As the 2022/2023 football season reaches its climax, fans, journalists and pundits will begin to ask the big question: who is the best football player in the world in 2023 (so far)?
It has been an interesting season thus far. It is the first season in which the FIFA World Cup was held in the Middle East for the first time and its schedule moved from the traditional end-of-the-season to the middle of the season in November and December, respectively.
Despite being burdened with an elongated schedule and getting fatigued, footballers across the world, once again, provided top-notch performances for both club and country. They covered every blade of grass with their agility, sweat and – sometimes – blood, as well as mesmerised the spectators at the stands in the various stadia and viewers watching at home with incredible skill and grace.
The razzmatazz of knowing who the best player in the world for a particular year has intensified following the creation of the FIFA World Player of the Year (now The Best FIFA Men’s Player) in 1991 and the expansion of the Ballon d’Or criteria to become a global award in 1995 and 2007, respectively.
Who is the best football player in the world now?
There is no consensus about this and it is tough to determine this right now. This is because the year 2023 is still ongoing. Even though European league competitions are coming to an end, a new season will kickstart in August 2023, just in about three months. Also, some various national qualifiers or competitions will still be held in the year.
Although the Ballon d’Or now considers a full season rather than a calendar year for the review of players’ performances, other awards, such as The Best FIFA Men’s Player, may hold at the end of the year instead of the traditional September/October date to take into cognisance the displays and accomplishments of players for the whole year.
The current Ballon d’Or trophy holder for the men is Karim Benzema of France and Real Madrid. In the same vein, the 2022 The Best FIFA Men’s Player is Lionel Messi of Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain.
Top 10 best players in the world in 2023
There is no definitive list or even criteria to determine the best player or footballer for a particular year. Unlike sports such as tennis and table tennis, football does not have a system to determine the ranking of players.
All the rankings at the football awards mentioned above are done on a subjective basis. Subsequently, the top 10 best players in the world currently, as stated in this piece, were also picked subjectively, considering the footballer’s abilities and performances so far.
10. Lautaro Martinez (Argentina and Inter Milan)
Lautaro Martinez is having a wonderful 2022/2023 season. He is a member of the Argentine squad that triumphed as world champions in Qatar.
With regards to his club side, the Argentine striker is having a phenomenal season. Although Inter Milan were not able to clinch the Serie A title, Martinez is the club’s highest goalscorer in all competitions. He has scored 21 league goals, as of the time of writing this piece. He also scored the goal that secured Inter Milan’s spot in the 2022/2023 UEFA Champions League final.
Martinez is on course to achieve a European Cup-World Cup double in the space of a season.
9. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Georgia and Napoli)
When Napoli bought Khvicha Kvaratskhelia for a reported €11.5 million in July 2022, many people were wondering who he is. However, 10 months later, football fans have been asking where the Georgian magician has been all this time. He has been deemed by many as the long-awaited heir to a beloved Napoli legend, the late Diego Armando Maradona.
Kvaratskhelia was one of the star figures who propelled Napoli to their first Serie A title in over 30 years. His majestic passes, mesmerising movement with the ball and exquisite technical qualities have made some fans dub him “Kvaradona”, a fitting tribute to the Georgian and the recognition of his Maradona-esque playing style.
8. Robert Lewandowski (Poland and Barcelona)
After he won eight Bundesliga titles, one UEFA Champions League title and one FIFA Club World Cup title, Robert Lewandowski decided to embark on a new challenge by joining Barcelona. He did not have the best of starts at Barcelona as he struggled to settle in and replicate the deadly form that he produced at his erstwhile club, Bayern Munich.
Despite the challenges, he scored 23 league goals as he fired the Catalan club to regain the La Liga title and also scored two goals to help his team win the Supercopa de Espana.
7. Victor Osimhen (Nigeria and Napoli)
The “Ijaya 1 of Olusosun” virtually made all Nigerians become fans of S.S.C. Napoli as they constantly rooted for the striker week in and week out. Victor Osimhen did not disappoint his fans back home in Nigeria and the supporters of the Naples-based club as he was a menace to Serie A defenders in the season under review.
His blistering pace, agility and movement caused havoc for opposition teams and he has been in prolific goalscoring form throughout the season. As fate will have it, Osimhen scored the goal that secured the Serie A title for Napoli for the first time in 33 years. It is, perhaps, a nod to indicate that the fee spent by the club to make him their costliest signing to date is not in vain. He is on course to win Serie A’s Capocannoniere (highest goalscorer) award.
