With all the Mourinho-Scholes drama and all, it seems like we’re in for a ride this New Year. As we anticipate all the drama that will be coming up in the months to come, we take a look at 17 players whose performances over the year 2017 lefts mouths ajar, and ripped record books apart.
- David De Gea (Manchester United & Spain)
14 saves in one game, 10 PL clean sheets, 0.74 average goals conceded, 4.43 saves per goal, 3.26 saves per game. These are monstrous numbers for a goalkeeper who mans the post at England’s biggest club, Manchester United.
It is also a fair reflection of how unprotected David de Gea is. He is the mountain between most players and their team’s victory, and anytime United lost in 2017, fingers were never pointed at him. The reason is not far-fetched. The Spaniard has saved them from defeats countless times.
It’s not surprising Madrid are still in the hunt for someone now considered the best goalkeeper in the world, especially now that howlers never seem to be far from those at the Bernabeu. He has grown from the doughnut niching and naïve sod to a world beater despite the odds. Take a bow, David. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool & Brazil)
The mercurial Brazilian was at the heart of everything Liverpool did in 2017. Despite the small matter of Barcelona’s charm offensive to bring him to the Camp Nou, Coutinho has knuckled down and given his best efforts at Anfield. He has become an integral part of Tite’s set-up and is considered the other magician in the squad asides Neymar.
He has already racked up 11 goals this season, laying on a further 7. He is second only to Gerrard in terms of most long range goals scored at Liverpool and is the joint top free-kick scorer since the start of 2016/17. Awolope Kolawole
- Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich & Poland)
The classic definition of a fox in the box. Robert Lewandowski is the striker everyone wishes they have but don’t. At a time when pure no. 9’s are no longer in vogue, the Pole is making a case for them. His 30 goals last season were not enough to win the Torjakapone.
He made his feelings clear to those in Bavaria and already, he is enroute breaking that personal record. He netted his 200th Bundesliga goal in November and his 16 goals in World Cup Qualifying propelled Poland to their first mundial since 2006.
Never has a man carried the hopes of a nation like this bloke. If Poland will go far at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Bayern end up winning another treble; Check the goals column, Lewandowski’s name would be all over it. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid & France)
He is known more for his hotline bling celebration on the pitch. The fact that Antoine Griezmann, not Paul Pogba, is France’s poster boy says it all. He opened the scoring at the Wanda and when he suffered a goal drought, Atletico suffered. That’s how important he is to Diego Simeone’s side.
His multi-dimensional style of play has seen him been utilized in four roles this year; as the lone forward, on the left and the right, and behind the forward (which seems to be his favourite position). It is from there he has netted 5 in 17/18, creating 23 chances. He has 2.2 shots per goal, an indication of his precaution in shooting.
His decision to play the pass rather than the shot is perhaps the reason why he isn’t getting the rep he deserves. He belongs to the cadre of players who can win the Ballon d’Or after Messi and Ronaldo are gone. The bidding war and transfer hassle going on between Barcelona and Man United over his signature attest to that. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Kylian Mbappe Lottin (PSG/Monaco & France)
The Cameroonian-born French international has been a revelation in 2017. Bursting unto the scene as a burgeoning and ambituous 18-year old, the teenager took the world by storm just like his football role-model ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ has.
He has scored 10 Champions League goals, becoming the youngest and fastest to reach that mark. He had netted 14 times and laid on a further 11 in the second half of the 16/17 season alone. It was enough to convince PSG to shell out €180m next summer. Such was his rise.
He has 12 already this season for Le Parisiens. He is a Bondy native and has explained that was why he chose PSG over Madrid. Now 19, with a huge transfer fee on his head, and playing with no pressure, Mbappe is playing well beyond his years.
His goal against Buffon last season while at Monaco unveiled that. He is the best “teen” to happen to football since the real Ronaldo. Expect him to be the player with the highest accumulated transfer fee at the end of his career. Rotimi Daramola
- Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium)
6 goals, 8 assists, 2.2 shots per goal and 55 chances created, all in 19 Premier League games in the 17/18 season. Even the 17m pass length is not a surprise, when given that the Belgian seems to throw them at ease. Benardo Silva was a benefactor of two of such passes against United alone.
Leroy Sane receives one on the average when he is on the pitch.Raheem Sterling? It is part of the reason he has got 13 goals already this season. What about the goals? His belter at Chelsea, the acute drive against Arsenal, and an almost identical finish against Spurs has seen the Belgian become integral part of Pep Guardiola’s squad.
That is Kevin de Bruyne, the same one rejected by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea for not convincing him enough. He is the reason Chelsea fans haven’t held back cussing Jose. His ability to see through the needle’s eye leaves the most intelligent pundits and stone-faced critics appreciating his greatness. He is already an early contender for PFA Player of the season and it would take a dip in form of magnificent proportions if he doesn’t win. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium)
When Chelsea fired Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese claimed his work had been betrayed. He in fact went as far as indirectly singling out Eden Hazard as one of the main protagonists of his unceremonial exit. However, all that is now history, partly because Hazard bettered his season records for goals and assists as he fired Chelsea to the title the following season.
