Deciding the best players in world football based on specific attributes

Juventus v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Group H

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are clearly the two best all-round footballers of the current generation.

In fact, there’s an argument to suggest the superstars are the two greatest players of all time, they’ve been that consistently excellent over the past 10-15 years.

However, they aren’t necessary the best two players for all of football’s major attributes.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to list the best footballers in the world based on specific attributes such as goalscoring, passing, vision, and so on.

Messi and Ronaldo unsurprisingly dominate many of the categories, but some of the winners might surprise you.

Goalscoring

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

When it comes to sticking the ball in the back of the net, there’s nobody better than Cristiano Ronaldo, who lives for scoring goals.

With 588 goals in 787 club appearances - plus an additional 85 goals for Portugal - the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the dictionary definition of a goal machine.

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Honourable mentions: Lionel Messi, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski.

Passing

Winner: Lionel Messi

Because he scores so many goals, Lionel Messi’s passing ability is actually a little bit underrated.

The fact is, there’s no better passer in world football right now. He might even be the best passer of all time.

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Honourable mentions: Luka Modric, Kevin De Bruyne, Toni Kroos.

Close control

Winner: Lionel Messi

Messi’s close control is on a different level to any other footballer on the planet.

The Barcelona maestro must have velcro attached to those Adidas boots of his, it’s the only explanation.

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Honourable mentions: Bernardo Silva, Neymar, Luka Modric.

Skill

Winner: Neymar

The Brazilian superstar gets a lot of stick for his theatrics, but it’s hard to think of a more skilful player in world football.

Neymar, on his day, is capable of pulling off just about every trick in the book.

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Honourable mentions: Lionel Messi, Isco, Eden Hazard.

Dribbling

Winner: Lionel Messi

Messi is on the wrong side of 30 now, but the Barcelona maestro still pulls off mesmeric dribbles every time he crosses the white line.

He remains a defender’s worst nightmare, especially in one-v-one situations.

Barcelona v Athletic Club - La Liga

Honourable mentions: Eden Hazard, Neymar, Isco.

Vision

Winner: Lionel Messi

It’s another win for Messi.

The Argentine forward often plays like he has a view from the top tier of the Camp Nou.

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Honourable mentions: Mesut Ozil, Kevin De Bruyne, Luka Modric.

Pace

Winner: Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe is lightning-quick and the scary thing? He only turned 20 in December.

In a few years’ time, the Paris Saint-Germain and France star is likely to be even quicker.

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Honourable mentions: Adama Traore, Gareth Bale, Douglas Costa.

Penalties

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

If an Earth XI was playing a team of aliens and were awarded a penalty, you’d want Cristiano Ronaldo stepping up to take it.

The Portuguese superstar thrives under pressure and rarely makes a mistake from 12 yards.

Juventus v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Honourable mentions: Fabinho, Aritz Aduriz, Harry Kane.

Free-kicks

Winner: Lionel Messi

Since 2014, Messi has scored more direct free-kicks than Juventus, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, AC Milan and many other top European clubs.

The legendary forward is ridiculously accurate from dead-ball situations outside the box.

Honourable mentions: Hakan Calhanoglu, Miralem Panic, Paulo Dybala.

Left foot

Winner: Lionel Messi

One of the easiest categories to decide, Messi is unquestionably the best left-footed player on the planet.

Shout out to the likes of Mohamed Salah and Gareth Bale, who are also blessed with brilliant left feet.

Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna - La Liga

Honourable mentions: Mohamed Salah, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez.

Right foot

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

A tough category to judge, but it’s hard not to give the title of ‘best right-footed footballer’ to Ronaldo.

The Juventus star has produced many memorable moments down the years with his world-class right peg.

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Honourable mentions: Neymar, Luka Modric, Eden Hazard.

Leadership

Winner: Sergio Ramos

Proper captains are a dying breed in modern football, but Sergio Ramos is a bit of a throwback.

The Real Madrid and Spain skipper, who isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, leads by example and inspires those around him on the pitch.

Real Madrid v Leganes - Copa del Rey Round of 16

Honourable mentions: Gianluigi Buffon, Virgil van Dijk, Vincent Kompany.

Defending

Winner: Virgil van Dijk

Is there a better defender in the world right now than Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk?

The Dutchman has transformed the Reds from a defensive perspective since completing his £75 million move to Anfield from Southampton 12 months ago.

Manchester City v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Honourable mentions: Sergio Ramos, Samuel Umtiti, Diego Godin.

Winning possession

Winner: N’Golo Kante

The best holding midfielder in the world, N’Golo Kante’s rise to superstardom over the past four years has been remarkable.

The humble Frenchman is a manager’s dream player, working tirelessly for the full 90 minutes every time he pulls on a Chelsea or France shirt.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Honourable mentions: Fernandinho, Casemiro, Sergio Busquets.

Goalkeeping

Winner: David de Gea

There are so many world-class goalkeepers currently playing in Europe, but David de Gea is the best right now.

Manchester United and Spain’s number one excels in every aspect of goalkeeping.

Manchester United v Huddersfield Town - Premier League

Honourable mentions: Jan Oblak, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Manuel Neuer.

Heading

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

We’re talking about heading from an attacking perspective here, rather than a defensive perspective, and Cristiano Ronaldo is magnificent in the air.

Despite his advancing years - he turns 34 in February - Ronaldo is still a monster when it comes to attacking the ball with his head.

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Honourable mentions: Aritz Aduriz, Bas Dost, Andy Carroll.

Chest control

Winner: Marouane Fellaini

Yep, Marouane Fellaini has better chest control than any other footballer on the planet. It’s a fact.

“He’s got fantastic chest control, like you can’t believe how good his chest control is,” former Man Utd boss David Moyes told talkSPORT. “I would say he’s the best in the world with controlling with his chest. It sticks, it’s soft. He’s a problem to the opposition.”

Manchester United v Sheffield United - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round

Honourable mentions: Harry Kane, Olivier Giroud, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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