WARNING: You might be irritated over some of these rankings.
Now that we have that out of the way, it’s easy to say that some of these rankings are utterly ridiculous (see nos. 30 and 67?!). Be that as it may, The Guardian put together an expert panel of 225 judges (and even four German journalists!) to come up with its Top 100 Players List.
The top 10 players per The Guardian are as follows:
- No. 1: Luka Modric
- No. 2: Cristiano Ronaldo
- No. 3: Lionel Messi
- No. 4: Kylian Mbappé
- No. 5: Mohamed Salah
- No. 6: Antoine Griezmann
- No. 7: Eden Hazard
- No. 8: Kevin De Bruyne
- No. 9: Harry Kane
- No. 10: N’Golo Kanté
As for Bayern Munich players, here is who made the top 100 (hint, it won’t take long to read):
- No. 30: Robert Lewandowski, Poland (CSmith1919 note: Awful rating)
It is a sharp fall down the list for Lewandowski in 2018, indicative of a calendar year that he perhaps expected to be pivotal in his career, but that has turned out to be deflating by his lofty standards. He failed to make any significant impact for Bayern in their Champions League semi-final and after they refused to sanction a move to Real Madrid – Los Merengues might have pushed harder for him had he shone brighter in that tie – he had a quiet World Cup with Poland. He remains a formidable goalscorer in an ageing Bayern side.
- No. 67: Joshua Kimmich, Germany (CSmith1919 note: WTF!)
This year was the first in Kimmich’s top-level career that saw his stratospheric rise slightly clipped, coloured by Germany’s dreadful showing at the World Cup. Jérôme Boateng and Thomas Müller might have attracted more criticism than him for their performances in Russia but Kimmich was definitely part of Die Mannschaft’s undisciplined showings. It is not totally his fault, as he has been shifted between right-back and midfield for club and country, reflecting the relative disarray afflicting both Germany and Bayern. His talent is still hard to hold back, and he was Bayern’s leading assist maker in the first half of 2018-19.
- No. 70: James Rodriguez, Colombia
Rodríguez might reflect both on the year that was, and the year that might have been. Had he been fit enough to participate in Colombia’s World Cup last 16 match with England, his team may have progressed and he might have found himself far further up this list. Instead, he was a frustrated spectator – just as he has been too often since Niko Kovac’s arrival at Bayern, firing speculation of a move elsewhere. That’s a pity, because he excelled in the first half of 2018 as both a No 10 and in a midfield three at the heart of Bayern’s Bundesliga title win.
In addition to the Bayern players listed above, the following German internationals were also named:
- No. 22: Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
When Kroos whipped that thrilling 95th-minute winner into the far corner against Sweden in Sochi, seemingly opening up a safe passage for the then-world champions to escape ignominy, it felt like one of those moments that can define an entire World Cup. That sensation did not last long and it summed up a mixed year for Kroos, whose wonderfully rhythmic partnership with Luka Modric was on show as Real won yet another Champions League but spluttered early this season along with the rest of the team. When on song Kroos is the complete package: peerless passing range, intuitive feel for the game and rare ability to time his runs into goalscoring positions. It just was not quite enough to turn Germany’s fortunes on their head.
- No. 44: Marc-André ter Stegen, FC Barcelona
Go to YouTube, type “Ter Stegen doble parada Sevilla”, and watch. Done? Now, scrape your jaw off the floor and watch the other double save from the same game. He is shining in La Liga not just because of his ability with the ball at his feet but because of things like that, which are quite regular occurrences now. There was even a tweet from Barcelona suggesting it was all about Messi at one end and Ter Stegen at the other. Which doesn’t say much for the rest, but says a lot about him.
- No. 47: Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund (CSmith1919 note: This is freaking absurd!)
[...]. Reus looks a player reborn, a string of decisive and utterly lethal performances helping lift Lucien Favre’s compelling side clear at the summit. A rapier-like finish in the 3-2 win over Bayern, later added to with a penalty, embodied Reus at his best: he can hurt you from anywhere and the only regret is that he could, should, have been one of the world’s top few players for years on end. He returns to our list after a two-year absence, having been No 50 in 2015, and at least we are now able to enjoy him in full flight once again.
