The Best FIFA Men’s Player

The Finalists


  • POR
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will forever remember 2016 as the year in which he was crowned a European champion twice. First he triumphed in the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, clinching the title by scoring the last penalty in the shoot-out. This was a fitting way to cap a campaign in which he finished top of the competition’s scoring charts with 16 goals, seven more than second-placed Robert Lewandowski. Then as Portugal captain, Cristiano had the honour of lifting the first major trophy in his country’s history at UEFA EURO 2016, secured by upsetting hosts France in the final in Paris. With his irrepressible thirst for goals, power and speed, Ronaldo continues to amass silverware and records in abundance.
  • Antoine GRIEZMANN

  • FRA
  • Having been named the best player both in the Spanish league, in which he helped Atletico Madrid finish third, and at the UEFA EURO, 2016 will go down as the year in which Antoine Griezmann truly came into his own. With 40 goals over the course of the 2015/16 campaign, he spearheaded Atletico and France’s respective charges to the finals of the UEFA Champions League and EURO 2016, although both ended in heart-wrenching defeats. A skilful, unselfish attacker, the 5’9 (1.76m) schemer can quite simply do the lot. As Griezmann himself recently told, he is a “more complete player now” than ever before and has “improved in every way in the last two years”. One person who would certainly echo this view is his coach Diego Simeone, who is on record as saying that the man they now call Grizou has raised his game to such an extent that he is currently “among the top three players in the world”.
Lionel MESSI
  • Lionel MESSI

  • ARG
  • Lionel Messi shows no signs of letting up. After rounding off 2015 by collecting the adidas Silver Ball at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, he continued to figure large for club and country in 2016. In winning his eighth La Liga winner’s medal with Barcelona, he chipped in with 20 goals (putting him third in the scoring charts) and an impressive 16 assists, and also won the Copa del Rey for a fourth time with Los Blaugrana and the Spanish Super Cup for the seventh time. La Pulga also starred for Argentina on their run to the final of Copa America Centenario, serving up more assists in the tournament than any other player and ending it as the second highest scorer. In the process, Messi also became La Albiceleste’s leading all-time goalscorer.

The other candidates

  • Sergio AGUERO

  • ARG
  • Sergio Aguero had an impressive 2015/16 with Manchester City, scoring 24 goals in 30 English Premier League matches, the highest goals-per-game ratio of the season, though he missed out on being the league’s top scorer by a single goal. The Argentinian also scored twice in his side’s run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, the first time they have reached that stage of the competition, and converted a penalty in the English League Cup final shoot-out win over Liverpool. El Kun found the back of the net once, as Argentina finished runners-up in the Copa America Centenario. He has since been among the goals again for his club in the current Premier League campaign.
Gareth BALE
  • Gareth BALE

  • WAL
  • Gareth Bale is well established among the upper echelons of world football, being nominated as one of the best players in the world now for the fourth year running, and looking back on his last 12 months, it is hardly a surprise to see him here again. Getting his hands on a second UEFA Champions League winners medal with Real Madrid, he played his part in more than 30 goals in all competitions as part of the fearsome ‘BBC’ frontline, alongside Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Having helped his club to a historic 11th continental title, he led his nation to their own European milestone as Wales reached the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2016 – their highest ever major tournament finish. Having lit up the competition in France, he and Wales were rewarded with their highest-ever placing in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of tenth in September.
Gianluigi BUFFON
  • Gianluigi BUFFON

  • ITA
  • It is not often that an opponent gets the better of Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian 2006 FIFA World Cup™ winner may be 38, but he shows no sign of waning and still excels thanks to his extraordinary reflexes. In March 2016 the charismatic custodian beat the record set by AC Milan’s Sebastiano Rossi in the 1993/94 campaign by going 973 minutes without conceding in Serie A. The legendary goalkeeper won a league and cup double with Juventus in 2015/16, but lost out to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. ‘Gigi‘, Italy’s most-capped player, progressed to the quarter-finals with the Squadra Azzurra at UEFA EURO 2016, where they lost to Germany on penalties.
  • Kevin DE BRUYNE

  • BEL
  • Kevin De Bruyne has a playing style completely his own. The Belgian midfielder can do it all, thanks to finely honed instincts that seem to draw the ball to his feet and allow him to read the game and anticipate space. Those gifts have served him well year upon year and 2016 was no exception, with De Bruyne racking up another impressive tally of goals and assists. When Manchester City score, it is rare for him not to be involved. A coach’s dream, he has already become indispensable to Pep Guardiola and remains a fixture for his national side. Last season, he helped City reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time before steering Les Diables Rouges to the last eight at UEFA EURO 2016.