He failed to win the PFA Player of the year award that season, one he would have won every other year had it not been for the presence of one N’golo Kante. His sleek touches are complimented by excellent dribbling skills. His ability to get out of the tiniest of spaces with his nimble feet made him one of the most fouled player in the 2016/2017 Premier League season. Many make a case for him to be a Ballon d’Or contender, but for him to do that, he must add goals to his game. Awolope Kolawole
- Marcelo Junior (Real Madrid & Brazil)
At half-time in the Champions League final, fans were bothered at Real Madrid’s play. They had failed to exude the brilliance that took them to the final. Step in the noodles-haired Brazilian, who reminds one of Ronaldinho. His coming to life coincided with Madrid’s best spell in the game, and at full time, they had won a 12th Champions League title, the same as the number of the Brazilian’s jersey.
For a left-back, Marcelo is nothing short of unbelievable. He is the best in the world and it isn’t had to believe. Not only does he contribute defensively, He gives Madrid width in attack, almost operating as a Left Wing Back.
The way his hair flows when he dribbles (yes, you read right) reminds one of Ronaldinho, add that he scored a goal the buck toothed Brazilian would be proud of against Valencia when the title race went to the wire. It’s not a coincidence that the Merengue aren’t the same when he isn’t unsung.
He has created 25chances this season already in La Liga and his exemplary calm leadership is the counterbalance to Sergio Ramos’ hot-headedness. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Harry Kane (Tottenham & England)
As at 2013, not many analysts and pundits including my humble self would rate Kane as being close to being Premier league class not to talk of being world class. However, his case especially over the past year has been nothing short of sensational and it can only be attributed to nothing less than hard work. In the past 2 seasons by virtue of constant hours in training, getting his finishing technique and his striking play correct, he has developed in leaps and bounds.
He top scored in the Premier league for the second straight season in 2016/2017 despite being struck with injury for months, he has also resumed from where he left off in the current season despite the fact that he didn’t score in August, he also scored more goals in the Premier league in a calendar year than any other player breaking a 22 year record.
He also scored more goals than arguably two of the greatest footballers of all time in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, such feats have made both European giants cast admiring glances at him. In the international football arena, he captained his country with his goals aiding his country to qualifying for next summer’s world cup.
With these staggering achievements it is safe to say he has morphed to nothing short of world class and the scary thing is, he is only 24 with many more years of improvement still to come! His story particularly in this past year only strengthens the case of how hardwork can lift you from the doldrums of amateur football with Ridgeway rovers to Superstardom.
The Hurri-Kane is doing a great business of silencing the doubters!!!! Victor Opone & Dele Omoarukhe
- N’golo Kante (Chelsea & France)
He’s a must on this list. That’s all. Bye!
If that’s all that was written about Kante’s inclusion on this list and someone found a reason to argue with it, that person’s sanity should be questioned.
The world has run out of superlatives for the dimunitive Frenchman who was a crucial component of Chelsea’s title winning season. It didn’t matter who he was paired with in Chelsea’s 3-4-3, he gave them a chance to flourish. In fact, at some point last season, Matic (yes, same Matic) was among the league’s leaders in terms of assists.
On to the start of a new season in late 2017, Kante has improved further. Beyond breaking up opposition play (3.4 tackles and 1.9 interceptions per game in 2017/2018), Kante has added to his attacking play, unafraid to drive forward with the ball and often taking shots from range too. He has 1.6 key passes per game and an average of 0.8 shots per game-not a bad deal best known for his defensive prowess. There is no doubt that Kante, on current form, will be on this list again in 2018. Apampa Tobiloba
- Paulo Dybala (Juventus & Argentina)
The new Juventus stadium, now the Allianz stadium witnessed a great event in 2017, the glory of their own Messi, Paulo Dybala. Against Barcelona and rank underdogs, the mask netted twice and put in the most distinct display of what is a young career. It was a statement to Messi in front of him. I am not the new you, I am me.
There is no saying that he is right. He started the new season with 10goals in 5games, unbelievable numbers even for the Serie A. His deft left foot and trademark black boots wreaks havoc at every turn. He is the toast of everyone; Madrid want to make him a Galactico, Man United want him a Red devil, PSG believe he, Neymar and Mbappe would make them the team to beat, Barcelona want him to be Messi’s anointed.
For now, he remains Juve’s Dybala. Rotimi Daramola
- Toni Kroos (Real Madrid & Germany)
In a football world ruled by goals and assists rather than guile, craft and technique; Toni Kroos has shown he is stll to be singled out as one of the best players. A favorite of both purists and sentimentalists alike, the way he handles the ball with poise and then passes it with technique make you wonder if he belonged to this world. His vision is nothing but extraordinary.
