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

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    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

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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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    92511

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    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    18

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    Mount Ararat casts a long shadow over

    Yerevan, the capital of Armenia and

    Henrikh Mkhitaryans birthplace.

    The graceful playmaker now inhabiting

    Borussia Dortmunds No.10 shirt has,

    though, had another shadow to escape in

    his footballing career and has done so with

    quiet determination and not a little steel.

    I fell in love with the game because of my

    dad, he tells FourFourTwo. Football is in my

    blood and I wanted to become a player like

    him. His father was Hamlet Mkhitaryan, the

    tragic prince of Armenian football. He was

    a trailblazer a striker for FC Ararat Yerevan

    in the 1980s who became one of the first

    Soviet players to seize the chances afforded

    by the Perestroika era and move abroad.

    In 1989 he arrived in the French lower

    leagues, an unknown, plying his trade at

    ASOA Valence. After making an immediate

    impression both on and off the field, he sent

    for his young family to join him in southern

    France, including his nine-month-old son,

    Henrikh. They watched as Hamlet helped

    Valence to promotion to the second division

    and won the hearts of his team-mates and

    fans. It was a happy time and to this day,

    Henrikh chats comfortably in fluent French.

    The Mkhitaryans world was shattered,

    though, when Hamlet was taken ill in training

    one day. Doctors diagnosed a brain tumour.

    Surgery failed to arrest its assault on the

    outwardly healthy family man. Soon, he was

    guiding his wife and two children (Henrikh

    has a sister) back to Yerevan so that he could,

    he told his closest friends, die at home.

    When he did succumb to the tumour in 1996,

    he was 33. His son was seven. Did he doubt

    even for a moment he would follow in his

    fathers footsteps? No, he says. Not at all.

    Still, it cannot have been easy. Trading

    France for a ruined, post-Soviet Armenia,

    learning to play at a local club which bore his

    fathers name and with a burning desire to

    match him, the young Henrikh put himself

    under immense pressure. Sometimes it all

    became too much. Whenever I came home

    crying from a match because we had lost or

    The number of chances created by Mkhitaryan from open

    play so far this season (up until October 31), the most by

    any current Dortmund player except Marco Reus (25)

    because I had played badly, my

    mum would say to me, Its OK,

    you dont have to play football if

    you dont want to. No one is going

    to force you to be a footballer

    and you can be whatever you

    want to be in life, he recalls.

    But I insisted. And my mum

    encouraged me to keep

    working hard. Today, he has

    grown into a player his fathers

    old friends from Valence

    can barely believe they are

    watching: the spitting image

    of his much-loved dad.

    Hes not one to dwell on

    the past, though. Instead,

    he is driven to reach new

    heights (he says he is far

    from satisfied with his

    achievements so far) and

    to embrace all that life has

    to offer. As a player for

    Shakhtar Donetsk between

    2010 and 2013, he would

    find time to go to the

    theatre and cinema, and

    began studying economics.

    He is humble, hungry and

    determined to seize

    opportunities. Im a

    straightforward person,

    really, he says. I dont have

    any delusions about being

    a star. Im studying because

    I feel like its important to

    keep learning throughout life the moment

    you stop, you may as well be dead. That

    goes for life on the football pitch, too.

    Last season, Mkhitaryan got his first taste

    of Borussia Dortmunds perpetual pressing

    machine as an opponent in the Champions

    League round of 16. For me, he says,

    Dortmund were one of the hardest teams

    we played against. Unable to find the space

    he craves between the lines, he

    could do little to prevent Shakhtar

    slipping to a 5-2 aggregate defeat.

    Dortmund were, says Mkhitaryan,

    a perfect team, with good

    players and an impressive coach.

    Although he had little inkling

    then he may end up joining them,

    once Mario Gotzes Bayern Munich

    departure was finalised, Dortmund

    swooped for a player with all the

    attributes to make it in their black

    and gold set-up: an exquisite

    orchestrator, handy goalscorer and a

    tenacious presser. Klopp wanted him

    and Mhkitaryan was inspired by his

    enthusiasm. To work with such a great

    coach is a dream come true, he says.

    When I spoke to him for the first time,

    I could sense he was a good man first

    and a good coach second.

    Accordingly, Mhkitaryan

    has been welcomed into a

    dressing room like a family

    member and given all the

    support he needs to prosper,

    including a translator until

    he can master German,

    his sixth language.

    In the meantime, he

    does his talking on the

    pitch, communicating

    a lifetime of lessons

    learned the hard way.

    To fans back home in Yerevan,

    he is a hero, an ambassador for Armenia

    and an example of how they too might

    prosper. Typically, Mkhitaryan takes the

    adulation in his stride: I try and be open

    and available to them, to share my experience

    of heading abroad to play football, he says.

    I think its very important to give something

    back even if it is just an idea, inspiration to

    the next generation, that they can achieve

    something similar. In short, it is exactly the

    kind of message passed down from father to

    son by a man, who despite his protestations,

    would make his own dad very proud indeed.

