The Top 100 Players In The World

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  • FourFourTwo.com January 2014 79

    THE TOP

    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

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    =99 =99 98 97 96 95 94

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year

    9099

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

    1

    1

    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.

    Winner: Lopez

    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.

    Winner: Lopez

    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.

    Winner: Lopez

    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.

    Winner: Casillas

    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.

    Winner: Casillas

    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.

    Winner: Casillas

    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

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    DISAGREE?

    Tweet us your

    140-character

    assassination

    at #FFT100

    19 6 30

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    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 81

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    How have you found the start to your

    Tottenham career?

    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

    singer, though!

    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

    @adidasUK #F50

    #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

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    Nemanja Vidic

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    Mathieu Valbuena

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    Stevan Jovetic

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    Jakub Blaszczykowski

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    Andrea Barzagli

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    10 2 6

    87 86 85 84 83 82 81

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

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    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

    Alvaro Negredo

    Below Pellegrini

    has sold and

    bought Negredo

  • TOP 100 PLAYERSHugo Lloris

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    Diego Costa

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    Samir Handanovic

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    David Villa

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    Alvaro Negredo

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    41

    80 79 78 77 76 75Leighton Baines

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    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 83

    GET ONLINE!

    Read a profile on

    every player in

    FFTs Top 100 at

    FourFourTwo.com

    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

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