Who is the Best Soccer Player in the World?

By Woodland Soccer Team •  Updated: 08/09/22 •  13 min read

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When asking the important question of who is the best soccer player in the world we need to clarify some key points, like who is the best male soccer player in the world and who is the best soccer player in the world right now.

We also have to establish some other criteria, such as, who is the best soccer player in the world and their team, who is the best soccer team player (as opposed to most skillful) and who is the best soccer athlete. We also have to take into account if this is going to end up being the best soccer player in the world, or just the top soccer player in Europe?

There are also items to consider like the amount of trophies a soccer player has won when discussing the best soccer player in the world. Some people try to use rational arguments including statistics ranging from clean sheets to goals scored to impact the decision of who is the world’s top soccer player. Do we also have to take into account the performances at international level when evaluating the best soccer player in the world? These are just some of the vital sub-categories that can all alter our thinking.

Who is the Best Team Soccer Player in the World?

For example, in the past, we could have said that Xavi Hernandez was the greatest soccer player of all time because his team, FC Barcelona, won a lot of trophies while he was playing, and he also won everything with the Spanish national team. He also played on possibly the greatest football team of all time with the likes of Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

We may even want to consider if a player like Xavi Hernandez would have been as good if he did not play with the likes of Iniest and Messi. Would Cristiano Ronaldo be as successful if he was not on a Zinedine Zidane managed Real Madrid team? Ronaldo also played with a superb Manchester United team where he made his name. So is the best soccer player in the world someone who is doing great things without the help of other great players or managers?

Who is the Best Soccer Player in the World Today?

One final aspect of discussing the best soccer player in the world that resonates strongly at the moment is whether you are judging the player on their career or their potential. Is it fair to judge Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at their previous level, or should we only judge them at their level today? Are players, such as Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland the best active soccer players today because they have their peaks in front of them? Or is it a combination of both career and potential when selecting who is the best soccer player in the world right now?

We will look to explore all these aspects while evaluating who is the best soccer player in the world. Here are a few of the contenders to crown;

Who is the 3rd Best Soccer Player in the World?

As mentioned, there are a ton of issues with discussing the topic of who is the best soccer player in the world, but for some people it is still quite easy. Is it Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? No player has come close to achieving what they have in terms of trophies or statistics over the last 10+ years while still playing at a high level. So, is the debate closed for other players? We will take a look at some of the other soccer players in the world that come close to knocking the two giants off their thrones before taking a look at Messi and Ronaldo in more detail.

With Neymar, whether or not he possesses the skill level to be legitimately compared to the 2 greats has never been in question. However, a strong argument that Neymar has on his side are the stats. More specifically are his statistics recorded per 90 minutes and goals contributions per game in champions league matches. In the past 8 seasons, the only advanced statistics Messi or Ronaldo have over Neymar is Cristiano Ronaldo’s expected goals p90 and shots p90 resulting in a higher goals per 90 minutes. Neymar actually matches Lionel Messi in almost all categories, especially those of key passes and expected assists p90 where they both dwarf Cristiano in terms of creativity.

Neymar greatest issue for his legacy in terms of trophies won and overall numbers comes down to games played. In the last 8 seasons Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have both played 6000+ more minutes than Neymar which has surely impacted his returns. A lot of football fans would say that Neymar’s recent minutes have been in a weaker competition in Ligue 1 of France, but Neymar’s statistics in Champions League minutes per 90 kind of invalidate that point.

Is Neymar the Best Soccer Player in the World?

The definitive stat that puts Neymar up there alone with Messi and Ronaldo is his goal involvement numbers in the Champions League over a long period. Neymar has a staggering goal involvement stat of every 86 minutes in the hardest competition in club football over his career. This is compared to Lionel Messi’s goal contribution in the champions league of every 78 minutes, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s of every 84 minutes over their total amount of minutes played in that competition.

Overall, given everything Neymar has brought to the game, it is so hard to live up to the greatness of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Neymar’s ability to perform in big games has solidified his spot closest to the top 2 over the past decade, but there are some younger players coming to challenge him in terms of statistics and trophies won.

Who is the Best Male Soccer Player in the World Right Now?

As we move down the best soccer player in the world list we may consider this next player to be at least the fourth best male soccer player in the world right now and that is Kylian Mbappe.

The 23 year old French phenomenon Kylian Mbappe is Neymar’s team mate at Paris Saint Germain (PSG), and he still has the peak of his career ahead of him. Mbappe brings up some interesting questions of the level of competition with his career so far. Does he deserve to be in the conversation, or should he be considered even more prominent than that?

One major trophy that has eluded all 3 above him, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, to this day, is the majestic World Cup trophy Kylian Mbappe won with France in 2018. Mbappe showed off his electric skill at pace in a heavily counter attack based French team led by Didier Deschamps which fit Mbappe’s style perfectly. Add that to 5 Ligue 1 titles and 4 top scorer awards, for a 23 years old, Kylian Mbappe has won his fair share of trophies. However, on the other hand, Ronaldo had already won his first Balon D’or at 23 years old and Leo Messi had already won 2 by that age.

Most fans believe that a player would rather give up individual honors like Balon D’or wins for a World Cup win, so maybe Mbappe has both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi tipped at this stage of his career. Speaking of topping the greats, Mbappe has a Champions League record of a goal involvement of every 77 minutes (despite only playing slightly over 4000 minutes total), which would surpass all 3 players mentioned before him in terms of goal contributions and productivity in the toughest club competition.

