Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo has capped off a stellar 2016 by being named the world’s best footballer in Goal.com’s annual survey of the best players on the planet.
Ronaldo’s impressive 12 months see him finishing ahead of Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid attacker Antoine Griezmann. Last year’s Goal 50 winner Lionel Messi has slipped to fourth, making it the first time in the countdown’s eight-year history that the Argentinian forward hasn’t appeared in the top three.
The Goal 50 list is compiled by over 500 of Goal.com’s journalists from around the globe. Goal’s football experts have given a thorough examination of players in every territory, judging them on their level of consistency, their big-game performances, footballing legacy and the success of their team at both club and international level.
Ronaldo’s place at the top of the list was cemented by a 12-month period which saw the player lift both the Champions League and European Championship trophies. He finished the 2015/16 season with 51 goals in all competitions, while at Euro 2016 he became the first player to score at four consecutive European Championship finals. He also equalled the record for most goals scored in the competition’s history, despite coming off injured during the final.
Commenting on his award, Cristiano Ronaldo said: “For me it’s an honour to receive this recognition again. It’s not mine, but for all my team mates at Madrid and in the national team. I feel very happy and very proud. My interpretation of this award is the same as throughout my career: that nothing is achieved without ambition, personal effort and without a team of colleagues and workers who support you day in, day out. That day to day is the most important thing.”
James Marley, Global Editor-in-Chief at Goal.com said: “Even by Ronaldo’s standards, the past twelve months have been amazing. Whether you look at his accomplishments for club or country, it’s hard to argue against him being named the best player the world. Although Lionel Messi dropping to fourth place may surprise some people, it’s not because he’s had a poor year, but rather those around him have had better ones. Although the pinnacle of football has teetered in recent years between Ronaldo and Messi, we can now see that the title of best player in the world is more competitive than it’s been in a long while.”
Although Barcelona had an impressive 2015-16, in which Luis Enrique’s side claimed their second successive domestic double, Messi’s efforts were surpassed by his Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez, who had the best season of his career and claimed second place in the Goal 50 list.
Messi’s fourth-place position puts him behind Atletico forward Griezmann who, despite scoring fewer goals than Messi, played an integral part in his club reaching the Champions League final, scoring seven goals on the way. At this summer’s European Championship, Griezmann scored six times and assisted two more to claim the Golden Boot and be named the tournament’s best player.
The majority of the Goal 50 play their football in Europe’s five biggest leagues, with 19 playing in La Liga, 14 in the Premier League, nine in Germany’s Bundesliga, six in Italy’s Serie A and one in France’s Ligue 1. Outside of Europe, River Plate’s Lucas Alario makes the list by placing at number 50.
The teams with the most players appearing in the Goal 50 are: Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (8); Barcelona (6), Atletico Madrid and Juventus (5); and Manchester United (4).
Compared to other leagues around Europe, the Premier League sees the greatest number of teams making the Goal 50. Whereas entrants in the list from La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A play their football for two or three clubs in their domestic leagues, players in the Goal from the Premier League represent eight different clubs, including Manchester United, Manchester City, West Ham, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspurs, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
The highest-ranking Premier League player in the Goal 50 is Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez (7), while his team mate, Jamie Vardy (11), is the best performing English player.
Speaking on Mahrez being named the best Premier League player, Vardy said: “He’s brilliant, isn’t he? If he’s on his game, then there’s no stopping him and, obviously, it was good for him to sign a new deal and stay here as well.”
Notable absentees from the 2016 Goal 50 include Chelsea players Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois. N’Golo Kante is the only Chelsea player to make the cut following his impressive season with Leicester City. The England national team’s poor performance at Euro 2016 means Jamie Vardy (11) and Harry Kane (35) are the only English players to make the list.
Leicester City’s surprising Premier League title win helped Riyad Mahrez (7) make his first appearance in the annual countdown. Mahrez is joined by fellow Goal 50 new-boys Dimitri Payet (14), Paolo Dybala (28) and Jan Oblak (29).
Fans can view the Goal 50 in its entirety at Goal.com.