2023 has been a wild ride – and these were the 100 best football players in the world for the year.
Here at FourFourTwo HQ, we all clubbed together to create this list of the great and the good of the past 12 months, who have defined the sport in 2023. There are some who may never feature on this list again and some who have dropped out altogether; there are some returnees and some first-time faces.
But it's a tough call. Do you pick players based on what they can do? What they did do? A mixture of both? It's all subjective. So tell us who you think should be on the list – tweet us @FourFourTwo…
The phrase "rolling back the years" has been somewhat overused in recent years (30-year-old Ross Barkley is far too young to qualify for it, used during his virtuoso performance against Arsenal for Luton recently) – but Sergio Busquets' year typifies the term. One final title with Barcelona was followed by the retirement move to Fort Lauderdale, where he's had the time and space at Inter Miami to truly be appreciated for his work on the ball. An all-time great in his twilight.
99. Nahuel Molina
€10 million is looking like an absolute steal for Atletico Madrid. World Cup winner Nahuel Molina has enjoyed another consistent season at the top for Diego Simeone, bombing forward from wing-back and contributing at both ends of the pitch. One of the best full-backs in Spain, he's one of European football's unsung heroes.
98. Diogo Costa
It was only a matter of time before Diogo Costa would get his flowers. Tipped for greatness at a ludicrously young age, a stunning Champions League group stage performance last season has led to more steady performances between the sticks for Porto. He's going to the top.
97. Micky van de Ven
Micky van de Ven gets injured and Tottenham's defence falls apart for a little bit. Coincidence? Nope – the Dutchman has been one of the signings of the season in Europe this term, with frightening recovery pace that makes Ange Postecoglou's philosophy really click. A top buy.
96. Karim Benzema
2023 was the year that King Karim finally departed the Bernabeu for Saudi Arabia. Over the past few years, his ascension to godlike status in the absence of both Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo has been stunning to see – our loss is Al-Ittihad's gain.
95. Lucas Paqueta
He delivered arguably the most important assist of West Ham's modern history, threading Jarrod Bowen in for the Europa Conference winner. And perhaps no other Hammer has the composure and the quality in such a moment, either: Lucas Paqueta is the most mercurial man at David Moyes' disposal. He's had an electric 12 months.
The renaissance of Isco Alcarcon has been beautiful. The ex-Real Madrid playmaker has rediscovered his brilliant best at Betis in 2023, weaving through defences like the player of old. At 31, he surely has a couple more seasons like this left?
93. Olivier Giroud
So rare is a striker like Olivier Giroud. Physical, dominant, aggressive and lethal, yet almost with a deft and grace to his game. The ultimate late bloomer, he's still arguably at his best at Milan – and as 2023 proves, he's not bad between the sticks either.
92. Enzo Fernandez
Benfica multiplied their investment when Todd Boehly was so enamoured with a World Cup superstar, he had to drop nine figures on him. Chelsea has been a tough gig for Enzo Fernandez but the young midfielder has shown glimpses of his world-class potential in a blue shirt.
91. Serhou Guirassy
We're not going to judge if you've never heard of him before – but Serhou Guirassy has been the surprise competition to Harry Kane's expected one-man march to Bundesliga Golden Boot. A steady one-in-two ratio on loan at Stuttgart last term led to a permanent deal, where the 27-year-old has torn up this season, netting 16 in his first 11 appearances. Unsustainable? Perhaps – but undoubtedly one of the stars of the past calendar year.
90. Nico Williams
Athletic Club have got the Christmas present they wanted: penning Nico Williams to another four years in the Basque country. The winger has been excellent all year, showing two-footedness, directness and intensity out wide. At 21, he's only getting better.
89. Marcus Thuram
Marcus Thuram was one of the Bundesliga's worst-kept secrets and he's been solid in Serie A, too. Just like his World Cup-winning father Lilian, he's an incredibly intelligent, hungry footballer who has shown a lot of promise at Inter Milan thus far.
88. Ivan Martin
Girona's surprise title assault might be Spain's answer to Leicester City in 2016 – but in truth, Ivan Martin doesn't have an equal from that Foxes side. With silky technique and brilliance on the ball, Martin has been a revelation this campaign – his performances may just earn him a huge move in the future.
87. Christoper Nkunku
Yet to play competitively for Chelsea, Christopher Nkunku is still deserving of his place in the top 100 players on Earth, if just for his brilliance over the past couple of years. The forward is like a lightning bolt through the centre of his side, able to create, drift and attack the box with bluster: he might just be the catalyst to a faltering Blues side.
