Inter

Inter slideshow

The Ghana football liaison team member praises the Fire Boys for Wednesday's triumph in the continental inter-club competition
Akenteng has special commendation for Aduana after Caf Confederation Cup win
The Ghana football liaison team member praises the Fire Boys for Wednesday's triumph in the continental inter-club competition
The Eleven-Is-To-One are mourning the demise of attacker Prince Appiah
Ghanaian topflight Inter Allies lose player in fatal accident
The Eleven-Is-To-One are mourning the demise of attacker Prince Appiah
The 21-year-old was linked to the likes of Arsenal and Spurs in January, but could now end up at Goodison Park after the Toffees entered the race
Everton make €35m bid for Bordeaux star Malcom after Inter move stalls
The 21-year-old was linked to the likes of Arsenal and Spurs in January, but could now end up at Goodison Park after the Toffees entered the race
Everton have reportedly joined the race to sign Bordeaux's highly-rated Brazilian winger Malcom. The 21 year-old, who was linked with Arsenal, Tottenham and Bayern Munich last January, has already attracted interest this summer from Spurs, Fulham and Inter Milan, with the Italian club offering to take him on loan for a season at a cost of £8.8 million with an option to purchase next year for a further £26.5m. Everton were reportedly in advanced talks with Bordeaux on Tuesday night for a straight £30m fee for the player, who they are offering a five-year contract worth 80,000 a week. New Goodison coach Marco Silva and director of football Marcel Brands are currently overhauling the Everton squad and although the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ramiro Funes Mori and Joel Robles have been allowed to leave, no purchases have yet been made - a stark contrast to last summer when Ronald Koeman was one of the busiest Premier League managers in the transfer market and one of the quickest to move. Malcom has made more than 80 first-team appearances for Bordeaux, scoring 20 times, and has represented Brazil at Under 20 and Under 23 level, but has yet to break into the senior side.
'Everton in advanced talks with Bordeaux to sign £30m Malcom'
Everton have reportedly joined the race to sign Bordeaux's highly-rated Brazilian winger Malcom. The 21 year-old, who was linked with Arsenal, Tottenham and Bayern Munich last January, has already attracted interest this summer from Spurs, Fulham and Inter Milan, with the Italian club offering to take him on loan for a season at a cost of £8.8 million with an option to purchase next year for a further £26.5m. Everton were reportedly in advanced talks with Bordeaux on Tuesday night for a straight £30m fee for the player, who they are offering a five-year contract worth 80,000 a week. New Goodison coach Marco Silva and director of football Marcel Brands are currently overhauling the Everton squad and although the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ramiro Funes Mori and Joel Robles have been allowed to leave, no purchases have yet been made - a stark contrast to last summer when Ronald Koeman was one of the busiest Premier League managers in the transfer market and one of the quickest to move. Malcom has made more than 80 first-team appearances for Bordeaux, scoring 20 times, and has represented Brazil at Under 20 and Under 23 level, but has yet to break into the senior side.
Also, Everton may have beaten Inter Milan to a Brazilian and Roberto Martinez weighs in on Eden Hazard.
Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba to Juventus, Rebic to Manchester United
Also, Everton may have beaten Inter Milan to a Brazilian and Roberto Martinez weighs in on Eden Hazard.
Also, Everton may have beaten Inter Milan to a Brazilian and Roberto Martinez weighs in on Eden Hazard.
Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba to Juventus, Rebic to Manchester United
Also, Everton may have beaten Inter Milan to a Brazilian and Roberto Martinez weighs in on Eden Hazard.
