Who is the best player in world football? For the best part of two decades, the answer has been a coin toss. No longer.


Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were the two greatest footballers of a generation, the former earning the Greatest of All Time tag in many quarters after capping off an outrageous career with the World Cup, the ultimate prize.

However, since Messi and Ronaldo departed the grand stage of European football for farewell tours of the US and Saudi Arabia respectively, the position of 'the best' is yet to be unanimously filled.

Several rising megastars could justify throwing their names, their talents, their achievements into the conversation. Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe were seen by many as undisputed pretenders to the throne prior to the emergence of Jude Bellingham and the continued growth of several established names.

This list is based on more than just current form. We have taken into account domestic and international achievements as well as various stats and figures from this season and recent, prior campaigns to build a picture of the current best players in world football.

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RadioTimes.com brings you our definitive list of the best football players in the world in 2024.

Check our more football features: Best players of all time | Best strikers 2024 | Best wingers 2024 | Best midfielders 2024 | Best defenders 2024 | Best goalkeepers 2024 | Best young players 2024 | Best teams in the world 2024

10. Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)

Lautaro Martinez double fist pumps in front of the camera to celebrate a victory
Lautaro Martinez. Getty Images

Martinez may be a new entry to the top 10, but he has been consistently making defenders regret their profession for half a decade or more.

The Inter Milan striker is reminiscent of retired compatriot Sergio Aguero with a dogged, tenacious attitude, clinical finishing abilities and physicality beyond his size.

The 26-year-old has been knocking in 20 league goals per season for several years now, but during 2023/24 he has hovered around a goal per game in a particularly tough, increasingly competitive Serie A.

9. Rodri (Man City)

Rodri fist pumps the air to celebrate a goal
Rodri. Getty Images

Rodri is the heartbeat of Manchester City, a crucial cog in a majestic machine. He is all things to all men, a maestro conducting the orchestra from midfield.

A tall, strong, physical presence, Rodri has all the muscle City require in a combative midfielder, combined with the grace, skill and drive of an attacking midfielder capable of drifting high up the pitch.

He boasts the knack of scoring critical goals in crucial moments – see the Champions League final – and in mid-January 2024, he struck a milestone of 50 games undefeated for City. When Rodri plays, the best team in world football doesn't lose.

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8. Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)

Vinicius Junior points to his ear to celebrate a goal for Real Madrid
Vinicius Junior. Getty Images

It's an ominous sign for the rest of the football world that while Real Madrid has shed some of its ageing skin in recent transfer windows, an equally venomous threat has slithered into the open: Vini Jr.

The 23-year-old has already racked up more than 200 appearances for the club in all competitions since 2018, and he is one of the few contenders who could, without a hint of delusion, claim to be sitting top of this list in several years time.

Vincius's pace is scorching, with dynamite acceleration able to propel him from standing starts to beyond petrified defenders at will. Most impressively, he harnesses that speed with quickness of feet and ball control to match any player in the world.

7. Lionel Messi (Inter Miami)

Lionel Messi in action for Inter Miami
Lionel Messi. Getty Images

For the first time in over a decade, we were sincerely forced to ponder our No.1 selection. In-line with other players sliding down the rankings due to the standard of their current league, Lionel Messi's reign at No.1 has drawn to an end, though he still remains a worthy entrant in this esteemed list.

There's no denying Messi has evolved. He has lost fractions of his blistering pace but his intelligence and manipulation of the football means his control over the result of games remains as strong as ever. He is not an all-action terrier, he won't pitch in with the dirty work, but to count that against him is to miss the point entirely.

Messi continues to dominate games – both subtly and explicitly – for club and country. His performances directly inspired Argentina to Copa America and World Cup trophies, and he transformed rock-bottom MLS team, Inter Miami, into cup finalists in the space of a month.

Messi's time at the top has come to an end due to the fact his presence in the growing, exuberant yet ultimately lower quality MLS will mask his decline. However, the magician has done more than enough to secure the throne in the Hall of Fame, football's greatest son. The GOAT. Undisputed, undoubted, the best ever.

6. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Kevin De Bruyne runs away to celebrate a goal for Man City
Kevin De Bruyne. Getty Images

Kevin De Bruyne appeared to experience a relatively lukewarm season in 2022/23 yet still created 22 goals and scored nine in 42 matches across the Premier League and Champions League combined. Injury issues have seen the Belgian fail to dominate our screens as often as he has done in the past, but is one of those players with such talent, he has made extraordinary achievements seem, well, ordinary.

KDB is the greatest crosser of a ball in Premier League history, while his vision and penchant for a defence-splitting pass combine with frightening effectiveness on a number of occasions.

De Bruyne is a high-spec footballer. He comes equipped with all the trimmings you could possibly hope for in one player. He's a lethal set-piece taker, he is unexpectedly physical, genuinely quick off the mark and has developed insatiable taste for winning. Without these things, KDB would remain a top, top player, but with them at his disposal, he is a multi-layered box of tricks. A strong end to 2023/24 could see him rise further up the list.

5. Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

Jude Bellingham celebrates a goal for Real Madrid with a cameraman behind him
Jude Bellingham. Getty Images

Some might say it's a season too soon to include him on this list of behemoths, but Bellingham has already shown enough to convince the world of his obscene talent at Dortmund, Real Madrid and on the international stage.