So is there a case to be made that Kylian Mbappe is the best soccer player in the world right now? Has he been outperforming the greatest players of the last decade in the hardest competitions in world football? Is there anyone else that comes close to these 4 in the debate for world’s top soccer player?

Other Contenders for Best Soccer Player in the World.

If we want to take a look at some contenders going off performances in mainly champions league games then we have to use the same metrics. Other players with good goal involvement numbers in the champions league are Karim Benzema, who as well as winning the trophy 5 times, has an impressive goal involvement of every 98 mins. Seeing as Benzema has been winning the most club trophies lately, there could be an argument that he is the most important player to any team at this moment in time.

Another player that has an impressive record in the toughest club cup is Erling Haaland who boasts contributing to a goal every 55 minutes in champions league in his short, fledgling career. The soon to be 22 year old surely has a bright future ahead having recently moved to Premier League champions Manchester City where he could surely maintain such an incredible champions league record.

A great in the goals contribution department in the champions league that can not be overlooked is Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski who has amassed an impressive 111 goal involvements in 9000 minutes in the competition which equals an awesome contribution of every 81 minutes.

Another, forgotten Champions League goal contributing machine is Harry Kane with an involvement every 90 minutes. Despite not playing at that level much recently, and creeping up on 29 years of age, he still has time to enter the conversation.

Players in the Top 10 of Best Soccer Players in the World.

As the debate rages on, some fans may be calling for different sets of metrics and player form to be taken into account. Should France and Manchester United CB Raphael Varane have his name up there with these greats having 4 Champions League medals to add to his World Cup win? Real Madrid’s center midfielder Luka Modric has 5 Champions League wins, 1 world final appearance and a balon d’or win to his name.

Some may say Mohammed Salah was the closest player to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s all time levels with his recent form the way he took teams apart in all competitions for Liverpool FC. Kevin de Bruyne has also been destroying teams in arguably the most difficult league in the world by winning the Premier League season after season with Manchester City.

Either way, it is still hard to go against the players that have already won so much and can still perform consistently in big games like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi the Best Soccer Player in the World?

The imprint Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have left on the game means that their reputation precedes them when entering a debate about who is the best soccer player in the world. It is hard to separate what they have done in their careers from what they are doing at the moment. Both players are capable of astonishing feats of physical, technical and mental prowess while both being extremely different players.

Lionel Messi plays with the ball extremely close to his body inviting defenders into being dribbled or passed by unexpectedly. Messi also relies on complex off the ball movement to find space in tight areas, more so than Ronaldo, because of the teams he has played on and the way they keep the ball in the heart of the opposition defense. This requires a detailed skill set that can be considered by many to be more impressive and difficult to master due to speed of thought and decision making.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a different skill set to Lionel Messi, which can also be an indication of their different physiques. Cristiano stands taller than the average soccer player while Messi is less than average height. This has seen Ronaldo play better in teams that are more spread out and may rely more on counter attacks where he can exploit the space. The explosive jumping and power is what Cristiano Ronaldo is known for, which makes him almost unstoppable in many situations.

Their tireless work ethic and determination are comparable but their differing styles and approaches to the game make comparison really difficult. I think many of Lionel Messi’s qualities are harder to achieve on a technical level based purely on decisions per second. This is hard to measure, and Ronaldo also plays at a very high rate, but the way Messi plays makes him more involved in the game as a whole. Some soccer games the ball seems to go through Messi every attack where Ronaldo can be waiting to attack so seem less involved in more complex ideas of building an attack.

Are Ronaldo and Messi Still the Best Soccer Players in the World?

Both players made surprising moves in the summer of 2021 seeing Lionel Messi move to PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo make a move back to his old club Manchester United. Regarding their performance after this shake up, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were still able to score 5 goals in 6 Champions League games for their new clubs.

In their respective leagues they were both involved in 21 goals albeit Messi’s were every 102 minutes and Ronaldo were every 117. Both lower than their usual contributions but still high for a great player nonetheless. Both struggled with fitness at varying parts of the season, so they both had to miss stretches of games which is a rarity for either player.

Is Kylian Mbappe the Best Player in World Soccer?

This may seem like excuses are being made in the face of legitimate challengers to the crown, however no player excessively outperformed either player apart from one. Kylian Mbappe with his colossal 12 goal involvement in 8 Champions League games at a rate of 56 minutes – on top of 65 goal contributions in 46 games overall for the season puts him in a class of his own.

These factors may indicate a changing of the guard, but given Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi had both changed clubs, countries and leagues prior and Mbappe being given a boost by playing alongside Messi himself, it may be too soon to call an end to their careers. They have proven that next season could be a return to outlandish numbers and performances while we have the greatest motivator of all lying half way through the season.

So, as the conversation of who is the best soccer player in the world is still being written. Lionel Messi may still get the nod given his career accolades but Cristiano is right there with him. Lionel Messi is almost 2 years younger than Ronaldo, but Kylian Mbappe is 12 years younger than Leo Messi, so many things can change. Everything is just fuel for future debates of who is the best soccer player in the world amongst friends, family and fans across the world.

Woodland Soccer Team

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