Ranking the 100 greatest male footballers of 2020, featuring Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski

  • Kobe Tong
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Ding, dong, the witch is dead: 2020, you won't be missed.

It's been a year that has been defined by worldwide grief, incomparable losses and restrictions to everyday life that have only been mitigated by the heroism of those in healthcare, education and beyond.

However, along the way, football has at least offered a few moments of welcome distraction and respite from all the horrible events that have unfurled their horns and pitchforks across the year.

The chaos of 2020

For all the delays and empty stadiums that have befallen competitions like the Premier League and Champions League, the beautiful game has staggered its way through all the tragedy and heartbreak.

And for all the terrible things in our rear-view mirror as we sprint into the no man's land of 2021, we can at least reflect positively on those who have shone the most in the sport we love dearly this year.

While the Ballon d'Or might have fallen on its sword in 2020, we're joining the likes of FIFA and Globe Soccer Dubai by way of casting our opinion on the top men's players from the last 12 months.

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Top 100 players of 2020

But considering we all know that a certain Polish bloke from Bavaria is deserving of the top prize - right? right??? - we wanted to widen the net by taking on the challenge of a top 100.

Now, truth be told, it's a pretty impossible task and one can only consume so much football in one year without losing the plot, so rest assured we're not nailing pure, unfiltered objectivity to our mast.

However, through the ever-so-slighted fogged lens of this humble writer, allow us to take you on a subjective journey fraught with controversy that is GIVEMESPORT's top 100 male players of 2020:

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100. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)

For all the frustration with his time at Camp Nou, Griezmann remains a world-class star, boasting a sound goal-scoring record of 20 strikes from 66 games in Catalonia as well as three goals for France in 2020.

99. Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)

If it wasn't for a serious injury in March, Pereira would rank much, much higher, having established himself as the second-best player in the Premier League last season per WhoScored.com statistics.

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98. Dominik Szoboszlai (Red Bull Salzburg)

A thrilling talent set to make waves at RB Leipzig, 2020 was the year Szoboszlai announced himself to the world, turning heads at Arsenal with an astonishing solo goal that booked Hungary's place at Euro 2020.

97. James Tavernier (Rangers)

Something of a wildcard suggestion, yes, but Tavernier has been the jewel in Rangers' inevitable crown this season with an astonishing 17 goals in all competitions from right-back, including two free-kicks.

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96. Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)

It's a great shame that more of Reus' dazzling performances last season, which bagged him 16 goal contributions from just 18 games, didn't occur in 2020 with four major injuries dashing his hopes of placing much higher.

95. Jesus Navas (Sevilla)

It really has been thrilling to see Navas reinvent himself as a full-back, playing every minute in La Liga last season, registering the division's most crosses and bagging himself a third Europa League crown.

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94. Renato Sanches (Lille)

Speaking of reinventions, Sanches has reminded everybody why he was once the world's most exciting young player, thriving as the heartbeat in a Lille side competing for Ligue 1 glory and reportedly catching Jurgen Klopp's eye.

93. Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

One of the world's most underrated number nines, Jimenez registered a stunning 27 goals for Wolves last season and will be looking to boost his 2020/21 tally when he returns from a fractured skull.

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92. Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)

France's youngest ever goalscorer since the First World War, Camavinga's glorious bicycle kick for Les Blues summed up the sort of effortless brilliance that has seen him constantly linked with Real Madrid this year.

91. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

For all the cracks emerging at City, Walker has been a shining light for the Citizens, reestablishing himself as one of the world's best defensive full-backs across 38 appearances in the calendar year.

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90. Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)

A historic brace at Anfield - now the name of his dog - lit the blue touch paper for Llorente's finest year yet, graduating from defensive midfield to an auxiliary striker at times, notching six goals in 2020/21 so far.

89. Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad and Real Madrid)

Sure, there have been early signs of promise back at Real this season, but Odegaard truly shone during his loan spell with Sociedad and stood out as one of La Liga's top performers ahead of the first lockdown.

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88. Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich and Barcelona)

A reinvigorating spell in Bavaria, including a brace during THAT 8-2 win, saw Coutinho win the treble and earn a second chance at Barcelona, bagging three goals so far, that many thought he would never get.

87. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Despite the importance of his goals in 2020, there simply hasn't been enough of them - only nine to be exact - but it's Firmino's broader influence on this all-conquering Liverpool side that earns him a spot.

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86. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

A metronomic presence in this half-baked Barcelona side, sometimes to the point of brilliance and sometimes to the point of anonymity, the former Ajax sensation is still finding his feet in Catalonia.