Bellingham's all-action, dynamic presence saw him transform from teenage wildcard to instant starter for England at the World Cup 2022 and he has never looked back. His displays for Dortmund put them firmly in title contention against the Bayern Munich juggernaut, spurned only by goal difference, before making the move to Real Madrid where he has added an abundance of goals to his arsenal.

He is the complete package in midfield already. Physically imposing, an immense ball carrier, with precision passing skills, Bellingham will continue to soar at his current trajectory, buoyed with enough confidence to claim Zinedine Zidane's No.5 shirt at the Bernabeu. Bellingham is a generational talent and is arguably *the* player to watch at Euro 2024 this summer.

4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Mohamed Salah in action for Liverpool
Mohamed Salah. Getty Images

The Egyptian King is enjoying a transition phase, from an elite Premier League player into an all-time legendary one.

Mohamed Salah's consistency remains remarkable with 31, 31, 30 goals in his last three seasons respectively across all competitions. He is rarely injured, rarely suspended and usually always available, proven by his 51 appearances in each of the last three campaigns.

For a player with a relatively simple playing style, he remains an enigma to halt. We say 'simple' in the least derogatory way possible. Salah is a touchline-hugging, direct winger with the ability to drive inside as he approaches the box. It should be easy to see it coming, but nobody has found a way to stop him.

If he racks up another couple of 20+ goal seasons, he will hit the 200 Premier League goals mark, an unbelievable achievement for any player, let alone a winger playing out wide.

3. Erling Haaland (Man City)

Erling Haaland celebrates a goal for Man City
Erling Haaland. Getty Images

Haaland has normalised the abnormal. Arguably, the Norse titan's only flaw in 2022/23 was setting the bar insurmountably high from the very start. Between the start of the season and the end of 2022, Haaland found the net 22 times in just 15 Premier League games. For context, that total would have won the Golden Boot in seven Premier League seasons.

The 23-year-old has continued to score a goal per game in the best league in world football, despite injury problems preventing him from hitting the 20-goal milestone by 2024 – an abject failure by his standards.

His physicality is unrivalled, his finishing ability – including improvised, instinctive finishing by any means necessary – is staggering and he boasts a turn of pace that few in the Premier League could match. The best bit? We're mostly likely yet to see Haaland at his absolute peak. The next few years should be explosive and, if he proves his consistency over several years, he will sit No.1 in this list without rival.

2. Harry Kane (Bayern Munich)

Harry Kane in action for Bayern Munich
Harry Kane. Getty Images

The relative mystique of foreign leagues can often inflate a player's reputation as we are fed their many highlights and rarely see their 4/10s, the days they'd rather not remember, their misses, their failures. The Premier League, in all its hyper-exposed, tribal glory, is often not a place where rival fans can appreciate world class talent when they see it. When Kane moved to Germany and made such a mockery of the Bundesliga, everyone finally saw the plain truth.

Kane's season-end tallies remain consistent around the 30-goal mark with a bundle of assists and uncountable contributions setting him above almost every other striker in the world. In 2023/24, he is averaging well above a goal per game in the league and is firmly on course to bag 45 goals in the 34-game season. For context, Robert Lewandowski set the single-season record in 2021 with 41.

The England captain's finishing is exemplary, his positioning to accommodate for a lack of raw pace is second-to-none, though his unique selling point is his uncanny playmaking ability, to pick a pass from deep, to swing a cross in, to play the No.10 and No.9 roles simultaneously and effectively and he achieved all of that in a Tottenham team that, with the greatest respect, was simply not at his level and rarely has been near his standard. He is the greatest natural No.9 in world football right now.

1. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Kylian Mbappe celebrates with PSG flags waving behind his head
Kylian Mbappe. Getty Images

Mbappé is a megastar forged by the crucible of the World Cup. It's an old-school way to achieve greatness given the prominence of the Champions League and Premier League, but Mbappé's international heroics prove his ability and mentality beyond all reasonable doubt.

Like Neymar, like Messi, like many before, he has made a mockery of Ligue 1 but his form on the global stage for both club and country puts him out in front. His World Cup final hat-trick will go down as the stuff of legends – a big time performance from a big time player.

Mbappé is often portrayed as a dramatic soap character in the ever-brewing psychodrama between PSG and Real Madrid, a large portion of his mind fixed on off-field politics, but the character he showed throughout the World Cup, his mentality and steely determination to drag his team kicking and screaming to the trophy has elevated him to the very top of the ladder.

The 25-year-old is one of the fastest footballers we've ever seen grace the field, with shooting technique like no other. He can strike the ball on the run or with immense power from a dead standing start, he can finesse shots low into the corners or drill the ball high and rising into the roof of the net. If you offer him an inch of the goal, he will punish you, mercilessly.

One concession: Mbappe's career does feel like it is on hold right now. He continues to torture French defences on a professional basis, but he needs out. He is likely to become a Real Madrid player in the summer and remind you why he is the best football player in the world in 2024.

Who is the best football player in the world?

Lionel Messi has been the undisputed king of the football world for the past decade, but his time at the top has drawn to a close. Kylian Mbappe is our best football player in the world 2024.

He should move to Real Madrid this summer and will slot in beautifully alongside Vinicius Jr and Jude Bellingham in the Spanish giants' attacking line-up.

Do you agree with our list? Of course you don't! And that's totally fine, even though you are completely wrong.


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