, aussi susceptible de fouetter une croix que de marteler audacieusement une personne de l'extérieur. la surface de réparation. Souvent arborant un sourire hors du terrain, le record de trophée de Marcelo permet une lecture agréable après avoir remporté quatre victoires consécutives en Ligue des champions ainsi que quatre titres de Liga et de Coupe du monde des clubs. KV

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                    34/101 68. Ryan Giggs
                    
                    

Bien que l'on puisse affirmer que ses moments les plus captivants sont survenus avant le tournant du millénaire, la longévité de Giggs était remarquable, ne s'éteignant jamais vraiment de la première équipe d'Old Trafford alors que les étincelles les plus brillantes allaient et venaient. A évolué au fur et à mesure que le football évoluait, de l'adolescence à un crosser cultivé alors que les jambes ralentissaient. Sept titres de Premier League après 2000, un titre de joueur de l'année PFA et la personnalité sportive de l'année 2009. HLC

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                    35/101 67. Antoine Griezmann
                    
                    

Un attaquant très moderne, adepte de toute la ligne offensive et un vrai joueur d'équipe, toujours prêt à défendre de face. Mais c'est finalement pour sa capacité devant le but qu'il sécurise sa place sur cette liste. Une révélation à l'Atlético Madrid et tout aussi importante pour les champions du monde: Griezmann a été le meilleur buteur alors que la France a terminé deuxième de l'Eurp 2016 avant de jouer un rôle principal dans leur triomphe deux ans plus tard à Moscou. LB

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                    36/101 66. Clarence Seedorf
                    
                    

Seedorf jouit d'une grande longévité tout au long de sa carrière divisée en deux décennies. Ce dernier, passé en Italie, gagne facilement sa place ici après avoir glissé sur le terrain pour l'AC Milan, brillant dans le diamant de Carlo Ancelotti pour remporter deux titres de Ligue des Champions – remportant quatre au total et devenant le seul joueur à remporter la compétition avec trois côtés différents. JR

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                    37/101 65. Wesley Sneijder
                    
                    

Sneijder a remporté des titres de champion en Espagne, en Italie, en Turquie et dans ses Pays-Bas natifs, ainsi qu'en Ligue des champions avec l'Inter Milan de Jose Mourinho, et a construit une brillante carrière internationale pour devenir le joueur néerlandais le plus capé de tous les temps. Mais le souvenir durable est tout simplement de sa grâce naturelle sur le terrain, glissant sur le terrain avant d'éclater pour changer n'importe quel jeu en un instant. LO

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                    38/101 64. Gabriel Batistuta
                    
                    

Grand buteur et meilleur buteur, Batistuta est l'un des meilleurs attaquants à avoir jamais honoré le football italien. Il reste le meilleur buteur de la Fiorentina en Serie A, après avoir passé la majorité de sa carrière à Florence avant de s'installer à Rome où il a finalement décroché le titre. Il est le seul footballeur à avoir réussi un triplé lors de deux coupes du monde distinctes. LO

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                    39/101 63. Fernando Torres
                    
                    

Un capitaine de l'Atletico à 18 ans El Nino était destiné à la grandeur depuis ses années de formation. Bien qu'il n'ait peut-être jamais atteint ces hauteurs assez longtemps, sa carrière à Liverpool où il a torturé les meilleurs, notamment Nemanja Vidic à Old Trafford, l'a vu devenir confortablement le n ° 9 le plus redouté de la planète. Ajoutez une couronne mondiale et deux titres européens et vous avez un joueur qui gagne plus que sa place ici. BB

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                    40/101 62. Ruud Van Nistelrooy
                    
                    

Peut-être le braconnier le plus naturel du compte à rebours, Van Nistelrooy a terminé sa carrière avec plus d'un but tous les deux matchs et a débattu beaucoup plus au cours de ses années de pointe avec le PSV, Manchester United et le Real Madrid. Le plus remarquable était son talent au plus haut niveau, terminant trois fois une saison en tant que meilleur buteur de la Ligue des champions. Les différends avec les managers néerlandais ont entravé une carrière internationale qui aurait pu le propulser plus haut dans cette liste. LO

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                    41/101 61. Claude Makélélé
                    
                    

Peu sur cette liste peuvent dire qu'ils ont redéfini leur position mais le petit magicien français l'a fait. Le rôle de Makelele restera dans les annales pour tout joueur avec un quelconque défensif, mais peu ont depuis vanté l'intelligence du football et la discipline de position de l'homme qui a inventé son nom. Un joueur bien au-delà de son époque. BB

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                    42/101 60. Sergio Aguero
                    
                    

Une séquence ininterrompue de buts sans relâche, incitant Manchester City à quatre titres de Premier League, adaptant son jeu au style de Pep Guardiola et résistant aux défis d'une flotte de temporaires de classe mondiale, l'Argentin pourrait encore mettre fin à sa carrière comme le plus grand attaquant de l'histoire anglaise. TK

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                    43/101 59. Cafu
                    
                    

Bien plus d'une décennie après sa retraite, quiconque ressemble à un arrière droit en service est toujours connu sous le nom de Cafu anglais, écossais ou gallois, témoignage d'une carrière brillante où il a redéfini ce qui était attendu de son poste. Défenseur latéral dynamique et agressif, il était également un leader estimé et a dirigé son pays à la Coupe du monde avec une classe typique en 2002. N'importe qui se souvient comme l'un des plus grands joueurs du Brésil est plus que digne de cette liste. BB

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                    44/101 58. Miroslav Klose
                    
                    

Seul Marta a marqué plus de buts en Coupe du monde que Klose et son record suprême au niveau international avec l'Allemagne est ce qui lui permet de gagner sa place ici. L'homme archétypal ciblé a rarement marqué ailleurs que dans la surface, mais il s'est approprié les 18 mètres au cours d'une carrière riche en histoires qui l'a vu marquer plus de buts pour l'Allemagne que quiconque avant ou depuis. BB

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                    45/101 57. Kevin de Bruyne
                    
                    

Maestro et maréchal au cœur du milieu de terrain de Manchester City, le Belge est l'un des joueurs les plus inventifs, tactiquement astucieux et équilibrés de la Premier League. Il a remporté deux titres consécutifs de ligue, une FA Cup et une série de récompenses individuelles et seules ses blessures l'ont empêché de continuer à exercer son influence. TK

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                    46/101 56. Henrik Larsson
                    
                    

Le Suédois a marqué des pots de buts pour son club de ville natale, Helsingborg, dans ses premières années, et ne s'est jamais vraiment arrêté jusqu'à ce qu'il se retire dans son équipe d'enfance. Entre les deux, il s'est aventuré pour écrire l'histoire avec le Celtic, gagner la Ligue des champions avec Barcelone et même faire un camée mémorable à Manchester United. Son apogée a été la saison après s'être cassé la jambe, quand il est revenu si déterminé à rattraper le temps perdu qu'il a remporté le Soulier d'Or européen. LO

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                    47/101 55. Xabi Alonso
                    
                    

Si Roger Federer était un footballeur, il aurait pu être quelque chose comme Xabi Alonso: majestueux, composé et précis, jouant avec une baguette tout en cassant à peine une sueur. Les fans de Liverpool l'adorent toujours et tout le monde aussi. Il était discret, bar ces objectifs à mi-chemin, et cela faisait partie de son charme, redéfinissant ce qu'un joueur de rôle pourrait être, et il a tout gagné: Ligue des Champions, La Liga, Bundesliga, Championnats d'Europe et la Coupe du Monde. LO

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                    48/101 54. Dennis Bergkamp
                    
                    

Joueur qui a amené la Premier League au sommet de la grâce technique et du talent artistique, le Néerlandais était synonyme d'instants impensables et de touches d'un autre monde alors qu'il tirait les ficelles offensives de la campagne à double victoire d'Arsenal en 2002 et des Invincibles. saison. TK

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                    49/101 53. Gareth Bale
                    
                    

La carrière professionnelle de Bale a commencé terriblement, subissant une importante séquence sans victoire à Tottenham, mais une fois qu'il a commencé à gagner, il a à peine arrêté. Sa transformation de latéral arrière provisoire en ailier galavanting l'a attiré l'attention de la Premier League, et sa destruction de Maicon au San Siro l'a présenté au monde (et probablement effacé Maicon de cette liste, pensez-y). Trois victoires consécutives en Ligue des champions plus tard, dont l'un des grands buts européens, et il est sûr de dire que le garçon de Cardiff a parcouru un long chemin. LO

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                    50/101 52. Gerard Pique
                    
                    

Plus d'une décennie au cœur de la défense de Barcelone et sans aucun doute l'un des meilleurs défenseurs centraux du jeu, l'Espagnol a tout gagné: huit titres de LaLiga, trois ligues de champions, d'innombrables tasses et un leader dans les succès de la Coupe du monde et du Championnat d'Europe. TK