    The Dortmund schemer shares his tragic journey to the top

    Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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    He had a burning desire to match his father, who died when he was seven

    Above His prolific dad

    Hamlet; showing the

    form that took him

    away from Donetsk

  • Pa

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    7

    He

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    ary

    an

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    4

    Ard

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    721

    65 64 6367 6266Clau

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    27

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 85

    Even at 37, the talisman is still Romas most important player. Heres why...

    Francesco Totti

    6613

    76 15103

    8912628

    Points gained by

    Roma directly from

    Tottis goals and

    assists some

    handy help, then

    Total shots on goal

    Serie A defenders

    just cant keep

    this man quiet

    Age hasnt slowed

    down Tottis shot

    conversion rate

    Number of assists provided in Serie A (all stats

    from November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2013)

    the second-highest in Europes top five

    leagues, behind Barcelonas Andres Iniesta

    Total chances created (including assists)

    the fifth highest in Europes top five

    leagues and highest in Italy

    Passes in the final third (only two players have more in Italy). No

    wonder so many Italians want Totti back in the national team...

    Minutes played in

    total in the league.

    Theres no sticking

    this veteran on

    the subs bench...

    15.79%

    62

    Mkhitaryan has averaged a chance created from

    open play every 35.9 minutes over the last year,

    the best rate of any current Dortmund player35.9mins

    DISCUSSWho would you

    pick? Tell us at

    Facebook.com/

    FourFourTwo

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Joa

    o M

    ou

    tin

    ho

    Mo

    na

    co, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    27

    Lu

    ka

    Mo

    dri

    c

    Re

    al M

    ad

    rid

    , Mid

    fie

    lde

    r, 2

    8

    Gio

    rgio

    Ch

    iell

    ini

    Juve

    ntu

    s, D

    efe

    nd

    er,

    29

    Le

    on

    ard

    o B

    on

    uc

    ci

    Juve

    ntu

    s, D

    efe

    nd

    er,

    26

    Ka

    rim

    Be

    nz

    em

    a

    Re

    al M

    ad

    rid

    , Fo

    rwa

    rd, 2

    5

    Ma

    rek

    Ha

    ms

    ik

    Na

    po

    li, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    26

    Jord

    i A

    lba

    Ba

    rce

    lon

    a, D

    efe

    nd

    er,

    24

    27323 40 22

    61 60 59 58 57 56 55

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    2855

    Below Wear this

    shirt at the World

    Cup? Oh, go on then

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    Lionel MessiI knew of Leo in La Masia and

    played against him plenty of times

    at Valencia. Hes unique. Its a pleasure to

    train and play in the same team as him

    you soon realise that hes the best in the

    world and theres no one else quite like him.

    In every training session he does something

    special, so I cant even pick one that stands

    out! He was in the Juvenil [Bara under-18s]

    team when I was in Cadete [under-15s], so

    I didnt know him personally, but people were

    already talking about him. The first time

    I saw him play, I knew hed be incredible.

    XaviHes a leader. Hes been at

    Barcelona for years and welcomes

    every new player or academy graduate into

    the team like he would greet a senior player.

    On the pitch, hes our go-to guy. Hes got the

    same motivation at 33 as when he made his

    debut in 1998 and takes great care of himself.

    Thats been a pleasant surprise, how his level

    never drops. Hes still the Xavi of old; all my

    team-mates who have been here longer

    than me say so. Weve got a lot of players

    who are good at the rondos [piggy in the

    middle] we play in training, but hes one of

    the best. Above all, hes a fantastic person.

    Sergio BusquetsSergios fundamental for Bara

    and the national team. He might

    not get the plaudits that others do, but you

    notice the balance he brings to the side in

    every game. Hes super-important for us and

    the best player in the world in his position.

    Every day hes looking to improve; he treats

    every training session as if it were a match.

    Thats reflected on the pitch. Ive known

    him for a few years now and, away from

    the pitch, hes a really down-to-earth guy.

    Cesc FabregasPeople say his roles changed

    under Tata Martino, but I dont

    No defender in La Liga had more touches than

    Jordi Alba last season. Alba placed third in La

    Liga overall, behind Xavi and Roberto Trashorras

    really agree. Hes always been very versatile

    and equally at home in central midfield as

    he is further forward. Whether for Arsenal,

    Barcelona or Spain, hes had a number of

    consistently excellent seasons and this year

    is no different. Our style is perfectly suited to

    Cesc you can tell he was reared at La Masia

    but you can also see the years he spent in

    England. Hes Catalan and is proud to have

    come home, just like me and Gerard Pique.

    Andres IniestaAndres is exactly like you see

    on television. Hes very humble,

    approachable and an extremely hard worker.

    Like Xavi, hes been here for ages and knows

    what it means to play for the Bara family.

    When I signed at the beginning of last season,

    he gave me a lot of advice and was always

    looking after me and asking how things were

    going. Hes the kind of person that makes

    you grow and come out of your shell. Hes

    nicknamed El Cerebro [the Brain] for a reason

    and is completely different to any other player.

    Its difficult to think of an adjective to best

    describe him [thinks] put simply, hes a

    guy who makes a difference in every game.

