FourFourTwo.com January 2014 79
100PLAYERS IN THE WORLD
Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward
Revealed: the definitive rundown of the globes greatest footballers right now
I t has been such a vintage year for individual brilliance in the beautiful game that according to Arsene Wenger, the undisputed
top two have competition for best
player on the planet. Throw in
world-beating South Americans,
Spaniards, Germans and even
Belgians, plus a few Brits, and
keeping our list down to 100 (and
putting them in order) was tricky.
This year, you can read analysis,
insight and a profile on every
player in the Top 100 online at
FourFourTwo.com. But dont think
weve slacked off in the mag.
Prepare yourself for exclusive
interviews with 10 of the worlds
finest players, including Marco
Reus, Jordi Alba, Alvaro Negredo,
Mario Gotze and our new No.1
a certain Real Madrid winger...
TOP 100 PLAYERS
=99 =99 98 97 96 95 94
Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year
TOP 100 PLAYERS
Casillas vs Lopez Presence
At 6ft 5in Lopez is a giant, towering over Casillas (6ft), which has had
tangible benefits, such as against Man United in the Champions
League. Id rather Casillas had played, said Sir Alex Ferguson after
Uniteds elimination. He wouldnt have saved the shots Lopez did.
Shot-stopping Quick-witted and agile, Lopez takes this round. He made more saves
both inside and outside the box than Casillas last season and his
73.3 per cent saves-to-shots ratio dwarved Casillas 66 per cent.
Crossing Casillas is fond of punching away a cross and he dropped more
catches than Lopez in 2012-13. I like a keeper that dominates in
the air, said Jose Mourinho, explaining why Lopez was his first choice.
Leadership When Casillas position as Spain No.1 came under scrutiny, Vicente del
Bosque leapt to his captains defence, citing his role during the
Barcelona vs Real Madrid wars of bygone years. They were difficult
moments for the team during which Iker was an enormous help.
Personality The Mostoles-born stoppers confrontation with Mourinho contributed
directly to the Special Ones downfall. Casillas is an immensely
popular figure and a dressing room leader; Lopez cant compare.
Big-game mentality Its difficult to find fault with former Sevilla man Lopez, but with 151
caps, two Euros finals and a World Cup final under his belt it has to be
Casillas, who remains first choice in the Champions League.
OVERALL Casillas 3-3 Lopez. Like Carlo Ancelotti, we cant separate them.
Iker Casillas has the best save percentage
of the goalkeepers to appear in fve or more
Champions League games this season80.95%W
Tweet us your
19 6 30
93 92 91 89 88
FourFourTwo.com January 2014 81
How have you found the start to your
Im enjoying it. Weve been in and around
the leaders, which is really good. Personally,
Ive been getting a lot of minutes, and scored
a few goals, but I dont feel like Im 100
per cent just yet. Im not a conformist who
settles for performances that are only
OK. I know I can do better, so I must
work hard in training to improve.
Would it be a failure not to get
Champions League football?
Failure is a word that nobody likes, and
the possibility of not finishing in the top four
is something that hasnt even entered our
heads. Thats our main objective, but we
have to be ambitious and not give ourselves
a ceiling to what we want to achieve. Weve
got a very dynamic squad thats maybe
even more competitive than last season,
despite losing Gareth Bale.
How have you found adapting to the pace
and physicality of the Premier League?
Every game is tough, especially away from
home. You have to concentrate 100 per cent,
regardless of the position the opposition
occupy in the table. Thats what Im struggling
with most the mental rhythm of having
to be at maximum concentration. Thats not
always the case in La Liga. Referees are
different, too. Sometimes it seems to pain
them to blow for a free-kick! Theyre all
challenges Im warming to.
And hows the English?
Its, er, improving [laughs]. Like anything new,
it comes along little by little. Im now seeing
what its like to be the new guy in a dressing
room who sits around smiling but not really
knowing what people are going on about.
The shoes on the other foot. Youve got to
walk tall and be switched on with whats
going on around you...
