A look at 10 of the best soccer players in the world.
Four times World Player of the Year, Messi is by some distance the best player on the planet. His ability to mesmerize defenders with a mix of skill and pace is unmatched and it often appears as though the ball is glued to his feet. The Barcelona star is versatile enough to play anywhere across the frontline, but his country Argentina have so far failed to find a way to get the maximum out of this extraordinary talent. Already one of the best soccer players of all time.
Ronaldo may have less of an influence on games than Messi, but he is stronger and taller than the Argentine, and his goals-to-games ratio similar. Since joining Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009, Ronaldo has been a revelation, making the world record outlay of US$131 look less outrageous with every hat-trick. His famous stepover is imitated in parks right across the world.
Barcelona’s midfield metronome dictates the tempo of a match with his phenomenal pass completion rate. He works superbly with partner-in-crime Andres Iniesta, the pair undoubtedly responsible for enhancing Messi’s game further with the steady stream of passes with which they provide in the final third. Xavi is now into his 30s, and a chronic Achilles injury notwithstanding, has the potential to continue for several years yet.
Iniesta's understanding with club-mate Xavi Hernandez borders on the telepathic at times. The short, eye of the needle passing the pair produce can pierce holes in the most stubborn of rearguards. Iniesta is also very modest, never creating problems for the coaches he works under. Scored the winner in the World Cup final against the Netherlands.
Having put the injury problems that blighted Van Persie throughout his mid-20s behind him, the Dutchman is now one of the most feared strikers in world soccer. Manchester United procured the player from Arsenal in 2012 and it proved a masterful signing as he picked up where he had left off at the Emirates Stadium with goals galore to fire United to the 2012-13 Premier League title. A player of immaculate technique, with a left foot to die for.
6. Gareth Bale (Wales & Real Madrid)
The Welsh attacker completed his long-awaited move to Real Madrid on September 1, 2013 after a summer of protracted negotiations with Tottenham Hotspur. Bale is a supreme dribbler who boasts the pace and skill to beat multiple opponents. He is also a great finisher and capable of scoring consistently from long range.
If there were question marks over Rooney's goalscoring abilities, they were well and truly answered in the 2009/10 season. Now that he has added more goals to his game, Rooney is the all-round player. Superb awareness, long-range passing, hold-up play and a never-say-die spirit combine to make a precious asset for club and country.
8. Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast & Manchester City)
9. Radamel Falcao (Colombia & Monaco)
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden & Paris Saint-Germain)
Expect the unexpected with the mercurial Swede. Ibrahimovic is the moodiest player in world soccer, but completely unplayable when on his game. Just witness his stunning overhead kick against England in 2012. Ibra has won league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and France with six different clubs and is something of a lucky charm for those willing to invest in his considerable talents.