    NeymarThe main question for me was

    how long it would take Neymar

    to adapt to the unique way we play, but

    his start has been fantastic. He might

    be very young, but hes understood

    the Bara style brilliantly and is a

    different type of player to the others

    that weve got. He likes to dribble

    and commit defenders. Hes mixed

    well with the team, his Spanish is

    improving and its a privilege to have him.

    PedroI get on really well with him

    hes a funny guy and very open.

    We have a lot of quick players in the

    squad, but Pedro is up there. Hes very

    dedicated in every training session and

    game, is superb in one-on-one situations

    and theres plenty of goals in him. A lot of

    teams try to close down our space and Pedro

    is excellent at breaking these sides down on

    the occasions when our usual style of play isnt

    quite working. Hes another great alternative

    for us who surprises the opposition.

    Gerard PiqueThe three words that Id use to

    describe Pique would be: elegant,

    tough and quick. In one-on-ones hes shown

    many times that hes so difficult to get past a

    real competitor. His pace is underrated, too; for

    a tall guy there arent many forwards who run

    beyond him. With me, and a couple of others,

    hes the dressing room joker, always smiling.

    Dani AlvesOur tactics vary depending on the

    opposition, but when the manager

    wants to open up the play, its great to have

    Dani and me attacking from full-back. Hes

    really into his fashion and is a sharp dresser,

    too. He looks good in pretty much anything!

    As a Brazilian, he loves listening to music in the

    dressing room before games. We listen to

    a bit of everything, so the guy in charge

    of the stereo tends to vary.

    Victor ValdesBara have

    had a

    strong tradition

    of keepers

    that play the

    ball out and its

    a real benefit to

    the way we play. The

    keeper isnt there only to stop shots, but

    to develop the play. He has great quality

    with his feet. A complete keeper.

    Jordi Alba wears the Adidas Samba Collection

    adizero f50, the boot that challenges players

    to Fly or Die. To join the conversation

    follow @adidasfootball #allin or nothingInte

    rv

    iew

    An

    dre

    w M

    urr

    ay

    Baras flying full-back gives us the lowdown on his colleagues who have made our top 100

    Jordi Alba... talks team-mates

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Ed

    en

    Ha

    za

    rd

    Ch

    els

    ea

    , Mid

    fie

    lde

    r, 2

    2

    Ge

    rard

    Piq

    ue

    Ba

    rce

    lon

    a, D

    efe

    nd

    er,

    26

    Ca

    rlo

    s T

    ev

    ez

    Juve

    ntu

    s, F

    orw

    ard

    , 29

    Th

    iba

    ut

    Co

    urt

    ois

    Ch

    els

    ea

    /Atl

    eti

    co M

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    , Go

    alk

    ee

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    1

    Xa

    bi

    Alo

    ns

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    Re

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    ad

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    , Mid

    fie

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    r, 3

    2

    8 203024 15

    54 53 52 51 50 49Mari

    o B

    alo

    tell

    i

    AC

    Mila

    n, F

    orw

    ard

    , 23

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 87

    102

    55

    Read the reasons

    for our choices and

    placings by visiting

    FourFourTwo.com

    Alba also made 102 interceptions

    thats more than any other

    Barcelona player last season

    Jordi AlbaAbove all, Im a hard worker,

    whether its on the training pitch or

    during matches. Its not up to me to say what

    my qualities are, but I try to do the best I

    can each day to be the best player possible.

    Any player must be honest in their work to

    help the team, and thats my principal goal.

    Little by little I keep improving, listening

    to my coaches and trying to iron out

    any weaknesses there are in my game.

    Dani Alves? Hes a sharp dresser. He looks good in anything!

    GET ONLINE!

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Santi, its about time we ended our trophy drought, isnt it? Tell me this is the year! James Mulligan, via email

    I think so, absolutely. Everybody at the club wants it and as players we want it for the fans most of all. In the second half of last season we went on a good run and became more consistent, something I think weve maintained so far this season. With the signings weve made this summer, especially Mesut zil, the team is better this year and we want to fight to get to the level of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

    It will help that weve changed our mentality. Part of the problem had been the years Arsenal have lived without a trophy; you almost become accustomed to that feeling of not having silverware. I think thats changed with the end we had to last season, and were looking forward with more hunger and desire to change the situation we find ourselves in.

    The season didnt start very well against Aston Villa. What happened and how did you recover so impressively? Dion Lansland, Facebook

    It was difficult to start the season in that way. The first home game is always an important one, to provide a marker for the fans, so to lose that game was a hard moment for us. We talked in the dressing room for a long time after the game about what had happened and we were conscious that, going forward, we had to change the image of the team that wed shown in that first game. Luckily, weve worked even harder since to be stronger and youre seeing the benefits of that change in the team.

