Watching any sport is more fun when you know something about the players, but that can be challenging when you’re new to the sport.
Sure, you have probably heard of Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured at right, next to Brazil/Barcelona star Neymar) and Lionel Messi. That’s as far as it goes for most Americans, though, and that means if Messi and Barcelona or Ronaldo and Real Madrid aren’t playing in that game you’re watching on TV, you’re probably just seeing a bunch of players you know almost nothing about. That’s not that much fun – and it’s not the best way to develop a love for the game.
So how do you learn about the best players not named Ronaldo or Messi? It’s about knowing where to look, and SocceredUp is here to help.
For more than a decade, FIFpro, the world soccer players’ union, and FIFA, which oversees world soccer, have put out the FIFA World XI. Each summer, the organizations release their worldwide all-star team – the best players in the world by position. In the same way an NBA all-star team features two guards, two forwards and a center, the FIFA World XI includes goalies, defenders, midfielders and strikers.
It’s a major honor to be named to the team, which has predictably included both Messi and Ronaldo for many years. Before the finalists are named, however, the organizations name 55 semifinalists – the not-so-short shortlist of the best soccer players in the world. If you’re looking for a list of the who’s who of who any new soccer fan should watch, this list is impossible to beat.
The complete list of semifinalists is below. It includes their name, home country and their club team. Click on the player’s name to see more about from their club team’s website, when available.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about which teams dominate world soccer, know that more than half of the 55 players below — 29 to be exact — came from just three teams: Real Madrid (11 players on the list), FC Barcelona (9) and Bayern Munich (9). Italian power Juventus is next on the list with six players.
Note: An asterisk (*) indicates the person appears on the list for the first time.
The FIFPRO/FIFA Shortlist
Claudio Bravo (Chile/FC Barcelona/Manchester City)
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus)
David de Gea (Spain/Manchester United)
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica/Real Madrid)
Manuel Neuer (Germany/FC Bayern Munich).
David Alaba (Austria/FC Bayern Munich)
Jordi Alba (Spain/FC Barcelona)
Serge Aurier (Cote d’Ivoire/Paris Saint-Germain) *
Hector Bellerìn (Spain/Arsenal) *
Jerome Boateng (Germany/FC Bayern Munich)
Leonardo Bonucci (Italy/Juventus) *
Daniel Carvajal (Spain/Real Madrid)
Giorgio Chiellini (Italy/Juventus)
Dani Alves (Brazil/FC Barcelona/Juventus)
David Luiz (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain/Chelsea)
Diego Godin (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid)
Mats Hummels (Germany/Borussia Dortmund/FC Bayern Munich)
Philipp Lahm (Germany/FC Bayern Munich)
Marcelo (Brazil/Real Madrid)
Javier Mascherano (Argentina/FC Barcelona)
Pepe (Portugal/Real Madrid)
Gerard Pique (Spain/FC Barcelona)
Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid)
Thiago Silva (Brazil/Paris Saint-Germain)
Raphael Varane (France/Real Madrid).
Xabi Alonso (Spain/FC Bayern Munich)
Sergio Busquets (Spain/FC Barcelona)
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/Manchester City) *
Eden Hazard (Belgium/Chelsea)
Andres Iniesta (Spain/FC Barcelona)
N’Golo Kante (France/Leicester City/Chelsea) *
Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid)
Luka Modric (Croatia/Real Madrid)
Mesut Ozil (Germany/Arsenal)
Dimitri Payet (France/West Ham United) *
Paul Pogba (France/Juventus/Manchester United)
Ivan Rakitic (Croatia/FC Barcelona)
David Silva (Spain/Manchester City)
Marco Verratti (Italy/Paris Saint-Germain)
Arturo Vidal (Chile/FC Bayern Munich).
Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City)
Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid)
Paulo Dybala (Argentina/Juventus) *
Antoine Griezmann (France/Atletico Madrid) *
Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina/Napoli/Juventus)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United)
Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich)
Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona)
Thomas Muller (Germany/FC Bayern Munich)
Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona)
Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal)
Luis Suarez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona)
Jamie Vardy (England/Leicester City) *
The following players were on the list last year but fell off this season.
Iker Casillas (Goalie, Spain/FC Porto)
Arjen Robben (Midfielder, The Netherlands/FC Bayern Munich)
John Terry (Defender, England/Chelsea)
Wayne Rooney (Striker, England/Manchester United)
Andrea Pirlo (Midfielder, Italy/New York City FC)
Branislav Ivanovic (Defender, Serbia/Chelsea)
Yaya Toure (Midfielder, Cote D’Ivoire/Manchester City)
Vincent Kompany (Defender, Belgium/Manchester City)
Carlos Tevez (Striker, Argentina/Boca Juniors)