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                    51/101 51. Robert Lewandowski
                    
                    

L'un des meilleurs buteurs de l'histoire de la Bundesliga après une décennie passée entre le Borussia Dortmund et le Bayern Munich, l'attaquant polonais a remporté sept titres de champion. Son CV n'est peut-être pas aussi complet, après avoir passé son premier match en Allemagne, mais 60 buts en 110 matchs internationaux témoignent de sa constance inébranlable. TK

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                    52/101 50. Javier Zanetti
                    
                    

Un joueur dominant avec une grande longévité et polyvalence. Son altruisme, son rythme de travail et son intelligence positionnelle lui ont permis de soulever un côté Inter principalement dysfonctionnel au fil des ans. Mais ensuite, Jose Mourinho a proposé un système qui pourrait capitaliser sur les jambes et la fiabilité de Zanetti; les aigus ont décroché son héritage en 19 ans en noir et bleu. JR

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                    53/101 49. Didier Drogba
                    
                    

Bien qu'il y ait eu de meilleurs buteurs, peu savaient mieux choisir leurs moments que le grand ivoirien. À son apogée dominante, peu de gens pouvaient le toucher comme l'un des meilleurs joueurs de gros jeu du jeu. La star de la victoire de Chelsea en Ligue des champions 2012 Drogba reste aimé des fans de Blues pour deux sorts vainqueurs de titres tandis que Jose Mourinho le considère toujours comme l'un des meilleurs avec lesquels il a travaillé. Vraiment le roi. BB

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                    54/101 48. Michael Ballack
                    
                    

Un bon milieu de terrain de box-to-box qui se délecterait des grands matchs; dominant dans le défi au cœur du terrain et dans les deux zones de pénalité. Buteur prolifique compte tenu de ses passes suprêmes et de son travail désintéressé, Ballack a inspiré le Bayer Leverkusen à la finale de la Ligue des champions en 2002, avant trois doubles en quatre ans avec le Bayern, puis quatre honneurs majeurs avec Chelsea, ainsi qu'une autre finale de la Ligue des champions. JR

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                    55/101 47. Oliver Kahn
                    
                    

Figure imposante entre les bâtons, Khan était un adversaire intimidant pour les grévistes, les faisant geler juste assez longtemps pour s'offrir suffisamment de temps pour réduire les angles et éliminer le danger. Personnage légendaire du Bayern, dont six titres de Bundesliga au cours des 20 dernières années, il émergerait également en tant que leader de l'Allemagne et de ses finalistes à la Coupe du monde 2002 avant qu'une stratégie plus calculée ne fasse de Die Mannschaft le champion du monde. JR

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                    56/101 46. Ashley Cole
                    
                    

Une rareté en tant que seul véritable joueur de classe mondiale de l'Angleterre, Cole a été le premier arrière gauche de la planète pendant près d'une décennie. Vainqueur du titre avec Arsenal et Chelsea, ce sera peut-être la FA Cup où Cole laisse sa marque indélébile où il a décroché sept fois le plus vieux trophée du monde. Un joueur clé de deux des meilleures équipes de Premier League, Cole, restera dans les mémoires comme l'un des véritables vedettes de son époque. BB

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                    57/101 45. Pavel Nedved
                    
                    

Un large joueur passionnant capable de fendre les adversaires avec des courses de fléchettes à l'intérieur et un mouvement intelligent pour donner et recevoir dans et autour de la boîte. Un vainqueur du Ballon d'Or avec la Juventus et l'étincelle d'une formidable équipe tchèque qui aurait dû gagner l'Euro 2004. JR

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                    58/101 44. N'Golo Kante
                    
                    

Faisant tranquillement son travail à un niveau exceptionnel, Kante a inspiré Leicester à faire l'impensable, permettant non seulement un milieu de terrain à deux – mais le faisant aux côtés de Danny Drinkwater sur son chemin vers son premier titre de Premier League. De plus grandes choses l'attendraient à Chelsea, où il a décroché un autre titre, puis avec la France, alors qu'il a joué dans leur deuxième triomphe en Coupe du monde. Pas seulement le meilleur destroyer de milieu de terrain depuis une décennie, mais avec une qualité et une endurance sans fin pour aller de boîte en boîte, comme il l'a prouvé sous Maurizio Sarri, ce qui prouve que beaucoup de gens ont tort dans le processus. JR

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                    59/101 43. Kylian Mbappe
                    
                    

Le plus jeune joueur de cette liste, avec à peine une carrière à invoquer, et pourtant il a déjà réclamé une place dans ses échelons supérieurs. Ce n'est pas seulement qu'il a marqué sans relâche pour Monaco et maintenant le PSG, remportant le titre à chaque saison de sa carrière à ce jour, ou même qu'il a joué un rôle clé dans le triomphe de la Coupe du monde en France. C'est que Mbappé fait des choses que les autres footballeurs ne font pas, coupant les équipes d'une boîte à l'autre avec le ballon collé aux pieds, retirant les défenseurs au fur et à mesure. Il sera sûrement au sommet de cette liste dans quelques années … LO

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                    60/101 42. Alessandro Del Piero
                    
                    

Grand buteur et meilleur buteur, Del Piero a été l'un des meilleurs attaquants de tous les temps que l'Italie ait jamais produits. Aussi doué pour marquer des buts qu'il l'était pour les marquer lui-même, Del Piero a pris sa retraite en tant que meneur de tous les temps pour la Juve et leader des marqueurs et six fois champion de Serie A. Oh et il a aussi gagné la Coupe du monde. BB

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                    61/101 41. Alessandro Nesta
                    
                    

L'un des meilleurs dans une longue tradition de défenseurs italiens, mais Nesta était différent. Il n'était jamais pressé, jamais en colère, jamais désespérément à la recherche du ballon. Au lieu de cela, il glissait sur le terrain et volait à la tire des victimes sans méfiance avec un sourire, et avant qu'elles ne sachent qu'il était parti. À la Lazio puis à l'AC Milan, il a tout gagné, y compris la Serie A, la Ligue des champions et la Coupe du monde, mais remporter le défenseur de la Serie A de l'année quatre fois de suite à partir de 2000, à une époque d'excellence défensive, vous en dit tout autant à propos de Nesta. LO

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                    62/101 40. Patrick Vieira
                    
                    

Reste l'étalon-or pour les milieux de terrain box-to-box après avoir dominé la Premier League en tant que cheville ouvrière de la plus grande équipe de tous les temps à l'avoir honorée. Un joueur complet Vieira était une classe au-dessus dès le départ avec son départ du nord de Londres laissant un trou qui doit encore être rempli. BB

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                    63/101 39. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
                    
                    

Que pouvez-vous dire à propos d'Ibrahimovic qu'il n'a pas déjà dit de lui? Buteur suprême dans presque des ligues, son talent naturel d'un autre monde n'est peut-être dépassé que par son ego plus grand que nature. Bien qu'une couronne de Ligue des champions lui échappe encore, il laissera un jour un héritage que peu de gens pourront égaler. BB

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                    64/101 38. Roberto Carlos
                    
                    

The Brazilian arguably transformed what a great full back could be, incessantly roaming forwards, forming a wing to every attack, most notably during his time at Real Madrid. Arguably his greatest years came before the Millennium, but La Liga and a World Cup title still followed. But, perhaps, that’s helped by the allure to one of the most astonishing goals ever scored. TK

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                    65/101 37. Rivaldo
                    
                    

His dazzling best may have come just before the new millennium, but his trophy haul since the year 2000 is remarkable. He played a leading role in Brazil’s World Cup success in 2002 before an extremely profitable stint at AC Milan, during which he won the Champions League, Super Cup and Coppa Italia. And then there are the individual performances. His stunning hat-trick for Barcelona against Valencia in 2001 has yet to be surpassed, and is unlikely to be. LB

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                    66/101 36. Roy Keane
                    
                    

Sir Alex Ferguson once described Keane as the embodiment of his winning attitude on the pitch and that is all the more appropriate because, if the great manager is the figure to have influenced the Premier League more than anyone, Keane is the player to have psychologically influenced the Premier League more than anyone. That really isn’t an exaggeration, not when you consider his longevity, the number of titles he won and his absolutely key role in all of them. MD

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                    67/101 35. John Terry
                    
                    

A divisive figure elsewhere Terry remains Chelsea’s favourite son after a trophy-laden near two decade run with his boyhood club. The living, breathing, life and soul of the Roman Abramovich era Terry was perhaps the best pure defender of his generation with his blend of physical gifts allied with a superhuman will to win making him nigh on unmatched at his peak. BB

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                    68/101 34. Paul Scholes
                    
                    

