Although Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are still racking up the goals in Europe’s elite competitions and competing for the title of best football player of all time, they’re certainly nearing the ends of their glittering careers.

So the question remains, are they still the two best players in the world? And if they aren’t, who is?

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah is a player who knows how to deliver on the big stage – and do it consistently. His first season at Liverpool in 2017-18 was a revelation as he tore defences apart on the way to netting a sublime 32 Premier League goals. Had Egypt had a better World Cup campaign that summer, he would have surely been a shoo-in for the Ballon d’Or.

While perhaps his second campaign was less explosive than his first at Liverpool, he still ended up the club’s top scorer in all competitions, with 28 goals in all, as they lifted the Champions League, with Salah also finishing up as joint-Premier League top scorer. In 2019/20, Salah had 29 goal involvements in 34 appearances as Liverpool finally claimed their elusive first Premier League crown.

Since then he has continued to exceed all expectations, passing 100 Premier League goals for Liverpool in just 151 games, faster than any player in their history and breaking a host of other scoring records on the way.

Kylian Mbappe

That Kylian Mbappe has achieved all that he has done so far in what has already been a thrilling career by the age of 22 years old is incredible. The striker has won the World Cup, is one of the most expensive players of all time, wanted by the world’s biggest clubs, has won three Ligue 1 titles, eight more domestic trophies, ended up with 42 goals in all competitions last season and is already one of the most famous footballers in the world. The list goes on…

Yes, it’s easy to say he’s only plying his trade in Ligue 1, where the millionaires of Paris Saint-Germain are often light years ahead of many of the clubs in France, but with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it may not be long until Real Madrid come calling, and when they do, he could yet take his game to a whole new level.

With his raw pace, potent finishing and intelligence beyond his years, it’s frightening to think just how good the Frenchman can still become.

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewan-goal-ski as he was humorously nicknamed by Thomas Muller, is aging like a fine wine. Every season he somehow manages to score more goals, and look better in doing so than he ever did before.

Lewandowski really arrived on the scene during his time at Borussia Dortmund, scoring 103 goals in 187 appearances before sealing a move to German rivals Bayern Munich for the start of the 2014/15 season.

In 717 career club appearances he has amassed a whopping 511 goals and shows no signs of slowing down. He has scored 62 goals so far in 2021, winning a 7th Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich in the process, making him many people’s favourite to scoop this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Sadio Mane

If Mohamed Salah makes the cut, then based on the last few seasons, so too does his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane. The Liverpool No.10 was voted by Reds fans as their best attacking player in 2018/19, ahead of Salah, as the English club marched to Champions League glory. The Senegal international also finished up as joint-Premier League top scorer alongside his Liverpool team-mate and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 22 goals.

Since then, Mane has scored 37 Premier League goals in 82 appearances, including 11 in Liverpool’s title winning campaign of 2019/20. In October 2021 he scored his 100th Premier League goal, becoming just the third African player to reach the landmark.

Alongside his teammate Salah, he comprises part of one of Europe’s most feared attacks, and on his day is undoubtedly amongst the top 10 football players in the world.

Kevin De Bruyne

Although Kevin De Bruyne has been frustrated by injuries across recent seasons, on his day he is the standout creative midfielder in world football. After joining Manchester City in 2016 for £55m, many had wondered whether De Bruyne would be able to justify his price tag.

Those concerns were swiftly put to bed however after an impressive debut season was followed by a stellar year in which Man City won the Premier League title. De Bruyne racked up 16 assists in the league and was awarded the inaugural Playmaker of the Season crown as well as named Manchester City’s player of the year.

Since then, De Bruyne has scored 44 goals and provided 78 assists in 144 Premier League appearances, has won two further league titles, seven domestic trophies and appeared in a Champions League final. Whilst he has been held back by injuries so far this season, there’s no doubt we’ll see the Belgian back to his best before too long.

Neymar

Neymar these days may well be a controversial addition to this list. A year or two ago that would not be the case with the Brazil international commanding a staggering world-record fee of £199.8 million back in 2017 as he swapped Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain – a figure that doesn’t look like being beaten anytime soon.

Behind the decision to move to PSG was to win the Ballon d’Or and become the greatest player on the planet, having always been in Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona. Over four years on and he’s no closer to achieving that aim, with concerns over an excessive lifestyle often overshadowing his footballing talents, and the club still missing that elusive Champions League trophy it craves.

That said, both Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to circulate and on his day he is a true world beater.

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