- As we approach the end of what has been a turbulent 2020, Insider has put together its annual list of the best soccer players on the planet.
- This year, for the first time ever, our list features 25 male and 25 female players, with Insider soccer experts Barnaby Lane and Meredith Cash picking 25 players each.
- Rather than creating a single list, we created two lists of 25, as comparing female and male players like for like is almost impossible.
- Notable omissions from the list include USWNT icons Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, English star Harry Kane, and Belgian wizard Eden Hazard.
- Lionel Messi misses out on the top spot in 2020.
- Keep scrolling to find out who we think have been this year's finest players.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
25. Mohamed Salah — Liverpool and Egypt
What to know: Since joining Liverpool from AS Roma in 2017, Mohamed Salah has broken record after record at Anfield – and 2020 has been no different.
When the Egyptian hit his 22nd goal of the calendar year for the Reds against FC Midtjylland on December 9, he became the club's all-time top scorer in the Champions League, surpassing Steven Gerrard.
"It's a great feeling, of course," Salah said after. "I need to keep going like that and scoring more goals and make the gap maybe bigger between me and the others!"
25. Christiane Endler — Paris Saint-Germain and Chile
What to know: A steely force between the pipes for the Chile national team and for a Paris Saint-Germain squad looking to compete with the powerhouse that is Olympique Lyonnais, Christiane Endler is regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the women's game. She was named to the FIFA FIFPro Women's World11 this year and was a finalist for 2020's The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper award.
After a spectacular showing at the 2019 World Cup, Endler continued her dominance guarding the net as PSG finished second in Division 1 Féminine and advanced to the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals.
For club and country combined, Endler allowed just eight goals in 19 games played this calendar year.
24. Joao Felix — Atletico Madrid and Portugal
What to know: Joao Felix had a difficult first few months at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium following his $152 million move from Benfica in the summer of 2019.
However, since the turn of the year, the 21-year-old sensation, dubbed the "new Cristiano Ronaldo" — though he's actually much more similar to Lionel Messi in his style of play — has been nothing short of sublime.
13 goals and five assists in 2020 is a fine return in itself. More than that, however, the Portuguese starlet has tinkered and toyed with defenders across the continent in a way few others could, combining delicate touches and silky footwork with a pitbull-like work rate and devastating finishing.
24. Ji So-yun — Chelsea and South Korea
What to know: Ji So-Yun is an intelligent, do-it-all player for Chelsea in the FA Women's Super League and for South Korea. In the national team's two official contests of 2020, So-Yun scored three goals and tacked on two assists to lead South Korea to a first-place finish in Group A of the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
This year — her seventh with the club — So-Yun has recorded two goals for the Blues, but her impact on the team goes far beyond finishing. She has great field vision, regularly creates opportunities for her teammates out of the midfield, and ranks highly among FA WSL players in a number of defensive statistics.
23. Georginio Wijnaldum — Liverpool and The Netherlands
What to know: Georginio Wijnaldum may rarely be the show stopper for Liverpool, but he's the Premier League champion's silent pacemaker.
Over the past two seasons, the Reds have averaged nearly 20% more wins when he is in the team as opposed to when he isn't.
"Is he the perfect midfielder? From the skillset 100%," Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said of the 30-year-old last October. "It is not my fault if he goes under the radar."
While a quiet operator at Anfield, however, Wijnaldum's role for the Netherlands is very different. Since September 2019, he's scored more goals — 10 — than any other player for his country. Versatile.
23. Lynn Williams — North Carolina Courage and United States
What to know: Though she wasn't part of the USWNT roster that traveled to France for the 2019 World Cup, Lynn Williams has long been amongst America's best players domestically in the National Women's Soccer League. But 2020 saw new heights for the speedy striker, who appears to have found a foothold on the national team with newly-minted head coach Vlatko Andonovski at the helm.
After ranking top-three in scoring in three consecutive NWSL seasons, Williams contributed a combined six goals and two assists in the league's two competitions of 2020 — the NWSL Challenge Cup and NWSL Fall Series. Her six tallies for the North Carolina Courage were tied for the most goals on the year across the entire league.
22. Serge Gnabry — Bayern Munich and Germany
What to know: Tony Pulis' infamous 2015 comment that Serge Gnabry wasn't good enough to play for West Bromwich Albion gets more and more embarrassing as the years go by.