    I still cant believe we got zil! Were the players surprised Real Madrid let him go?Justin Harris, via Twitter

    Absolutely, and its not only me! The Real Madrid players have all said the same thing. Nobody was expecting that Mesut zil, a young player of such immense quality,

    Oscar

    Ch

    else

    a, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 22

    Gianluigi Bufon

    Juve

    ntu

    s, G

    oalk

    eepe

    r, 3

    5

    Ashley Cole

    Ch

    else

    a, D

    efen

    der

    , 32

    Santi Cazorla

    Ars

    enal

    , Mid

    field

    er, 2

    8

    David Alaba

    Bay

    ern

    Mu

    nic

    h, D

    efen

    der

    , 21

    Angel di Maria

    Real

    Mad

    rid

    , Mid

    field

    er, 2

    5

    Dani Alves

    Bar

    celo

    na,

    Def

    end

    er, 3

    0

    52221 6 16

    48 47 46 45 44 43 42

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    would leave Real Madrid. I was actually with some of the Real Madrid players [while on international duty] when the transfer went through. I think Arbeloa was the first to tell me he wanted to come to Arsenal, and what a fantastic player he is. We were all together in the hotel and I was saying: Please, please, please, let it be official! Every time one of their phones rang, I just couldnt believe that Madrid would let him go. Its brilliant to have him here.

    How are you finding the Premier League?Becky Lipton, via email

    Im enjoying the challenge. As Ive said many times before, Spain is a great league, which is more technical and tactical than England. But sometimes there are teams who are set up with 11 men defending and have barely a thought about attacking. But here, thats not enough. The fans dont accept it. Teams must go after the opposition and thats more exciting for players and fans alike.

    Whats it like working with Arsene Wenger?Delroy Atkins, Islington

    Day to day, hes the physical representation of Arsenal. He is the club. Alex Ferguson, whos now obviously left, and Wenger are the two managers who define the Premier League. Its so rare to get a coach staying at the same team for nearly 20 years. Hes a fundamental part of Arsenals history, hes achieved great things with this club and I hope we can return this team to the trophy-winning days of the past because the fans deserve it. Hes loved here and we want to keep his influence going.

    Hows your English after a year? Charlie Rogers, via email

    Its coming along little by little. Im taking classes, but the main problem I need to overcome is being scared to make a mistake when I speak. Thats life. Its better than my first few weeks here. I just said yes and

    smiled at anyone who spoke to me. All the time: yes, yes, yes. Sometimes Id said yes to something I had no idea about. People from the club would say: Santi, a couple of days ago you said youd meet me for a coffee but yesterday you didnt show up. Where were you? It helped me learn the word sorry, at least!

    Is it true that your life was turned upside down because you didnt have any curtains? Kim Lee, via email

    Absolutely it was hell! Curtains over here are different. In Spain, were accustomed to sleeping in total darkness because the suns really bright in the morning. You cant even see your hand in front of your face. When we first moved into our house, we were waking up at 6am. Id go to training and people were asking if Id gone out the night before because I looked so sleepy. Mikel Arteta explained that every house in England is like that and Id have to find blackout curtains myself. Im happier now!

    What do you do for food in London, Santi? Have you treated any of your team-mates to a famous Asturian fabada [spicy bean stew]?Nilesh Patel, via email

    While we were both injured, Arteta and his wife came over to my place to watch the Sunderland game. My wife and mother-in-law made a huge fabada and he had two platefuls so he obviously enjoyed it! When I first arrived and

    we were living in a hotel, I ate Mikel out of house and home, so he said it was payback. He made tortilla, we had

    jamon, it was brilliant. He was my saviour.

    Is it true Pepe Reina calls you Paquirrin, which apparently means overweight? Rachel Ferry, via Twitter

    [Laughs] Ah that was before. Now Im called Enano [short lad]. Paquirrin was when I was

    at Villarreal when I did something good, the crowd would shout Paquirrin! It was fun. Im more athletic now!

    Cazorla wears PUMA evoSPEED 1.2 boots

    Arsenals classy midfielder takes your questions on Spanish stew, zil and blackout blinds

    Santi Cazorla: the fans interview

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    322Cazorla made 322 passes into the

    fnal third for Arsenal last term

    more than any other player at the club

    Below Santi couldnt believe it either, FourFourTwo readers!

    Inte

    rvie

    w A

    nd

    rew

    Mu

    rra

    y

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Antonio Di Natale

    Ud

    ines

    e, F

    orw

    ard

    , 36

    Mario Gotze

    Bay

    ern

    Mu

    nic

    h, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 21

    Ilkay Gundogan

    Bor

    uss

    ia D

    ortm

    un

    d, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 23

    David Silva

    Man

    ches

    ter

    Cit

    y, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 27

    Andrea Pirlo

    Juve

    ntu

    s, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 34

    53 292 2721

    41 40 39 38 37 36Toni Kroos

    Bay

    ern

    Mu

    nic

    h, M

    idfie

    lder

    , 23

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 89

    96

    45

    40

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    DISAGREE?

    Tweet us your 140-character assassination at #FFT100

    Cazorla created 96 chances (including

    assists) for Arsenal in the Prem last season,

    more than any other player at the club

    Hero growing up?Zinedine Zidane. No one else came close. Earliest football memory?Having a kickabout with my brother in the back garden. Team supported as a boy? Barcelona.Bundesliga or Champions League?Champions League.