His passing success rate of 91.9% is no fluke. In fact, only twice this year, did his pass completion in games fall below 90%, he has created 26chances already in 2017/18 and his average pass length is 19m(Long eh?). He knows his job isn’t to score goals to even assist them, but to keep the system functioning and in sync. It is they, fans must realize make the game interesting.
If Real Madrid were to be an orchestra, Kroos was and is the conductor that has kept and still keeps them producing the beautiful football they showed us in 2017. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy)
‘’This old man’’. Those were the words of Cristiano Ronaldo when describing Gigi Buffon at the 2017 FIFA best Awards. His tears were uncontrollable after Italy was out of World Cup reckoning. It was clear the passion had never left him. It is sad football won’t pay its homage to one of its favourite sons.
Dino Zoff would smile at Buffon’s stats and be proud of him. Over 22 years and still at the top, Ivan Rakitic said he could swap his World Cup place for him, Andres Iniesta said he was unhappy the best goalkeeper in this generation won’t be at the world cup. At 40, he is still in the business of keeping clean sheets, taking 5 already this season. He hasn’t suffered the lulls of Casillas or Bravo.
He still makes an average 2.1 saves per game and a staggering 2.63 saves per goal and has only conceded 9 times in 10 games in Serie A. While the games have begun to take their toll, never count against the old man playing till he is 44. After all, Juventus only conceded 1 goal in the Champions League from January till May before they faced an inspired Madrid juggernaut. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Luka Modric (Real Madrid & Croatia)
The most underrated player in the world. Luka Modric controls the midfield with guile and confidence. It’s his playground. He serves football like a reputable chef sure of the meal he gives to his customer.
The Croat bosses games with ease. It’s his raison d’etre. The carriage of the ball reminds one of Ronaldinho with the way his hair flows. He might only contribute the odd goal and assist; it is however, his job is to make those assists and goals possible.
He is the master of build-up play. His absence in the team is like removing the battery that makes a clock tick. Check Madrid’s win ratio with and without him. . Rotimi Daramola
- Neymar da Silva (PSG/Barcelona & Brazil)
There are 222million reasons why he must be on this list, least not been that he almost left Barcelona in a state of commotion upon his exit. The skilful Brazilian has already shown why he is the most expensive player of all time.
He continues to sizzle and dazzle and has attempted and completed the second most number of dribbles in Europe this season, only Messi has more. His tally of 17goals and 12 assists in all competitions are complemented by and nigh on impossible shots per goal ratio of 1 in 4 which indicates he doesn’t shoot anyhow.
He has suffered the most fouls in Ligue 1 despite playing 5games less than the total tally. Factor in his contribution for A Seleccao where he is only 22goals from equalling Pele’s record, and his reinvigoration under Tite.
He left Barcelona to emerge from Messi’s shadow and if anyone can stop Leo and Ronaldo, it will be him. But first, he must scale a Ronaldo shaped obstacle in the Champions League, and lead his Brazil team to World glory. Fate might smile on him, he is 25, and the age a darling Ronaldo de lima led the Auriverde to a 5th title after the heartbreak of a previous World cup. Fijasewa Arogunyo
Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
54 goals in a calendar year, a hat-trick that sent Argentina to the World Cup, 25 Clasico Goals and the goal that broke the duck against Buffon. There was also the finish that brought alive the title race at the Bernabeu with his jersey held aloft in front of the cameras.
Messi, only Messi, can create as many moments as possible in one year that would play in your brain even in your sleep. The pass to Jordi Alba against Valencia was on playback in my mind for over two weeks. King Leo eh?
Russia would be perfect for him to seal his legacy as the greatest, but even the greats have a blemish and this might be Messi’s, to never win a World Cup. However, there is no debate, He is the finest of this generation and 2017 once again was evidence of that on a personal level. Rotimi Daramola
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
2017 was a year that Cristiano Ronaldo will probably not forget in his life. On and off the pitch, CR7 was busy counting blessings after blessings. During the time, he was busy winning another Champions League trophy, another FIFA Ballon d’Or accolade, another UEFA Super Cup and another FIFA World Club Cup title.
He has not exactly enjoyed the best start to the 2017/2018 La Liga campaign but his 2017 was better than every other player that you can mention. Did I mention his new set of twins which he welcomed during the calendar year?
With all these within a calendar year, it’s almost unnecessary to start a roll-call about how many goals he scored in 2017 and how many assists he made. His FIFA The Best Player of the Year award has, in one way or the other, settled that argument.
All hail Cristiano Ronaldo, FTG’s best player of 2017. Rotimi Daramola
Do you agree with our list? Have we committed an unforgivable crime by omitting a player who should have been included in the first place? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts with us. We’d like to hear from you.
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.