THE 50 BEST FOOTBALLERS OF 2018: Who have been the top performing players on the planet this year?
As 2018 comes to an end, we can reflect on an iconic year for football, with France’s World Cup victory dominating proceedings.
Elsewhere, Real Madrid claimed a record third successive Champions League title, while Manchester City set a Premier League record by reaching 100 points.
The entire Starsport online team has reflected on the year, and voted for their top 20 players, with the votes combined to make our top 50 best players in the world.
Read on to find out who has been the best player in the world in 2018, and see who else made the top 50.
50 Marko Arnautovic (West Ham and Austria)
Reinvented as a striker, the former Stoke man has become one of the Premier League’s hottest properties.
One of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League, he survived the end of the Antonio Conte era and is a key man under Maurizio Sarri.
Leroy Sane has shone for Manchester City (Pic: GETTY)
48 Kyle Walker (Manchester City and England)
Deployed as a centre-back in the World Cup, Walker is at his best bombing down the flank and suits Pep Guardiola’s attacking football down to a tee.
47 Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus and Italy)
Italy might not have made the World Cup, but the veteran centre-back has still enjoyed a vintage year with Juventus, winning another Serie A title.
46 Hugo Lloris (Tottenham and France)
The goalkeeper might have got in trouble for drink-driving but he remains crucial for club and country, captaining the French to World Cup glory in Russia.
45 Alisson (Liverpool and Brazil)
After standing out as Roma made the Champions League semi-finals, he impressed in the World Cup before becoming a key figure in Liverpool’s current title challenge.
44 Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)
The electric winger may not have made too much of an impact in a poor team at the World Cup, but he goes from strength to strength in the Premier League.
43 Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan and Croatia)
The wily winger broke English hearts when he equalised in the World Cup semi-finals, and also scored a great goal in the final.
42 Alex Sandro (Juventus and Brazil)
Fast and powerful, the Juve left-back was key to their domestic double last season, and is one of the most coveted defenders in Europe.
41 Christian Eriksen (Tottenham and Denmark)
Often under-rated, the Spurs creator has a brilliant relationship with striker Harry Kane on the pitch, and he showcased his individual talent with a quality goal against Australia in the World Cup.
40 Leroy Sane (Manchester City and Germany)
The PFA Young Player of the Year in England was controversially snubbed from the Germany World Cup squad. They would later regret that, and he has bounced back this season.
39 Andrew Robertson (Liverpool and Scotland)
Despite the fact he is only 24, the energetic left-back is already captain of Scotland and has been exceptional in the Premier League this season.
38 Ederson (Manchester City and Brazil)
His distribution is probably the best seen of any goalkeeper in Premier League history. Has what it takes when it comes to shot-stopping too.
37 Son Heung-min (Tottenham and South Korea)
Always full of energy and verve, the Spurs forward scores some spectacular goals. By winning the Asian Games he earned exemption from military service.
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski is still lethal (Pic: GETTY)
36 Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)
Operating as the central figure in the Reds’ brilliant front three, Firmino has developed into a world-class all-round forward.
35 Toni Kroos (Real Madrid and Germany)
Scored a classy free-kick in the World Cup, a rare highlight amid a dismal tournament for the holders. His brilliance on the ball was crucial to Real’s Champions League win too.
34 Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast)
After failing to make the cut at Manchester United a few years ago, the winger was written off by many. Now he is one of the Premier League’s finest forwards.
33 Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan and Argentina)
Daftly left out of the Argentina squad, the Inter Milan captain scored 28 goals in Serie A last season and is an exceptional finisher.
32 Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona and France)
A hero for the French national team, his partnership with Raphael Varane was crucial to the World Cup victory and he headed home the winner in the semi-final against Belgium.
31 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal and Gabon)
After arriving in the Premier League in January, the pacy striker has quickly become a fan favourite at the Emirates Stadium, and is scoring goals for fun.
30 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
While things didn’t work out for him or his team at the World Cup, the prolific striker is still brilliant for Bayern and is the Champions League top scorer this season.
29 Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)
The battle-hardened defender was at his best as Atletico won the Europa League and Uruguay reached the World Cup quarter-finals.
28 Paul Pogba (Manchester United and France)
He has his detractors but at the World Cup the midfielder was inspirational, and the video of him talking to his team-mates before the final shows his incredible character.
27 Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)
His career has been blighted by injuries but this season he is running riot as a key figure in the Dortmund side who are top of the Bundesliga.