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The issues facing Maurizio Sarri in the Chelsea hot seat
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The issues facing Maurizio Sarri in the Chelsea hot seat
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The issues facing Maurizio Sarri in the Chelsea hot seat
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The issues facing Maurizio Sarri in the Chelsea hot seat
The new man in the Chelsea dugout has a fresh Premier League season on the horizon, and plenty to address in the interim period. Here are the four main issues he'll need to see to in the coming weeks. Convince the star men When Maurizio Sarri is unveiled on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge as Roman Abramovich’s 11th Chelsea manager, there will be just 22 days until the transfer window shuts and 24 days before their Premier League season begins, with a trip to Huddersfield. The in-tray might be bulging – and the self-inflicted time pressures urgent – but the priority is obvious. Chelsea possess three authentic world-class players in Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard – and two of them are dropping hints about leaving. Courtois is in the final year of his contract and an extension worth £200,000 a week sits unsigned. Hazard is out of contract in 2020 and a contract offer of £300,000 a week remains similarly incomplete. Can Eden Hazard be convinced to stay? Credit: Reuters The noises sound ominous. Hazard said on Saturday: “You all know my preferred destination,” amid a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole at Real Madrid, while Courtois added: “Wherever I go, Eden must come along”. Both are on holiday following Belgium’s run to the World Cup semi-finals but so much flows from how their situations play out. They are all but irreplaceable and convincing them to stay, or remain focused if they do run down their contracts, is critical. Implement a new style Sarri will undoubtedly work very differently to his predecessor, Antonio Conte. His regular use of the word “fun” in his first interview as manager felt especially telling in the context of Conte’s volcanic touchline demeanour and highly disciplined on-field demands. Sarri’s recent history with Napoli also suggests a change of system to four rather than three at the back. Chelsea’s centre-backs have plenty of experience in this formation but there will be a considerable challenge at full-back for Cesar Azpilicueta, who played out of position on the left under Jose Mourinho, and Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses to adapt to. Jorginho has been recruited to function as a midfield playmaker alongside Kante, prompting questions over how other senior central midfielders – notably Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko – might be used. Jorginho has followed Sarri to Stamford Bridge Credit: Getty images Kalidou Koulibaly played under Sarri at Napoli and describes his style as “enjoyable” for both players and fans. A more open, expressive approach is expected than under serial trophy winners Conte and Mourinho. Pep Guardiola is one of Sarri’s biggest admirers in football. When Sarri was reminded that Napoli did not ultimately win a trophy in his three years at the club, he expressed hope that they would be remembered like the great Dutch team of Johan Cruyff in the 1970s for their style. Finalise the squad It would be easy to get sidetracked by the Hazard and Courtois situations but there are big decisions that need to be made quickly through the entire squad. Centre-back Daniele Rugani, Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and Roma goalkeeper Alisson Becker – also a strong target of Liverpool – are all very much on the incoming radar. Yet with a first friendly match in Perth next Tuesday, before European fixtures against Inter Milan, Arsenal and then Manchester City in the Community Shield, time is limited. There is also a midweek friendly at Stamford Bridge on the Tuesday before the season starts and do not be surprised if Sarri waits until the final hours of the transfer window before making decisions on certain players. Does Ruben Loftus-Cheek have a future at Chelsea? Credit: Getty images Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Kurt Zouma. Do any of these now have a first-team future under Sarri? And what of those players who, to varying degrees, had fallen out of favour with Conte, notably Willian, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata? Sarri’s ability to make sound judgements with only limited on-field and training ground evidence will be crucial. Manage upwards A sense of gloomy inevitability steadily gathered for a full year before Conte’s departure and, for all the anecdotes about his supposedly difficult behaviour, Chelsea should surely also consider why this keeps happening to them. It is the 13th time that Abramovich has changed managers in little over 14 years. That in itself will surely concentrate Sarri’s mind and his ability to manage upwards as well as downwards will be critical. The departure of technical director Michael Emenalo, Abramovich’s visa issues and his decision to shelve plans to fund a new stadium have also contributed to an impression of instability. Sarri must create an understanding that his methods will need time and that the only way Chelsea can move on from their recent “boom and bust” patterns is to provide a manager with some long-term guarantees. Indeed, when you consider Sarri’s need to master English and how this is his first experience managing outside of Italy – albeit with Gianfranco Zola ready to provide valuable assistance and advice – a level of patience not often associated with Chelsea is surely now imperative.