86. Viktor Gyokeres
Coventry to Lisbon isn't the most commonly trodden path but Viktor Gyokeres is something of a trendsetter. The Swedish hitman was the Championship's best player last season and has taken to Sporting with ease. With an £87m release clause, perhaps English football beckons once more in the future.
85. Martin Zubimendi
Real Sociedad have had a fantastic year under Imanol Alguacil. The Basque side qualified for the Champions League, won their group and Martin Zubimendi in the centre of midfield has been responsible for keeping the side ticking over. Barcelona and Arsenal loom with future offers, if you believe the rumour mill, and it's understandable: he's one of the best midfielders in Europe this season.
84. Federico Chiesa
Injuries and bans from UEFA competition have robbed English fans of watching Federico Chiesa a little more often – but the Juventus star is simply out of this world when he's at his best. Chiesa is dynamic, can beat a man both ways and has an intensity to him that few forwards do: no doubt English fans will be hoping that they don't see too much of him this summer, mind.
83. Douglas Luiz
Aston Villa is a complex ecosystem of a side organised meticulously by Unai Emery. It's hard to pick out one star but Douglas Luiz is perhaps the most obvious one. Controlled yet aggressive, able to carry or sit, and integral box-to-box, the Brazilian has been superb as the Midlands outfit have transformed under Emery into one of the most exciting sides to watch in Europe.
82. Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling is a lesson in mentality. He has speed, strength, creativity and intelligence – but his finest asset is that one can simply never write him off. He always has a 10/10 in his locker just waiting when you least expect it… as former employers Manchester City found out to their detriment in that 4-4 draw. He's been wonderful this season but that game in particular might be the performance of the season from anyone in the Premier League.
81. Federico Valverde
He is the glue of that midfield. Fede Valverde can be anything depending on who's alongside him, as shown by winning a Champions League from right-wing and adapting to four-man diamond to do the hard-running alongside the likes of Jude Bellingham, Modric and Kroos. Is he still underrated?
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As a seasoned football enthusiast with an extensive knowledge of the sport, I'd like to delve into the intricacies of the article discussing the 100 best football players in the world for the year 2023. My expertise in football spans years of dedicated observation, analysis, and a genuine passion for the beautiful game. The evidence of my depth of knowledge lies in the nuanced understanding of player performances, team dynamics, and the ever-evolving landscape of football.
Let's break down the concepts and players mentioned in the article:
Sergio Busquets: The article highlights Busquets' final title with Barcelona and subsequent move to Fort Lauderdale, showcasing his enduring greatness in the twilight of his career.
Nahuel Molina: A standout performer for Atletico Madrid, the World Cup winner is praised for his consistent season as a wing-back, contributing both defensively and offensively.
Diogo Costa: The young Porto goalkeeper is acknowledged for his impressive Champions League group stage performance and steady displays, indicating his potential for future success.
Micky van de Ven: The Dutchman's impact on Tottenham's defense is emphasized, underscoring his importance and effectiveness as a signing in European football.
Karim Benzema: The departure of the Real Madrid stalwart to Saudi Arabia is noted, recognizing his ascension to a godlike status in the absence of other key players.
Lucas Paqueta: Highlighted for delivering a crucial assist for West Ham in the Europa Conference, Paqueta is described as the most mercurial player at David Moyes' disposal.
Isco: The article celebrates the renaissance of Isco Alcarcon at Betis, rediscovering his brilliant form and weaving through defenses with the skill reminiscent of his prime.
Olivier Giroud: Described as a rare striker with a combination of physicality, dominance, and grace, Giroud's continued effectiveness at Milan is acknowledged.
Enzo Fernandez: The young midfielder at Chelsea is recognized for showing glimpses of his world-class potential despite the challenges of adapting to the Premier League.
Serhou Guirassy: The surprise performer in Bundesliga, Guirassy's impressive goal-scoring record at Stuttgart and subsequent permanent deal is highlighted.
Nico Williams: Athletic Club's winger is praised for his excellent performances, showcasing two-footedness, directness, and intensity at the age of 21.
Marcus Thuram: The intelligent and hungry footballer is noted for his solid performances at Inter Milan, following the footsteps of his World Cup-winning father Lilian.
These snippets from the article provide a snapshot of the diverse talents and narratives that have shaped the football landscape in 2023. My comprehensive understanding of these players and their contributions adds depth to the appreciation of their achievements in the past year.