After scoring 23 goals for Bayern Munich last term and matching the best ever haul of club legend Arjen Robben – the German winger has continued to shine this season, scoring four in nine Bundesliga games.
Meanwhile, Callum McManaman – the man Pulis deemed better than Gnabry at the time – has scored just two professional goals since Gnabry left West Brom in January 2016, and now plies his trade in Australia with Melbourne Victory.
22. Eugénie Le Sommer — Olympique Lyonnais and France
What to know: Having won a record seventh UEFA Women's Champions League titles with Olympique Lyonnais and having become the all-time leading scorer for the French national team this year, Eugénie Le Sommer reinforced her status as a bona fide women's soccer legend in 2020.
In her four appearances for Les Bleues this calendar year, Le Sommer paced the national team with six goals — including a stunning four-goal performance against North Macedonia in September. A prolific scorer and an assured leader, the 31-year-old served as captain of Corinne Diacre's squad as she and her teammates clinched their spot at the upcoming UEFA European Women's Championship.
Lyon dominated both the Division 1 Féminine and Champions League in 2020, extending its winning streak to an unprecedented 14 consecutive D1F titles and five consecutive Champions League trophies. Le Sommer contributed four goals and four assists to her club's efforts this calendar year.
21. Romelu Lukaku — Inter Milan and Belgium
What to know: "Over the past five months, I am one of the top five strikers, yes!" Romelu Lukaku told France Football in early December.
"There may be players who have scored more goals but."
Why anyone would argue otherwise is a mystery.
This year, the 27-year-old superstar has scored 32 goals in just 42 games for Inter Milan, while he's also managed five for Belgium, further extending his record as the country's best ever international goalscorer.
21. Jill Roord — Arsenal and The Netherlands
What to know: Ever since she scored the game-winning goal for the Netherlands in stoppage time of their 2019 World Cup group stage match against New Zealand, Jill Roord has been on a tear for both club and country.
Though the Orange Lionesses have only played eight games — three without scoring — in 2020, Roord has recorded three goals from the midfield for the Dutch this calendar year.
The 23-year-old has been just as impressive for Arsenal, scoring eight goals on the year.
Roord opened the 2020-2021 FA Women's Super League season with back-to-back hat tricks against Reading and West Ham, and she's heading into the new year leading the league in goals per 90 minutes.
20. Cristiano Ronaldo — Juventus and Portugal
What to know: 38 goals for club and country this year have seen Cristiano Ronaldo reach the astonishing landmark of 750 career goals.
Only three players in the history of football – Brazilian duo Pele and Romario, and Swiss-Austrian Josef Bican – have now scored now.
He isn't done there, however.
"750 goals, 750 happy moments, 750 smiles in the faces of our supporters," Ronaldo after scoring goal 750. "Next stop: 800 goals! Let's go!"
Being so low on Insider's list may be controversial, but Ronaldo's performances in 2020 haven't lived up to his previous exploits, and didn't lead to a whole heap of success for his club.
Juventus scraped the Serie A title — a trophy they've won for nine years on the bounce — and was unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League in the last 16.
20. Sarah Bouhaddi — Olympique Lyonnais and France
What to know: Sarah Bouhaddi has long ranked among the top goalkeepers on the planet, and 2020 was no exception. She posted a whopping 12 clean sheets en route to 16 wins with longtime club Olympique Lyonnais this calendar year.
She and her teammates capped the 2019-2020 season with yet another Division 1 Féminine and UEFA Women's Champions League title, marking Bouhaddi's 11th consecutive D1F win and fifth-straight Champions League trophy.
Though she's only played one game for the France women's national team this year, Bouhaddi still got the nod for 2020's The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper award.
19. Trent Alexander-Arnold — Liverpool and England
What to know: Trent Alexander-Arnold, who recently spoke to Insider about the impact of his new Liverpool teammate Diogo Jota, is one of the shining lights in a wave of new look full-backs across the world.
The 22-year-old can defend and attack in equal measure – demonstrated best by the fact that not only did he help the Reds keep the best defensive record in the Premier League last season, he also assisted 13 goals en route to the title.
No defender in the division's history has ever set up more in a single campaign.
"He's a sensational player, a rare talent," the legendary AC Milan and Brazil full-back Cafu recently told FIFA.com of Alexander-Arnold.
"If he keeps playing the way he has been he will be regarded as one of the best players in the world."
19. Julie Ertz — Chicago Red Stars and United States
What to know: Julie Ertz is the heart and soul of the US Women's National Team and her National Women's Soccer League side, the Chicago Red Stars.