  • SWE
  • An enduring modern football icon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic inevitably commands the spotlight, and 2016 was no exception. Besides celebrating another Ligue 1, Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue treble with Paris Saint-Germain, Ibracadabra cemented his legendary status at the club with his 38 league goals, breaking Carlos Bianchi’s 38-year-old record for the highest-ever tally by a PSG player. He duly decided to depart Paris for pastures new in May, tweeting “I came like a king, left like a legend” by way of a parting message. This was not his only farewell of the year, as he retired from international football in June in the wake of UEFA EURO 2016. After representing Sweden for no fewer than 15 years, he leaves behind a lasting imprint. In contrast to these emotional farewells, the flamboyant forward embarked on a new beginning and challenge in England by joining Manchester United in July.
  • Andres INIESTA

  • ESP
  • There are few superlatives left to describe Andres Iniesta’s talent. He continues to add to his ever-growing haul of silverware, having rounded off 2015 by winning the FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona and collecting the adidas Bronze Ball in the process. In 2016, he captured another Spanish league title, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup. Moreover, the silky Spanish playmaker still delights and wreaks havoc in equal measure with the ball at his feet, aided by his intelligent movement between the lines and extraordinary ability to pick out passes. Once his tireless work ethic and generosity of spirit are factored in, it is easy to understand why his coach, Luis Enrique, has labelled him a “world heritage” player. Iniesta is unquestionably one of the mainstays of Julen Lopetegui’s new-look Spain set-up on the road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, and injuries appear to be the only threat capable of derailing the evergreen maestro.
N'Golo Kanté
  • N’Golo Kanté

  • FRA
  • For N’Golo Kante, 2016 was the year everything changed. Little known when he joined Leicester City from Caen, the defensive midfielder quickly impressed with consistently excellent displays and has not looked back since. Kante does not crave the limelight, preferring to help others shine, and he covers every blade of grass in tireless performances. Indeed, no player completed more interceptions (156) or carried out more tackles (175) than the Frenchman during the 2015/16 English Premier League season. He was a key member of the Leicester side that made history by winning the English title and he also caught the eye of Didier Deschamps, imposing himself in France’s midfield before earning himself a spot in the heart of the action for Chelsea.
  • Toni KROOS

  • GER
  • Toni Kroos orchestrates matters in midfield both for Real Madrid and Germany. He sets the tone of the game and possesses the ability to unlock any defence with his pinpoint passing. Indeed, in general over 90 per cent of his passes find their intended target in every game. After triumphing with Germany at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Kroos helped the side reach the semi-finals at UEFA EURO 2016. Immediately prior to the start of that tournament he won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid and was recently awarded a contract extension until the summer of 2022.

  • POL
  • A glance at the statistics shows just how invaluable Robert Lewandowski is for his team. Last season he scored 42 goals in 51 matches for Bayern Munich, making him the most prolific striker at the record German champions. The Poland international also finds the net regularly for his country. Although he only registered two goals at UEFA EURO 2016, he is currently beating opponents almost single-handedly during 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying. The centre-forward is extremely agile despite his 6’0 (1.84 metre) frame and also possesses magnificent technique.
  • Riyad MAHREZ

  • ALG
  • When he signed for Leicester City in early 2014, Riyad Mahrez had just two full seasons with Ligue 2 side Le Havre under his belt. After helping the Foxes earn promotion to the English Premier League a few months later and keeping them up in their first season back in the big time, the Algerian then played an instrumental part, as Leicester confounded the odds to win the 2015/16 league title, one of the biggest upsets the game has ever seen. As reward for his superlative season, Mahrez had the honour of becoming the first African to win the PFA Player of the Year. His form with Algeria has been just as impressive, with the 25-year-old contributing to their qualification for the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations and the third and final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. Now at the peak of his considerable powers, Mahrez has designs on winning global recognition to go with his domestic accolades.
  • Luka MODRIC

  • CRO
  • With his finesse and nous, Luka Modric has become a key midfield component for both Real Madrid and the Croatian national team. Though not a traditional enforcer, he continually regains possession for his side and once he has it, he is the sort of player who can dictate the tempo of a match and distribute the ball with aplomb even when under pressure. On top of all that, he has honed his shooting skills and is a steady supplier of assists. Besides winning the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup with his club in 2016, he also pulled the strings for Croatia en route to the Round of 16 at the UEFA European Championship in France, where they only fell to eventual champions Portugal after extra time. He was subsequently named his country’s new captain.
Manuel NEUER
  • Manuel NEUER

  • GER
  • When the 6’4 (1.93m) goalkeeper spreads himself between his posts, many clinical strikers lose their nerve as the goal frame suddenly appears a lot smaller. Manuel Neuer is outstanding on his goal-line, dominates his penalty area and often showcases his excellent footballing ability outside of the box as a ‘sweeper-keeper’. The 2014 FIFA World Cup™ winner took over from Bastian Schweinsteiger as captain of the Germany national team in September 2016, having earlier helped the side reach the last four at UEFA EURO 2016 and saved two penalties in the shootout against Italy in their last-eight fixture. In 2015/16, Neuer became the first goalkeeper to keep 21 clean sheets in the Bundesliga. Furthermore, last season he added the league title, the DFB-Pokal and the German Super Cup to his trophy collection.