The Inter Milan midfielder speaks on his anticipated return to the Black Stars after four years
I'll keep my promise to Kwesi Appiah, Kwadwo Asamoah reassures Ghana return
The Inter Milan midfielder speaks on his anticipated return to the Black Stars after four years
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
Ivan Perisic - player profile
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
Ivan Perisic - player profile
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
Ivan Perisic - player profile
A profile of Croatia winger Ivan Perisic with Manchester United once again linked with the Inter Milan star.
Florent Ibenge previews Wednesday's continental inter-club encounter with the Fire Boys
Vita Club boss convinced about Aduana's preparedness for Caf Confederation Cup tie
Florent Ibenge previews Wednesday's continental inter-club encounter with the Fire Boys
The acting Inter Allies head coach quashes reports that he is headed for the Dormaa-based outfit
Preko closes door on Aduana Stars and Kenichi
The acting Inter Allies head coach quashes reports that he is headed for the Dormaa-based outfit
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of the time Neymar was on the pitch, he was a disgrace. Diving, rolling around, cheating and doing so much damage to his reputation that he's basically a meme now. But when he actually plays he's incredible. Does he deserve a place in the hallowed online space of the Babbello Index? .....yes. Should we happy about it? No other player took as many shots as Neymar (26). No other player got as many on target either (13). Only one player created more chances (Neymar 23, Kieran Trippier 24). We'll let him off. 17. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Credit: ANADOLU A monster. The free-kick goal he scored to grab a hat-trick against Spain is one of the coolest things ever seen in a World Cup. You knew from the moment he won the foul that he was going to score. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Only managed one other goal in the tournament to bring his tally to four (second highest in the tournament from only four games...) but was a constant menace. This is still one of the elite strikers in world football. 16. Kieran Trippier (England) The English Sime Vrsaljko, as he likes to be known, created more chances to score than any player in the World Cup, mostly because he was on constant free-kick duty. A hugely impressive feat and one only possible because his delivery is so damn good. Chances created (including assists) - World Cup 2018 15. Samuel Umtiti (France) A few too many time-wasting shenanigans - with a couple of "I need to lie down because I'm injured" moments almost coming back to bite him - aside, Umtiti was a solid rock at the back for France. Scored the goal against Belgium which put France into the final. 14. Benjamin Pavard (France) Credit: FIFA Two years ago htis young right-back was watching France lose in the Euro 2016 final from the fan zone. Now he's got a World Cup winners' medal and is reportedly about to sign for Bayern Munich (or any number of huge clubs) after successfully defending (and attacking) on France's right side with only Kylian Mbappe for cover further ahead of him. Plays with the maturity and positional sense of someone far older than 22. 13. Diego Godin (Uruguay) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Along with partner in crime Joes Gimenez (and some of their defensive methods make this an almost literal description), Uruguay had perhaps the best centre-back pairing in the entire competition. It's too bad the rest of the team wasn't up to that high standard. Interceptions World Cup 2018 Godin lead from the back and put out fires whenever necessary, making 10 tackles and 13 interceptions (no defender made more) in his five matches. 12. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) Credit: FIFA Belgium's all-time top scorer ended up with four goals in the tournament and were it not for a couple of poor touches in high pressure matches and a few scuffed efforts (happens to the best) could well have beaten Harry Kane to the Golden Boot. Has massively improved his positional awareness and movement off the ball as shown in one particular passage of play, where a run across the defence from wide right to left created all the space required for Belgium to score their superb counter-attack winner against Japan in the last-16. He's only 25 too, which means Lukaku should be at his peak for the next World Cup. 11. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Fast, skillful, powerful, determined - Perisic is an incredible winger, capable of either going past a defender on the wing and sending a curling, whipped cross into a striker or of turning up in space at precisely the right moment to score a goal of his own. The Inter Milan star (will that be the case by transfer window closing time?) scored three goals, including the equaliser against England in the semi-final, and assisted one other. 