The gritty defender-turned-midfielder is consistently the engine that powers her team — so much so that she was named US Soccer's 2019 Player of the Year over Megan Rapinoe, whose dynamic World Cup performance earned her that year's Ballon d'Or.
As longtime captain of the Red Stars, who consistently rank among the top teams in the NWSL, Ertz led Chicago to five consecutive playoff appearances heading into 2020. This year, the 28-year-old workhorse led the Red Stars all the way to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup final, where they lost to the Houston Dash. She contributed nine tackles and five interceptions in the runners' up effort.
Ertz earned her 100th cap for the USWNT against England in the first game of the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. The following match, she scored a brilliant, 87th-minute game-winning header against Spain to maintain the Americans' lead in the tournament, which they went on to win.
18. Son Heung-min — Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea
What to know: Tottenham has had its up-and-downs over the past few seasons, however Son Heung-min has been a constant and unwavering source of quality for Jose Mourinho's side.
This term, the South Korean is looking his best ever, having scored 10 goals and provided three assists in just 11 games to help Spurs to the top of the Premier League.
He rounded off his 2020 by winning the Puskas Award, the trophy given by FIFA for the best goal of the year, scoring a wonder goal which saw him run 80 meters, beat several defenders, and tuck the ball into the net.
18. Alexandra Popp — Wolfsburg and Germany
What to know: A German National Team captain and Wolfsburg standout striker, Alexandra Popp regularly finds herself in the right place at the right time thanks to her exceptional ability to read and space the field. Coupled with her excellent finishing, it's no wonder Popp has earned an Olympic gold medal, two German Footballer of the Year nods, three UEFA Women's Champions League trophies, and five Bundesliga titles over the course of her career.
In the 2020 calendar year, Popp recorded nine goals and four assists for the second-place Die Wölfinnen — or she-wolves — before suffering a foot injury that kept her off of the pitch heading into the end of the year. Though she didn't play much for the national team as a result, Popp led her team from the sideline and watched as they completed a perfect 7-0-0 record.
17. Andy Robertson — Liverpool and Scotland
What to know: It's been quite the year for Andrew Robertson for both club and country.
After helping guide Liverpool to its first ever Premier League title, the 26-year-old then captained Scotland's to qualification for Euro 2020 – its first major tournament since 1998.
The crowning moment, however? Getting asked a question by legendary left-back Roberto Carlos on TikTok.
"Can you recreate my free-kick in a game?" Carlos asked Robertson, referring to a free-kick he scored against France in 1997, widely regarded as one of the best in history.
"I'm not sure it's in my locker," Robertson replied. "I'll keep trying but, Roberto, I think I need to accept that it's never going to happen. Absolute legend."
17. Saki Kumagai — Olympique Lyonnais and Japan
What to know: Saki Kumagai has been a grounding, defensive force in the midfield for Japan and the ever-dominant Olympique Lyonnais for many years. The 30-year-old primarily plays as a holding midfielder, but her impressive field vision and top-rated pass completion rate make her a great facilitator of offense for both of her squads.
It's part of the reason she's won a World Cup, five Champions League titles, and seven Division 1 Féminine trophies in her esteemed career.
Though she's always been a highly-respected player, Kumagai took her play to another level in 2020.
She helped bring Lyon yet another European Cup in August, capping her 2019-2020 season with a crucial goal against Wolfsburg in the Champions League final.
Though Japan dropped its only three matches of the year at the SheBelieves Cup, the losses came against worthy opponents in Spain, England, and the United States. As the national team captain since 2017, Kumagai has publicly stated that she and her teammates are aiming for "nothing less" than Olympic gold on their home soil in Tokyo next summer.
16. Jadon Sancho — Borussia Dortmund and England
What to know: "What is his end product?" the former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon said of Jadon Sancho while watching him play for England against the Republic of Ireland in November.
"He needs to be educated on what is expected of him, the spotlight is on him. When you play for England, you have to play."
Moments later, Sancho collected the ball on the left side of Ireland's penalty area, shifted inside onto his right foot, and slid the ball home for England's second of the night.
The goal might have been Sancho's only England goal this calendar year, but the 20-year-old has managed 11 for Borussia Dortmund on top of 13 assists.
That's his end product Lee.