He was never the star of Manchester United’s side, more the quiet conductor in the shadows, anchoring the midfield, flitting passes back-and-forth, flying into buzzsaw challenges. The Englishman was the anchor of 11 Premier League title-winning sides, a feat bested only by fellow ‘Fergie fledgeling’ Ryan Giggs. TK

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                    69/101 33. David Villa
                    
                    

One of the most clinical forwards of his era Villa will be remembered as one of the key figures of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side. Equally as adept up front as he was out wide he went on to replace the great Raul with the Spanish national team going to become the top scorer in their history as well as being pivotal to the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 wins. BB

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                    70/101 32. Iker Casillas
                    
                    

The man known simply as San Iker began life with Real Madrid as a nine-year old before going on to make 725 appearances for Los Blancos in a storied and success-filled career at the Bernabeu. The all-time appearance leader for Spain to boot Casillas has won every major club and international title he has participated in as a player. An all-time great. BB

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                    71/101 31. Franceso Totti
                    
                    

A true oddity in modern football, the near-cult-like Italian spent 25 years at Roma, playing almost 800 games and scoring over 300 goals, as well as featuring in Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning side. Perhaps the last true one-club man at one of Europe’s elite clubs. TK

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                    72/101 30. Arjen Robben
                    
                    

A mercurial talent who never truly settled in the Premier League, but for a short spell as Chelsea won the title. The flying Dutchman could turn passive possession into danger in a flash with his exceptional control when running at speed. Injuries plagued his time in England with spells at Real Madrid and Bayern establishing himself as one of the greats of his generation. JR

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                    73/101 29. Wayne Rooney
                    
                    

We all knew he was going to be special from the moment he stunned David Seaman from distance as a 16-year-old, ending Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run. A move to Manchester United followed, where he won five Premier League titles, eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, and formed one of the most fearsome strike forces ever seen alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. A modern great. LO

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                    74/101 28. Raul Gonzalez
                    
                    

A prolific natural finisher and one of the greatest Spanish players of all-time, somewhat overlooked due to the riches of talent that quickly followed at Barcelona, Raul was the incisive tooth in six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues. He has made more appearances for Madrid than any other player in history and, until the arrival of Ronaldo, their highest goalscorer. TK

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                    75/101 27. Manuel Neuer
                    
                    

The towering Neuer has raised the bar for what is expected for modern shotstoppers across the globe. Widely considered to be the best goalkeeper of his generation Neuer has won the Bundesliga seven times, a World Cup once and even has a German word, Reklamierarm (the arm of objection), named after him. A modern great. BB

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                    76/101 26. Paolo Maldini
                    
                    

Genuinely world class for more than two decades Maldini is remembered as one of the finest defenders in history. A right, centre and most notably left-back 25 trophies in 25 years for his boyhood club see him regarded as perhaps the greatest player in Milanese history. Upon his retirement in 2009 his No 3 shirt was retired in his honour. BB

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                    77/101 25. Dani Alves
                    
                    

Possibly the greatest full back in history, and the evolution of Cafu and Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian won six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues, before leaving for Juventus and then PSG, adding league titles with both. The complete mould of defence and attack, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, he remained untouchable for almost a decade. TK

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                    78/101 24. Carles Puyol
                    
                    

A true titan of centre-backs, the Spaniard was the fortress at the base of Barcelona’s defence, an ever-present rock in six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues. His influence loomed just as large on the international stage, leading Spain to a European Championship and World Cup. TK

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                    79/101 23. Frank Lampard
                    
                    

A midfielder with the goalscoring record of an elite-level striker. Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer, he hit 22 in a single season in 2009/10, netting a grand total of 147 Premier League goals. Incredibly versatile, deployed everywhere across the midfield in Chelsea blue, before enjoying an unexpectedly profitable Indian Summer at Manchester City. TK

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                    80/101 22. Luka Modric
                    
                    

Rarely seen in a Ballon d’Or winner it’s possible Modric remains somehow underrated with his consistent class perhaps overshadowed by the headline-grabbing achievements of those around him. A veritable genius with the ball at his feet the Croatian combines workrate with wizardry with one of the most creative football minds we’ve seen. An integral role in four Champions League wins sees his legacy as a real and lasting star already cemented. BB

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                    81/101 21. Samuel Eto'o
                    
                    

Extraordinarily prolific for so very long: his electric early form at Mallorca saw him earn a move to Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona, where he scored 130 times in just 199 appearances. Pep Guardiola took his game to another level in the 2008/09 season, before successful stints at Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala and Chelsea. No player has won the African Player of the Year award more times. Only the second player in history to score in two UEFA Champions League finals. And the first player in history to win two European continental trebles. LB

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                    82/101 20. Neymar
                    
                    

If this list was based on natural talent alone, nobody could argue the Brazilian’s position. His combination of skill and creativity is largely unmatched in modern football, but he has also blared with inconsistency and struggled with persistent injury. He already has two La Liga titles, two Ligue 1 titles and a Champions League to his name, but the lingering feeling remains that a large portion of his potential remains unfulfilled. TK

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                    83/101 19. Andrei Shevchenko
                    
                    

One of the most deadly strikers in European history, Shevchenko’s peak came at AC Milan where he won the Champions League in 2003 and the Ballon d’Or in 2004. Nothing displayed his supreme composure better than his Champions League-winning penalty, finally setting Milan’s battle with rivals Juventus and writing himself into San Siri folklore. LO

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                    84/101 18. Steven Gerrard
                    
                    

The greatest player never to win a Premier League title? He instead remained at Liverpool, spending 17 seasons at Anfield during which he captained his side to two European titles as well as five domestic cups. An extremely versatile and well-rounded player, who completely remodeled his game as he grew older. TK

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                    85/101 17. Sergio Busquets
                    
                    

The rearguarding totem who cleared the canvas for one of the greatest teams in history to flourish. The Spaniard has been a pillar of Barcelona and Spain’s sides for a decade, winning an astonishing eight La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, the World Cup and the European Championships. TK

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                    86/101 16. Luis Suarez
                    
                    

Took a little while to hit the ground running at Anfield, but his contribution to Liverpool’s famous 2013/14 campaign will live long in the memory. The Uruguayan hit an extraordinary 31 goals in 33 matches as Liverpool went so, so close to ending their long wait for a league title. His career then scaled new heights at Barcelona, where he has won a staggering four La Liga titles and the Champions League title, in 2014/15. A complete centre forward, who worked tirelessly, assisted his team-mates and was utterly ruthless in front of goal LB

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                    87/101 15. Luis Figo
                    
                    

One of the most elegant players on our list Figo didn’t ever appear to be moving at the speed of the game. Moreover the game appeared to move with him. Flashy and full of flair he was at home at some of the biggest clubs in the world. One of a select few to move between Barcelona and Real Madrid and famously paid the piggy price. BB

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                    88/101 14. Philipp Lahm
                    
                    

One of the great defenders of the modern era, although defender hardly covers it. Lahm became an outstanding captain both at Bayern Munich and Germany, and became a gifted midfielder under Pep Guardiola’s coaching. A winner of eight Bundesliga titles, one Champions League and one World Cup. LO

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                    89/101 13. Gianluigi Buffon
                    
                    

The greatest goalkeeper of the last two decades. And probably the one before that, also. Holds numerous individual records – going unbeaten for 974 consecutive minutes during the 2015–16 season among the most impressive – and a bulging trophy cabinet including nine Serie A titles (and one Serie B), a UEFA Cup and the 2006 World Cup. The ‘personal records’ section of his Wikipedia page meanwhile extends to 933 words. That takes some doing. LB

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                    90/101 12. Sergio Ramos
                    
                    

The most-capped player in Spanish history, a World and European champion and a four-time Champions League winner Ramos is loved by his own and hated even more by others. Never far from notoriety his truly appalling La Liga disciplinary record may never be matched, nor will his legacy as one of the truly great modern defenders. BB

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                    91/101 11. Andrea Pirlo
                    
                    

The most stylish player on our list – both on and off the pitch – Pirlo played the game at his own pace and with more grace than almost any other ever seen. Perhaps the finest deep-lying playmaker in the history of the game Pirlo’s effortless class will surely endure. BB

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                    92/101 10. Fabio Cannavaro
                    
                    

Rarely has one player so single-handedly dominated an international tournament like Fabio Cannavaro at the 2006 World Cup. He was so impressive for Italy that the nation’s media nicknamed him Il Muro di Berlino – ‘The Berlin Wall’ – for his outstanding performances in the heart of the team’s defence, as they kept five clean sheets and conceded just two goals (neither of which were from open play) en route to victory. But he also enjoyed a stellar club career, vital for both Inter Milan and Juventus before winning two La Liga titles with Real Madrid. LB

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                    93/101 9. Kaka
                    
                    