10. Philippe Coutinho (Brazil) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best player outside the top three countries. Coutinho's 25 yard strike against Switzerland was stunning - the kind of thing we've seen do on many an occasion in the Premier League - but his all-round game during this tournament was genuinely entertaining to watch. Scored two goals, made two assists and created 13 chances from open play - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. 9. Antoine Griezmann (France) Credit: FIFA Dived for the free-kick that resulted in France's opening goal in the final but - whether you like it or not - it's a part of the game and the most devious players often prosper. Griezmann is an incredibly quick-minded player, spotting opportunities to attack, identifying space to move into and finding teammates with passes through gaps you didn't think were even on. Scored four goals, two of which were penalties, making him the joint second top scorer - it doesn't even really feel like he was that good throughout. He was though. Wasn't he? 8.Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) The yin to Luka Modric's yang, Rakitic was part of a dovetailing midfield masterclass and one of the players of the tournament, entirely crucial to Croatia's fluid, control system. He could often be found between the centre-backs to lead build-up play, occasionally he turned up in attacking positions - he scored one goal and created 10 chances - and at other times he doubled up in wide areas to ensure Croatia dominated possession. Rakitic's football brain is next-level and he just seems to know where he's supposed to be at any given moment. No wonder Xavi, his ex-Barcelona teammate, has claimed the Croat is one of the best signings in Barca's history. 7. Raphael Varane (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES No particular standout stats but Varane was the most complete defender on show throughout the tournament. France were solid at the back and Varane's composed, measured control of the back four was key to this. He won 27 aerial duels in total, behind only Dejan Lovren (of other centre-backs) and only made one tackle. There's more to defending than sticking your leg in to challenges and Varane has it nailed. If you don't believe me, consider that at the age of 25, he has now won four Champions League medals, two La Ligas, three World Club Cups and now the World Cup. Again, he's 25. 6. Paul Pogba (France) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Pogba played the World Cup as though in a Jose Mourinho dream. Incisive, never over-playing, utilising his unique talents to send his teammates away on the counter-attack with a through-ball or keeping possession with a little bit of skill. In the final he played a 50 yard volleyed pass off the outside of his boot which had enough backspin to slow into the exact path of Kylian Mbappe's run down the right wing. In the semi-final, you could often find him defending his own six yard box to protect France's lead against Belgium. Sure enough, he has been best as part of a three (and having N'Golo Kante next to you makes good players great - look at Danny Drinkwater!) but Mourinho might have been right to expect more of Pogba. Few players in the world can do what he did in this tournament. 5. Eden Hazard (Belgium) Credit: AFP The most fouled player. Opposition players did everything they could to get Hazard off the ball and it turns out the best way is to either grab his shirt or just kick him. Some of Hazard's close control was exceptional during Belgium's games and he was without doubt one of the most exciting forwards to watch, always attacking, constantly ready to burst or trick his way past defenders. Scored three goals and made two assists, creating 13 chances from open play. 4. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) Credit: OFFSIDE Created 15 chances from open play - the most of any player in the World Cup. What makes this particularly impressive is he had to do so while playing in a deep midfield role that completely took him out of the game. Like Fabian Delph's wife, he is an absolute machine. Chances created from open play The few times Roberto Martinez altered the system so that De Bruyne could influence games, he was brilliant and ran the show. De Bruyne's long range goal against Brazil was one of the goals of the tournament and his bursting run to kick-start Belgium's winning counter-attack goal against Japan made him an integral part of another. 