16. Magdalena Eriksson — Chelsea and Sweden
What to know: Nearly universally considered one of the world's strongest defenders, Chelsea captain, and Swedish standout Magdalena Eriksson is as dependable as players come on the back line. The calm, assured full back with an impressive left foot has helped the Blues to eight clean sheets and only 10 goals conceded in 15 games this calendar year. Her defensive efforts have undoubtedly been pivotal in maintaining Chelsea's current FA Women's Super League undefeated streak of 29 games — a league record.
As Sweden's newly-appointed Defender of the Year, the 27-year-old has a similar impact for her national team. On the defensive end, Eriksson was essential to fifth-ranked Sweden's five clean sheets, four goals against, and 5-1-2 record for 2020. Offensively, Eriksson added two goals and an assist in her eight appearances, in all but two of which she played a full 90 minutes.
15. Alphonso Davies — Bayern Munich and Canada
What to know: In the space of just two years, Alphonso Davies has gone from promising MLS winger to one of the most revered full backs in world football.
In his first full season at Bayern Munich, the 20-year-old played 46 times in all competitions, helping Hans-Dieter Flick to an incredible quintuple of the Bundesliga, the German Cup, the German Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and the Champions League.
Tricky and absurdly fast —his teammates call him the "Road Runner" – Davies' personal highlight this year came in Bayern's 8-2 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League, when he dribbled past no less than five defenders before teeing up Joshua Kimmich to tap in an easy goal.
"I was almost ashamed of how happy I was after the goal because it was 99%, of course, his goal," Kimmich said after.
"In the end, I just had to push it in. World-class."
15. Caroline Graham Hansen — FC Barcelona and Norway
What to know: A talented winger, Caroline Graham Hansen spent the bulk of her professional club career in Bundesliga heavyweight Wolfsburg before signing with FC Barcelona in 2019.
Through her first seven appearances of the 2020-2021 season, Graham Hansen sits atop the entire Primera División with eight assists and was the league's top goal facilitator as Barca won yet another domestic title. She's added three goals to Barcelona's efforts this year, but with a number of prolific strikers on her side, the 25-year-old has found her niche as the team's premier creator of opportunities in front of the net.
Graham Hansen has served a crucial role for Norway's national team as well. Though she's only made four appearances for her country in 2020, the star has tried on three different positions for size while recording a goal and an assist for the Norwegians. She led her squad to first place in the group stage of UEFA Women's Championship qualifying and undoubtedly has her eyes set on making an impact at both the UEFA Women's Euro and the Tokyo Olympics.
14. Thiago Silva — Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea, and Brazil
What to know: Thiago Silva might be 36 years old, but he's showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
After first captaining Paris Saint Germain to the Champions League final and a seventh Ligue 1 title in eight years, the Brazilian joined Chelsea in the summer where he has been equally impressive.
The Blues had the worst defensive record of any team in the Premier League's top 10 last year, however with Silva at the heart of its back four this term, it currently boasts the second best in the whole division.
"He's quickly become very important for us," said Chelsea boss Frank Lampard of Silva, according to Sports Illustrated. "I always admired him from afar and now it's a pleasure to be able to work with him."
14. Alyssa Naeher — Chicago Red Stars and United States
What to know: The brick wall behind the red, white, and blue's lockdown defense has had yet another spectacular year with the US Women's National Team. Alyssa Naeher — the dominant 5-foot-9 American netminder — earned seven wins and seven clean sheets in seven appearances over the past 12 months.
Even though the USWNT's lock-down defense undoubtedly contributes to Naeher's excellent record on the international level, the netminder's success in the National Women's Soccer League — where she's tested far more regularly — helps support her claim to the goalkeeping throne.
During the NWSL Challenge Cup, Naeher faced 26 shots on goal and made 20 saves, both of which were the second-highest metrics across the league. And in her four Fall Series matches, she tacked on an additional 14 saves.
13. Jan Oblak — Atletico Madrid and Slovenia
What to know: The only male goalkeeper on our list, Jan Oblak is by a country mile the world's best shot-stopper.
Last season, Oblak was pipped by only Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois in terms of the most clean sheets kept in all of Europe's top five leagues, keeping 17 to the Belgian's 18.
This term, however, the Slovenian has shifted into a new gear, keeping eight clean sheets in 10 games and saving 94% of his shots – stats which no other keeper on the continent can match.
