The international break doesn’t exactly captivate football fans.
There’s always a collective groan when the latest round of World Cup qualifiers puts a pause on the Premier League, Champions League and more for a fortnight that feels more like three decades.
Even the slight jeopardy of the newly-founded UEFA Nations League, which concluded with France overcoming Spain at the weekend, hasn’t exactly got the juices flowing amongst supporters.
However, fear not, because GIVEMESPORT is here to try and add some spice and intrigue to the so-often uneventful world of international breaks by looking at the top nations’ finest players.
If scrolling through the football-focused sections of social media each day teaches you everything, it’s that fans love nothing more than a debate, so let’s get another friendly conversation going here.
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So, what’s the premise? We’ve taken the 20 highest-rated nations in the FIFA men’s rankings and chosen the player that your humble writer considered to be the very best hailing from that country.
Our choices are based upon player performances across 2021, which we’re informing by statistics and the eye test, as well as their output over the last few years in instances where there isn’t a clear winner.
Best player in the top 20 nations
Got it? Right then, well, without further ado, you can check out our picks for the best male player from FIFA’s 20 highest-rated nations at the time of writing down below:
20. Senegal – Sadio Mane
A pretty straightforward selection to kick things off. Senegal continues to produce top-level players, but Mane remains the best of the best as a truly world-class operator for Liverpool.
19. Wales – Gareth Bale
While, yes, injuries and inconsistent form have blighted the last few years of Bale’s career, we can surely all agree that he remains Wales’ most skilful and devastating asset, though, right?
18. Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
I promise that I’m not living in 2010 and forgot that Emil Forsberg, Alexander Isak and Dejan Kulusevski exist but come on, Zlatan scored 15 goals in just 19 Serie A games last season at 39 years old. Mental.
17. Croatia – Luka Modric
The 2020/21 season marked a return to the world-class brilliance that we’ve come to expect from Modric at Real Madrid and it speaks volumes that he’s still Croatia’s star man at 36 years old.
16. Colombia – Juan Cuadrado
With a stellar six assists in six Champions League games last season, Colombia’s statistical best performer at Copa America 2021 is one of the most underrated full-backs in world football right now.
15. Switzerland – Yann Sommer
As tempting as it was to select Manuel Akanji or Denis Zakaria, it was tough to look past Sommer when you consider how demonstrative his Euro 2020 masterclasses were of his overall brilliance.
14. Germany – Joshua Kimmich
An infinitely fluid, flawless and first-class operator for Bayern Munich, we wouldn’t have too many complaints if you told us that you thought that Kimmich was the world’s best midfielder full stop.
13. USA – Christian Pulisic
While his Chelsea spell has left a lot to be desired and Giovanni Reyna is breathing down his neck, Pulisic remains the most prized asset across the pond and there’s no denying his raw ability.
12. Uruguay – Luis Suarez
Is there an argument to be made for Federico Valverde? Maybe, maybe, but when Suarez is on song, you better know that you’re in trouble and he’s made a strong start to life at Atletico Madrid.
11. Netherlands – Virgil van Dijk
The world’s best defender also happens to be the world’s best Dutch player.
10. Denmark – Kasper Schmeichel
Every Danish player is deserving of praise this year, but Schmeichel has been especially superb and he proved that point perfectly with masterclasses in the Euro 2020 semi-finals and FA Cup final.
9. Mexico – Hirving Lozano
Think of Raul Jimenez as our champion in recess because he would almost certainly take the prize if it wasn’t for spending the year injured.
That said, Lozano is more than deserving of praise after a stellar 2020/21 season that saw him rattle home 15 goals in 43 games for Napoli. He’s opened up the new campaign with two strikes, too.
8. Spain – Rodri
This was really, really tough. We came close to giving Pedri the nod on the back of his outrageous Euro 2020 performances, but Rodri sneaks ahead as one of the world’s most underrated players.
7. Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo
Do we even need to explain this decision? Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes are both world-class, but we’re talking about arguably the greatest player in football history here, it’s a no-brainer.
6. Argentina – Lionel Messi
5. Italy – Jorginho
A Champions League, Euro 2020 and UEFA Super Cup winner who is competing for the Ballon d’Or and remains a thoroughly underrated midfield force just about edges out Gianluigi Donnarumma.
4. France – N’Golo Kante
Sure, Kylian Mbappe has also been fantastic this year, but Kante is just as good in his own position as the Paris Saint-Germain star is in his own.
Plus, when the chips were down, I had to zoom out and recall just how astonishingly good Kante was on the way to Champions League glory this year. Mbappe simply can’t match that in 2021.
3. England – Harry Kane
The world’s most complete number nine swaggers on to the England podium on the back of four goals at Euro 2020 and a staggering 37 Premier League goal contributions across 2020/21.
2. Brazil – Neymar
Shoutout to Marquinhos, Casemiro and Alisson Becker as stunning runners-up, but when Neymar is playing his best football, which we’ve seen in flashes and bursts this year, then it really is no debate.
1. Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne
We wouldn’t blame anyone for picking Romelu Lukaku here, but for my money, De Bruyne is the best midfielder in the world and the Premier League’s finest player, period, so we had to pick him.
Agree, disagree or both?
You think I’ve got them all wrong, don’t you? Well, worry not, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s all a matter of opinion and we’d be fascinated to see who you think is each nation’s top performer.
We don’t profess to have watched every single game by every single international over the last 12 months, so we’d love to collate the opinions of those who hail from each country on the list.
However, if we’re here to debate whether Kante gets the better of Mbappe right now or that Jorginho is a genuine Ballon d’Or contender, then bring it on because that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
Ah, football, it just wouldn’t be the same without debates, would it?