3. N'Golo Kante (France) Credit: AP In the space of about four years, Kante has gone from "who?" to two-time Premier League winner, FA Cup winner, Player of the Year and now World Cup winner. It's an astonishing rise for one of the best defensive players in the world and there won't be a human alive who is surprised to learn he made the highest number of interceptions (20 - tied with Roman Zobnin). There's more to his game than winning tackles and interceptions and at times Kante was required to dribble with the ball at pace down the wing, like he used to in his pre-world-conquering youth. Defenders struggled to keep up, let alone get close. 2. Kylian Mbappe Credit: GETTY IMAGES What a player. He's faster than some cars, quicker of thought than a computer and his first touch and dribbling skills are like peak Brazilian Ronaldo. Mbappe will, or at least should, be the best player in the world if he continues to perform anything like this in the coming years. Scored four goals, including one in the final. He is the first teenager since Pele to do that. 1. Luka Modric (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The best all-round player at the World Cup. Controlled the midfield magnificently, created chances, took crucial penalties, led the team by example with the captain's armband and took little old Croatia to a World Cup final. Deserves to be considered among the absolute elite. Honourable mentions Diego Costa (Spain) Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) Joshua Kimmich (Germany) Hirving Lozano (Mexico) Jesse Lingard (England) Willian (Brazil) Ludwig Augustinsson (Sweden) Jose Gimenez (Uruguay) Ante Rebic (Croatia) Blaise Matuidi (France) Yousouff Sabaly (Senegal) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia)
The 50 best players at World Cup 2018: ranked
The World Cup is over! And what a time we all had. There were surprises, shocks, awesome bits of skill, VAR controversy, strange decisions, goals, tackles - everything! But what of the players who actually performed for us? Using a combination of statistics and having watched (nearly) every single World Cup match, we have ranked the top 50 players of the World Cup in order. 50. Ever Banega (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Should have been involved from the start. Jorge Sampaoli's weird experiment didn't work at all and Argentina were deservedly hurled out of the competition at the knock-outs. In the two starts and one substitute appearance Banega made, he managed two assists. Made a massive difference, allowing the team to pass and pick holes in the opposition defence. 49. Harry Maguire (England) Credit: OFFSIDE Proved he is entirely capable at this level with some great performances, regularly carrying the ball into the opposition half to help with attacks (and he managed one actual assist too) and dominant in the air when defending his own box. Maguire won the joint highest number of aerial duels. Lovely welcome home from friends and family ������������������❤️ pic.twitter.com/JKD7WHBzfE— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) July 15, 2018 48. Danijel Subasic (Croatia) pic.twitter.com/ACkEPlmdR7— Riera Machado (@rieramachado) July 13, 2018 Made one of the great saves in World Cup history with his instinctive stop to deny Harry Kane from about two yards out and saved some vital penalties along the way. Ended up conceding rather more than he might have liked... but that is the life of a goalkeeper. 47. John Stones (England) Composed under pressure and one of England's main forward distributors, Stones made the third most passes of any player in the World Cup (478). Passes World Cup 2018 Scored two goals with his head thanks to England's mastery of set-pieces but was caught out by Mario Mandzukic for Croatia's winning goal in extra-time. Needs to cut out those mistakes. 46. Jordan Henderson (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Henderson was brilliant right up until the semi-final when he lost all composure and forgot how to pass a ball. Was an integral part of England's play before that, linking defence with attack, maintaining the team's shape and hitting some outstanding long passes over the top for forwards to chase. What happens to this guy in the big matches? 45. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the most underrated players in the Premier League can now boast about being the same in the World Cup. Nigeria have a really exciting group of youngsters coming through and Ndidi is one of the best. He made 15 tackles - the joint third highest - and 12 interceptions - the seventh best - despite only playing three games. 44. Artem Dzyuba (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES This probably isn't particularly surprising, but Dzyuba was pretty good in the air. In fact, he won 41 aerial battles, putting him joint first in the table for that particular stat. The striker became a national hero after scoring as a substitute in Russia's opening game, operating as a kind of really angry Peter Crouch. Undoubtedly fueled by home crowds, Dzyuba isn't one of the world's best forwards nor anywhere close to it, but he was a constant menace during this tournament, scoring three goals and assisting two others. 