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The Best 16 Footballers of 2016 (3-1)

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...
#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering…

This is the conclusion to the series we started on the blog two days ago. We’ll be taking a look at the the top 3 footballers who wowed football fans the world over and mesmerized us again, and again, and again.

Note: Since it was a very unusual year of football, we thought to pull off”an unusual” with our own list too! Wondering what it is? Don’t worry. You’ll find it if you keep reading. If you’re a bit confused about where the list of other footballers is, you can read them up here and here. Let’s continue our countdown, shall we?

3. Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona & Argentina)

It is said that all men are equals before God but as a sports commentator said, seeing Messi play makes you doubt the statement. Is there a list of great footballers this Argentine won’t make? Every year of his playing career has been about showing off different sides of his greatness. Little wonder he has earned comparisons to the greats and can arguable be categorised as an all-time best.

Blonde Great: Lionel Messi in action
Blonde Great: Lionel Messi in action

Despite the setbacks of this year the 29-year old helped Barcelona on their way to yet another La Liga title and made Suarez’s journey to the Golden Boot smoother. Yes, he missed out (just) on glory for his country during the year as his side got beat in the Copa America 100 final but, you’ll find it hard to come up with three names that have been better than Leo this year.

Of course, going blonde was among the many facets of great that Messi showed off this year. The tatts increased, he retired from international football, unretired (who else can pull that off?) and pulled off that stunning 20-seconds display against Espanyol.

Winning just one trophy and scoring just 59 goals (the highest any could garner over the year) and 31 assists in all competitions in the calendar year may not be good enough by his standards but the fact remains, Leo’s a football god.

2. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)

Bale and Baby: Gareth Bale and his daughter at the Euro 2016
Bale and Baby: Gareth Bale and his daughter at the Euro 2016

2016 was just another 2014 for Gareth Bale… except that in 2014, Gareth Bale wasn’t busy scoring in Wales’ first 3 games in the European Championships and Real Madrid hadn’t offered him an eye-watering, stomach-churning, knee-trembling contract.

During the year 2016, Gareth Bale helped Real Madrid on their way to the treble: the UEFA Champions League trophy, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup (erm, he didn’t exactly feature in Japan due to injury but I’m sure his winners’ medal will be mailed to him in Wales where he’s spending his Christmas. Better still, Perez will keep it safe for him).

After such a stellar year,it didn’t come as a surprise when the Welshman finished in the top 10 footballers of the year 2016 as ranked by the organizers of the Ballon d’Or. He scored 16 goals in the Spanish La Liga during the calendar year (11 in the 2015/2016 season and 5 in the 2016/2017 season) and 2 goals in the UEFA Champions League (both coming against Legia Warsaw).

For Wales, Gareth Bale didn’t fail to show up. He scored 3 goals in the Euro 2016, almost single-handedly dragging Wales into the semi-final of the Euro 2016. He added another 4 goals in their bid to grab a ticket to the Russia 2018 World Cup.

I can still remember his work rate in that Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. He seemed to be all over the place, racing down possession and causing Simeone’s men all kinds of headache. Whether playing left or right in Real’s attacking line, the 27-year-old’s speed always rattled opposition defense. His crosses were always sublime and his shots? Fearsome!

2. Antoine Griezmann (France & Atletico Madrid)

The European Golden Boy: Antoine Griezmann celebrates a goal scored with Dimitri Payet in the European Championships
The European Golden Boy: Antoine Griezmann celebrates a goal scored with Dimitri Payet in the European Championships

When you had a fantastic summer like Antoine did, then it’s hard to ignore you while the end-of-the-year list is being compiled. When you add to that the coming up just two spots shy of the 2016 Ballon d’Or award, then you become worthy of being included in any end-of-the-year list.

Griezmann, despite all his outstanding performances during the year, could not win any trophy but the Frenchman almost had the best year any individual player could have. He almost won both the UEFA Champions League and the European Championships. Not so many got so close (except for You-Know-Who).

