New Year’s Eve is a time for looking back, and in giving you our list of 2013’s best players, we’re doing that, though we appear to have selected a fair few forwards. Here’s SOCCER.COM’s selection of a baker’s dozen who dazzled us this year, in no particular order:
Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, Argentina
Why he made the list: Messi continues to show every time he steps on a field that he’s among the best to ever lace up cleats. World-class goals, amazing assists, adroit dribbling, pristine pace, unrivaled determination; You name it, he’s got it.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid, Portugal
Why he made the list: Ask Sweden, against whom Ronaldo hit a legendary hat trick to book Portugal’s place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. If they don’t answer, ask his UEFA Champions League foes against whom he scored a record nine goals in the Group Stage. Ronaldo is putting on a show we are all privileged to witness.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool, Uruguay
Why he made the list: 17 goals in his first 11 EPL games this season say it all. Luis Suarez is a controversial player to be sure, but he’s also among the deadliest goalscorers we have in today’s game.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain, Sweden
Why he made the list: While the third-person speaking Zlatan isn’t as good as Zlatan says Zlatan is, he’s still a breathtaking player who can boom home goals that are almost inexplicable, at times. He’s top class.
Xavi, FC Barcelona, Spain
Why he made the list: Messi scores the goals and gets the plaudits, but Xavi and Andres Iniesta are the engine behind Barcelona’s might.
Andres Iniesta, FC Barcelona, Spain
Why he made the list: See above. Iniesta’s skill can go unnoticed at times because he makes the extraordinary look easy, often completing more passes in a match than most mortals attempt in a month.
Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, Wales
Why he made the list: Gareth Bale almost single-handedly, or double-footedly, achieved a fourth place finish for Tottenham. The reigning EPL Player of the Season is showing that you don’t have to speak Spanish to star in La Liga, settling in and scoring goals for fun for Los Blancos.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, Argentina
Why he made the list: Sergio Aguero is the brightest star on a Sky Blues team chocked full of them. He’s a defensive nightmare and the best Argentine player not named Lionel Messi to come along in a great many years.
Radamel Falcao, AS Monaco, Colombia
Why he made the list: Arguably the most prolific and talismanic striker in Europe, Radamel Falcao spent 2013 breaking records aplenty, winning silverware for Atletico Madrid, fetching the highest transfer sum ever in France and guiding Colombia to their first FIFA World Cup™ since 1998. Not bad.
Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain, Uruguay
Why he made the list: After leading Italy’s Serie A in scoring, Edinson Cavani swapped shirts and left for PSG, where he’s continued to engrave his name on scoresheets.
Neymar, FC Barcelona, Brazil
Why he made the list: Perhaps no one had a better calendar year than Neymar, who won i in his home country with Santos, moved to Barcelona where he’s fit it with aplomb and proved any doubters wrong and captured the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup for his country where he was also awarded the Golden Ball. Hyped? Sure. Justified? Absolutely.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United, Holland
Why he made the list: He wanted to win trophies, and he did. Robin van Persie moved on from Arsenal and excelled with Manchester United, leading the EPL in scoring and helping send Sir Alex Ferguson out on top with a championship. Though oft injured in the latter part of 2013, van Persie enjoyed one of his best years yet as a professional since the ball dropped last Jan. 1.
Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich, France
Why he made the list: The attacking thrust behind Bayern Munich’s marvelous 2013, Franck Ribery helped the Bavarians capture a quartet of major crowns this year. They won trophies as the best team in Germany, Europe and the world behind Ribery’s magic and simply can’t be beaten. If anyone can unsteat Messi and Ronaldo atop the soccer world, it’s Ribery who appears primed.
What do you think of our list? Did we leave someone off? Good. We’re kind of hoping to start a little debate in the comments section. Have at it.