There are thousands of footballers across the planet, ranging from those who play at amateur levels, to the professionals we see week in, week out on our television screens. And whilst a player doesnâ€™t win titles on their own, except maybe Cristiano Ronaldo when he carried Portugal for the entire Euro 2016 tournament, there are undoubtedly some top individual stars out there. Those that become legends for club and country, and who are idolised by fans and footballing neutrals.
But who are the best football players this year? You could check to see who won the Ballon dâ€™Or but this year, it was definitely not an accurate portrayal of how fans felt about the winner. It was Lionel Messi who picked up the accolade, a record seventh menâ€™s award. However, he and Barcelona flopped, he threw hissy fits off the field saying he wanted to leave his boyhood club only to cry when it came around, and he hasnâ€™t had the best record since his move to Paris Saint-Germain.
You could argue that he did win the Copa America with Argentina, and that is impressive, but it was goalkeeper Emi Martinez who kept them in the tournament. The Aston Villa keeper time and again pulled off incredible saves to keep his team in contention, and without him, the Copa America would have been Brazilâ€™s without question.
So who are the real best footballers from this past year? Who are the players who were overlooked for some of the biggest awards handed out in 2021? Well, weâ€™re going to tell you who WE think deserve to be labelled as the best football players of the year with our top five footballers of 2021.
5 – Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB, Liverpool FC)
This past week, Gary Neville said â€œHeâ€™s a phenomenon. Heâ€™s [Kevin] De Bruyne, [David] Beckham and [Steven] Gerrard in one – at right back.â€ Thatâ€™s about as high a compliment as any Liverpool player could get off a former Manchester United player and captain, and heâ€™s not wrong either.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA) has been incredible for Liverpool, not just this season and year, but ever since his introduction into the team. He can pick out passes that unlock the tightest of defences with pinpoint precision, he is a dead ball specialist at freekicks and corners, and if you saw him against Newcastle the other week, you know he can strike a ball as sweetly as you like.
Heâ€™s performing at a high quality every game you see him play, and thatâ€™s why it was such a shock to see him left out of Englandâ€™s Euro squad in the summer. But it just seemed to light a fire in his belly to prove his worth. In the Premier League in 2021, heâ€™s got more assists than any other player with 13, two more than his teammate Mohamed Salah, and heâ€™s also created more chances than anyone else too, with 105. Thatâ€™s 12 more than Bernado Silva who has 93. And heâ€™s a right back. Not some creative Midfielder. A right back. Just let that sink in.
4 – Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK, Paris Saint-Germain)
Making the move from Italy to France was no small feat for 22-year old former AC Milan Keeper, joining the French side who boast the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in their ranks. But heâ€™s probably performed better than most of them this season, because theyâ€™ve not quite been firing on all cylinders this season, especially in their domestic league.
So time and time again, Donnarumma has had to stand up big and strong to prevent teams catching them on the counter. Heâ€™s one of the main reasons that PSG arenâ€™t flopping as bad as they couldâ€™ve been, as it takes something special to beat the Italian keeper. And if you look at him in the Summer with Italy during Euro 2020, he was also one of the key reasons that Italy won the title, claiming more clean sheets than anyone else in the tournament.
3 – Erling Braut Haaland (FW, Borussia Dortmund)
The Norwegian giant first caught the eye of the world when playing for RB Salzburg in the Champions League, before moving to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. When he signed for the German club their odds of winning the Bundesliga increased dramatically, and every game he plays in, Dortmund’s chances of winning each game increase massively because he’s a goalscoring machine.
Making him the kind of player who you find people jumping on every week on the best sportsbooks online as the most likely to score in any match he takes part in. And you can see why when you look at the records he has broken.
Heâ€™s the youngest and fastest player to score 20 champions league goals, heâ€™s the first player to score eight goals in their first four bundesliga games, and the first to score 25 goals in their 25 first games too. Heâ€™s breaking records for fun, season after season. And 2021 has been no different, albeit he has been out injured for part of the latest campaign, and during that time Dortmund looked a shadow of their usual self, showing just how important he is.
2 – Robert Lewandowski
Heâ€™s been overlooked year after year despite being more prolific than both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in front of goal. But he beats both of them in this list because given their performances in 2021, anyone rating them highly this year is doing it for their past glories, and not on current form. But not here. At footballpink.net we rate the players based on their worth, and not how great they were years ago.
As of the end of November, Lewandowski had been having an incredible year. He scored a total of 64 goals, managed 10 assists and in getting them, claimed silverware by winning the Bundesliga, Club World Cup and DFL-Supercup with Bayern Munich. How he didnâ€™t finish above Messi in the Ballon dâ€™Or is more puzzling than trying to work out what is going on in the Da Vinci Code whilst tripping on acid. Although weâ€™ve never done that, and donâ€™t suggest you try it either.
1 – Mohamed Salah (FW, Liverpool FC)
The only player who could possibly finish above Lewandowski is none other than the Egyptian King, Mohamed Salah. Originally labelled as a Chelsea reject when he joined Liverpool, then a one-season wonder in his first season with the club after netting an outstanding 44 goals, heâ€™s gone on to prove his worth. Scoring no less than 23 goals in a season since, and in the process, actually became the first player since Ian Rush to manage 20+ goals in five consecutive seasons for the club.
There are plenty of rumours about him staying at the club, and signing a new contract. And Liverpool fans will want the hierarchy to make sure they do all they can to keep their talisman, and if they can sign him up for another four or five years there will be plenty more records to break. Heâ€™s currently the 10th highest scorer in the clubâ€™s history, on 147Â goals, 11 behind Michael Owen who is eighth, and heâ€™s played 70 games less. And if that doesnâ€™t prove how good of a player he is, we donâ€™t know what more can convince you.