    Hobbies? Playing any sport really. Tennis, volleyball, swimming, table tennis I can do them all! Favorite Food?Sptzle, which is a noodle dish stewed with apples, cinnamon and sugar. Mmm. Favourite TV Programme? I dont watch TV, other than sports and movies.

    Mario Gotze 28-second interviewA quickie Q&A with Bayerns new boy

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Se

    rgio

    Ra

    mo

    s

    Re

    al M

    ad

    rid

    , De

    fen

    de

    r, 2

    7

    Arj

    en

    Ro

    bb

    en

    Ba

    yern

    Mu

    nic

    h, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    29

    Art

    uro

    Vid

    al

    Juve

    ntu

    s, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    26

    Go

    nz

    alo

    Hig

    ua

    in

    Na

    po

    li, F

    orw

    ard

    , 25

    Jav

    i M

    art

    ine

    z

    Ba

    yern

    Mu

    nic

    h, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    25

    Vin

    ce

    nt

    Ko

    mp

    an

    y

    Ma

    nch

    est

    er

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    y, D

    efe

    nd

    er,

    27

    Pe

    dro

    Ba

    rce

    lon

    a, F

    orw

    ard

    , 26

    236 8 16

    35 34 33 32 31 30 29

    32 51

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    Ramos has made 99 headed clearances

    for Real Madrid more than any

    other player at the club in this time

    The real Sergio Ramos? You could say

    Im a bit of a rebel with an attitude. Im

    the sort of person that doesnt need to

    get on with everyone; the kind of guy that

    will speak my mind whether you like it or

    not. I always tell people what I think.

    Growing up I was inspired by the matadors

    at the local bullring in Seville, La Maestranza.

    You could say theres an element of the

    bullfighter in me. In the past its a profession

    that I would have considered, but football

    makes me even happier than bullfighting.

    However, in a certain way I feel a bond with

    that world because my family and my town

    have always been great bullfighting fans.

    On the pitch this translates as confidence.

    The best example of this is the penalty I

    scored in the semi-final of Euro 2012 against

    Portugal. That penalty came shortly after Id

    missed a penalty in the Champions League

    semi-final against Bayern Munich. That miss

    led to all sorts of repercussions, but then

    there are lots of repercussions for practically

    anything Sergio Ramos does. My family really

    suffered after that miss, especially my

    mother and sister, so I wanted to give them

    something. Which is why I took that penalty

    against Portugal and chipped it like Panenka.

    Before the game, I said to Vicente [del

    Bosque]: Gaffer, if I take a penalty shall

    I chip it? He laughed and said that when the

    moment arrived Id bottle it. And I said: Well,

    if the chance comes around to take a penalty

    and Im the first... And thats what happened.

    Its a moment that has lived with me since.

    That victory, and all the success weve had

    with Spain, owes much to the Real Madrid and

    Barcelona players sitting down together and

    ironing out our differences. There was talk of

    a personal problem between me and

    Gerard Pique but Ive never had a

    problem with him. After spending

    some time with him hes a great

    lad with a good heart. These

    stories emerged after Real

    Madrid and Barcelona had a lot

    of games in quick succession:

    Champions League, La Liga, Copa

    del Rey. Its true there was a bit

    of tension after this, and it got

    a bit excessive at times, but we

    found a solution and moved on.

    Id also say Im an optimist,

    but someone whos not happy

    with past achievements. For me you

    always have to look forward; you need

    to continually move forward. You cant

    live in the past. This outlook means

    that I feel loved by the fans wherever

    I go. This, I think, is down to

    the value the fans place

    on the effort you

    put into your

    professional

    life.

    This attitude can be traced back to some

    of my heroes growing up: Puyol, Fernando

    Hierro, Maldini. More local to me, there

    was Javi Navarro, Pablo Alfaro, Tiburon

    [Shark] Prieto. Im glad kids now have

    Sergio Ramos as a role model.

    Id consider myself a romantic; Im certainly

    the most romantic of my brothers. But then

    speaking of my brother, theres a story that

    suggests perhaps Im a bit of a lover and a

    fighter. When I was 15 and my brother was

    23, we played against each other for our

    respective teams in a friendly match. I was

    in the junior ranks of Sevilla and he was a

    forward. There was a game at their ground;

    everyone from the town was there and they

    always used to get stuck into us. And my

    brother, well... he was the centre-forward

    and I was the centre-back. There was the

    typical banter between brothers during the

    game and I said to him: Careful, today is

    serious and were playing a match. He

    was looking to have a laugh but I wasnt

    interested in getting involved. Then the

    keeper took the goal-kick and I went

    up for the ball with my elbows out and

    accidentally caught him on the lip. The

    ref didnt blow for a foul even though

    I made him bleed a little. Ten minutes

    later their coach saw I was getting the

    better of him and took him off: Arent

    you embarrassed that your 15 year-old

    brother is beating you to everything?

    My brothers lived off that story since!

