The 10 best male footballers in the world 2023

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1. Erling Haaland

Age23

Team Manchester City / Norway


A new era has begun and for now, at least, it belongs to Erling Haaland. The relentless striker has scored 50 goals for club and country so far in 2023, delivering Manchester City a treble and the Champions League holy grail in his first season. Highlights included a five-goal haul against RB Leipzig and two crucial strikes against Bayern Munich as he became the youngest player to reach 40 goals in Europe’s top competition. This season Haaland has proved his phenomenal start to life in England was no statistical freak, taking his City goal tally to 71 inside 18 months. A hulking on-field presence with an outrageous turn of pace, it is easy to forget Haaland is only 23. He is the youngest player to top our annual men’s poll, and the first plying his trade in the Premier League. He is also a clear winner of our list – 146 judges put him top, with another 40 panellists awarding him second place. Niall McVeigh







2. Jude Bellingham


Age 20


Team Real Madrid / England




Our No 2 this year is not Diego Maradona. He’s not Zinedine Zidane either. Or Cristiano Ronaldo. Or Alfredo Di Stรฉfano. He is, though, a man who has been compared to all of them, and favourably. Man? An “extraterrestrial”, Leonardo Bonucci called him. Must have big pockets, because he has managed to fit the entire Santiago Bernabรฉu inside. His goal celebration, arms wide, has become iconic and often imitated, not least because it has been so often repeated, his goalscoring start to his Real Madrid career better than anyone else’s, ever. “He’s a gift for football,” the coach, Carlo Ancelotti, says. It is an understatement. Twenty-one judges had him top and 211 of our 218 voters had him in their top 40. And he is only going to get better. Sid Lowe








3. Kylian Mbappรฉ


Age 25


Team Paris Saint-Germain / ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France 


The last 12 months have seen Mbappรฉ consolidate his place among the sport’s elite – he was handed the France captaincy, became Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top scorer, and was named Ligue 1 player of the year for the fourth consecutive season. The now-yearly summer contract showdown with his employers meant the forward was sidelined from the first-team at the start of the campaign. Once he returned, though, he picked up where he left off and continued to score at a blistering pace, averaging more than a goal per game in the league. But another standoff with the club looms large, and Mbappรฉ’s potential involvement in the Olympics is increasingly likely to be his send-off from his home city. Raphaรซl Jucobin







4. Harry Kane


Age 30


TeamBayern Munich / England


An ever-present on the list since 2015, Kane has reached his highest position, his instant impact at Bayern Munich impressing the judges. Remarkably, he already has more Bundesliga goals than last season's joint top scorers, Christopher Nkunku and Niclas Fรผllkrug, having scored 18 in his first 12 league games. After Kane had netted twice against Galatasaray in November, his manager, Thomas Tuchel, said: "I can't tell you anything more than I did at the start of the season. His performances, his goal ratio, his games, they tell the story. No more words needed." His time at Tottenham ended with teteam in disarray as Antonio Conte's reign blew up. Did it stop Kane from scoring though? Of course it didn't. He still got 32 in all competitions in 2022-23. Marcus Christenson





5. Rodri

Age 27

Team Manchester City / Spain



He does not dominate the headlines like some of his more glamorous teammates, but Rodri may be Manchester City’s most important player. The Spain midfielder is the team’s heartbeat, a precise cog that turns the gears in Pep Guardiola’s trophy-winning machine. It is Rodri’s distribution and ball-winning abilities that have allowed his manager more flexibility, from the swarming high-tempo passing that suffocated Real Madrid to the sweeping counters that sank Arsenal. City are simply not the same force without Rodri in the control room. Not all his best work is behind the scenes, though – it was his instinctive strike that broke the deadlock in a fraught Champions League final, the highlight of a breakthrough year that sees him soar from outside the top 50 all the way into the top five. Niall McVeigh

6. Vinรญcius Jรบnior

Age23

Team Real Madrid / Brazil



“Probably the best player in the world,” in the words of Jude Bellingham. The most fouled player in Spain last season, partly because he was the most feared. An electric, explosive attacker whom Carlo Ancelotti joked, was “crying for hours” when he was surprisingly left out of the shortlist for The Best. No one dribbled more, and only Antoine Griezmann assisted more, although injury has meant a slower start this season. The focus of repeated racist abuse, he has also taken it upon himself to lead the fightback, confronting supporters, clubs and even the president of La Liga, forcing change. Sid Lowe




7. Mohamed Salah

Age 31

Team Liverpool / Egypt

Liverpool rejected an astonishing £150m offer from Saudi Arabia side Al-Ittihad for their leading goalscorer last summer, despite the 31-year-old having only two years remaining on his contract, and have been thoroughly vindicated by the striker’s response. Salah scored 30 goals in the 2022-23 season, maintaining his phenomenal level while the team’s dipped, and his prolific form has fuelled Liverpool’s revival as title challengers this term. The Egypt international recently registered his 200th Liverpool goal in his 327th appearance for Jรผrgen Klopp’s side and has overtaken Thierry Henry as the highest goalscorer for an English club in European competitions. He remains fundamental to Liverpool’s prospects. Andy Hunter




8. Kevin De Bruyne

Age 32

Team Manchester City / Belgium



Despite being out injured since August, the brilliant Belgian holds on to a top-10 place after playing a crucial role in City’s 2022-23 treble campaign. De Bruyne led the Premier League with 16 assists and struck up a deadly connection with Erling Haaland, setting up the striker 13 times in all competitions. De Bruyne saved his best moments for the heavyweight games, scoring three and setting up two against Arsenal, assisting both goals in the FA Cup final – and, best of all, a clinical equaliser that turned the tide at the Bernabรฉu in the Champions League semi-finals. Unfortunately an early injury robbed him of the chance to play a bigger role in the final. The creative spark in City’s slick machine, De Bruyne continues to make the extraordinary seem routine. Niall McVeigh





9. Cristiano Ronaldo

Age 38

Team Al-Nassr / Portugal


No 1 on this list in 2014 and 2016, nearly making the top quarter in 2023 is a major improvement on last year’s 51st, helped by Ronaldo scoring 50 goals for club and country across the year. The 38-year-old has taken to Saudi Arabia with gusto and, in the current season, has been the standout in a league now full of foreign stars. Top of the goalscoring standings, he is ready to talk up the Saudi Pro League to the world’s media whenever he is on duty with Portugal. He has had a good year there too, becoming the first ever male player to reach 200 international appearances. John Duerden







10. Lionel Messi

Age 36

Team Inter Miami / Argentina



This year was always going to be a comedown after Messi’s World Cup triumph in 2022. But he still made an impact as he shunned a move to Saudi Arabia and headed to Inter Miami. He duly brought back memories of Pelรฉ’s time in the US, selling out stadiums across America. Messi transformed a Miami team that were bottom of their conference, leading them to the Leagues Cup, the club’s first ever trophy. How much that said about Messi’s remaining skills and how much it said about the quality of Major League Soccer is an open question. It is the first time the brilliant Argentinian places outside the top three on our list since the start in 2012. He is one of only six ever-present players and has finished first a remarkable six times. Tom Lutz




 





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