13. Jenni Hermoso — FC Barcelona and Spain
What to know: Madrid native Jenni Hermoso has been dominating in and for Spain over the past five years. The striker-turned-midfielder is a master playmaker and prolific scorer for both club and country, having earned the Golden Boot in Spain's top women's league — Primera División — in four of the past five seasons. She's won the league four times, thrice with her current club of FC Barcelona, and once with her hometown Atlético Madrid.
2020 has been kind to Hermoso.
She won the Primera División with Barca for the 2019-2020 season, contributing 23 goals in the effort before the pandemic put the world on hold. And for the Spanish national team, she's contributed four goals and four assists in five games this calendar year, including a hat trick.
12. Joshua Kimmich — Bayern Munich and Germany
What to know: We say Joshua Kimmich is a midfielder, but Joshua Kimmich was also regularly used as both a centre-back and right-back during Bayern Munich's treble winning 2019/20 campaign.
And despite consistently being moved around throughout the season, the Germany international still managed to score seven goals and provide a whopping 17 assists in all competitions.
"I see him as a top right-back, left-back, centre-back, No.6, No.8, No.10. He has the qualities to be anything," Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho told DAZN of Kimmich in August.
"I think he's phenomenal, an absolutely phenomenal player."
12. Delphine Cascarino — Olympique Lyonnais and France
What to know: To make an impact for Olympique Lyonnais — the perennial Division 1 Féminine and UEFA Women's Champions — is enough to give a player credibility on the international stage.
To stand out among esteemed teammates such as Eugénie Le Sommer, Ada Hegerberg, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Saki Kumagai, Amandine Henry, Wendie Renard, and more makes you a superstar.
To do it all at 23 years old? That's unheard of.
Unless you're Delphine Cascarino.
The immensely talented winger is quick, tactically brilliant, and able to service her teammates as well as anyone on either side of the ball.
The French international recorded 11 assists for her club in the 2020 calendar year while contributing a goal and three assists in five appearances for the third-ranked France national team.
Perhaps that's why Cascarino earned a nod as one of the Best FIFA Women's Player nominees this year — and was the youngest of the 10 players who made the cut.
11. Sergio Ramos — Real Madrid and Spain
What to know: Sergio Ramos' scored his 100th Real Madrid goal as Real Madrid edged out Inter Milan 3-2 in a thrilling affair at the Santiago Bernabeu on November 3.
11 of Ramos' century of goals have come this year, including six in the space of just 10 games in June and July to fire Zinedine Zidane's side to the La Liga title.
Reminder: he's a central defender.
11. Lindsey Horan — Portland Thorns and United States
What to know: Lindsey Horan has been an essential piece of the US Women's National Team's winning strategy ever since she was first called up to the senior national team in 2013. The Portland Thorns star has accumulated 19 goals and 28 assists in 86 appearances for the USWNT, becoming an invaluable orchestrator from the midfield and a consistent starter in the process.
2020 was an exceptional year, even for a player as great as "The Great Horan."
The 26-year-old paced the national team with seven goals and three assists on the year.
Though USWNT Christen Press finished the year with the same stat line, Horan pulled off the team-leading feat, having played in one fewer game than the forward did.
In the National Women's Soccer League, Horan boasted a solid NWSL Challenge Cup performance before guiding the Thorns to a first-place Fall Series finish with a goal and three assists in four games.
10. Virgil van Dijk — Liverpool and The Netherlands
What to know: Virgil van Dijk has been dubbed as the best centre back in world soccer this year by: AC Milan icon Franco Baresi; former Manchester United and England star Rio Ferdinand; Barcelona legend Xavi; and ex-Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia.
Vincent Kompany, who is widely regarded as one of the sport's greatest ever central defenders, told Sporf that the Dutchman is the best to have ever graced the Premier League.
Need we say more?
Van Dijk suffered a season-ending knee injury in October, but it is testament to his quality that he makes the top 10 on this list while missing 15% of the year.
10. Debinha — North Carolina Courage and Brazil
What to know: Debinha has unfathomably big shoes to fill as the heir apparent to Marta's throne in Brazil. But if the 29-year-old's performances this year are any indication, she'll thrive under pressure.
A dominant force at the center of the North Carolina Courage juggernaut, the 5-foot-1 star has long managed to overpower, outrun, and bamboozle much bigger players in the midfield and on her opponents' back lines.
Even so, 2020 has been a standout year for Debinha. She owned a league-leading +5 +/- during the summer's NWSL Challenge Cup and followed up that effort with four goals in four NWSL Fall Series games — good for second-best among all players.