26 Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil)
Probably the best attacking left-back of the last 10 years, Marcelo was crucial again as Real won yet another Champions League title.
25 Edinson Cavani (PSG and Uruguay)
The all-action striker helped guide PSG to the title when team-mate Neymar was injured for the whole of the run in, and he was at his best during the World Cup.
Ivan Rakitic was brilliant for Croatia at the World Cup (Pic: GETTY)
24 Paulo Dybala (Juventus and Argentina)
A special talent, Dybala was hardly given a sniff at the World Cup, but for Juventus he has established himself as one of the best creative forwards around.
23 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)
Now burdened with more responsibility in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, the Welshman remains a specialist in spectacular strikes – none more so than his overhead kick in the Champions League final.
22 Mario Mandzukic (Juventus and Croatia)
Brilliant during the World Cup, and in Serie A this season, Mandzukic knocked England out in Russia before scoring at both ends in the final.
21 Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid and Slovenia)
The massive shotstopper is now one of the best in the world with a stat emerging in October that he had kept more clean sheets than conceded goals in his Atletico career. Remarkable.
20 Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona and Croatia)
Overshadowed in the Croatia midfield by Luka Modric, the Barca man is a top class performer in his own right, and his goal against Tottenham at Wembley in the autumn was unbelievable.
19 Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Uruguay)
Some fans worried when Neymar left the Nou Camp in 2017, but Suarez’s partnership with Lionel Messi has improved and the veteran striker remains lethal.
18 David De Gea (Manchester United and Spain)
His World Cup did not go to plan at all, but the agile United legend is still the top goalkeeper in the world right now. Some of his saves beggar belief.
17 Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)
The prolific striker keeps racking up the numbers with City, and was Argentina’s biggest threat during a dismal World Cup. Never suffers a run of bad form for his club.
16 Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain)
Love him or hate him – and for most it is the latter – nobody can deny that Ramos is a phenomenal centre-back and a natural-born winner.
15 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City and England)
Under Pep Guardiola, the winger has become one of the most reliable sources of goals in the Premier League – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
14 David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
The veteran creator is a genius, and his passing and dribbling skills are crucial to the way City play. Made mugs of Manchester United in November.
13 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands)
The catalyst for the Reds’ current title challenge, Van Dijk has also been great for his country – reaching the Nations League semi-finals after wins over France and Germany.
Neymar remains one of the world’s best players (Pic: GETTY)
12 Harry Kane (Tottenham and England)
The England captain won the Golden Boot at the World Cup despite not performing at his best. For Spurs he remains prolific as ever and is growing into more of a leader all the time.
11 Antoine Griezmann (France and Atletico Madrid)
A key figure in the French frontline, Griezmann might not be as prolific as the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, but he has magic in his feet and scores some glorious goals when it matters most.
10 Neymar (PSG and Brazll)
He may have missed the Ligue 1 run-in with injury, but the Brazilian was crucial as his country reached the World Cup quarter-finals and has begun this season in Paris like a man desperate for Champions League glory.
9 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)
Is there anything this man can’t do? The all-action midfield ace who inspired both Leicester and Chelsea to Premier League titles was incredible as France won the World Cup.
8 Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)
In the first few months under Maurizio Sarri, Hazard has been at his dazzling best. Has kicked on from a great World Cup and is finally realising his full potential.
7 Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France)
Not many players can say they’ve won the World Cup and Champions League in the same year, but the centre-back can – and his performances were crucial in both.
6 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
To be labelled the best player in Manchester City’s team of megastars is some accolade indeed, but that is exactly what De Bruyne has become.
5 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
His first season at Anfield was incredible as he bagged 44 goals and helped reach the Champions League final. Even scored two in two for a terrible Egypt team at the World Cup.
4 Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
The heir apparent to Ballon d’Or collectors Messi and Ronaldo, Mbappe has already got one over the two legends by winning the World Cup. His potential is terrifying.
3 Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)
One of the best midfielders of the century, Modric’s passing guided Real to Champions League glory before he excelled for his nation as they reached the World Cup final.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal)
Champions League winner, hat-trick scorer at the World Cup and now the most dangerous striker in Serie A, it has been another classic year for the Portuguese icon.
1 Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
It might not have happened for him at the World Cup, but at Barcelona his performances remain incomparable as he continues to set new goalscoring landmarks on an almost weekly basis.