Golazo 100 countdown: Ranking the best men's soccer players in the world for 2024

For much of the last decade plus, an exercise such as this would have seemed utterly redundant. There was really nothing to debate when it came to the question who is the greatest footballer on the planet. What a waste of hours and spreadsheets it would be to present to you all that Lionel Messi is the best in the business.

Now, however, the sport is in a transitional period. The great man and his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo have begun their post-imperial projects, spreading the game out to its footballing backwaters. Those who were cursed to pursue greatness in the Messi age now find their lights are dimming too. As for those that follow, how can anyone hope to reach a bar raised so high?

And so welcome to the Golazo 100, a ranking of the finest players in the men’s game, with a similar women’s list to follow ahead of the Olympics. Each expert was handed a straightforward task: Give us the best you’ve got. 

What we got was a quite remarkable spread. Across their individual lists of 100 came eight different players dubbed the best in the game.

Over the coming days we will unveil the best of the best, starting on Wednesday with our first 20 names. There will be surprises aplenty and plenty to debate in time for June 12, when we will name the inaugural winner of the Golazo 100. 

Golazo 100 schedule

Be sure to tune into Golazo Network, including Morning Footy to start your day with a breakdown of each batch of top players released every day. And, of course, make sure to check out the full breakdown and analysis of who was ranked where and why

  • Wednesday, June 5: 100-81
  • Thursday, June 6: 80-61
  • Friday, June 7: 60-41
  • Saturday, June 8: Top Americans to watch for 2025
  • Sunday, June 9: Top 40 lookahead
  • Monday, June 10: 40-21
  • Tuesday, June 11: 20-11
  • Wednesday, June 12: 10-1

It is no great surprise that so many players had a convincing candidacy. There’s not much of a spoiler alert required to have a sense of who might be there or thereabouts when we unveil the top 20 on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. It took nearly 18 months for anyone to beat Rodri in a football match. Vinicius Junior has just delivered for Real Madrid in the biggest game in football, again. Harry Kane, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe continue to top the continent’s scoring charts.

None of these offer an iron clad candidacy to be the best of the best. Does it matter that all of Kane’s many goals have not yet contributed to club silverware? Can the greatest in the game play the bulk of his football in a league whose competitive balance has been nerfed by his employers? Have Vinicius and Jude Bellingham spent long enough near the summit to make the last step? Is the year after the year an appropriate moment to acclaim Manchester City’s Rodri, Haaland or Kevin De Bruyne?

For some of our panel these questions will have proven to be more persuasive. All of those mentioned above — and a great many others who will sit in the top 20 — have delivered moments of transcendent brilliance in this past season and beyond. It’s just that the guy before them did that all the time.

In a fashion that only Pele and Diego Maradona have done before, Messi changed the parameters of greatness in football. None of the greats that occupy the top of the sport have a season to compare with 73 goals and 32 assists in 60 games. None of them have eight Ballon d’Ors, 12 domestic titles, a World Cup won by force of will and the 2023 Leagues Cup. None are going to match Messi.

That’s where the fun lies. There are no locks anymore. When we repeat this exercise in a year’s time Mbappe, Vinicius and Bellingham’s collective brilliance might have spoiled their case for individual greatness a la the Kevin Durant-era Golden State Warriors. Age might have caught Kane and De Bruyne. Bukayo Saka, Florian Wirtz, Rafael Leao: All those and many more might take the last great leap. For the first time in a generation, the title of best in the world is there to be grasped.

On the outside looking in:

  • 110. Iñaki Williams, forward, Athletic Bilbao
  • 109. Romelu Lukaku, forward, AS Roma (loan from Chelsea)
  • 108. Jules Koundé, defender, Barcelona
  • 107. Leandro Trossard, forward, Arsenal
  • 106. Éder Militão, defender, Real Madrid
  • 105. Warren Zaïre-Emery, midfielder, PSG
  • 104. Julian Brandt, midfielder, Borussia Dortmund
  • 103. Lucas Paquetá, midfielder, West Ham
  • 102. Cristian Romero, defender, Tottenham Hotspur
  • 101. Gregor Kobel, goalkeeper, Borussia Dortmund

Golazo 100 Men’s List

100 R. Araujo Barcelona La Liga
99 F. Chiesa Juventus Serie A
98 T. Koopmeiners Atalanta Serie A
97 D. Szoboszlai Liverpool Premier League
96 A. Gordon Newcastle Premier League
95 N. Williams Athletic Club La Liga
94 A. Morata Atletico Madrid La Liga
93 Vitinha PSG Ligue 1
92 Raphinha Barcelona La Liga
91 A. Lookman Atalanta Serie A
90 João Cancelo Barcelona La Liga
89 Neymar Jr. Al-Hilal Saudi Pro League
88 D. Vlahović Juventus Serie A
87 M. Neuer Bayern Munich Bundesliga
86 K. Benzema Al-Ittihad Saudi Pro League
85 L. Openda RB Leipzig Bundesliga
84 M. Maignan AC Milan Serie A
83 V. Gyökeres Sporting Primeira Liga
82 L. Díaz Liverpool Premier League
81 C. Pulisic AC Milan Serie A

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