Since then, she's only continued to impress on an even bigger stage. In a November match, Debinha recorded a hat trick for Brazil and, in the next match four days later, scored a first-minute goal followed by a pair of assists.
9. Kylian Mbappe — Paris Saint Germain and France
What to know: The question that continues to surround Kylian Mbappe is: "When he will he leave PSG?"
After another year of running riot in France, scoring 16 goals in 16 Ligue 1 games this year, the world is waiting for the 21-year-old to show that he can do the same in either the Premier League or La Liga.
Already a World Cup winner with nearly 150 career goals to his name, whichever team he ends up with in the future can rest assured he will adapt.
9. Crystal Dunn — Portland Thorns and United States
What to know: To pigeonhole Crystal Dunn into just one position is to massively undersell the most versatile and dynamic superstar on the top-ranked US Womens' National Team. The 28-year-old came up as an attacking midfielder, and after her standout career with the North Carolina Tar Heels came to an end, she saw near-instant success as a striker in the National Women's Soccer League.
In her second season with the Washington Spirit, Dunn earned NWSL MVP and Golden Boot honors, becoming the youngest player to win either award at just 23 years old.
Despite her evident prowess in the attacking third, the USWNT has primarily employed Dunn as a left back since her first call-up back in 2013. She quickly became one of the most lethal lock-down defenders on the planet, shutting down opponents even with a consistent size disadvantage at just 5-foot-1.
This year was no exception, as Dunn and the USWNT back line allowed just one goal in the team's nine games.
And in the NWSL Challenge Cup with the North Carolina Courage — before her blockbuster trade to the Portland Thorns — Dunn recorded 20 crosses, and seven tackles won for a 77.8% tackle success rate.
8. Sadio Mane — Liverpool and Senegal
What to know: Last season's PFA Fans' Player of the Year award, Sadio Mane was clutch in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team as it lifted its inaugural Premier League title.
Post-New Year, the Senegalese superstar scored winning goals against Norwich, West Ham, and Bournemouth to help get the Reds over the line in what was a hit-and-miss return to action after the coronavirus lockdown.
"The level he performs at is unbelievable. He helps us massively," Klopp said of Mane after winning the title, according to the BBC.
"He is a complete player." Praise indeed.
8. Amandine Henry — Olympique Lyonnais and France
What to know: The captain of the France women's national team since 2017 and the centerpiece of the impeccably-oiled Olympique Lyonnais machine, Amandine Henry is one of the most decorated women's soccer players of all time with plenty of years left to go in her career. She's a steady, veteran presence for both club and country, as reflected by her incredibly impressive trophy case — 27 team trophies, and a smattering of individual honors.
In 2020, Henry has recorded three goals and four assists in the French league while helping Lyon to another treble.
On the international stage, her year with the national team has been complicated, to say the least, thanks to her ongoing and very public feud with Les Bleues' head coach Corinne Diacre.
Henry has described Diacre as fostering a toxic environment for France's team, particularly at the 2019 World Cup, and justified taking the risk of going public by saying: "I'm the captain. If I don't speak, who will speak?"
7. Thomas Muller — Bayern Munich and Germany
What to know: Thomas Muller isn't particularly blessed with great speed, strength, or dribbling skills.
However, what the German may lack in those departments, he more than makes up for with his excellent movement, superb vision, and annoyingly good (at least for the opposition) ability to always be in the right place at the right time.
Such attributes have seen him score 16 goals and lay on a brilliant 22 assists for Bayern Munich since the turn of the year.
7. Sam Mewis — Manchester City and United States
What to know: The US Women's National Team's six-foot "Tower of Power" has, as always, done it all in the midfield for the red, white, and blue this year.
Though she contributed a solid four goals and one assist in her eight appearances for Vlatko Andonovski's squad, Sam Mewis has shone brightest at club level in 2020.
After five solid games for the North Carolina Courage, Mewis was widely considered one of the top performers at the NWSL Challenge Cup.
She tied for fourth in goals scored, third in assists, eighth in assists per 90 minutes, fifth in goals and assists combined, sixth in shots on target, and 10th in crosses.
But before the Fall Series kicked off, Mewis took her talents in England and joined Manchester City alongside USWNT teammate Rose Lavelle.
