The Premier League has long been a magnet for world-class footballers.
Say what you like about whether or not England's top-flight is the best league in the business, but there's no denying that some of the sport's finest players are keen to grace its shores.
And as the 2021/22 season starts to stretch its legs, we're happy to share that nothing has changed in that department and we think that more than 10 players are deserving of that 'world-class' tag.
It's a label that has been thrown around all-too often in football and it depends on who you ask when it comes to just how strict the criteria is when it comes to earning world-class status.
Some will have you believe that you need to be nipping at Lionel Messi's heels to get the nod, while others will toss the 'world-class' label around like its going out of fashion.
Here at GIVEMESPORT, we like to think we're somewhere in between and we've set ourselves the challenge of naming all the Premier League players that we consider to be world-class.
Ruben Neves to Man United ON (Football Terrace)
So, how are we defining it? Well, for the purposes of this article, we're setting the bar at the player either getting into any team in the world or being within the sport's best 30-40 best players.
In other words, they are, in our opinion, comfortably within the world's top three players in their respective positions and we're talking about right here, right now as opposed to years ago.
To make that call, we're drawing upon their current status in the beautiful game, performances over the last 18 months and, well, how good your humble writer considers them to be.
So, yes, bear in mind that this is ultimately a subjective exercise and that we're not claiming that any players who don't make the cut are anything short of brilliant because they more than likely are.
World-class Premier League players
However, enough chit-chat and disclaimers, let's dive into the 17 players in the Premier League that we consider to be worthy of 'world-class' status right here:
1. Harry Maguire
And straight off the bat, we're dealing with controversy because there is certainly a contingent of fans that seem to think Maguire is some sort of bumbling imposter as United captain.
However, if his Herculean performances for the Red Devils in 2021, as well as his incredible output at Euro 2020, haven't persuaded you otherwise then we simply don't know what will.
The simple fact of the matter is that Maguire is one of the world's best defenders on his day and it just happens that the last 12 months have been littered with 'on his day' performances.
2. Raphael Varane
Like, duh. Varane is a World Cup winner with more Champions League trophies than sense and he remains amongst the best centre-backs in the business even when he's not on song.
3. Luke Shaw
I can sense the Facebook comments section crucifying me already because this is by no means a vogue decision, but remember one of the criterion: "within the world's top three players in their respective positions."
And after ascending the Premier League Team of the Season and shining at Euro 2020, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that any left-back has the edge on Shaw right now. Like it or not, he's world-class.
4. Paul Pogba
Given his undulating form at Old Trafford, Pogba was one of those players who sat right on the boundary of world-class territory, but his stunning form this summer has tipped him over the line.
Pogba was arguably Euro 2020's best performer pound-for-pound and already has five Premier League assists to his name this season. Simply put, he's one of the sport's most talented players.
5. Bruno Fernandes
Do we even need to justify this guy's presence? I didn't think so.
6. Ruben Dias
Arguably the Premier League's top performer last season and potentially the game's best centre-back on current form, you'd be hard pressed to argue that Dias is anything less than world-class.
7. Ilkay Gundogan
Is this a tad generous? Perhaps, but we're given the swashbuckling German the benefit of the doubt when you consider that he was rightfully competing for the PFA Player of the Year award in 2020/21.
He might not have kicked on at Euro 2020, but make no mistake that Gundogan is one of the most dynamic midfielders in the game and based on individual quality alone, gets the nod over Jorginho in my book.
8. Kevin De Bruyne
Like Fernandes, we're not going to waste our breath justifying why De Bruyne is world-class because, let's face it, he's probably the best player in the Premier League. Period.
That being said, before we move on, something feels distinctly wrong about only naming three City players as world-class when they've won a hat-trick of Premier League titles under Pep Guardiola.
But read through their squad yourself and discover that it's less clearcut than you'd imagine, even if the likes of Joao Cancelo, Raheem Sterling and Ederson came within a nose hair of getting the thumbs up.
9. Alisson Becker
Truth be told, I'm inclined to think that most of the world's best goalkeepers can be found outside of the Premier League, but it didn't feel right now to name a single shot-stopper from English shores.
As such, I'm putting Alisson's name forward as the Premier League's finest number one, but I'll happily admit that he's one of the players that a harsher fan could easily eject from this list.
10. Virgil van Dijk
If you think we're going to let an unfortunate injury get in the way of us unabashedly calling Van Dijk one of the best players, never mind defenders, in world football then you are badly mistaken.
11. Trent Alexander-Arnold
If you're still tearing your hair out that Cancelo didn't make the cut, then perhaps we're giving you more in the way of explanation by revealing the man that, for us, beats him to the mark.
Claims that Alexander-Arnold is defensively inept were woefully exaggerated last season and it speaks volumes that he still racked up seven Premier League assists in a supposedly weak year by his standards.
Nonetheless, I'll happily attest to thinking that Alexander-Arnold is in the world's top three right-backs when the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Juan Cuadrado are the competition.
Again, it's important to remember that one of our key criteria is that the player is one of the best in the world in their respective position and few defensive midfielders can hold a candle to Fabinho.
It says everything that Fabinho was one of few Liverpool players who didn't decline through all the chopping and changing of last season, even proving himself to be a top-class centre-back, too.
13. Mohamed Salah
Season after season, Salah scores goals for fun on Merseyside, so we'd out of our minds not to put him forward as one of the Premier League's standout players with two Golden Boots to his name.
14. N'Golo Kante
Anyone who saw Kante cover every single blade of grass during Chelsea's run to Champions League glory last season will know that his name and the 'world-class' title go hand in glove.
15. Romelu Lukaku
It's not for no reason that Lukaku is mentioned in the same breath as Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland as one of the world's best strikers - and it's a title that he thoroughly deserves.
Since leaving behind a throughly underrated spell at Manchester United, the Belgian has proven all his doubters wrong by smashing home 64 goals for Inter Milan in just 95 appearances.
16. Harry Kane
It's as simple as this: Kane is the most complete number nine in the sport.
17. Heung-min Son
No matter how bad things might get at Spurs, you can rest assured that Son will be dropping world-class performances in spite of it all and there aren't many teams that wouldn't be happy to sign him.
And yes, that is indeed where we're drawing the line because we're unsure that any player outside of the traditional 'big six' nor on the books at Arsenal deserves the label right now.
Wilfred Ndidi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Declan Rice probably get closer than most, but let's face it, we couldn't pick them in a million years if even Andrew Robertson and Cancelo aren't picked.
Plenty of tough calls
So, there you have it, we've nailed our colours to the mast by naming our world-class Premier League players and we're well aware that its stoked a tonne of controversy in the process.
But hey, that's the beauty of the sport that we love because it's all a matter of opinion and the fact it's so tough to name which players are truly world-class is a credit to the Premier League.
Besides, if we had to change our picks, then rest assured that we would have chosen more players as opposed to fewer - and who knows, maybe more will join the ranks over the course of this season...