  • BRA
  • Winning the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015 with Barcelona was a sign of things to come for Neymar in 2016, a year in which he contributed 31 goals and 20 assists to the club’s league, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup wins. The Brazilian forward missed the Copa America Centenario, choosing instead to devote his energies to his country’s major objective of the year: winning Olympic gold at Rio 2016, the one major title missing from the Seleção trophy cabinet. With confidence and form restored, the Brazilians and their inspirational captain are now back in the direct qualification places.
  • Mesut OEZIL

  • GER
  • Mesut Ozil is a master schemer renowned for his slide-rule passes that set up his team-mates perfectly. The Germany international is supremely inventive and is one of the best in the world at creating goals. He is a key figure in Arsenal’s midfield and has scored with increasing regularity of late. Nevertheless, it is providing assists that shapes his style of play: his tally of 19 was the best in the 2015/16 Premier League season, leading him to be named as the Gunners’ Player of the Season. He also helped Germany reach the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2016 and scored a crucial goal against Italy in the last eight.
Dimitri PAYET
  • Dimitri PAYET

  • FRA
  • Dimitri Payet showed what he was capable of during his spells with Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille and Marseille. All that was lacking from his game was the ability to perform consistently over an entire season, a quality he was able to demonstrate after his move to West Ham United in the summer of 2015, with the Frenchman settling in immediately and becoming a key figure for the London club. Voicing his appreciation of the French attacking midfielder, Hammers coach Slaven Bilic said: “He’s a brilliant player and there’s more to his game than goals. He’s also excellent at keeping the ball and bringing the best out of others.” One man who agrees with that view is France coach Didier Deschamps, who handed the West Ham man a starting place on the Bleus’ left flank. With his goals and assists, Payet played a compelling part in France’s run to the UEFA EURO 2016 final.
  • Paul POGBA

  • FRA
  • Everything seems almost too easy for Paul Pogba. Blessed with a talent that shines every time he touches the ball, the Hyundai Young Player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ cruises through midfield with a remarkable technique and eye-catching athleticism. His ability to dribble in tight spaces, win challenges and serve up moments of inspiration at crucial times helped Juventus clinch the Italian Serie A title last season, with Pogba contributing eight goals and 12 assists. Less than two months later, the Frenchman was involved in the host nation’s run to the UEFA EURO 2016 final before returning to Manchester United, amid much fanfare.
Sergio RAMOS
  • Sergio RAMOS

  • ESP
  • Despite being a long-standing defensive stalwart for Real Madrid and the Spanish national team, Sergio Ramos’s most memorable contributions in 2016 were at the other end of the pitch. Most notably, he scored his side’s only goal in the UEFA Champions League final against Atletico Madrid in a match that Zinedine Zidane’s team would end up winning on penalties. Sadly for Spain, these exploits were not replicated at the international level, with Ramos powerless to prevent La Roja being knocked out in the Round of 16 at UEFA EURO 2016.
  • Alexis SANCHEZ

  • CHI
  • Alexis Sanchez enjoyed a superb 2016 for both club and country. The Chilean forward contributed 13 goals, as Arsenal clinched second place in the English Premier League, while he also chipped in with three goals and an impressive five assists, as the Gunners made the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. He also delivered when it mattered most for Chile, scoring three goals and providing two assists to help them lift the Copa America Centenario, in which he was named player of the tournament.
  • Luis SUAREZ

  • URU
  • Luis Suarez ended 2015 on a high by helping Barcelona to victory at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, the Uruguayan finished as top scorer in the tournament to claim the adidas Golden Ball. He continued in the same vein in 2016, making a major contribution to Barcelona’s second Spanish league title win since he joined the club. Suarez struck a career-high 40 goals in the campaign, finishing the season as the highest scorer in both Spain and Europe and collecting the continent’s Golden Shoe as a result. His tally of 16 assists was also one of the highest in La Liga, while winner’s medals also came his way in the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup. Though injury forced him to sit out the Copa America Centenario, El Pistolero has been proving his worth again to La Celeste in the preliminaries for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, where they currently occupy one of the direct qualification slots.
  • Jamie VARDY

  • ENG
  • An integral part of Leicester City’s remarkable English Premier League-winning team, Jamie Vardy’s 24 league goals helped the Foxes claim their first-ever top-flight title. The Englishman was lethal in front of goal throughout his side’s incredible campaign, scoring in 11 consecutive league matches to break Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy’s previous record of finding the net in 10 straight Premier League games. A non-league player not so long ago, Vardy added to a memorable 2016 by bagging his first international goal – an equaliser against world champions Germany, where England would go on to secure a 3-2 victory in Berlin.