The 2022 World Cup is upon us, as the best players and international squads in the world have descended on Qatar for what should be a month of intense soccer action. As we build up to the big event, it's time for our annual look at the best soccer players in the world. Last year's list can be found here, and there have been a ton of changes.
Here is our list of the best the soccer world has to offer for 2022.
Best Soccer Players in the World
10. Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich, Senegal)
Losing Mane was brutal for Liverpool, who stumbled out of the gate this season after the 30-year-old forward departed for Bayern Munich in the offseason. The 2022 African Player of the Year, Mane led Senegal to the Africa Cup of Nations title this season, potting the decisive penalty. He repeated the feat when Senegal faced Egypt with World Cup qualification on the line. He has smoothly transitioned into a starring role for Bayern, scoring six goals in his first 14 Bundesliga appearances while adding three assists to that tally. He had 90 goals in 196 Premier League appearances over six seasons with Liverpool and has scored 34 times in 93 caps for Senegal. So he knows how to find the back of the net.
Mane was named to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year four times during his six seasons with Liverpool and won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2019. He is the best player from his continent and will lead a Senegal squad that has a good shot to make it out of Group A at the World Cup.
9. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)
Neymar turned 30 this year but he's still one of the best, most creative and entertaining attackers the world has to offer. And he's in excellent form entering the 2022 World Cup. This season he has racked up 11 goals in 14 Ligue 1 matches for Paris Saint-Germain and has five goals in five matches with Brazil in 2022. That adds to his total of 75 tallies in 121 caps for his country. According to him, this will be the superstar's final World Cup, so there will be a ton of pressure to perform at a high level.
Neymar has only won one trophy with Brazil, and that came at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. He took home the Bronze Boot at the 2014 World Cup after scoring four goals. He added two in 2018 but Brazil bowed out in the quarterfinals. He'll be looking to do far more this season.
8. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool, Netherlands)
Since joining Liverpool in 2017, Van Dijk has developed into a prototypical centre-back. A physical presence with good speed who is great on the ball and an excellent tackler, Van Dijk is as good as it gets on defense in the world. He's also active on set pieces, and has 14 Premier League goals to his name in six seasons with Liverpool. He has also scored six times in 49 appearances for the Netherlands.
Van Dijk was a key piece of The Reds' 2019-20 Premier League title and their Champions League win in 2019, when he was named Defender of the Season. He was named Premier League Player of the season in 2019, and has been on the PFA Team of the Year three times. While Manchester City's Ruben Dias isn't far behind, Van Dijk is the world's top defender. He's the captain and leader of a Dutch national team that won its group and cruised through qualification for the World Cup.
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7. Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid, Belgium)
Courtois struggled a bit after ditching Chelsea for Real Madrid but has found his mojo again. That rise to dominance was on display during the 2022 Champions League Final where he was named man of the match after making nine saves in a 1-0 victory over Liverpool. He now firmly holds the title of best keeper in the world.
The 30-year-old will anchor the defense for Belgium, a team that is a legitimate threat to win the 2022 World Cup. Courtois is no stranger to winning. He's won two La Liga titles, the Supercopa de Espana twice and the Champions League title in 2022. He was on the La Liga Team of the Season, as well as the Champions League Team of the Season in 2022. He enters the World Cup riding the best form of his career.
6. Robert Lewandowski (FC Barcelona, Poland)
Lewandowski probably should have won the Ballon d'Or in 2021, but lost out to Lionel Messi. There's no shame in that but it was probably the best chance he'll ever have. The 34-year-old has continued his dominance since. At the 2022 World Cup, Poland's hopes rest squarely at the striker's feet. He has scored 76 goals in 134 international appearances and that number will have to grow if the Poles are going to survive Group C.
After 238 goals in 253 Bundesliga appearances over eight seasons, Lewandowski bolted for Barcelona this summer. All he's done since arriving in La Liga is score 18 times in 19 total appearances. He has won the European Golden Show twice, has been named Ballon d'Or Striker of the Year twice and was named Bundesliga Player of the Season two times, while landing on the league's Team of the Season nine times.
Lewandowski's balance, strength and efficiency on the ball are his best attributes along with an incredible nose for goal. He is still as good as anyone on the planet at scoring goals and has shown no signs of slowing down.
5. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
The reigning Ballon d'Or winner has found the best form of his career at 34 years old. Benzema was incredible during the 2021-22 season, scoring 44 goals in 46 appearances for Real Madrid. That includes 27 in 32 Serie A matches as the club topped its league, won the Supercopa de Espana and took home a Champions League title.
Benzema has 410 career club goals (including 224 in Serie A) and has found the net 37 times in 97 appearances for France. Benzema was shockingly left off the 2018 World Cup squad, so he'll enter 2022 with a chip on his shoulder. He will team with Kylian Mbappe to give France a ferocious attack.
4. Erling Haaland (Manchester City, Norway)
The 22-year-old Haaland has exploded onto the scene in his first Premier League season, scoring 18 goals in his first 13 matches. Unfortunately the wunderkind striker won't be in the World Cup as Norway was eliminated during the group stage of qualifying. It's a real shame, because Haaland has 21 goals in 23 matches for his country.
Haaland can do it all up top as a center forward. He has an insanely high IQ for such a young player and has an innate feel for the game. Haaland always seems to take the correct angle to the ball and through a defense, and his body control is otherworldly. He has already scored a number of incredible goals since joining the Premier League. Don't be shocked if he tops this list soon.
3. Lionel Messi (Argentina, Paris Saint-Germain)
At 35 years old, Lionel Messi is still near the top of this list. Remarkably, after a down season (by his standards) in 2021, Messi is in some of the best form of his career entering the 2022 World Cup. He has found his footing at PSG after a slow start despite winning his seventh Ballon d'Or in 2021. Now he's rolling and has scored 12 goals in 19 total appearances this season, while leading Ligue 1 with 10 assists.
Messi helped lead Les Parisiens to a Ligue 1 title last season and also helped Argentina win the 2021 Copa America, his first major international tournament victory with his country. He's arguably still the best player in the world with the ball at his feet. He is entering what may be his final tournament for his country and looking to go out with a bang.
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
De Bruyne has established himself as the best playmaker in the Premier League and is the backbone of Manchester City's attack. His pairing with Haaland has only served to elevate both players. Now De Bruyne will attempt to carry that success over to Belgium in the World Cup.
The 31-year-old has been named Premier League Player of the Season twice (2020, 2022), PFA Players' Player of the Year twice (2020, 2021) and has been named to the league's team of the year four times. He's currently leading the Premier League in assists with nine. A relentless attacker with incredible vision and creativity, De Bruyne is arguably the best passer in the world and undoubtedly the best midfielder on the planet.
1. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
At the 2018 World Cup, Mbappe exploded onto the scene, announcing himself as a bonafide star. At 19 years old, he scored four goals and won the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award while leading France to a world championship. He's done nothing but dominate since then. He's been named Ligue 1 Player of the Year three times now, and has scored 118 goals in 128 Ligue 1 appearances in five seasons with PSG. For France, he has bagged 29 goals in 59 appearances.
Mbappe has only elevated himself over time and at 23 is now the most dangerous striker in the world. His pace and finishing ability are unparalleled at the position. Entering the World Cup he has 19 goals in 20 appearances for PSG this season. But, it's worth noting, he hasn't scored for France in 18 months. He'll need to change that if Les Bleus plan to repeat in 2022.