- No. 57: Leroy Sané, Manchester City
If Sané continues to mature he may overtake Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Agüero as the star attraction in Manchester City’s constellation. The German is not always a first choice for Pep Guardiola yet it is rare for him to endure a day when he is not terrorizing the opposing right-back with his pace and dazzling feet. Sané was superb in the second half of City’s championship procession so Joachim Löw’s decision to leave the 22-year-old out of Germany’s World Cup squad was a serious surprise.
- No. 99: Mesut Özil, Arsenal
What a complicated year for this enigmatic playmaker. At times Özil has graced games with his subtle finesse, at others he has been peripheral, dropped or mysteriously ill. Having outlined his anger at being scapegoated by Germany for their collectively dismal World Cup, he seemed happy to focus on club football. He is still so gifted on his day, but with Arsenal under new management the question of how he best fits in remains an open one. Unai Emery’s high-intensity work ethic does not naturally seem to be Özil’s thing and it remains to see how this one works out over the longer term.
Players listed who have been linked to Bayern at one point or another of late include:
- No. 69: Lucas Hernández, Atletico Madrid
- No. 71: Benjamin Pavard, VfB Stuttgart
- No. 78: Son Heung-min, Tottenham Hotspur
- No. 85: Ante Rebic, Eintracht Frankfurt
- No. 89: Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax
- No. 92: Frenkie de Jong, Ajax
- No. 95: Nebil Fekir, Lyon
If you are wondering who came up with the rankings, check out this link for the list of judges.
BFW Hot Takes
This list is the fallout of the World Cup debacle. It’s almost as if, because Germany was terrible for that tournament, then all Germans are suddenly garbage and the Bundesliga is some kind of beer league featuring a bunch of accountants, bloggers, and plumbers moonlighting as soccer players. Sure, there is a clear bias toward the Premier League and La Liga...I get it, but come on. There is a clear feeling that the Bundesliga is trash and that’s just plain wrong.
John N. Dillon
This list is a good reflection of the popular players in the English Premier League and players who are interesting to English journalists. Thirty-seven players from the Premier League alone, from Mo Salah all the way down to Mesut Özil at 99. La Liga is, of course, the next most popular at twenty-eight players. How nice of them to rank Luka Modric first on this list, too, ahead of Messi (no. 2)! Players like Isco (no. 28) are ranked laughably high, well ahead of James Rodriguez, Robert Lewandowski, and Joshua Kimmich.
What else does this list tell us? The panelists also watch a little Serie A (Juve and Napoli, basically) and all but ignore the Bundesliga. A whopping eight players! Even the category “other leagues” has four (De Jong, De Ligt, River Plate’s Gonzalo Martinez, and recent World Cup star Hirving Lozano) The omissions from Bayern Munich are bad enough. Thiago Alcantara who? David Alaba? Nope. Isn’t Niklas Süle a wrestler or something? Who?
Besides the intrinsic bias of the list toward the EPL and La Liga, and of course goal-scorers generally, World Cup showings obviously had a massive influence. Hence Benjamin Pavard makes the grade at 71, despite his awful subsequent season at Stuttgart. Since Germany, and Bayern Munich’s contingent in particular, had a terrible World Cup, it’s no surprise that they are barely on the radar of the judges of this particular list.
If this isn’t ammo for some of the top Bundesliga players to silence all of their critics, then I don’t know what is. The disregard for the league itself is clearly evident with these rankings and Germany’s World Cup failure is not representative of the incredible talent in the Bundesliga.
As for Kimmich, I think he was far from one of Germany’s worst performers and Russia, and we can’t forget how good he was for Germany in their qualifying campaign to get to the World Cup. The same could be said for James Rodriguez, who played an integral role in getting Colombia to the World Cup in one of the most difficult sections (CONMEBOL) to secure direct qualification from. He was incredibly unlucky to have picked up an injury that kept him out of the round of 16 tie against England.
For Robert Lewandowski, how many other strikers could stand out and showcase their incredible ability with Poland’s slightly weaker supporting cast? The man is a serial goal-scorer and, at times, has had to carry Poland on his back. For a player who was still able to collect the Torjägerkanone last season and break goal-scoring records for a single UEFA World Cup qualifying campaign.