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    The straight-talking, Panenka-scoring defender in his own words

    The real Sergio Ramos:a romantic bullfghter

    99

    The tension between Baraand Madrid players got a bit excessive

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

    35

  • Ma

    nu

    el

    Ne

    ue

    r

    Ba

    yern

    Mu

    nic

    h, G

    oa

    lke

    ep

    er,

    27

    Isc

    o

    Re

    al M

    ad

    rid

    , Mid

    fie

    lde

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    1

    Th

    om

    as

    Mu

    lle

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    Ba

    yern

    Mu

    nic

    h, M

    idfi

    eld

    er,

    24

    Da

    nte

    Ba

    yern

    Mu

    nic

    h, D

    efe

    nd

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    30

    Wa

    yn

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    oo

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    d, F

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    , 28

    8 62 7

    13

    28 27 26 25 24 23Juan

    Ma

    ta

    Ch

    els

    ea

    , Mid

    fie

    lde

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    5

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 91

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    Pedros 11 goals in the

    last 12 months have come

    from just 20 shots on target11

    A British fan arrives in Barcelona for

    the first time what do they see either

    side of watching a game?

    Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in

    the world; theres so much to do. Parc Guell,

    Sagrada Familia, the Olympic port, beaches

    and mountains Barcelona has everything.

    Close to Barcelona, theres the beautiful

    Costa Brava to the north. To the south are

    the beaches of Castelldefels and Sitges,

    where I often go with my family. Many

    of my team-mates live near there.

    Barcelona has great shops, on the Portal de

    lAngel near Placa Catalunya or the expensive

    fashion shops on the Passeig de Gracia.

    In what part of Barcelona do you reside?

    Molins de Rei. I dont think any other

    footballers live there. Its close to the training

    ground and my wife is from there. My life is

    normal. The people see me every day, in the

    bread shop or cafes with my dog Ronnie or

    our baby boy, who is now seven months old.

    I didnt call Ronnie after either Ronaldo! There

    are Bara, Espanyol and Madrid fans there,

    but all are friendly with me. Theres a good

    Argentine restaurant were happy there.

    Do you spend your spare time with

    your family or team-mates?

    Both. Ill go for dinner or to the cinema with

    team-mates. We go to a small restaurant in

    The striker from Tenerife shows us around his adopted city

    Pedro: My Barcelona

    Sarria [a wealthy neighbourhood on the edge

    of Barcelona] which serves Spanish food. Or Da

    Greco, an Italian in the centre where theres a

    table for Bara players. If we go as a team or

    with my family, its fine and nobody bothers us.

    You moved from Tenerife to Barcelona at 17.

    How did you find the adaptation process?

    It was difficult. I went from a small village on

    a small island to a metropolis. There was so

    much traffic and I saw a road with six lanes

    of traffic all going in the same direction.

    I struggled to adapt to the new rhythm of

    the city. I can now understand the Catalan

    language now, but Id like to speak it better.

    The culture was different, the food, the people

    so many people from all around the world.

    It was a big change. I take holidays in

    Tenerife at Christmas when we have a

    two-week break and also in the summer.

    Almost all my family are there in my village.

    How important is football to the

    people of Barcelona?

    Its a way of life for a lot of people here.

    They get the feeling from their fathers and

    grandfathers. The values of the club are

    passed to them. Bara make so many

    people happy. If we win then millions

    of people are happy, not just in

    Barcelona but around the world.

    Thankfully, weve won a lot.

    Parc Guell, one

    of many Gaudi-

    inspired havens

    Sagrada Familia

    as iconic as

    the Nou Camp?

    Barcelonas

    very own

    Arc de Triomf

    DISCUSSWho would you

    pick? Tell us at

    Facebook.com/

    FourFourTwo

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Ma

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    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    80

    9 ways of looking at Marco Reus

    Reus didnt feel

    any pressure upon

    rejoining Dortmund

    after six years away

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    Only Franck Ribery (93) and Nurembergs Hiroshi

    Kiyotake (81) created more chances in the Bundesliga

    than Marco Reus (80) over the last year

    How to become a hometown hero the hard way, by the Dortmund and Germany star

    1 AS DORTMUNDNATIVEHaving grown up here, gone to

    school in the area and spent 10

    years in Borussia Dortmunds

    youth teams, it was always

    my dream to make it as a

    professional player at the club.

    Since then, of course, a lot has

    changed and the club has really

    developed. You can see it in the

    way the club represents itself

    now. And Im very happy to have

    taken the step to return here.

    2 AS YOUTH TEAM CAST-OFFAs it was, I wasnt getting a game

    in the B youth team at the time because they

    thought I was too small. As a young player,

    quite apart from any dream you might have

    of playing professionally, all you want to

    do is play regularly and improve. I wasnt

    playing, so I had to leave if I wanted to

    keep moving forward, which was certainly

    a shame. It was just a step I had to take if

    I wanted to keep playing. Not that I had

    any doubts that Id make it. Instead, I just

    worked as hard as I could and realised I had

    to make the right choices like not going

    out partying with my friends, for example

    if I wanted to make it as a pro.