The last man to win a Ballon d’Or before Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, history will remember Kaka as one of the great dribblers with his six-foot size allied with a uncharacteristically low centre of gravity making him nigh-on unstoppable on the run. At his balletic and barracking peak, one of the world’s very best. BB

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                    94/101 8. Zinedine Zidane
                    
                    

Zinédine Zidane is perhaps the most graceful player on this list, someone who seemed to glide through matches without ever drawing sweat. Around the turn of the century, after winning Euro 2000 with France, Zidane swapped Juventus for Real Madrid where he was the ultimate Galactico, scoring one of the great Champions League final goals. LO

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                    95/101 7. Thierry Henry
                    
                    

The striker who grasped the Premier League with such electric magnetism and revolutionised the epitome of a modern striker. The Frenchman won the Premier League twice, including the famed Invincibles season, but his prime still wasn’t rewarded with the trophy to match his talent. A move to Barcelona brought further baubles and a coveted Champions League, but by then his best had already begun to fade. TK

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                    96/101 6. Ronaldo
                    
                    

His light shined bright only briefly in the 21st century, but it was enough to earn a place near the very top of this list such was its brilliance. A relentless goalscorer and mesmerising dribbler, with power, pace, two feet and incredible close control that perhaps only Lionel Messi has matched since, Ronaldo will be remembered as one of the greatest forwards of all time. LO

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                    97/101 5. Andres Iniesta
                    
                    

Thriving in the freedom created in his childhood tandem with Xavi, the diminutive playmaker was perhaps even more influential to Barcelona and Spain’s success, revving the tempo of Barcelona’s all-conquering side, unlocking defences with ingenious control and vision. He is the most decorated player in Spanish history, with nine La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and World Cup. TK

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                    98/101 4. Ronaldinho
                    
                    

A player of outrageous God-given gifts Ronaldinho enthralled and enchanted all that witnessed him over a spellbinding career that saw him grace some of the world’s biggest clubs. His toothy, child-like grin belied a footballer who just wanted to play, few before him or since can do what he could do. A genius. BB

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                    99/101 3. Xavi Hernandez
                    
                    

The greatest Spanish player of all-time and, perhaps, the greatest passer of a ball too. Xavi was the metronome and all-seeing eye at the centre of Barcelona and Spain’s rampant success, playing conductor and orchestra to eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and the star of the 2010 World Cup. TK

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                    100/101 2. Cristiano Ronaldo
                    
                    

The boy who sparkled at Sporting became a man at Manchester United and a god at Real Madrid. He set his sights on greatness and hasn’t stopped working since, and now his record speaks for itself: Five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues, six league titles, one European Championship, 700 career goals – and counting. LO

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                    101/101 1. Lionel Messi
                    
                    Lionel Messi has made the utterly remarkable utterly routine. You only have to watch him in any given match. Messi produces so many pieces of play that would be the highlight of anyone else’s career if they were capable of them. For him, they’re just another moment of a game. It is almost an extra-sensory next level. Some statistics, should you need them: Messi has won 10 (TEN) La Liga titles. Six Copa del Reys. Eight Supercopas. Four Champions League titles. Three Super Cups. And three Club World Cups. He has a gravitational effect on an entire match, to a greater degree than anyone else. The qualities of his talents mean he is always in the centre, dictating, driving.

He’s every where. He is the standard. He is football. MD

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                    1/101 The Century countdown
                    
                    

This week, The Independent is counting down the 100 greatest players of the 21st century. We will be revealing 20 players per day, today revealing the players who placed 100-21.

                    
                    
                
            
            
            
            
                
                

                
                    2/101 100. Yaya Toure
                    
                    

A brilliant midfielder who had everything: skill, tenacity, power, goals, energy. His defensive capabilities brought him to the fore at Barcelona before his attacking prowess made him such a weapon for Manchester City. He won two Ligas, three Premier Leagues, one Champions League, captained Ivory Coast to the Africa Cup of Nations and was African Player of the Year four times. LO

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                    3/101 99. Harry Kane
                    
                    

His raw statistics are simply phenomenal. 130 Premier League goals for Tottenham Hotspur, in just 186 appearances. 27 in 42 for England. Twice a Premier League Golden Boot winner. A World Cup Golden Boot winner. Tottenham’s talisman. England’s captain. And still just 26 years old. In 10 years’ time, expect to see Kane in the top 20 of a similar list. LB

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                    4/101 98. Daniele De Rossi
                    
                    

A ferociously competitive and combative midfield hard man, who made over 600 appearances for his beloved Roma and over 100 for his national team. A complete midfielder, who could in one passage of play win the ball, race forward and either release a team-mate with a pinpoint pass or score himself. And do not be fooled by his combustible reputation: in 2016, he placed his treasured World Cup winner's medal in the coffin of Pietro Lombardi, Italy’s kit man at the tournament. LB

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                    5/101 97. Bastian Schweinsteiger
                    
                    

The meticulous German orchestrated Bayern Munich's midfield to eight Bundesliga titles and a Champions League, making over 500 appearances for the club. He was also one of the leaders in Germany's 2014 World Cup-winning campaign and carried an aura in the centre of the pitch few players can claim to have replicated. TK

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                    6/101 96. Vincent Kompany
                    
                    

It’s difficult to define his importance to both Manchester City and Belgium but it’s safe to say he was one of the most important players of a generation. There may well be a handful of technically better centre-backs but his intangibles were vital to the culture at club and country where there was not a legacy of winning previously. JR

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                    7/101 95. Karim Benzema
                    
                    

One of the few strikers on this list who can truly claim to be the complete forward, able to play wide or central, deep linking play or on the shoulder of the last defender, with the ability to sniff out scrappy goals and score beauties too. His medal haul speaks for itself, and he is approaching 300 career goals. But for his strained relationship with the French national team, he would have scored even more. LO

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                    8/101 94. Sol Campbell
                    
                    

The heartbeat of Arsenal's defence in the Invincibles season, a double-winner in 2002 and a mainstay of the England team for almost a decade, Campbell is one of the defining defensive figures of the Premier League era. TK

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                    9/101 93. Pepe
                    
                    

One of the great villains of the game but a nasty, hard centre-back that would be very high on any great striker’s list of defenders he least wanted to play against. While his grit and determination stand out, nobody lasts a decade at the Bernabeu without possessing exceptional quality, with three La Liga titles (which has eluded the club since his departure) and as many Champions Leagues, Zinedine Zidane would be wise to acquire a similar player now. JR

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                    10/101 92. Edwin van der Sar
                    
                    

The four-time Premier League winner made over 300 appearances in England and made an enduring habit of thriving under pressure, winning the man-of-the-match award in Manchester United's Champions League final victory in 2008. TK

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                    11/101 91. Arturo Vidal
                    
                    

Only the finest players in the world enjoy long and fruitful stints at clubs such as Juventus, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Il Guerriero has matured into a splendid holding midfielder, aggressive and dominant in the middle of the pitch but equally as effective arriving late into the box to complete attacks. A hero in his native Chile, for his role in the 2015 Copa América victory. LB

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                    12/101 90. Angel di Maria
                    
                    

A key player in the glorious Real Madrid side that won La Liga in 2011/12 and the Champions League two seasons later. Widely considered a flop when he left Manchester United after only one miserable season, but the Argentine completely reinvented himself at Paris Saint-Germain, the starring attraction in one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, containing the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani. LB

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                    13/101 89. Diego Forlan
                    
                    

A figure of fun in his early Premier League days at Manchester United, Forlan went on to have the last laugh with a stellar career both internationally with Uruguay and in Spain, where he racked up goals for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, twice winning the European Golden Shoe. LO

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                    14/101 88. Radamel Falcao
                    
                    

In his pomp Falcao was probably the best striker on the planet. In a prolific four-year spell playing for Porto and Atletico Madrid he scored 142 goals in 178 games, and had injuries not hindered his career there is little doubt that Colombia's record scorer would be much higher up this list. LO

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                    15/101 87. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
                    
                    

Has excelled in a thoroughly mediocre Arsenal side for two seasons now, scoring at a rate better than a goal every other game in a side that has struggled since the departure of Arsène Wenger. But it is primarily for his achievements at Borussia Dortmund that he makes this list. He scored close to 150 Bundesliga goals for that wonderfully attacking team – including 31 in one season – winning the Bundesliga Player of the Year and Top Goalscorer awards. There have been few strikers as rapid or as decisive in front of goal in the last two decades. LB

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                    16/101 86. Robin Van Persie
                    
                    

One of the best left foots in Premier League history graced two of its most revered clubs, becoming a star at both Arsenal and Manchester United. The Dutchman had a penchant for the spectacular but suffered with injuries, and it is a sign of what could have been that in the two Premier League seasons he played more than 30 games, he won the Golden Boot in both. LO

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                    17/101 85. Carlos Tevez
                    
                    