Since arriving across the pond in September, Mewis has scored four goals to help City to a solid 5-3-1 record in the FA Women's Super League and through to the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
6. Karim Benzema — Real Madrid
What to know: In the absence of any real contribution from Real Madrid's other forward players, veteran Karim Benzema has stepped up to plate in astonishing fashion this year.
The Frenchman top scored in La Liga last term with 21 goals to fire Madrid to a first league title in three years, while this season he's already found the net 11 times in all competitions as those around him continue to falter.
After countless years of playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Kaka, the Real spotlight is now deservedly on Benzema.
6. Dzsenifer Marozsan — Olympique Lyonnais and Germany
What to know: With Amandine Henry and Saki Kumagai handling the bulk of the defensive responsibilities in the midfield for Olympique Lyonnais, center midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan is free to push forward to facilitate the squad's prolific offense — and she does so with an unrivaled flair.
The German national team captain is a UEFA Euro Champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and the three-time reigning Women's Footballer of the Year in Germany.
Somehow, Marozsan has further improved her play in 2020. She's led Lyon with nine assists and added six goals during the 2020 calendar year, which saw the 28-year-old earn UEFA Champions League Midfielder of the Season honors, and her second-consecutive treble with the club.
5. Neymar — Paris Saint Germain and Brazil
What to know: 2020 has seen Neymar re-establish himself as one of the best players on the planet.
Though he made just 15 appearances in Ligue 1 last term, the Brazilian scored 13 goals and assisted a further six to guide PSG to a third consecutive title. He also scored three and assisted four as the French champion reached the Champions League final for the first time.
This season, before succumbing to yet another injury in early December, he continued in the same vein, with nine goals and five assists in just 12 games in all competitions.
His hat-trick for Brazil against Peru in October also means he's now just 14 goals away from breaking Pele's scoring record for his country.
5. Lucy Bronze — Manchester City and England
What to know: As the first-ever defender to be named The Best FIFA Women's Player of the Year, Lucy Bronze undoubtedly ranks among the top players on the planet, both past, and present.
A dependable lock-down defender with tremendous field vision and offensive upside, Bronze poses a threat to opponents across the entire field. She's done so throughout her illustrious career, and winning has consistently followed.
The 29-year-old earned FIFA's top individual honor in December after a year that included winning a treble with Lyon and returning to her native England to secure the Women's FA Cup with Manchester City.
Through the middle of December, Bronze has guided City to three clean sheets and just nine goals allowed — and she's added a goal and two assists to boot. Bronze was unavailable for the England women's national team's three games in 2020 after sustaining a calf injury back in February, and the Lionesses undoubtedly missed her presence on the back line, losing two of their three games.
4. Erling Braut Haaland — Borussia Dortmund and Norway
What to know: Rapid, strong, tall and deadly in front of goal, Erling Braut Haaland is the most exciting young player in world football.
He missed the whole of December through injury, however the Norwegian hitman did more than enough good work in the 11 months prior to make the cut for this list.
Since joining Borussia Dortmund in January, the 20-year has scored an amazing 39 goals in 37 goals for club and country, managing to find the net every 75 minutes he's on the field. He's also broken scoring records at every turn.
People have long pondered whether any player would ever be able to match the modern goal scoring feats of both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Haaland is making that question easier to answer with each passing game.
4. Sam Kerr — Chelsea and Australia
What to know: As the all-time leading scorer in both the W-League and the National Women's Soccer League, Sam Kerr has nothing left to prove when it comes to her prolific scoring ability.
Still, the Australian international and Matildas captain decided to try her luck in another top women's soccer league when she signed with Chelsea late last year.
Kerr had something of a slow start scoring-wise for the Blues, but once she got hot, she blazed through the FA Women's Super League just as she had in Australia and the United States.
In 2020, the 27-year-old has accumulated nine goals — the second-most in the league this season — and an assist to help lead Chelsea up the FA WSL standings.
December was Kerr's most impressive month of the year, with the striker scoring five goals — including a hat trick — in a three-game span. In her five appearances for Australia in Olympic qualifying, Kerr racked up four goals and three assists to secure her nation's spot in Tokyo next summer.
3. Lionel Messi — FC Barcelona and Argentina
What to know: 2020 hasn't been Lionel Messi's best year, but his unmatchable quality on the pitch is still without doubt.
Despite falling out with Barcelona's former president and trying to force a move away from the club in the summer, the Argentine has still produced the goods week-in, week-out, scoring 23 goals and assisting 22 more in just 38 games for the Catalans – a combined figure no other player in Europe can match.