[As if on cue, a kung-fu-kicking Sandro
sidles over, playing air guitar, miming into
a non-existent microphone and cooing
Hellooooo. Soldado turns bright red, and
FFT knows exactly what this means...]
So, how was your initiation with the squad?!
Madre mia, this guy [Sandro] is f***ing killing
me! [A delighted Sandro exits stage right,
knowing his work here is done] I had to stand
on top of a chair in front of the whole squad
and sing this Spanish song. I was a disaster
really bad. Its a great way to
break the ice with the squad,
though. You lose any nerves
you might have around your
new team-mates and
it brings everyone
together. Ive got
no future as a
You had some tough times
when you were injured
at Real Madrid aged 17,
going out too much, not
concentrating on football.
What would you say to
that Roberto Soldado
if you could today?
If I hadnt gone through
those tough experiences
then, but at 26 or 27,
it wouldve been a lot
worse. I wasnt aware
enough of the opportunity I had at the time.
With a 17-year-olds mentality you dont
think about what effect youre having on
your life. Thankfully, my parents were on the
ball and soon came to live in Madrid. They
put me back on the path to the professional
life I needed to live to become a footballer.
You did a Spanish documentary last
year about blind football. How was it?
Its an experience that Ill never forget.
When I was on my way to doing it, I was
pretty nervous because I didnt know how
people could cope without sight. Theyre
incredible people an absolute inspiration.
You soon learn how important the sense of
touch and verbal communication is for them
to live. These are essential parts of life; we
dont realise how lucky we are sometimes.
People say you have mala leche [bad
milk] on the pitch. Is getting in an
opponents face part of your game?
It helps me concentrate, and if things
arent going my way, thats when it
really benefits me. It firms me
up. I need that fire inside me;
the batteries to start me up.
Finally, whats the weirdest
request youve had from a fan?
[Thinks long and hard] Ah, of
course! There was once this girl
who came up to me after
a Valencia game and asked if
I would go to her house to
wish her father a happy
birthday. I had visions of her
wanting me to get inside
a life-size cake and spring
out, shouting: Surprise!
Soldado is wearing the new
Adidas F50 boots, part of the
Samba Collection. Visit adidas.
com or join the conversation
#allin or nothing
Spurs penalty king talks odd fan requests and getting in the oppositions face Roberto Soldado
Soldado scored seven penalties in this period, level
with Mario Balotelli and Edinson Cavani no player
in Europes top fve leagues converted more
I thought this fan wanted me to jump out of a life-size birthday cake for her dad
TOP 100 PLAYERS
TOP 100 PLAYERSPierre-Emerick Aubameyang
10 2 6
87 86 85 84 83 82 81
Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward
New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11
Negredo scored a La Liga goal every 119 minutes
between November and May, bettered only by
Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Soldado119mins
As soon as City were interested in me, I didnt even think. I just said yes. Theyre a big club with a long history, which was one of the main factors in me
coming here. At no point before this summer
did I think about leaving, but after four
seasons at Sevilla, it was time for a change
of scenery. As a footballing decision, it
wasnt a difficult decision to come to a team
thats always fighting for titles and recently
won the Premier League. I hope to be here
for many years to come because my new
team-mates and the fans have been great.
On a personal level, leaving Spain was a bit difcult. Youre leaving the only country youve known, your friends, your city,
your people, but its definitely worked out for
the best. My wife and daughter have come
over with me, and my grandparents, brothers
and sisters have been to see us a couple of
times, too. All that helps. To be honest, if
you take away the winter cold, even the
weather hasnt been too bad: Ive
always loved training in the rain!
Im no Zidane, but Im not a clumsy oaf that cant do anything but score goals.Though, I must admit I like being a giant in
a team of tiny little guys: Navas, Aguero,
Nasri and Silva are all so small! Im strong,
with an English-type physique, so thats
helped me adapt to the Premier League.
It definitely helps being a striker, too.