A real pest of a striker who thrived in the hottest atmospheres and regularly overcame adversity. He scored plenty too, 116 league goals in eight seasons with United, City and Juventus (who probably all enjoyed prime Tevez), but it was the way he would trigger his teammates by forcing the first mistake or sparking counterattacks that really made him such an invaluable player. JR

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                    18/101 84. Gaizka Mendieta
                    
                    

The midfield maestro could control games and decide them too, and was at the heart of the brilliant Valencia team which reached back-to-back Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001. He became one of the most expensive players of all time when he switched to Lazio, but he would never again reach the heights that made him a legend at the Mestalla. LO

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                    19/101 83. Virgil van Dijk
                    
                    

The defensive talisman cast a spell of leadership over Liverpool's 2019 Champions League-winning side and went the entire campaign without being dribbled past. Few defenders have carried such an overarching influence on any side in recent memory. TK

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                    20/101 82. Hernan Crespo
                    
                    

One of the finest finishers of a generation but perhaps his best quality was his movement; particularly in the box, where nobody was more lethal at finding a yard of space and punishing opponents. Strong and an aerial threat, he was perhaps unfortunate to follow Gabriel Batistuta with Argentina, otherwise he would have been appreciated even more. Certainly as talented as Sergio Aguero and with perhaps more composure in the biggest occasions – an underrated player. JR

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                    21/101 81. Rio Ferdinand
                    
                    

A gem of a centre-back, who was perhaps ahead of his time, right now he would be even more valuable due to his versatility to thrive under any manager, no matter the philosophy or style of play. Became a real winner and leader at United and formed one of the greatest partnerships in international football history alongside John Terry with England – who should have obviously achieved much more with such an outstanding foundation to their team. JR

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                    22/101 80. Toni Kroos
                    
                    

A metronome in the middle, one of the finer passers in the world of football and the beating heart of a number of very successful sides, not least the World Cup winning Germany side of 2014. Four Champions League crowns as a key cog for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid underline his quality, but if you are to criticise it is that there have always seemed to be others doing more around him. HLC

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                    23/101 79. Juan Roman Riquelme
                    
                    

A traditional No 10 who was unhelpfully branded the ‘new Maradona’ when he began setting the Primeira Division alight with Boca Juniors. His £10m move to Barcelona in 2002 did not exactly go as planned – with another talented Argentine poised to write himself into club folklore instead – but Riquelme made a success of himself in Spain with Villarreal under Manuel Pellegrini. A true artist who shone in an advanced playmaker role, before dropping deeper into midfield as his ageing legs lost their pace. LB

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                    24/101 78. Thomas Muller
                    
                    

Muller has popped up with important goals for Bayern Munich and Germany throughout his career. The gangly forward has scored nearly 250 goals combined for club and country, which has helped Bayern to eight Bundesliga titles and a single Champions League and Club World Cup. Muller will not be the last player to excel with Bayern and Germany, but he may well be the last sort of his type of player, placing the importance of timing and occupying space above all else in the game. KV

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                    25/101 77. Mohamed Salah
                    
                    

The ‘Egyptian king’ has turned into one of the most feared forwards in world football since joining Liverpool from Roma in 2017. After a torrid time at Chelsea, Salah’s second spell in England brought about a Premier League history as he netted a record 32 goals in 36 league games. The outright Premier League top scorer in 2018 and the joint winner last season, no longer is anyone laughing at the £35m Liverpool paid for him over two years ago. KV

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                    26/101 76. Diego Godin
                    
                    

The kind of defender every one wants on their team and no one wants to come up against. Godin is tough, utterly committed and completely fearless, and at the peak of his powers when Atletico Madrid won La Liga he was probably the best defender around. LO

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                    27/101 75. David Silva
                    
                    

A midfield maestro capable of playing the game at his pace; speeding up and slowing down while painting a picture amid the frantic action in Premier League games. Silva has never been flustered and can always be relied upon to stand up in the most opportune moments, a cornerstone of the Manchester City era and a candidate for their best ever player, despite the money lavished on various other superstars. JR

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                    28/101 74. Eden Hazard
                    
                    

Such quality in tight spaces and an almost unrivalled ability to dribble at pace, Hazard is capable of true magic, with his best Premier League seasons propelling Chelsea to two titles, and earning . There have been more fallow years, of course, but at his best Hazard has been magnificent, including in helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory in 2010-11. HLC

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                    29/101 73. Cesc Fabregas
                    
                    

The fulcrum of Arsene Wenger’s side following Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium, Fabregas combined vision with genuine goalscoring ability to establish himself as one of the world’s most well-rounded and exciting midfielders. Trophies commensurate to the playmaker’s ability to precisely pick out forwards’ runs more often that not did not come in north London, but two Premier League titles with Chelsea after his dream move to Barcelona failed to live up to expectation were just rewards for the midfielder. Nevertheless, he still won La Liga and the Copa del Rey while in Spain, and was part of the squads that won the 2008 and 2012 Euros as well as the 2010 World Cup. KV

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                    30/101 72. Deco
                    
                    

A player at home in any era who blossomed under Jose Mourinho not once but twice. At home at No 10 Deco effortlessly controlled games for Porto and latterly Chelsea as a key cog in two of the Special One's greatest sides. BB

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                    31/101 71. Lilian Thuram
                    
                    

Enjoyed the best years of his storied career right at the very start of the 21st century, after he moved from Parma to Juventus in a double transfer, along with Gianluigi Buffon. Went on to form a formidable defensive partnership with Igor Tudor as well as Fabio Cannavaro, before a late career swansong at Barcelona. He also won the European Championship with France in 2000. An imperious defender, who now works tirelessly fighting against racism in football and society. LB

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                    32/101 70. Nemanja Vidic
                    
                    

Warrior. Tough as any Premier League centre-half, totemic at times and a pillar of consistency for Manchester United. Indomitable in the air, his partnership with Rio Ferdinand is perhaps the best English football has seen this century, contrasting in styles but with an innate understanding of each others’ abilities. Superb leader to boot. HLC

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                    33/101 69. Marcelo
                    
                    

The Brazilian is well renowned as one of the best attacking fullbacks in world football, and has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent performers for a number of years. Arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu as a nervous 19-year-old, Marcelo has lived up to his reputation as Roberto Carlos’ successor at both club and international level, as likely to whip a cross in as he is to audaciously hammer one in from outside the penalty area. Often sporting a smile off the field, Marcelo’s trophy record makes for pleasant reading having experienced four consecutive Champions League victories as well as four La Liga and Club World Cup titles. KV

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                    34/101 68. Ryan Giggs
                    
                    

While it can be argued his most captivating moments came before the turn of the millennium, Giggs’ longevity was remarkable, never truly fading from the first team at Old Trafford as the brighter sparks came and went. Evolved as football evolved, from teenage tearaway to cultured crosser as the legs slowed. Seven post-2000 Premier League titles, a PFA Player of the Year award and the 2009 Sports Personality of the Year. HLC

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                    35/101 67. Antoine Griezmann
                    
                    

A very modern forward, adept anywhere across the offensive line and a true team player, always ready to defend from the front. But it is ultimately for his ability in front of goal that he secures his place on this list. A revelation at Atlético Madrid and as equally important to the world champions: Griezmann was the top goal scorer as France finished as runners-up at Eurp 2016 before playing a starring role in their triumph two years later in Moscow. LB

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                    36/101 66. Clarence Seedorf
                    
                    

Seedorf enjoyed great longevity throughout his career divided into two decades. The latter of which, spent in Italy, easily earns his place here after gliding across the pitch for AC Milan, shining bright in Carlo Ancelotti's diamond to collect two Champions League titles – clinching four in total and becoming the only player to win the competition with three different sides. JR

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                    37/101 65. Wesley Sneijder
                    
                    

Sneijder won league titles in Spain, Italy, Turkey and his native Netherlands, as well as the Champions League with Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, and built a stellar international career to become the most capped Dutch player of all time. But the lasting memory is simply of his natural grace on the pitch, gliding over the field before bursting into life to change any game in an instant. LO

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                    38/101 64. Gabriel Batistuta
                    
                    

A great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals, Batistuta is one of the best strikers ever to have graced Italian football. He remains Fiorentina's top Serie A goalscorer, having spent the majority of his career in Florence before moving to Roma where he finally clinched the title. He is the only footballer ever to have scored a hat-trick at two separate World Cups. LO

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                    39/101 63. Fernando Torres
                    
                    

A captain of Atletico at 18 El Nino was destined for greatness ever since his formative years. While he may never have hit those heights for long enough his Liverpool career where he tortured the very best, notably Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford, saw him comfortably become the most feared No 9 on the planet. Add in a world crown and two European titles and you have a player who more than earns his place here. BB

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                    40/101 62. Ruud Van Nistelrooy
                    
                    