Remember that hotline bling celebration that became a worldwide sensation? How about those goals scored in front of millions of his own countrymen? Let’s round things up here with an exceprt from FIFA:

Antoine Griezmann watched on as Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the trophy – and, struggling to wipe away his tears, the tournament’s top scorer and best player could barely manage that. There had been tears a month earlier too, when the France forward had missed a penalty before converting during the shootout even if it wasn’t sufficient to hoist the UEFA Champions League trophy.
It wasn’t a new thing for Griezmann. The Frenchman had lost several times before. The 25-year old had always picked himself up even when he was much younger.
“That early passion for the game was so powerful that Griezmann sometimes forgot the usual routines and obligations of a child his age.

“His mother told me an anecdote which really shows how football had already become the most important thing to him,” says Chetoux. “One day he was leaving for school and his mother asked him, ‘Antoine, have you got everything? You haven’t forgotten anything?’ ‘No mum,’ he said. ‘I’ve got my ball!’ But he’d actually forgotten his schoolbag.”


1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)

Lol.. err, too much to handle Ronnie? C. Ronaldo "in action" against Austria at the European Championships
Lol.. err, too much to handle Ronnie? C. Ronaldo “in action” against Austria at the European Championships
  • UEFA Champions League winner? Check!
  • UEFA Super Cup winner? Check!
  • European Championship winner? Check!
  • Ballon d’OR winner? Check!
  • FIFA Club World Cup winner? Check!
  • World’s highest paid athlete? Double check!

In 2015, I thought I had seen it all. After scoring 55 goals during the year 2015, I thought he had little or nothing to prove again. But, characteristic of CR7, he proved me wrong (you too I’m sure), on all levels!

The goal-scoring machine banged in 52 goals during the 2016 calendar year (31 in La Liga, 10 for Portugal, 4 in the Club World Cup, 7 in the UEFA Champions League). He may have conceded the Golden Boot to Luis Suarez but there’s no doubting the consistency of CR7.

Cheers to a good year: C. Ronaldo says hello to one of his fans
Cheers to a good year: C. Ronaldo says hello to one of his fans

Real Madrid must have felt very lucky to have the sensation, hence the reason why they decided to extend his contract, thereby contributing their own quota to make him the world’s highest paid sportsman. On the pitch, Ronaldo seems to not be in any mood to slow down.

His Man-of-the-Match performances against Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg, Hungary, Celta Vigo, all coming in the first half of the year, is testament to how much more he wants to keep winning those trophies. No, he didn’t score the winning goal that won Portugal her first European championship. But his ‘CR7 Live’ performance on the sidelines that day helped his team on their way to a surprise trophy win.

1/4: Cristiano Ronaldo and his son pose with the UEFA Champions League trophy
1/4: Cristiano Ronaldo and his son pose with the UEFA Champions League trophy

At this point, I’m tempted to kick-start again the ever-green argument, but obviously both are kings in their own shape and size (you get it, right?). It’s just glaring how much one has achieved with his country in the space of a year… and how much the other struggled to achieve same for his country.Enough said.


P.S: Surprise! We were able to squeeze in two players into the no. 2 spot. Don’t blame us. It would have been suicidal to drop either names from our list. So, we decided to pull some magic off (like Leicester City did).


Now that you’ve seen them all, what do you think? And I’m not just talking about having two players on the no.2 spot. I’m talking about our 16 (well, make that 17) players who made our end-of-the-year list? What do you think? Did we leave someone out in the cold? Is there a player who made this list unworthily?

Let’s know what you think by leaving a comment in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you! Or you prefer personal messages? Hit us up on our twitter pages (links are embedded in our names below). 


Special thanks to the names that argued back-n-forth well enough and made this list become a reality. Tosin Adesina, Kolawole Awolope and Posi Olayiwola. Thanks for your valuable contributions guys! Let’s do this again next year.

For reading this far, and this much (I think it’s a 4,000-plus-words series), I’d like to say a big thank you. Thank you for always coming back over the year to see what we’ve got on offer. Thanks for being part of our year.

Cheers to a fab year ahead! 😉 Much love


Rotimi "Papi" Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi 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 to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @rotdav to keep up with his writings and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.

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