Teams here always look to attack, so the
game develops very quickly and goalscoring
chances come along quicker. Ive always
got on well with new team-mates and I am
looking to create goals as much as score
them they appreciate that.
If you win the Manchester derby, you win everything. Personally, to participate in two of the goals and win 4-1
was a beautiful moment, and it gave us a huge
amount of confidence. Its like the victory
counted double. At Sevilla it was the same
against Real Betis: the jokes, words in the
streets and sense of humour would start two
weeks before the game and wouldnt stop
until way after the referee blew the final
whistle. There will always be intensity in
a derby, but in Manchester both teams are
fighting for the league. That adds flavour.
Manuel Pellegrini was the Real Madrid coach that let me go, but there has never been any rancour at any point. Quite the opposite, because he didnt give me any false hopes about getting
in the team. He was totally honest. I had
Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuain and even
Raul in front of me. He said he believed in me,
but that I needed to play and wished me all
the best. I spoke with him at length before
coming here and he told me I was going to be
very important for him at City and that he had
confidence in me. I did my best there, but Real
Madrid have the best players in the world in
every position, above all at centre-forward,
so its difficult. Im left with that desire to
have played more for them, but the
decision to leave was the right one.
I love doing the difcult thing: lifes boring otherwise. If you take the easy route, you dont grow.
As soon as you relax in any situation,
youre f***ed. You learn from those who are
operating at a better level than you are.
At City, the competition is fierce, but you learn
from each other and give your best so that
you play as many minutes as possible. I thrive
on the challenge; Ive had to fight my whole
career to be a regular at Real Madrid reserves,
Almeria and Sevilla. City is no different.
I was the untouchable king of the street, but only thanks to my brothers!
Theyre all older than me, so playing with them
and their friends was a great introduction to
football. My eldest brother protected me a lot
and was always stepping in to threaten other
players if he thought they were trying to hurt
me. But if we were on opposite sides, hed be
the only one allowed to give me a kicking!
My middle brother, Ruben, had the most talent
he was superb. I wanted to be like them
and I owe the spirit I have now to them.
I learned to fnish from Hugo Sanchez. Every Friday at Almeria, hed do a training session just with
us forwards. He used to show us a video of
a season when he scored 38 goals for Real
Madrid and every one of them was with his
first touch. Every one! The first time I saw it,
I couldnt believe my eyes. He always said:
Dont think about what youre going to do,
because you lose a tenth of a second and
a defender can tackle you, or youll over-think
and miss. With a bicycle kick [the chosen
execution of Sanchezs famous Madrid goal],
then maybe. Otherwise, never! Actually,
Sanchez did exercises on bicycle kicks
too. They were great fun.
I love being called the Beast. Most of my nicknames come from my celebrations. Im also called the Shark
because I do la cresta [puts his hand, karate
chop-style to his forehead] after some goals.
I like the idea that I can be a slightly
different beast from game to game.
If you go to Madrid, my dad could be your taxi driver. Ive told him a thousand
times Ill pay for him to stop, but he
loves it. I think hed get too fidgety
at home. When I was at Sevilla, he
once picked up the president, Jose
Maria del Nido, at the train station by
chance. My dad knew exactly who he
was, but didnt say anything until the end of
the journey when he said there was no charge.
I think Del Nido invited my mum and dad to his
place in Sevilla the next time they were there!
Alvaro Negredo is wearing the new F50 football
boots, part of the Adidas Samba Collection
inspired by Brazil. Visit adidas.com or join the
conversation @adidasUK #F50 #allin or nothing
I like being a different beast from game to game
has sold and
TOP 100 PLAYERSHugo Lloris
80 79 78 77 76 75Leighton Baines
FourFourTwo.com January 2014 83
Read a profile on
every player in
FFTs Top 100 at
Between October and July, Negredo
had a hand in 19 of Sevillas 46 La Liga
goals an impressive 41 per cent41%
As soon as you relax, youre f***ed. At City competition is ferce, but I thrive on the challenge 75
TOP 100 PLAYERSM