43. Harry Kane (England) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't seem to turn up for the third-placed play-off, was poor in the semi-final, couldn't get in the game in the quarter-final... but ended up with the Golden Boot anyway. Teams - especially Panama - were terrified of him at set-pieces, his penalty taking was cool, and some of his off-the-ball movement created space and chances for others. Here he is dropping into midfield against Tunisia. His goals were three penalties, a fortunate deflection, a tap-in and a header at the back post (in the dying moments of the match) and came against the worst team in the competition (Panama), an average Tunisia and an admittedly high-pressure situation against Colombia. But he still scored them... so it would be crazy to leave him out of this list... right? The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot standings 42. Jordan Pickford (England) Kept England in the Colombia game with some quite brilliant saves, commanded his area well and stayed committed to building from the back until the semi-final, at which point hoofing crept back in. The thing is, Pickford's hoofing is up there with the best - his long range kicking often started attacking moves for England. 41. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) Credit: AFP Keylor Navas kept Costa Rica in games single (and double) handedly at times, giving a poor group of players an actual chance of winning games they should never have been near. They even got a point against Switzerland. 40. Axel Witsel (Belgium) Credit: FIFA The unsung hero. Kept Belgium's shape together, provided a defensive shield and made all the neat and tidy passes required of him. Was one of the key reasons Belgium were able to play so well, acting as a link between the rest of the star players. 39. Juan Quintero (Colombia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES James Rodriguez's absence was obvious in the England game but Colombia's team works around their creative genius Quintero. Created six chances, made two assists and scored one. 38. Dejan Lovren (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Self proclaimed best defender in the world Dejan Lovren has now lost the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same season, which absolutely sucks for him. When alongside a centre-back who compliments his skill set and can cover for errors, Lovren really is a very good defender. Croatia's central defenders had a great World Cup. 37. Lucas Hernandez (France) The best left-back of the tournament. Made 16 tackles - second highest of any player - helping France win turnovers in possession and starting those devastating counter-attacks that made them world champions. World Cup 2018 final | France triumph in breathless, six-goal thriller vs Croatia 36. Andreas Granqvist (Sweden) Credit: FIFA A magnificent tournament for Sweden's captain. Scored two goals, made seven interceptions and lead his country to an unlikely quarter-final, where they were well beaten by England. 35. Denis Cheryshev (Russia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Started on the bench, ended up scoring four goals - two of which were up there among the best in the entire tournament. Is he actually any good? Sort of. Sometimes definitely yes. Other times... inconclusive. Seemed to always be first to get substituted. 34. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) Kept having to drop deep to facilitate Luis Suarez's lack of defending, was taken out the game by doing so and then tried way too hard to score at every opportunity he had, often spoiling attacking moves for Uruguay. Managed to score three goals from 16 shots. Russia World Cup in pictures: Best photos of teams, games and players 33. Andreas Iniesta (Spain) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of the best footballers to have ever played the game. Took things into his own hands when the game was going against Spain, forced opportunities, dribbled round and passed through players like in a video game and then Fernando Hierro put him on the bench for the defeat to Croatia. "At that moment, I felt like I didn't understand anything about football," said Ivan Rakitic of that decision. "I thought I was part of another sport. Seeing the best player, perhaps in the history of his position, on the bench. It hurt a lot." 32. Yerry Mina (Colombia) Credit: ANADOLU Plays for Barcelona but doesn't really play as though he plays for Barcelona. A very old-fashioned centre-back, very strong, great in the air and a huge threat from set pieces. Mina scored three goals. 31. Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark) Credit: ACTION PLUS Magnificent in Denmark's match against Croatia and oh so unlucky to lose the penalty shootout despite making some top-drawer saves. Schmeichel is a great goalkeeper and could play for any top European club side based on his performances in Russia. 30. Domagoj Vida (Croatia) Credit: GETTY IMAGES On the pitch, Vida was brilliant. 10 interceptions, 14 aerial duels won, an assist while playing as a right-back and a goal while playing as a centre-back. Powerful, quick and with excellent positioning, his partnership with Dejan Lovren worked extremely well. 29. Hugo Lloris (France) Credit: FIFA Made an absolute howler against Croatia in the final but pulled off some other-worldly saves in France's other games and is a World Cup winning captain. One stop in particular against Belgium, where Lloris reacted as though reading the mind of Kevin De Bruyne, was incredible. 28. Lionel Messi (Argentina) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The greatest player of all time (is he though?) had a tournament to forget. Surrounded by mediocrity and, frankly, bad players, Messi was given far too much to do and couldn't do it. Had dragged Argentina to the World Cup on his own and must have felt like he was standing in the eye of the storm as the walls, ceiling and floor of Argentina's football barn fell apart. 27. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Credit: REUTERS Led the line for Croatia, caused panic in opposition defences with his aerial presence and scored three goals in total - including the match winner in the semi-final against England. 26. Casemiro (Brazil) Made more tackles than any other player. One of the best defensive midfielders in the world and was sorely missed through suspension in Brazil's quarter-final defeat to Belgium. Tackles World Cup 2018 25. Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) Credit: AP The Croatian Kieran Trippier, as he likes to be known, had a fantastic tournament, providing attacking width, defensive bite and about 20million crosses - including the vital one which allowed Ivan Perisic to put Croatia ahead of England and throw the three lions to... the lions. 24. Thomas Meunier (Belgium) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Was obviously hugely missed in Belgium's defeat to France in the semi-final. A pesky suspension kept him out of that one and prompted a reshuffle of Roberto Martinez's pack, upsetting the defensive balance. Meunier did brilliantly to act as the player who made Belgium either a three or four man defence, choosing his times to venture forward well without leaving the rest of the team exposed. 23. Takashi Inui (Japan) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Absolutely no idea where this guy came from but wow he was good. Inui scored two goals and assisted one other but did so much off and on the ball that you can't really measure with stats it's hard to know where to start. Plays off the left as an inside-forward, can dribble, sees a pass and is tidy with the ball at his feet, a little bit like a less patient Isco (yet at the same time not at all...). A highly technically gifted player who happened to have an excellent World Cup but you suspect might struggle to replicate the same form every week in La Liga (which is where he plays for Real Betis). 22. Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The most hipster entry on the entire Babbello Index. I can hear you now, screaming about where Harry Kane is. "Why isn't Harry Kane here? Hmm? He scored six goals! Who the hell is this guy?" But you should know. Oh yes. Etebo - even though he only played in three games - was the under-the-radar find of the tournament. Had he not signed a contract with Stoke before the World Cup began, he should absolutely be spending his time choosing which upper mid-level European club he wants to play for next season. Fantastic on the ball, composed passing, aware of his surroundings and by far Nigeria's best player. He plays for Stoke now. Good luck, my friend. 21. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) Credit: AFP Switched effortlessly between left-back and centre-back, made crucial interceptions (eight in total) and was hugely influential in keeping Belgium's build-up play clean and tidy. Even managed to score. 20. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) Credit: AFP Made some astonishing saves on his way to winning the Golden Gloves, an entirely unpractical prize which, if anything, will hinder his future goalkeeping prize. Wear normal gloves, Thibaut. Metal is heavy. 19. Isco (Spain) Credit: ANADOLU Made more successful passes in the opposition half than any other player at the World Cup. Isco's 320 puts him 34 ahead of Modric, having only played in four games. Isco had 135 touches per game, more than anyone else to have played in the tournament. A phenomenal player and Spain's best by far. Likes to pass. 18. Neymar (Brazil) Credit: CORBIS SPORT Quite frankly, for a lot of