Who is the best football team in the world? The argument will never be settled, nor is there an objective 'right' answer. The debate will never stop rumbling, the factions will never stop warring, football can never be truly, definitively conquered.
At the start of 2022, optimism is high among many of the world's top teams. The Champions League knockout rounds are rolling back around, domestic leagues across the world are resuming with less disruption than the latter stages of 2021. Football is returning to an even keel.
But which teams are sitting on the top of the world as things stand? We attempt to round up the top 10 best teams in the world to kick-start 2022.
Our criteria revolves around current standing in domestic competitions and on the continent. We have taken into account the strength of leagues and disregarded very short-term form. Juventus are a prime example of the notion that form is temporary, class is permanent. They have dominated for a decade, and one off-colour season has not crippled their status among the best.
However, the biggest omission from this list is Barcelona. It's going to be three years without a La Liga title in 2022, they've dropped out of the Champions League and their brightest light has gone, replaced by a hodgepodge of spare parts that haven't clicked into gear yet.
We've tried to balance recent trajectory, this current season's form and indicators of future growth to formulate out top 10. We know you might not agree, but who do you think is our No.1?
RadioTimes.com brings you the top 10 best football teams in the world at the start of 2022.
We kick off the list with a revitalised, historic giant. Ajax may fall short of their former glory, but a sparkle has returned to Amsterdam in recent years.
The Dutch side enjoyed a stellar run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019. That side was broken up and splintered across Europe, but highly-rated boss Erik ten Hag has rebuilt the squad and won all six Champions League group games this term.
Being in the less prestigious Dutch league, Ajax unfortunately have a lower ceiling than most teams on this list, but they remain a jewel in European football.
9. Manchester United
Yes, I know. I know. Manchester United are arguably the most contentious team in this list, but those with memories longer than a few months will appreciate that United aren't a finished entity.
United were on an upward trajectory last season. They reached second in the Premier League, fell at the last hurdle in the Europa League final and with Bruno Fernandes in tantalising form and terrific young signings like Jadon Sancho arriving at the club – not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo – things were looking up.
Of course, this season hasn't panned out in the expected manner. Reports of discontent are never far away but United are not in terminal decline. They boast a squad brimming with excellent talents deeply lacking confidence and a new, hungry manager could take them back to the top. They have descended this list, but they remain deserving of a place on it.
A historic giant with total dominance in Italy for the last decade, Juventus have wavered during the COVID pandemic times.
They sit fifth in Serie A right now, one place below where they finished the 2020/21 campaign, but a transitional period post-Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn't erase their strong standpoint in the continental football. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
Despite their domestic troubles, Juventus have remained consistent Champions League knockout round competitors and will feature in the Round of 16 once more after five wins in six group stage clashes. They have endured a wobble but are back on the rise.
Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku's departures threatened to derail Inter no sooner than they had finally returned to the summit of Italian football. Reports of their demise have been proven to be greatly exaggerated.
Inter have lost just one game in Serie A this term. They sit top of the league and into the knockout rounds of the Champions League, albeit in scruffy fashion.
Simone Inzaghi has extracted plenty of goals from Lautaro Martinez and seasoned 35-year-old Edin Dzeko to maintain his team's place at the top of the tree. And they're yet to properly splash the £160 million received from the Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi deals in the summer.
6. Real Madrid
Carlo Ancelotti's men remain a predictable force in Spain and on the continent at a time when their fierce rivals Barcelona have vanished from relevance.
Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric still form the spine of the team as they sit top of La Liga and their Champions League group.
Age is a concern for Madrid, who must form a succession plan for the next few years in a more competent fashion than Barcelona's catastrophic filling of the Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi gaps. However, Vinicius Junior has hit deadly form and boasts one of the brightest futures of any player on the planet.
The reigning Champions League winners simply have to be this high up on the list. It's the hardest club competition to win, but they did it, and tamed beasts along the way.
Thomas Tuchel's side know how to dig in and grind out results in knockout ties. It's why they won Europe's top honour, it's why they do well in domestic cups.
Injuries have played a part in early-year wobbles, but they're in good shape to finish the season among the top three in the Premier League and remain a side that no team will want to face in the Champions League.
Many won't like to hear it, they won't like to acknowledge it, but PSG are a big fish in the European pond now.
Their form has been average in Ligue 1 and the Champions League alike, they've done enough without going above and beyond, but defeating Manchester City this season was a massive show of force.
Any team that boasts Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria among the ranks simply has to rank this highly on the world stage. Of course, that puts enormous pressure on Mauricio Pochettino's shoulders to succeed. This season. Now.
It hasn't been a 'clean' season for Liverpool so far, but they boast the hottest player in world football right now among their attacking forces.
Mohamed Salah is deadly. The Egyptian King has produced some of the most outrageous form of his career to date this season. Sadio Mane has picked up in 2021/22 and Diogo Jota has slotted in beautifully.
There are issues in defence that must be resolved in the second half of the campaign, but make no mistake, Liverpool remain in contention to win big, big prizes this term.
2. Bayern Munich
Nine consecutive Bundesliga titles, five German Cup titles and two Champions League trophies in the last nine years. Bayern Munich are a consistent force.
They boast the world's best striker, Robert Lewandowski, who was criminally overlooked for the Ballon d'Or this year after scoring 41 goals in just 29 league games last season.
The Polish striker has picked up this term with 20 goals in 18 matches. He is the ultimate natural striker and so long as he remains at the club, they always boast a chance of winning everything football has to offer.
1. Manchester City
It feels as though the top three on this list are in a league of their own and will take several years to dislodge. You could trim Liverpool away and leave Bayern and City at the top based on sheer tangible trophies.
City continue to find new ways to win games of football. It's that simple. Every time something works against them, such as the failure to replace a massive name like Sergio Aguero up front, Pep Guardiola finds a way to adapt.
This adaptability sets them apart from every other team at Europe's top table. Strip Lewandowski away from Bayern, what happens? Strip Salah away from Liverpool, what happens? Strip Kevin De Bruyne away from City, they adapt, Bernardo Silva steps up. Strip Gabriel Jesus, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling out, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden step up.
City are dominating the Premier League and crunching through the Champions League as a shape-shifting beast. If they add a striker in January, they could turbo-charge their season and leave everyone in the dust.