How many world-class players are there in the Premier League: 10, 15, 20, 30 or more?
It’s an incredibly difficult question to answer and one that always gets supporters in a flap with that most coveted of ‘world-class’ labels held in the highest regard by some and dished out like sweeties by others.
However, here at GIVEMESPORT, it’s an oft-mentioned phrase that we try to keep an eye on and every now and again apply to the Premier League in order to assess who the leading footballers continue to be.
Which Premier League players are world-class?
Last year, we set out our stall and named the 17 players in England’s top-flight that we considered to be world-class with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Ilkay Gundogan all featuring.
And now we’re back to do it all over again for the 2022/23 season where it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that none of those players have retained their spot in the world-class cohort.
So how are we defining that most revered of adjectives? Well, for the purposes of this article, the player must either be able walk into any team around the world or be widely tipped as ranking amongst the top 50 players in the sport at the moment.
They will, as a result, be there or thereabouts in regards to the world’s top five for their specific position because there’s going to be no bias shown towards forward players here.
Is that the undisputed and objective definition for ‘world-class’ that’s written in permanent ink? No, no it’s not, so feel free to hang onto whatever criteria it is that you hold dearest, but that’s how we’re making our judgements today.
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The Premier League’s world-class players
Therefore, let’s put the housekeeping and disclaimers to one side for now and get into the juicy stuff as we walk you through every 2022/23 Premier League player that we consider to be world-class.
- Kalidou Koulibaly
A controversial one to start off with because the jury is ultimately out on Koulibaly’s Premier League pedigree until we see more of him in a Chelsea shirt, but rest assured that he ranks amongst the world’s best centre-backs.
A couple of centre-halves who you’ll see in just a few swipes of your screen might have the edge on him, sure, but we’d pick Koulibaly above the likes of Eder Militao, Marquinhos and even Antonio Rudiger in a dream XI right now.
2. N’Golo Kante
Just, just. Perhaps we’re being generous to Kante because his 2021/22 campaign was truly one to forget, but it certainly wasn’t a season so bad that it completely unravelled his Ballon d’Or-worthy form of the previous year.
We like to think that most fans would argue that Kante still ranks amongst the world’s five best defensive midfielders at the very least.
3. Alisson Becker
The 2021/22 season marked Alisson’s return to his pedestal as the world’s best goalkeeper, bailing out Liverpool more times than we can remember with remarkable shot-stopping in one-on-one situations.
Marry that to his typical genius with the ball at his feet and utter dominance of his own penalty area to create a situation where surely to goodness we can all agree that Alisson is world-class – and then some.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Look, this is another banker because if you don’t think Alexander-Arnold is in and around the world’s three best right-backs after a season where he amassed 12 Premier League assists and 17 clean sheets, then we don’t know how to please you.
5. Virgil van Dijk
Again, does anybody really think that Van Dijk isn’t world-class? Surely not.
6. Andrew Robertson
A less clearcut choice than his Liverpool peers because although Robertson has been consistently top-class in the famous red jersey, his standing amongst the world’s best left-backs has certainly undulated over the years.
But as things stand, only Joao Cancelo and Alphonso Davies – or maybe Theo Hernandez at a push? – can claim to have the beating of Robertson in his own position, so we’re welcoming him back to world-class life.
The Brazilian juggernaut might have plateaued a little near the back of last season, but his goalscoring spree in the winter was yet another showcase of his manifold talents at the base of Liverpool’s midfield.
The very fact that he’s so often compared to Kante and another world-class player about to pop up on our list is a testament to the fact that he’s many people’s pick for the best defensive midfielder on the planet – and that’s enough for us.
8. Thiago Alcantara
Maybe we’re going soft this year, maybe, but even for all the fluctuations that have come with Thiago’s time on Merseyside, we saw enough from his superb second season to tip the scales back over to world-class status.
Besides, if you go off nothing else, then focus on the fact that Thiago is pure footballing joy whenever he takes to the pitch, picking out passes you never knew were on and turning the opposition inside-out.
9. Mohamed Salah
Like, duh. We’re not even going to waste your time justifying why Salah should be called world-class.
Let’s have a go at naming the best goalkeepers in the world: Alisson and Thibaut Courtois are nailed on, maybe Edouard Mendy, Manuel Neuer and Jan Oblak are on the way down, not David de Gea…
The moral of the story is that it’s pretty hard to see a scenario in which Ederson isn’t nailed on for a place in the top five and therefore swaggers his way to world-class status.
11. Ruben Dias
Just because last season didn’t see Dias reach the world-beating best that he showed in his debut year at the Etihad Stadium, it doesn’t mean that he no longer ranks amongst the most dominant stars to man a defence.
Beyond Van Dijk, it’s hard to name a single centre-back where every football fan in a room would agree that they’re superior to the City juggernaut without a shadow of doubt.
12. Joao Cancelo
The world’s best left-back right now. An absolute joke of a footballer.
For our money, the best defensive midfielder in the sport, ousting the similarly world-class Kante and Fabinho, so this makes for one of the easiest selections in the division. Rodri doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
14. Kevin De Bruyne
Don’t worry, we’re not lunatics. Of course De Bruyne makes it in.
15. Bernardo Silva
Believe it or not, this was another pick that we went back and forth on because there’s so, so much competition in both City’s midfield and amongst the world’s best in that position that picking Silva isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
But even with fierce competition from the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Luka Modric, Thomas Muller and De Bruyne amongst the world’s premier midfielders, something just didn’t feel right about snubbing arguably the most technically gifted player in the entire devision.
16. Erling Braut Haaland
Yes, Haaland is only 22 years old and yes, he could well go onto flop in the Premier League, but his record speaks for itself: 29 goals in 27 Red Bull Salzburg games, 86 goals in 89 Borussia Dortmund appearances and 20 goals in 29 caps for Norway.
The hype is real, so don’t be shocked if Haaland does indeed win the Ballon d’Or that he’s tipped to win one day and maybe even breaks Sergio Aguero’s scoring record at City if he enjoys life in England.
17. Cristiano Ronaldo
Are we cutting him more slack than anyone else on the list? Yes, yes we are, but if winning five Ballon d’Or trophies and ranking amongst the greatest athletes in history doesn’t afford you that extra bit of credit in the bank, then we don’t know what does.
From where we’re stood, it simply comes down to the fact that Ronaldo remains one of the most talented and game-changing players in the sport even at 37 years old and let’s face it, his comeback season at United was still an impressive one from an individual perspective.
18. Harry Kane
And if we’re going to include Ronaldo, then Kane most certainly strolls into the world-class club, because he continues to prove himself as one of the world’s most complete number nines week in, week out.
19. Heung-min Son
It’s crazy to think that we ummed and arred about giving Son the world-class badge ahead of last season when you consider that he went onto experience a year so incredible that it’s not even a question this time around.
Son was playing to such a dizzying standard across the 2021/22 campaign that his 23 goals and seven assists, winning the Golden Boot for his troubles, saw many fans rank him above Kane as Spurs’ best player.
Who do you think is world-class?
Feeling angry? Ok, ok, we can’t please everybody and no doubt you think we’re barmy not to call players like Raphael Varane, Aymperic Laporte and Gabriel Jesus ‘world-class’, but that’s how high the bar really is.
However, try not to despair too much because the amount of change which has transpired in the space of just one season goes to show that your own clubs’ heroes could well attain that golden label in a year’s time.
Just in the way that Maguire and Gundogan might have shed their places in our list this year, don’t be shocked if Cristian Romero, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho or anyone else makes a charge and joins our ranks next year.
Besides, the world-class class is the classification everyone wants to be classed in – and it’s class if you are.