    3 AS LOWER-LEAGUE APPRENTICEI definitely learned a lot during my spell

    in the lower leagues with Rot Weiss. It did

    me a lot of good. We were in the third

    division when I joined and I didnt get

    much of a chance to play for the first team.

    When we went up to the second division,

    though, I got to play more and that year

    was very important for me. It was physical;

    you had to run a lot and put in a shift

    defensively. And that really helped develop

    my game which resulted in my move to

    Borussia Monchengladbach.

    4 AS RETURNING HEROOn rejoining Dortmund, I didnt feel any pressure. Pressure is just part of football and

    youve got to deal with it. There was talk in the

    press that I had a choice between Bayern and

    Dortmund, but that wasnt an issue for me.

    Once I had the first discussion with the people

    in charge at Dortmund, it was pretty clear to

    me that I wanted to and would make the

    move here. It didnt take long for me to agree.

    5 AS ONE WHO STAYEDIts a heavy blow to lose players as we have in the last couple of years people like

    Mario [Gotze], someone who rescued us

    in so many games. But thats football. Every

    player has their own vision of how their career

    will play out, what theyd like to achieve and

    you have to accept that. Fundamentally,

    though, we are a team that sticks together.

    That has made Dortmund incredibly strong,

    as they showed with the two Bundesliga

    titles. We dont let ourselves be influenced by

    whats going on outside the club; we try and

    carry on doing things our own way.

    6 AN IDOL OF THE YELLOW WALL Its an unbelievable feeling playing in front of

    the Sudtribune. When you look at a game like

    the one we had against Arsenal at

    home in the Champions League this

    season, the fans really got behind us

    when we were under pressure. Thats

    precisely why, whether we win or lose,

    we thank the Sudtribune after every

    game. Its important to us, because

    as players, we want to know we can

    count on their support when we

    need it, especially when things arent

    going well. That means a lot to us.

    7 AS BOYHOOD DORTMUND FAN No, I wasnt really a fan like

    [team-mate] Kevin Grosskreutz, who

    regularly stood on the Sudtribune. Thats Kevin

    through and through, though. I would just

    take a normal seat and cheer the players

    and now I feel very lucky to be one of those

    on the receiving end of the crowds support.

    8 AS ADMIRER OF TOMAS ROSICKY He was my absolute favourite player

    when I was younger and hes still a fantastic

    player now. So it was great to face him in the

    Champions League when we played Arsenal,

    even though when youre in the middle of

    a match, you dont really realise who youre

    facing. Hes a great guy and it was a pleasure

    to be able to swap shirts with him after

    our matches with Arsenal.

    9 AS CURRENT, NOT FUTURE STARIm not a star of the future, but someone who

    should be helping his team win something

    now. Weve put ourselves in a good position

    so far. We started the season well even if

    losing at home to Arsenal in the Champions

    League was a bitter defeat. Weve got what

    it takes to do well this season and our

    self-confidence is high. Well do everything

    we can to keep winning games, getting the

    points we need and hopefully be rewarded

    for that at the end of the season. Interview

    Tit

    us C

    ha

    lk

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Ce

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    15 14 13 12 11 10Rob

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    6 10 12 11

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 93

    10

    22

    DISAGREE?Tweet us your

    140-character

    assassination

    at #FFT100

    Luis Suarez

    23

    1192775

    2442504

    Goals scored in

    the league for

    Brendan Rodgers

    side in the last year

    Total shots at goal

    in the Prem hes

    making up for lost

    time after his ban

    His conversion rate

    is almost 20 per

    cent impressive

    Combined total of goals and assists in the

    Premier League (all stats from November 1,

    2012 to October 31, 2013) only Robin

    van Persie has a higher total (31) than

    Liverpools Uruguayan striker

    Chances created, including assists.

    No wonder strike partner Daniel

    Sturridge is smiling more these days

    Dribbles attempted, with a success rate of 32.4 per cent. His dribble

    count is the fourth-highest in Europes top five leagues (Franck

    Ribery is highest with 302) and the highest in the Premier League

    Minutes played in

    total in the league.

    When hes not

    banned, the Reds

    can count on him

    19.33%

    19

    Reus has scored 10 Bundesliga goals at home in the

    last 12 months; only strikers Robert Lewandowski

    (16) and Stefan Kiessling (15) have bagged more

    He may be a naughty boy but few are better at the numbers game

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

  • Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    Ro

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    3 11 7

    Ronaldo has been a bit unlucky, too: hes hit

    the woodwork 14 times in the last 12 months

    in La Liga, more often than 14 entire teams14 times

    New entry Places dropped Places climbed Same as last year11

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

    Goalkeeper Defender Midfielder Forward

    With Lionel Messis level dropping

    following a series of injuries and Bayern

    Munichs dominance owing as much to

    collective brilliance as Franck Riberys

    individual contribution, the decision to

    name Cristiano Ronaldo as this years

    number one player in the world was more

    straightforward than we expected it to be.

    He has, lets not forget, become the first

    player to notch 50 goals in 2013, set a new

    record for goals scored in the Champions

    League in a calendar year (overtaking Messis

    tally of 13 in 2012), while starting the new

    season with 24 goals and counting in 17

    appearances (10 more goals than Messi).