Perhaps the most natural poacher in the countdown, Van Nistelrooy ended his career with better than a goal every two games and churned out far more through his peak years with PSV, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Most notable was his brilliance at the highest level, three times finishing a season as the Champions League's top scorer. Disputes with Dutch managers hindered an international career that might have propelled him higher up this list. LO

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                    41/101 61. Claude Makélélé
                    
                    

Few on this list can say they redefined their position but the little French magician did just that. The Makelele role will go down in the annals for any player with any defensive nous whatsoever, but few since have boasted the football intelligence and positional discipline of the man who coined its name. A player far beyond his era. BB

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                    42/101 60. Sergio Aguero
                    
                    

An unbroken streak of relentless goalscoring, spurring Manchester City to four Premier League titles, adapting his game to suit Pep Guardiola's style and resisting the challenges of a fleet of world-class temporaries, the Argentine may yet end his career as the greatest striker in English history. TK

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                    43/101 59. Cafu
                    
                    

Well over a decade on from his retirement anyone even close to resembling a serviceable right-back is still known as the English, Scottish or Welsh Cafu, a testament to a glittering career where he redefined what was expected from his position. A dynamic, attack-minded full-back he was also an esteemed leader and captained his country to the World Cup with typical class in 2002. Anyone remembered as one of Brazil’s greatest players is more than worthy of this list. BB

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                    44/101 58. Miroslav Klose
                    
                    

Only Marta has scored more goals in World Cups than Klose and his supreme record at international level with Germany is what sees him earn his place here. The archetypal target man famously rarely scored from anywhere other than inside the box, but he made the 18-yard area his own in a storied career that saw him score more goals for Germany than anyone before or since. BB

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                    45/101 57. Kevin de Bruyne
                    
                    

A maestro and marshal at the heart of Manchester City's midfield, the Belgian is one of the most inventive, tactically astute and well-rounded players to grace the Premier League. He has won back-to-back league titles, an FA Cup and a raft of individual awards and only injuries have prevented him from casting his influence further. TK

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                    46/101 56. Henrik Larsson
                    
                    

The Swede scored pots of goals for his home town club, Helsingborg, in his early years, and never really stopped until he retired back at his boyhood team. In between he ventured away to write history with Celtic, win the Champions League with Barcelona and even make a memorable cameo at Manchester United. His pinnacle was the season after he broke his leg, when he returned so determined to make up for lost time that he won the European Golden Shoe. LO

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                    47/101 55. Xabi Alonso
                    
                    

If Roger Federer was a footballer he might have been something like Xabi Alonso: majestic, composed and precise, playing with a wand while barely breaking a sweat. Liverpool fans still adore him and so does everyone else. He was understated, bar those halfway line goals, and that was part of his charm, redefining what a holding role player could be, and he won it all: Champions League, La Liga, Bundesliga, European Championships and the World Cup. LO

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                    48/101 54. Dennis Bergkamp
                    
                    

The player who brought the Premier League to the height of technical grace and artistry, the Dutchman was synonymous with moments of unthinkable ingenuity and other-worldly touches as he pulled the attacking strings in both Arsenal's 2002 double-winning campaign and the Invincibles season. TK

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                    49/101 53. Gareth Bale
                    
                    

Bale’s professional career started terribly, suffering a major winless streak at Tottenham, but once he began winning he barely stopped. His transformation from tentative full-back to galavanting winger brought him to the Premier League’s attention, and his destruction of Maicon at the San Siro introduced him to the world (and probably erased Maicon from this list, come to think of it). Three back-to-back Champions League wins later, including one of the great European goals, and it is safe to say the boy from Cardiff has come a long way. LO

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                    50/101 52. Gerard Pique
                    
                    

Over a decade at the heart of Barcelona's defence and undoubtedly one of the game's greatest ball-playing centre-backs, the Spaniard has won everything on offer: eight LaLiga titles, three Champions Leagues, countless cups as well as being a leader in both World Cup and European Championship successes. TK

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                    51/101 51. Robert Lewandowski
                    
                    

One of the greatest goalscorers in Bundesliga history after a decade spent between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the Polish striker has won seven league titles. His CV might not be as rounded, having spent his entire prime in Germany, but 60 goals in 110 international games are a testament to his unfaltering consistency. TK

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                    52/101 50. Javier Zanetti
                    
                    

A dominant player with great longevity and versatility. His selflessness, workrate and positional intelligence allowed him to lift a mostly dysfunctional Inter side over the years. But then Jose Mourinho offered a system that could capitalise on Zanetti's legs and reliability; the treble clinched his legacy in a 19-year spell in black and blue. JR

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                    53/101 49. Didier Drogba
                    
                    

While there have been better goalscorers few knew how to pick their moments better than the great Ivorian. At his dominant peak few could touch him as one of the game’s ultimate big-game players. The star of Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League win Drogba remains beloved by Blues fans for two title-winning spells while Jose Mourinho still regards him as one of the best he worked with. Truly the King. BB

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                    54/101 48. Michael Ballack
                    
                    

A proper box-to-box midfielder who would revel in the big games; dominant in the challenge at the heart of the pitch and in either penalty area. A prolific goalscorer given his supreme passing and selfless work, Ballack inspired Bayer Leverkusen to the Champions League final in 2002, before three doubles in four years with Bayern and then four major honours with Chelsea, as well as another Champions League final. JR

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                    55/101 47. Oliver Kahn
                    
                    

An imposing figure between the sticks, Khan was an intimidating opponent for strikers, making them freeze for just enough time to offer himself enough time to narrow the angles and wipe out danger. A legendary figure with Bayern, inluding six Bundesliga titles in the last 20 years, he would also emerge as a leader for Germany and their runners-up finish at World Cup 2002 before a more calculated strategy saw Die Mannschaft become world champions. JR

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                    56/101 46. Ashley Cole
                    
                    

A rarity as England’s one true really world class player, Cole was the planet’s premier left-back for nigh-on a decade. A title winner with Arsenal and Chelsea it will perhaps be the FA Cup where Cole leaves his indelible mark where he lifted the world’s oldest trophy a record seven times. A key player in two of the Premier League greatest-ever sides Cole will be remembered as one of the real standouts of his era. BB

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                    57/101 45. Pavel Nedved
                    
                    

A thrilling wide player able to slice opponents open with darting runs inside and clever movement to give and receive in and around the box. A Ballon d'Or winner with Juventus and the spark for a tremendous Czech Republic side who should have won Euro 2004. JR

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                    58/101 44. N'Golo Kante
                    
                    

Just quietly doing his job to an outstanding level, Kante inspired Leicester to do the unthinkable, not only enabling a two-man midfield – but doing so alongside Danny Drinkwater on his way to his first Premier League title. Bigger things would await him at Chelsea, where he grabbed another title, and then with France, as he starred in their second World Cup triumph. Not just the finest midfield destroyer in a decade, but with quality and endless stamina to go box-to-box, as he proved under Maurizio Sarri, proving a lot of people wrong in the process. JR

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                    59/101 43. Kylian Mbappe
                    
                    

The youngest player in this list, with barely a career to call upon, and yet already he has demanded a place in its upper echelons. It is not just that he has scored relentlessly for Monaco and now PSG, winning the title in every season of his career to date, or even that he played such a key role in France’s World Cup triumph. It’s that Mbappé is doing things other footballers don’t do, cutting through teams from one box to another with the ball glued to his feet, retiring defenders as he goes. Surely he will be near the very top of this list in a few years’ time… LO

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                    60/101 42. Alessandro Del Piero
                    
                    

A great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals, Del Piero was one of the finest all round forwards Italy has ever produced. As gifted at making goals as he was at scoring them himself, Del Piero retired as Juve’s all-time appearance and scoring leader and a six-time Serie A champion. Oh and he won the World Cup too. BB

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                    61/101 41. Alessandro Nesta
                    
                    

One of the very best in a long tradition of Italian defenders, but Nesta was different. He was never rushed, never angry, never desperately lunging for the ball. Instead he would glide across the pitch and pickpocket unsuspecting victims with a smile, and before they knew it he was gone. At Lazio and then AC Milan he won everything including Serie A, the Champions League, and the World Cup, but winning Serie A defender of the year four times in a row from 2000, in an era of defensive excellence, tells you just as much about Nesta. LO

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                    62/101 40. Patrick Vieira
                    
                    

Remains the gold standard for box-to-box midfielders after dominating the Premier League as the lynchpin of perhaps the greatest side ever to grace it. A complete player Vieira was a class above from the outset with his departure from north London leaving a hole that is still be filled. BB

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                    63/101 39. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
                    
                    

What can you say about Ibrahimovic that he hasn’t already said about himself? A supreme goalscorer across almost countless leagues his otherworldly natural talent is perhaps only surpassed by his larger than life ego. Though a Champions League crown still eludes him he will one day leave a legacy few can match. BB