85. Filip Kostić (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Rated as the Bundesliga's best player neither representing Bayern of Dortmund last season, Kostic caught the eye with an impressive four goals and 11 assists, though form has been harder to come by in 2020/21.

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84. Dejan Kulusevski (Parma and Juventus)

At only 20 years old, Kulusevski already looks like one of Juventus' best players, notching three Serie A strikes in 2020/21, on the back of a Parma spell that reaped 18 goals contributions.

83. Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

His four Premier League goals this season might be the top-line stat, but Zouma deserves credit for being the diamond in the rough for Chelsea's flagging defence, marshalling six shutouts so far this season.

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82. Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Atletico Madrid)

Despite cutting a faded force at times this year, Suarez still knows where the back of the net is with 21 strikes in his final Barcelona season and a strong start at Atletico with seven goals from 14 outings.

81. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

Only marginally outperforming De Jong since his own big move, De Ligt's year has been blighted by injury and silly handballs when crucial goals in the title race and increasing solidity showed so much promise.

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80. Hakim Ziyech (Ajax and Chelsea)

Ziyech may have looked like style over substance so far in the Premier League, but his joyous raw ability is easy on the eye and he arrived in London fresh from being named Ajax's Player of the Season.

79. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)

One of the best comeback stories of 2020, Boateng hauled his career out of the ashes when called upon by Hansi Flick out of necessity, only to shine as Bayern's most underrated performer on their way to the treble.

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78. Luis Alberto (Lazio)

With the second-most assists in Serie A last season, beating Ronaldinho's record to boot, Alberto reaffirmed his status as one of Simone Inzaghi's finest players with that doomed Liverpool spell now a forgotten dream.

77. Wissam Ben Yedder (AS Monaco)

Only missing out on the Ligue 1 Golden Boot to Kylian Mbappe on a technicality last season, Ben Yedder has been lethal in front of goal in 2020 and he's only five places away from topping France's scoring charts again.

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76. Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain)

Now a regular for France and often entrusted with the PSG captaincy, Kimpembe was inexplicably snubbed from UEFA's Champions League Squad of the Season having played a crucial role in his club's first-ever final.

75. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Clearly Modric ate his Weetabix during lockdown, because the Real magician has returned to his majestic best since the restart with masterclasses like those against 'Gladbach reminding us all why he won the Ballon d'Or.

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74. Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid and Juventus)

A glut of offside goals aside, Morata has resuscitated his career for the umpteenth time with 10 goals already since his Juventus comeback and a solid 16 strikes for Atletico last season to boot.

73. Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

It's not for no reason that every European giant under the sun seems to be chasing Aouar's signature because the dynamic 22-year-old dazzled during Lyon's run to the Champions League semi-finals.

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72. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

With injury problems persisting, it looks as though age is finally catching up on Aguero, but lest we forget he still notched 23 goals last season and started the year by breaking the Premier League hat-trick record.

71. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

Last season really felt like a watershed moment for Mahrez at City, finally showing flashes of his Leicester majesty on the way to 13 goals even though, barring a Burnley hat-trick, things have petered out in 2020/21.

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70. Casemiro (Real Madrid)

For many, the best defensive midfielder in the business, it's hard to imagine a world where Real won the 2019/20 La Liga title without him and the Brazilian's goal against Atletico could well decide the destination of this season's crown.

69. Duvan Zapata (Atalanta)

Described by his own captain as playing like a 'train' and making shorts looks like underwear, Zapata is an indomitable force in Bergamo, scoring 19 goals last season as Italy's bronze-medalists reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

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68. Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan)

Five goals and 10 assists made Hakimi a hit with Dortmund and he couldn't have started life better at Inter by turning provider on his debut and scoring on his first start. It's just a shame things have dried up since.

67. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

2020 is the year Kante reestablished himself as one of the world's best. Injury problems rendered him out of sorts last season but, for our money, he's been Chelsea's standout performer this term.

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66. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

It's such a delight to see Hummels playing with his world-class quality again, currently rated as the Bundesliga's top-performing centre-back and even bagging four goals, including a brace, for good measure.

65. Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad)

Newcastle fans must be tearing their hair out as the former Toon continues to thrive at Sociedad, ranking as La Liga's fifth-best player last season and 10th for 2020/21, while also earning his first caps for Spain.

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64. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

It speaks volumes that Wijnaldum made more appearances than any other Liverpool midfielder in their title-winning campaign and Klopp's system just wouldn't be the same if he decides to run down his contract.

63. Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool)

With Europa League and Champions League hat-tricks to his name in 2020, Jota has effortlessly transferred his potent finishing from Wolves to Liverpool when breaking into the Reds' front three seemed impossible.

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62. Memphis Depay (Lyon)

United's decision to sell Depay so hastily looks sillier by the month as Lyon's talisman continues to impress with his leadership and goal-scoring, even helping himself to a hat-trick on Ligue 1's opening weekend.

61. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)

Last season looked to mark Calvert-Lewin's long-awaited arrival with 14 goals in 41 outings, but astonishingly, the Everton poacher has almost overhauled that tally this season, including two trebles, in 24 fewer games.

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60. Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea)

Yes, Havertz has looked poor at Stamford Bridge, but he still deserves a lofty finish for his stunning displays at Leverkusen last season, notching 18 goal contributions and a Player of the Month award in the Bundesliga.

59. Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla)

Sevilla's top-scorer in a year where they qualified for the Champions League and won the Europa League is impressive alone, never mind scoring a no-look penalty in the UEFA Super Cup and making a save as an emergency goalkeeper vs Eibar.

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58. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

If this was for work off the pitch, Rashford would finish first, but his performances on it have also been superb, following up his best goal-scoring campaign for United with 14 strikes in 24 games so far this season.

57. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

Grealish's 2020 speaks for itself: captaining Villa to Premier League survival, emerging as England's most creative player in just five caps and scoring twice in a 7-2 annihilation of champions Liverpool.

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56. Federico Valverde (Real Madrid)

Starting the year with a now-iconic tackle against Atletico, Valverde has established himself as an immovable cog in the Real engine this year, even adding goals to his game and opening the scoring in El Clasico.

55. Josip Ilicic (Atalanta)

Despite personal issues and the pandemic blowing an eight-month hole in Ilicic's year, the Atalanta star still had a halfway-line finish, four strikes at Valencia and a goal at Anfield to show for his efforts.

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54. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

Keeping Cristiano Ronaldo at bay in the Coppa Italia final was the high watermark in a year where Koulibaly, one of the world's best defenders, was denied his long-awaited Premier League move.

53. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Let's forget his terrible start to 2020/21 for one second and remember that Aubameyang was world-class for great swathes of the year, scoring 29 times last season and bagging brace in the FA Cup final.

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52. Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

Another stunning year as one of Europe's best defenders has given Upamecano his pick of the continent's best clubs with a masterclass against Atletico Madrid proving his magnum opus of the last 12 months.

51. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

It doesn't bear thinking about where Barcelona would be without some of Ter Stegen's world-class performances this year and it speaks volumes that even in the 8-2 Bayern defeat he hardly put a foot wrong.

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50. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

Flashes of genius in the twilight hours of 2019/20 suggested that Felix had finally arrived at Atletico and that's proven to be true, already boasting eight goals this season and shimmering against Bayern.

49. Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)

When it comes to Sabitzer, the eye-test is all you need because his energetic and dynamic style of football makes for captivating viewing, notching 16 goals last season and smashing a brace past Tottenham.

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48. Ansu Fati (Barcelona)

It's no wonder Fati is being tipped for future Ballon d'Or glory when he's been one of Barcelona's top performers in 2020 despite being just 18 years old, scoring 13 goals and becoming Spain's youngest ever goalscorer.

47. Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)

A club captain, star player and world-class defender, PSG just wouldn't be the same without their Brazilian stalwart for whom they have to thank for crucial goals against Atalanta, RB Leipzig and United.

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46. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

At long last, we're starting to see the best of Kroos again with Los Blancos' general blowing the rest of Europe out of the water with his passing statistics, maintaining an astonishing accuracy of 93% in the Champions League.

45. Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich)

Scoring the winner in the Champions League final is a decent place to start, but when you add in a ninth consecutive league title and a new personal record for club appearances, the provenance of Coman's 2020 really settles in.

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44. Fabinho (Liverpool)

Whether it's pulling the strings in midfield or shoring up the defence, Kopites have Fabinho to thank for so many of their hardest-fought victories on the way to winning their first Premier League title.

43. Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain)

Perpetually underrated amongst the world's best goalkeepers, Navas once again staked his claim as one of the sport's finest in 2020 with a string of inspiring performances in PSG's journey to the Champions League final.

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42. Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)

A mightily impressive 21 goals last season saw Martinez linked with Barcelona at every twist and turn, scoring crucial goals against Shakhtar Donetsk and Real, it's just a shame that inconsistency has crept in recently.

41. Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

If it wasn't for a disappointing start to life under Andrea Pirlo, Dybala might have been competing in the top 20 after being crowned the Serie A MVP last season, inspiring Juve to their ninth Scudetto on the bounce.

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40. Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)

Conceding just 20 goals, Courtois bagged the Ricardo Zamora Trophy for his admirable efforts in Real's romp to La Liga glory as he endures as one of the safest pair of hands in the beautiful game.

39. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

It might not be vogue to place Vardy this high, but lest we forget that 2020 saw him join the Premier League 100-goal club, bag the division's Golden Boot and fly out of the blocks in 2020/21 with 11 strikes.

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38. Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea)

The simple fact of the matter is that PSG wouldn't have reached the Champions League final without Silva commanding their defence and the Brazil legend has arguably been Chelsea's best player since his summer move.

37. Ederson (Manchester City)

One of the world's five best goalkeepers, Ederson's confident and commanding presence earned him the 2019/20 Premier League Golden Glove and his last 10 appearances have reaped eight clean sheets.

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36. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

The air has been let out of Sancho's balloon with an underwhelming start to the new campaign, but it shouldn't take away from a breath-taking 2019/20 campaign that reaped over 15 goals and 15 assists.

35. Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain)

With 14 assists in Ligue 1 last season, double that of his nearest competitor, Di Maria was PSG's creator in chief, producing his best year since his Real days and scoring in the Champions League semi-finals.

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34. Timo Werner (RB Leipzig and Chelsea)

The pelters being thrown his way at Chelsea shouldn't take away from Werner's assault on the European Golden Shoe with RB Leipzig, notching 34 strikes from 45 games before kissing goodbye to Germany.

33. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

On a similar note, for all of Sterling's weaker moments since the restart, the fact he established himself as the world's best goal-scoring winger last season shouldn't be ignored with a stunning 31 goals from out wide.

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32. Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich)

An immovable vertebrae in both the spines of Germany and Bayern, Goretzka didn't just emerge from lockdown with rippling muscles, but the sort of form you'd expect from the world's best box-to-box midfielder.

31. Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

The beating heart of the joyous Atalanta dream, Gomez made history with a record-breaking 16 assists in Serie A last season, while currently ranking as the division's 14th best player in 2020/21.

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30. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

You only have to look at how much Liverpool's form nose-dives whenever Henderson is absent to see that he's much more than 'just' the captain of the Premier League's second greatest team ever.

29. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)

The world's best left-back bar one, Robertson has an eye-watering 17 Premier League assists to his name since the beginning of last season as well as defensive nous and passion in spades.

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28. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan)

It's mind-blowing to think that Ibrahimovic is in with a shout of topping the Serie A scoring charts just a few months away from his 40th birthday, boasting an insane record of 10 league goals in only six games this season.

27. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)

A staggering 15 goal contributions in as many Premier League games this season, including a four-goal haul at Southampton, has done nothing but solidify Son's status as one of the world's best wingers.

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26. Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)

United fans must have been kicking themselves when they saw Lukaku rack up 34 goals in his first season at the San Siro, only to prove it wasn't a fluke by racing into 2020/21 with 15 strikes from 17 appearances.

25. Alisson Becker (Liverpool)

Injuries and sitting in front of a watertight defence means that Alisson's 2020 hasn't been the most dramatic, but make no mistake that the Brazilian is one of the world's best goalkeepers as a jack of all trades and master of all of them.

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24. David Alaba (Bayern Munich)

Just when it looked as though Alaba has passed his peak, he comes along and drops his greatest season yet, thriving in his new position as a centre-back and bring out the best in those around him as Bayern bagged the treble.

23. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

You don't beat some of the world's best players and the sport's greatest ever to the European Golden Shoe and not rank highly with Immobile making Serie A history by matching the single-season scoring record.

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22. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

An unforgettable masterclass at Anfield might be the headline of Oblak's stunning 2020, but it's his consistency that makes him special, conceding just five La Liga goals and keeping 10 clean sheets already this season.

21. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Featuring in every game of Liverpool's title-winning campaign, Alexander-Arnold's 18 league assists in 2019/20 was ground-breaking for a full-back and eventually earned him the captain's armband this month.

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20. Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich)

Is Tony Pulis out there? Anywhere? 2020 marked the year that Gnabry truly cemented his status as one of the world's best players, peaking with a glorious Champions League semi-final brace against Lyon.

19. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

It's bonkers to think that Fernandes was the Premier League's second-highest goalscorer in 2020 despite being a midfielder, adding 14 assists and three Player of the Month awards to his booty for good measure.

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18. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

The Ronaldo void would be far more noticeable at the Bernabeu if it wasn't for Benzema's stellar performances in his absence, standing out as one of the world's best centre-forwards with 23 goals this calendar year. 

17. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Arguably Liverpool's best player in their run to the Premier League title, rated as the division's fifth-best performer overall, Mane has 14 goal contributions in the league this year as his star continues to rise.

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16. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)

It's an incredible feat alone that Davies has usurped Robertson as the world's best left-back at just 20-years-old, nevermind dazzling in Bayern's run to the treble and producing THAT assist against Barcelona.

15. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Only held back by an injury-riddled end to last season, Kane is - by his own admission - in the form of his life with a jaw-dropping record of nine goals and 10 assists in 2020/21 as arguably the sport's most complete number nine.

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14. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

The most glorious of comebacks in this rejuvenated Bayern side, Muller plundered his way to more than 20 assists in the Bundesliga as well as 17 goals in 2020 alone, including a brace against Barcelona.

13. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Lucratively reinvented as a midfielder under Flick, Kimmich's astonishing chipped winner against Dortmund secured German supremacy for Bayern, before seamlessly filling in at right-back for a Champions League final masterclass.

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12. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Nobody has scored more Premier League goals in 2020 than Liverpool's free-finishing forward, who leads the race for the Golden Boot with 13 goals in 15 games and enters 2021 with an outside shot at the Ballon d'Or.

11. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

The pain of the Champions League final must still be stinging, but we can't take for granted just how electrifying Mbappe is at just 22 years old, bagging the Ligue 1 Golden Boot and leading the way of goals in 2020/21.

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10. Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich and Liverpool)

Already plainly world-class in just three outings for Liverpool, it's hard to imagine Bayern winning the treble without his metronomic presence in midfield, killing off some of the world's best sides with his passing alone.

9. Erling Braut Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

A hat-trick off the bench on his Dortmund debut set the scene for Haaland's breakneck year as the 20-year-old goes from strength to strength, wielding a barely-comprehendible 33 goals from just 32 games in Germany.

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8. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

For all the controversy and lack of trophies at Barcelona, Messi still helped himself to more than 20 goals and 20 assists in La Liga last season and currently has the highest WhoScored rating of any player in Europe's top five leagues.

7. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Pound-for-pound the world's best defender, just not in terms of 2020 alone, it says everything that Van Dijk played every minute of Liverpool's title win, even chipping in with five goals on the way to 99 points.

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6. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

There are simply too many examples of Neuer making vital saves for Bayern this year to name, but it was his masterpiece in the Champions League final that truly reaffirmed him as the world's best goalkeeper.

5. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

The fire and guts behind Real conquering La Liga, Ramos scored a mind-boggling 13 goals from centre-back last season, reaching 100 strikes for Los Blancos and even finding the net in the 3-1 win at Barcelona.

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4. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)

Back on his perch as one of the world's best players, Neymar has been blockbuster entertainment in 2020, overtaking Ronaldo's Brazil tally with a stunning hat-trick and almost single-handedly inspiring PSG to the Champions League final.

3. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

The best player in the Premier League and City's anomalous shining light in the Champions League, De Bruyne has oozed class in 2020, matching Thierry Henry's assist record and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

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2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

The top scorer in Europe's top five leagues in 2020, Ronaldo has proven that age is just a number with his breath-taking form at 35 years old, winning the Serie A title and 'Player of the Century' award for his efforts.

1. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Who else? Lewandowski was on fire throughout 2020 with an astonishing 55 goals from just 44 appearances last season, top-scoring in the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal along the way.

And the indomitable Pole has picked up from he left off, already amassing 20 strikes from 18 games this season as well as winning FIFA's 'The Best' award and UEFA's Player of the Year gong.

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A tough year for all

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, our best stab at picking 100 players from all the incredible athletes who have made the beautiful game such a wonderful capsule of escapism through the slush of 2020.

And that's how we'd like to leave things, really, because although some footballers have shone brighter than others this year, we owe them all a great debt for playing when, at times, it must have seemed impossible.

It's a well-worn adage that football is the most important of the unimportant things, but 2020 might have exhumed the saying from its cliché status to one of poignant truth.

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After all, when life is often too awful to bear, sometimes a little silly something like football can be just enough to make things feel as though everything's ok again for just a second or two...

Have a happy and safe New Year everybody. Best wishes to you all.

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