    All this following on from Sepp Blatters very

    public backing of the Barcelona maestro

    at the Oxford Union in October. Its little

    wonder, then, that the Real Madrid and

    Portugal forward struggles to contain his

    delight when we catch up with him to

    announce our decision.

    Firstly, I want to thank you for this

    honour, says Ronaldo just a few hours

    after scoring the winner for Portugal in their

    After an amazing personal season, CR7 is officially the best. FFT asked the winger if he agrees

    Cristiano RonaldoOur new leading man

    World Cup play-off first-leg against Sweden.

    When someone names you the number one

    at something its a great acknowledgment of

    the hard work that we as players put in each

    day. I feel like I have had a good year and that

    my performances in 2013 have been strong.

    As for those comments from Blatter,

    he expresses the right to respectfully

    disagree with the notion of being like

    a commander. Im not sure

    commander is the right word, he says

    pointedly. We have a lot of leaders in the

    team not just on the field but off it too.

    Ronaldo has admitted the neverending

    comparisons with Messi can grate: Were

    different players is his stock response.

    But it cant be all bad; surely this personal duel

    to be the worlds best drives his insatiable

    quest for self-improvement? Just another

    entry in the pantheon of great sporting

    rivalries: Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier;

    John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg; Ronaldo

    vs Messi. In the examples you give,

    the sports are about individuals; football is

    more about the team. I dont think any player

    can be great unless he has great team-mates.

    I would not be the player I am today without

    the team-mates I have, coaches Ive learned

    from, the fans I play for and my family.

    Ronaldos spectacular start to the season led

    his club manager Carlo Ancelotti to claim he

    would stage a sit-in protest if the Portuguese

    forward is overlooked for the Ballon dOr. In

    terms of accolades, however, CR7 is looking

    beyond that individual prize. Our aims for the

    season? I think we can win both the league

    and the Champions League, he says. Can he

    finish top scorer in both competitions?

    Hopefully we can do all four things you

    suggest. That would be amazing!

    League and Champions League winner and

    double top scorer: theyre lofty aims, but then

    Ronaldo will have help, chiefly from his new

    80 million Welsh sidekick. Since the arrival of

    Gareth Bale from Spurs, the pair of slick-quiffed

    forwards have struck up an easy rapport on

    the pitch, leading Sergio Ramos to claim

    the pair are impossible to defend against.

    Does he agree? Thats a great thing

    to hear from a world-class player like

    Ramos. I cannot comment if we are

    impossible to defend against as I am

    not a defender but if Sergio says so,

    then it must be true! I like playing with

    Bale. He is a very good player; he gives us

    an extra attacking option. In the same way I

    have shown in the past with the likes of Wayne

    [Rooney], its easy for good players to build an

    understanding with other good players.

    Good? The bear facts clearly demonstrate

    that at this moment, Ronaldo is better than

    good. Right now, hes simply the best.

    Above Ronnie isnt a

    commander, honest

    Below Hes probably

    scoring a goal as you

    read this page

    Ramos says Bale and I are impossible to defend against? It must be true

  • Lio

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    11

    2 1

    You cant keep him down: Ronaldo has scored nine

    headed goals in the league and Champions League

    in this period, more than any other player9

    So there you have it after four years

    of missing out to his nimble Nou Camp

    nemesis in our list, Cristiano Ronaldo is

    top of the pile. Doubtless he agrees

    with our prognosis, but do you?

    Visit FourFourTwo.com/FFT100 for our

    justification of the Real Madrid mans

    selection at the summit, plus full profiles of

    all 100 players and further analysis on the

    list. We answer the important questions our

    final selection raises, from how Luis Suarez

    can break into the top 10 to what the future

    holds for Neymar and Lionel Messi.

    So read the full list online, comment on

    Twitter and hurl abuse at us on Facebook.

    It is the 21st century, after all.

    Find out why Rons our new No.1

    TOP 100 PLAYERS

    FourFourTwo.com January 2014 95

    1The stats

    Ronaldo averaged

    a goal every 86

    minutes in La Liga

    during this period

    The Madrid forward

    scored 14 goals in the

    Champions League

    in this time more

    than anyone else 14

    86 MINUTES

    3Ronaldo scored three

    league hat-tricks over

    the last 12 months no

    other player in Europes

    top five leagues could

    hit more than two

    GOALNobody in the top five European leagues

    scored more goals at home than

    Cristiano Ronaldo in this time period (22)

    FFT_010114_079_WEB.pdfFFT_010114_080_WEBFFT_010114_081_WEBFFT_010114_082_WEBFFT_010114_083_WEBFFT_010114_084_WEBFFT_010114_085_WEBFFT_010114_086_WEBFFT_010114_087_WEBFFT_010114_088_WEBFFT_010114_089_WEBFFT_010114_090_WEBFFT_010114_091_WEBFFT_010114_092_WEBFFT_010114_093_WEBFFT_010114_094_WEBFFT_010114_095_WEB