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                    64/101 38. Roberto Carlos
                    
                    

The Brazilian arguably transformed what a great full back could be, incessantly roaming forwards, forming a wing to every attack, most notably during his time at Real Madrid. Arguably his greatest years came before the Millennium, but La Liga and a World Cup title still followed. But, perhaps, that’s helped by the allure to one of the most astonishing goals ever scored. TK

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                    65/101 37. Rivaldo
                    
                    

His dazzling best may have come just before the new millennium, but his trophy haul since the year 2000 is remarkable. He played a leading role in Brazil’s World Cup success in 2002 before an extremely profitable stint at AC Milan, during which he won the Champions League, Super Cup and Coppa Italia. And then there are the individual performances. His stunning hat-trick for Barcelona against Valencia in 2001 has yet to be surpassed, and is unlikely to be. LB

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                    66/101 36. Roy Keane
                    
                    

Sir Alex Ferguson once described Keane as the embodiment of his winning attitude on the pitch and that is all the more appropriate because, if the great manager is the figure to have influenced the Premier League more than anyone, Keane is the player to have psychologically influenced the Premier League more than anyone. That really isn’t an exaggeration, not when you consider his longevity, the number of titles he won and his absolutely key role in all of them. MD

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                    67/101 35. John Terry
                    
                    

A divisive figure elsewhere Terry remains Chelsea’s favourite son after a trophy-laden near two decade run with his boyhood club. The living, breathing, life and soul of the Roman Abramovich era Terry was perhaps the best pure defender of his generation with his blend of physical gifts allied with a superhuman will to win making him nigh on unmatched at his peak. BB

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                    68/101 34. Paul Scholes
                    
                    

He was never the star of Manchester United’s side, more the quiet conductor in the shadows, anchoring the midfield, flitting passes back-and-forth, flying into buzzsaw challenges. The Englishman was the anchor of 11 Premier League title-winning sides, a feat bested only by fellow ‘Fergie fledgeling’ Ryan Giggs. TK

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                    69/101 33. David Villa
                    
                    

One of the most clinical forwards of his era Villa will be remembered as one of the key figures of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side. Equally as adept up front as he was out wide he went on to replace the great Raul with the Spanish national team going to become the top scorer in their history as well as being pivotal to the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 wins. BB

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                    70/101 32. Iker Casillas
                    
                    

The man known simply as San Iker began life with Real Madrid as a nine-year old before going on to make 725 appearances for Los Blancos in a storied and success-filled career at the Bernabeu. The all-time appearance leader for Spain to boot Casillas has won every major club and international title he has participated in as a player. An all-time great. BB

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                    71/101 31. Franceso Totti
                    
                    

A true oddity in modern football, the near-cult-like Italian spent 25 years at Roma, playing almost 800 games and scoring over 300 goals, as well as featuring in Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning side. Perhaps the last true one-club man at one of Europe’s elite clubs. TK

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                    72/101 30. Arjen Robben
                    
                    

A mercurial talent who never truly settled in the Premier League, but for a short spell as Chelsea won the title. The flying Dutchman could turn passive possession into danger in a flash with his exceptional control when running at speed. Injuries plagued his time in England with spells at Real Madrid and Bayern establishing himself as one of the greats of his generation. JR

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                    73/101 29. Wayne Rooney
                    
                    

We all knew he was going to be special from the moment he stunned David Seaman from distance as a 16-year-old, ending Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run. A move to Manchester United followed, where he won five Premier League titles, eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, and formed one of the most fearsome strike forces ever seen alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. A modern great. LO

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                    74/101 28. Raul Gonzalez
                    
                    

A prolific natural finisher and one of the greatest Spanish players of all-time, somewhat overlooked due to the riches of talent that quickly followed at Barcelona, Raul was the incisive tooth in six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues. He has made more appearances for Madrid than any other player in history and, until the arrival of Ronaldo, their highest goalscorer. TK

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                    75/101 27. Manuel Neuer
                    
                    

The towering Neuer has raised the bar for what is expected for modern shotstoppers across the globe. Widely considered to be the best goalkeeper of his generation Neuer has won the Bundesliga seven times, a World Cup once and even has a German word, Reklamierarm (the arm of objection), named after him. A modern great. BB

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                    76/101 26. Paolo Maldini
                    
                    

Genuinely world class for more than two decades Maldini is remembered as one of the finest defenders in history. A right, centre and most notably left-back 25 trophies in 25 years for his boyhood club see him regarded as perhaps the greatest player in Milanese history. Upon his retirement in 2009 his No 3 shirt was retired in his honour. BB

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                    77/101 25. Dani Alves
                    
                    

Possibly the greatest full back in history, and the evolution of Cafu and Roberto Carlos, the Brazilian won six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues, before leaving for Juventus and then PSG, adding league titles with both. The complete mould of defence and attack, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, he remained untouchable for almost a decade. TK

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                    78/101 24. Carles Puyol
                    
                    

A true titan of centre-backs, the Spaniard was the fortress at the base of Barcelona’s defence, an ever-present rock in six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues. His influence loomed just as large on the international stage, leading Spain to a European Championship and World Cup. TK

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                    79/101 23. Frank Lampard
                    
                    

A midfielder with the goalscoring record of an elite-level striker. Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer, he hit 22 in a single season in 2009/10, netting a grand total of 147 Premier League goals. Incredibly versatile, deployed everywhere across the midfield in Chelsea blue, before enjoying an unexpectedly profitable Indian Summer at Manchester City. TK

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                    80/101 22. Luka Modric
                    
                    

Rarely seen in a Ballon d’Or winner it’s possible Modric remains somehow underrated with his consistent class perhaps overshadowed by the headline-grabbing achievements of those around him. A veritable genius with the ball at his feet the Croatian combines workrate with wizardry with one of the most creative football minds we’ve seen. An integral role in four Champions League wins sees his legacy as a real and lasting star already cemented. BB

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                    81/101 21. Samuel Eto'o
                    
                    

Extraordinarily prolific for so very long: his electric early form at Mallorca saw him earn a move to Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona, where he scored 130 times in just 199 appearances. Pep Guardiola took his game to another level in the 2008/09 season, before successful stints at Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala and Chelsea. No player has won the African Player of the Year award more times. Only the second player in history to score in two UEFA Champions League finals. And the first player in history to win two European continental trebles. LB

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                    82/101 20. Neymar
                    
                    

If this list was based on natural talent alone, nobody could argue the Brazilian’s position. His combination of skill and creativity is largely unmatched in modern football, but he has also blared with inconsistency and struggled with persistent injury. He already has two La Liga titles, two Ligue 1 titles and a Champions League to his name, but the lingering feeling remains that a large portion of his potential remains unfulfilled. TK

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                    83/101 19. Andrei Shevchenko
                    
                    

One of the most deadly strikers in European history, Shevchenko’s peak came at AC Milan where he won the Champions League in 2003 and the Ballon d’Or in 2004. Nothing displayed his supreme composure better than his Champions League-winning penalty, finally setting Milan’s battle with rivals Juventus and writing himself into San Siri folklore. LO

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                    84/101 18. Steven Gerrard
                    
                    

The greatest player never to win a Premier League title? He instead remained at Liverpool, spending 17 seasons at Anfield during which he captained his side to two European titles as well as five domestic cups. An extremely versatile and well-rounded player, who completely remodeled his game as he grew older. TK

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                    85/101 17. Sergio Busquets
                    
                    

The rearguarding totem who cleared the canvas for one of the greatest teams in history to flourish. The Spaniard has been a pillar of Barcelona and Spain’s sides for a decade, winning an astonishing eight La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, the World Cup and the European Championships. TK

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                    86/101 16. Luis Suarez
                    
                    

Took a little while to hit the ground running at Anfield, but his contribution to Liverpool’s famous 2013/14 campaign will live long in the memory. The Uruguayan hit an extraordinary 31 goals in 33 matches as Liverpool went so, so close to ending their long wait for a league title. His career then scaled new heights at Barcelona, where he has won a staggering four La Liga titles and the Champions League title, in 2014/15. A complete centre forward, who worked tirelessly, assisted his team-mates and was utterly ruthless in front of goal LB

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                    87/101 15. Luis Figo
                    
                    

One of the most elegant players on our list Figo didn’t ever appear to be moving at the speed of the game. Moreover the game appeared to move with him. Flashy and full of flair he was at home at some of the biggest clubs in the world. One of a select few to move between Barcelona and Real Madrid and famously paid the piggy price. BB

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                    88/101 14. Philipp Lahm
                    
                    

One of the great defenders of the modern era, although defender hardly covers it. Lahm became an outstanding captain both at Bayern Munich and Germany, and became a gifted midfielder under Pep Guardiola’s coaching. A winner of eight Bundesliga titles, one Champions League and one World Cup. LO

