The debate over who is the top player in the world generally centres around two superstars currently plying their trade in Europe, although there are many others around the globe who are performing to a consistently high level on a weekly basis.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo are widely recognised as the finest players of their generation, but who else can lay claim to being to king of their respective regions across the globe?
Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon D’or award in recent years, with each player claiming the prize five times over the past decade.
The Argentinian forward has scored 600 goals in 747 appearances for club and country during his career, while Ronaldo has notched 641 in 898 appearances.
Debates over who is the best player have raged on for years, although it can be argued that Messi has produced better performances in the bigger games.
However, with a record 117 Champions League goals to his name Ronaldo is certainly no slouch on the highest stage and it is a near impossible task to decide who is the best player.
Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has been tipped to succeed the top two, although much will depend on how long he spends in the easier surroundings of Ligue 1 in France.
Asia & Australia
An increasing number of players from Asia and Australia have been making their mark in recent years and it’s a trend that looks set to continue in the future. While many may not know this, football is by far the most popular sports in Asia, so it is only natural that we see superstars rise from this area too.
Respected football magazine FourFourTwo have ranked Omar Abdulrahman as Asia’s top player and the man known as ‘the Arabian Messi’ is certainly talented.
The attacking midfielder plays his football for United Arab Emirates club side Al Ain and the Emirati national team. He has made the three-man shortlist for Asian Player of the Year for the past three seasons, winning in 2016.
His vast array of skills and his David Luiz-style hair have turned him into a superstar in Asia, on and off the pitch. The 26-year-old has a sponsorship deal with Nike, while he has also appeared on the front cover of the Middle East version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 alongside Neymar.
Abdulrahman has been widely tipped as having the talent to be a star in Europe, although work permit issues prevented a move to England after a trial with Manchester City in 2012.
Ahmed Khalil is another Emirati who has been coveted by European clubs, although the 25-year-old forward has decided to delay venturing too far from home just yet.
Shanghai SIPG forward Wu Lei is another notable Asian talent, but Abdulrahman stands head and shoulders as the best player from this region – a move to Europe would be the icing on the cake.
The United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was a big disappointment, but they have numerous up-and-coming talents who look set to have an impact on the game over the next few years.
Tyler Adams is the most highly regarded US prospect in the MLS and numerous European clubs are monitoring the progress of the New York Red Bulls youngster.
Jonathan Gonzalez enjoyed an excellent season with Monterrey in Liga MX and the 18-year-old is another player on the radar of top European clubs.
However, with the MLS still lagging behind the major leagues in terms of standard, North America’s best hope for a world superstar can be found in the Bundesliga.
Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic is their biggest talent and the 19-year-old has already been linked with a move to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.
His marketability in North America would make him a huge asset to a Premier League club and he seems sure to be the face of US soccer in the future.
South America has had a long tradition of producing the best players in the world and it’s a production line that looks set to continue for many years to come.
Gremio striker Luan has already been targeted by Liverpool and Arsenal, although the man dubbed as the ‘new Ronaldinho’ recently signed a new contract with the Brazilian club.
The Brazil star has been tipped to be his country’s next superstar after helping Brazil win gold at the 2016 Olympics with goals in the quarter-final, semi-final and a converted penalty in the gold medal match shoot-out.
The 24-year-old won the prestigious South American Player of the Year Award in 2017 and a move to Europe will surely happen in the future.
Flamengo’s Paolo Guerrero and Gremio’s Arthur rounded off the top three in the voting, but comparisons with the great Ronaldinho mark Luan down as the most likely candidate to become one of the best players in the world.
Domestic African football still suffers from a talent drain to foreign countries, with the continent’s top players invariably finding their way into European football early in their careers.
Mohamed Salah failed to make much of an impact at Chelsea, but he improved out of all recognition at Roma and has continued to progress since joining Liverpool.
Salah will undoubtedly be Egypt’s centre of attention at the World Cup and he could be catapulted onto another level if the likes of Real Madrid decide to firm up their interest this summer.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane has also done well at Liverpool, while Gabon star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finally got his big-money move to Arsenal during the January transfer window.
However, that trio have some way to go before they can be talked about in the same breath as the likes of African legends Samuel Eto’o and George Weah.
While football has undoubtedly improved across the world, Europe remains the heart and soul of the global game. With that in mind it’s difficult to look beyond Messi and Ronaldo as the finest players on the planet, with Neymar ranked an honourable third.