Had he a better supporting cast around him – both on and off the field – he could have been even more devastating.
After his summer wobble, Messi now says he's "excited" to play for Barca. Watch out, 2021.
3. Wendie Renard — Olympique Lyonnais and France
What to know: The top-ranked of Olympique Lyonnais' seven players on this list, France international Wendie Renard stands out in more ways than one among the slew of superstars at her club.
Measuring in at 6-foot-2, the center back is regularly the tallest player on the field and has a commanding presence on the back line. But aside from serving as an ideal protector directly in front of Sarah Bouhaddi for both club and country, Renard has the added perks of playing confidently with the ball at her feet and acting as a set-piece specialist thanks to her considerable height advantage.
Simply put, Renard is a lethal threat anywhere you find her on the pitch.
This year, the 30-year-old was one of the three finalists for The Best FIFA Women's Player award, and for a good reason. She's scored an astounding 10 goals from the sweeper position and added two assists to capture her 14th consecutive Division 1 Féminine title with Lyon.
Renard also earned UEFA Best Defender of the Year honors en route to winning her seventh total and fifth straight Champions League trophy this year.
She only appeared in four games for France this year, but scored an early, stunning header in the team's European Cup qualification match vs. Austria to help secure Les Bleues' spot in UEFA Euro 2022.
2. Kevin De Bruyne — Manchester City and Belgium
What to know: Simply the best midfielder in the world, Kevin de Bruyne makes the implausible look easy.
Always one step ahead of those around him, the Belgian's ability to lift his head and pick a pass is second to none, while his eye for goal and desire to get into the box evoke memories of a prime Frank Lampard.
Indeed, last season, De Bruyne become the first Premier League midfielder since Lampard to be involved in 30 goals in a single campaign as he scored 13 goals and assisted a record equaling 20.
2. Pernille Harder — Chelsea and Denmark
What to know: Chelsea striker and Denmark international Pernille Harder is — quite literally — the most valuable asset in the women's game, according to the world record transfer fee the Blues paid to acquire her this year.
She started the year with Bundesliga heavyweight Wolfsburg, and with three consecutive DFB-Pokal and league wins already under her belt, Harder contributed an astounding — and team leading — 36 goals over the 2019-2020 campaign to bring Wolfsburg its fourth titles in both.
But her ultimate goal with the German side, to win the UEFA Women's Champions League, fell flat twice in a three-year span after Wolfsburg fell to European powerhouse Lyon this summer.
Soon after, Harder joined the Chelsea, and the UEFA Women's Player of the Year wasted no time making her mark.
She's contributed two goals and two assists in the Blues' efforts to catch up with Manchester United at the top of the FA Women's Super League table. She tacked on another goal and assist in the Blues' two Champions League games thus far, and has had an immeasurable impact on the club's offensive production. Harder also recorded five goals and two assists through eight appearances for Denmark in 2020, leading the Red and White to an impressive 6-1-1 record on the year and helping them to secure their spot in the 2022 UEFA Women's EURO.
1. Robert Lewandowski — Bayern Munich and Poland
What to know: 36 games, 40 goals, a domestic treble, and a Champions League winner's medal – no player in world football has enjoyed a better 2020 than Robert Lewandowski.
The only thing that would have made it even better would have been collecting his first and well deserved Ballon d'Or had the award not been cancelled.
For the time being, winning the FIFA men's best player award, and his position at the top the Insider 50 will have to suffice.
1. Vivianne Miedema — Arsenal and The Netherlands
What to know: Vivianne Miedema is virtually unrivaled as the most lethal offensive weapon on the planet.
As of the 2019 World Cup — in which she was pivotal to the Netherlands' surprise run to the finals — Miedema has scored more goals for the Dutch than any player, man or woman, in the country's history. This year, the Arsenal striker also became the all-time leading scorer in the FA Women's Super League.
And perhaps we should mention this — she's still only 24 years old.
Miedema has a long history of club success, having won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich twice before signing with Arsenal in 2017. Aside from a shortened first season in the FA WSL, Miedema has led all players in scoring every single season since joining the English league. She's also ranked first or second in assists in each of the past three years, leading Arsenal to a FA WSL Cup win in 2018 and the league title the following year.
2020 has brought more of the same for Miedema. She had a goal and an assist in three appearances for the Orange Lionesses this year and racked up 11 goals and two assists in her nine games played for Arsenal so far this season.
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