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                    89/101 13. Gianluigi Buffon
                    
                    

The greatest goalkeeper of the last two decades. And probably the one before that, also. Holds numerous individual records – going unbeaten for 974 consecutive minutes during the 2015–16 season among the most impressive – and a bulging trophy cabinet including nine Serie A titles (and one Serie B), a UEFA Cup and the 2006 World Cup. The ‘personal records’ section of his Wikipedia page meanwhile extends to 933 words. That takes some doing. LB

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                    90/101 12. Sergio Ramos
                    
                    

The most-capped player in Spanish history, a World and European champion and a four-time Champions League winner Ramos is loved by his own and hated even more by others. Never far from notoriety his truly appalling La Liga disciplinary record may never be matched, nor will his legacy as one of the truly great modern defenders. BB

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                    91/101 11. Andrea Pirlo
                    
                    

The most stylish player on our list – both on and off the pitch – Pirlo played the game at his own pace and with more grace than almost any other ever seen. Perhaps the finest deep-lying playmaker in the history of the game Pirlo’s effortless class will surely endure. BB

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                    92/101 10. Fabio Cannavaro
                    
                    

Rarely has one player so single-handedly dominated an international tournament like Fabio Cannavaro at the 2006 World Cup. He was so impressive for Italy that the nation’s media nicknamed him Il Muro di Berlino – ‘The Berlin Wall’ – for his outstanding performances in the heart of the team’s defence, as they kept five clean sheets and conceded just two goals (neither of which were from open play) en route to victory. But he also enjoyed a stellar club career, vital for both Inter Milan and Juventus before winning two La Liga titles with Real Madrid. LB

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                    93/101 9. Kaka
                    
                    

The last man to win a Ballon d’Or before Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, history will remember Kaka as one of the great dribblers with his six-foot size allied with a uncharacteristically low centre of gravity making him nigh-on unstoppable on the run. At his balletic and barracking peak, one of the world’s very best. BB

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                    94/101 8. Zinedine Zidane
                    
                    

Zinédine Zidane is perhaps the most graceful player on this list, someone who seemed to glide through matches without ever drawing sweat. Around the turn of the century, after winning Euro 2000 with France, Zidane swapped Juventus for Real Madrid where he was the ultimate Galactico, scoring one of the great Champions League final goals. LO

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                    95/101 7. Thierry Henry
                    
                    

The striker who grasped the Premier League with such electric magnetism and revolutionised the epitome of a modern striker. The Frenchman won the Premier League twice, including the famed Invincibles season, but his prime still wasn’t rewarded with the trophy to match his talent. A move to Barcelona brought further baubles and a coveted Champions League, but by then his best had already begun to fade. TK

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                    96/101 6. Ronaldo
                    
                    

His light shined bright only briefly in the 21st century, but it was enough to earn a place near the very top of this list such was its brilliance. A relentless goalscorer and mesmerising dribbler, with power, pace, two feet and incredible close control that perhaps only Lionel Messi has matched since, Ronaldo will be remembered as one of the greatest forwards of all time. LO

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                    97/101 5. Andres Iniesta
                    
                    

Thriving in the freedom created in his childhood tandem with Xavi, the diminutive playmaker was perhaps even more influential to Barcelona and Spain’s success, revving the tempo of Barcelona’s all-conquering side, unlocking defences with ingenious control and vision. He is the most decorated player in Spanish history, with nine La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and World Cup. TK

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                    98/101 4. Ronaldinho
                    
                    

A player of outrageous God-given gifts Ronaldinho enthralled and enchanted all that witnessed him over a spellbinding career that saw him grace some of the world’s biggest clubs. His toothy, child-like grin belied a footballer who just wanted to play, few before him or since can do what he could do. A genius. BB

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                    99/101 3. Xavi Hernandez
                    
                    

The greatest Spanish player of all-time and, perhaps, the greatest passer of a ball too. Xavi was the metronome and all-seeing eye at the centre of Barcelona and Spain’s rampant success, playing conductor and orchestra to eight La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, two European Championships and the star of the 2010 World Cup. TK

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                    100/101 2. Cristiano Ronaldo
                    
                    

The boy who sparkled at Sporting became a man at Manchester United and a god at Real Madrid. He set his sights on greatness and hasn’t stopped working since, and now his record speaks for itself: Five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues, six league titles, one European Championship, 700 career goals – and counting. LO

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                    101/101 1. Lionel Messi
                    
                    Lionel Messi has made the utterly remarkable utterly routine. You only have to watch him in any given match. Messi produces so many pieces of play that would be the highlight of anyone else’s career if they were capable of them. For him, they’re just another moment of a game. It is almost an extra-sensory next level. Some statistics, should you need them: Messi has won 10 (TEN) La Liga titles. Six Copa del Reys. Eight Supercopas. Four Champions League titles. Three Super Cups. And three Club World Cups. He has a gravitational effect on an entire match, to a greater degree than anyone else. The qualities of his talents mean he is always in the centre, dictating, driving.

He’s every where. He is the standard. He is football. MD

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Groundsmen are no longer enthusiasts. Their work is underpinned by science. Most of the Spanish and Italian pitches that Maradona performed upon would not be considered worthy of training areas by the top clubs.

The physical condition of footballers is different in the age of Messi. Until the 21st century, many players did not maximise their fitness. Maradona – even before substance abuse consumed him while at Napoli – was anachronistically chunky. Even in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Ronaldo was among the best in the world, the striker was positively cherubic in appearance. Compare the Brazilian’s physique to the sculptured body of his Portuguese namesake. The average professional knew little about fine tuning their body until relatively recently.

    

            
              
                
                
                  

  
  
  
  

                
              
            

            
            
          
            
    
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Bobby Moore, England’s World Cup-winning captain, justified swilling copious amounts of beer with the phrase “a car needs petrol.” In the Sixties he did not know it was the equivalent of putting diesel in an unleaded tank. Moore at his peak would still improve Manchester City’s back line, even with a severe hangover.

Souness was part of a hard-drinking squad at Anfield but became much more conscious of how he refuelled during his stint at Sampdoria. “Players are a product of their time and environment,” he said. “Everyone drank back then so you joined in. If I was playing today, I’d be listening to the nutritionists like the rest of my team-mates and eating and drinking the right things. The culture changes.” The stars of the past – possibly even Maradona – would take a much more sober approach if they were beginning the career today.

A huge difference is the levels of protection offered to the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. “The rules were very different,” Souness said. Brute force was an accepted tactic. “When we were in the dressing room we knew the opposition were saying ‘let’s put a few on their arses and see if we can knock them off.’ Try playing tippy-tappy football when that’s happening.”

The tackle from behind was still legal and strikers in particular could expect to be clattered on a regular basis without any cards being produced for the offender. Messi and Ronaldo have had more than their share of rough treatment but neither has had the misfortune to experience anything like Maradona’s encounter with Andoni Goikoetxea, the ‘Butcher of Bilbao.’ The Athletic Bilbao defender almost ended the Argentinian’s career at the Nou Camp in 1983, breaking the Barcelona forward’s ankle with an appalling lunge. Goikoetxea seemed to target Barca’s foreign players. He was already hated in Catalonia after inflicting the cruciate ligament injury on Bernd Schuster that forced the German to miss the 1982 World Cup.

Diego Maradona will forever be one of the game's greats (Getty)
      
    

The anger and resentment towards Goikoetxea  boiled over in the 1984 Copa Del Rey final at the Bernabeu. Bilbao won 1-0 but after the match Barcelona settled scores in a wild free-for-all with Maradona drop-kicking one of the opposition coaches amid a frenzied melee. That was the final indignity for Barca. The Argentinian was shipped out to Napoli.

Thuggery was endemic in football and Italy was where snideness was elevated into an art form. When Maradona moved to Serie A, he was targeted repeatedly. No modern player will ever have to undergo such treatment.

    

            
              
                
                
                  

  
  
  
  

                
              
            

            
            
          
            
    
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The classiest performers of any era would excel in today’s game. They would embrace modern methods and adapt their fitness, technique and style to suit the requirements of the 2020s. Souness would boss Premier League midfields in the same way he dominated top-flight central areas in the 1980s. Vision, intelligence, technique and the appetite to win will never change, even if rules and conditions are sometimes unrecognisable from the past. “The question needs to be put the other way around,” Souness said. “Who today could have played in our generation?”

What carnage could Maradona have wreaked on bowling-green pitches with protective referees? He was an outlier, a man of almost peerless talent. Would Messi, one of the few players fit to be mentioned alongside him, have led that Argentina squad to win the World Cup in 1986?

It’s probably enough to say the two best players in history are Argentinian. Their brilliance will echo down the ages.

    

            
              
                
            

            
            
          
          
        
        
        

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