6. Bukayo Saka (England and Arsenal)
Following his impressive form last season, Bukayo Saka continued in the same vein by delivering masterclass performances for the majority of the 2022/2023 season. He propelled Arsenal to the Premier League title charge this season with his goals and assists. He was crucial for the Gunners as he orchestrated their game from a variety of positions and angles.
However, Saka, just like the rest of the Arsenal squad, dropped form in the run-in of the season. The England international and his clubmates crumbled like a pack of cards when it mattered most, and this led them to lose the title to Manchester City. Irrespective of the breakdown of the title challenge, Saka cannot be ignored as he had an excellent season.
5. Vinicius Junior (Brazil and Real Madrid)
With the failure of captain Karim Benzema to replicate his magical performances of last season, Vinicius Jr. stepped up to the plate and virtually led Real Madrid throughout the season. Despite being faced with antagonism and racial abuse from opposition fans, the winger has been superb.
He has used his box of tricks to effective use for the immediate past La Liga champions. Whether it is scoring or creating assists, Vinicius Jr. is the centre beat in ensuring so. Although Madrid fell short in the league and UEFA Champions League and Brazil could not go all the way to win the World Cup, Vinicius Jr. is having an exceptional season that is worth celebrating.
4. Erling Haaland (Norway and Manchester City)
After his unconvincing start for Manchester City in the Community Shield this season, some pundits and fans felt that Erling Haaland would struggle to cope with the intensity of the Premier League. The Norwegian marksman has, however, proved all doubters wrong with his monstrous performance throughout the season.
Not only did he replicate his form hitherto displayed at Borussia Dortmund, but he also shattered various goalscoring records. The prominent record that he broke was that of the most goals scored by a player in a single Premier League season. He scored 36 league goals in his debut season, surpassing the previous record of 34 goals set by Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer in the 1993/94 and 1994/95 seasons, respectively.
Haaland has scored 53 goals across all campaigns for City this season and he is on course to score more goals and power his club to victory in the FA Cup Final and the UEFA Champions League Final.
3. Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium and Manchester City)
Some fans and pundits may consider Kevin de Bruyne’s return for the season as “ordinary” when compared with his statistics from previous seasons, but the midfielder general has been impressive.
De Bruyne is certainly one of the world’s most creative and technical players. His vision and penchant for a defence-splitting pass and his ability to cross the ball are superb and have made him an unstoppable force. Then add his ability to score goals from difficult angles and his 30 assists and one will understand why he has been pivotal to Manchester City’s Premier League success. He can still lead the club to further victories in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League finals.
On the international scene, De Bruyne flopped with his Belgian teammates as the “Golden Generation” failed to progress from the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
2. Kylian Mbappe (France and Paris Saint-Germain)
Kylian Mbappé is a dazzling player and currently has the world at his feet. Since his breakout season in 2015/2016 with Monaco, the career trajectory of the Paris-born player has been upward. He had an incredible 2022 World Cup campaign – including scoring a hattrick in the final and winning the competition’s Golden Boot – but was denied of retaining the trophy only by the brilliance of his club teammate, Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
On the club front, Mbappé has been the star player for PSG by literally carrying the club on his back and winning games for them through his goals. In February 2023, he became the club’s joint all-time top goalscorer with 200 goals. The following month, Mbappé scored his 201st PSG goal, thereby becoming the club’s leading goalscorer.
He scored a total of 40 goals in 42 appearances for PSG this season, including netting 28 goals in the league. It is, therefore, not surprising that he was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive season.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain)
There is no denying the greatness of Lionel Messi. He has notched up an incredible number of goals and consistently displayed brilliance and skills for over a decade. He has also demonstrated his leadership abilities by producing match-winning goals and performances at the highest level.
And nothing could be higher for the Argentine superstar than leading his team to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is a trophy that he has long wanted to have in his grasp and he did it in style, leading from the front as captain. The diminutive PSG forward was awarded the Golden Ball, having won five man-of-the-match awards and finished the tournament with seven goals, just one behind the Golden Boot winner and his PSG teammate, Mbappe.
While he may not have enjoyed a spectacular season at PSG, Messi’s status of being viewed as the best player of his generation and one of the greatest footballers of all time has been cemented