Look, ok, we get it. ‘Best’ is subjective. Not everyone defines what the word means in the same way, and even if they did, it would be a shock if there was total agreement. So we know what we’re getting ourselves into here.
Football is tribal and truth-denial is rife among the game’s more ‘verbose’ supporters. In an age when the US president has his staff ‘doctor’ photos to show a bigger crowd at his inauguration, it’s hardly a surprise that some Man United fans will claim Phil Jones is a better centre back than Vincent Kompany, or some Arsenal fans that Danny Welbeck is a more lethal finisher than Harry Kane.
Reality just doesn’t come into it. Or perhaps reality just means something different to different people. Whatever the case may be, this is the reality we choose to believe, this is our list of the 50 best current Premier League players. Yours may be different – so be it.
50. Mateo Kovacic, Chelsea
We’ve long been fans of Kovacic here in Power Tower. Admittedly, there’s something to be said for the argument that he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential yet, but the Croat often looks so imperious you half expect to see him in a toga ordering centurions to invade Asia Minor. Kovacic is an iron fist in a velvet glove, or rather an iron foot in a polyester sock – he has it all: power, agility, class. He could well be a big success at Stamford Bridge.
49. Richarlison, Everton
Having made a fairly instant impact in the Premier League when he arrived at Watford last season, Richarlison’s form tailed off slightly during the middle of the 2017-18 campaign. But the Brazilian looks reborn in 2018-19, showing his class for Everton and earning a callup to the national team (and getting a goal) for the September fixtures. He’s still only 21, and could well turn into an excellent Premier League player.
48. Jorginho, Chelsea
Jorginho can pass the ball. This has become abundantly clear over the past few weeks, with the ex-Napoli regista dominating midfield for Chelsea in the Premier League. Having spent the majority of his career playing in Italy, where he moved at the age of 15, some may have expected him to struggle with the pace of the English game. So far, this has definitely not been the case.
47. David Luiz, Chelsea
Yeah, this is a controversial one. We understand if you’re not happy with this. But we really like PlayStation, and there’s no better PlayStation footballer than David Luiz.
46. Benjamin Mendy, Man City
Mendy hasn’t played much football over the past year, yet he’s still managed to win a Premier League and a World Cup in that time. Our theory is that if you can do that, you must be good.
And, to be fair to Mendy, he’s looked exceptional so far in 2018-19 for City. It says a lot that even after such a prolonged absence, he came back into Pep Guardiola’s side as soon as he was fully available.
45. Juan Mata, Man United
Undermined by the recurring presence of Jose Mourinho in his life, the Spaniard seems to be cursed by circumstances. While his stylish play and perfect passing endeared him to Chelsea fans and players, he would’ve been a central figure in any other national team that wasn’t churning out skilful attacking midfielder like cheap phone covers.
Due to turmoil at Man United, he has been shunted out of his best position frequently, but never wavers in his efforts to entertain and unlock defences.
Though he still picked up World Cup and European Champions medals with Spain’s all-conquering generation, so it’s not all bad.
44. Andrew Robertson, Liverpool
Much is made of Robertson’s rapid ascent from the relative anonymity of Queen’s Park to the Champions League final with Liverpool and, now, the Scotland captaincy.
But it’s understandable. The left-back has been electric over the past couple of seasons and has become rightly recognised as among the league’s finest defenders.
43. Pedro, Chelsea
The Spanish winger has been a scurrying, scuttling presence for Chelsea over the past two seasons, and on his day can make mincemeat of opposition defences. Surprisingly for a player who graduated from La Masia, his touch can let him down and his overall technique is not at a truly elite level. But his pace and grit usually compensates for this, and his game may well be ideally suited for Sarrismo.
42. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal
The Welshman is not the best passer in the league. Nor is he the best dribbler. Or the best finisher. Or the best tackler. Or the best crosser. But he’s slightly-above-average at most of football’s key disciplines, which makes him a very handy player to have in a team.
At his peak in 2013-14, Ramsey was electric, but is yet to really prove that the form he showed that season was anything other than a once-off.
41. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace
It seems like a long time since Zaha was packed off on loan while on the books at Man United, an afterthought for then United managers David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.
The Ivory Coast international has spent the past three years developing into an exciting and dangerous attacking player. How United could do with him now.
40. Lucas Moura, Tottenham
Alas, Lucas Leiva has departed these shores, but we can make do with his namesake, right?
A very recent arrival among this list – he was signed in January of 2018 by Spurs to little fanfare – the Brazilian forward’s ability has never been in doubt despite an up-and-down spell with the PSG circus.
His role in Tottenham’s exorcism of Old Trafford beatings past showed a slice of his potential.
39. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea
These days, the Spaniard is about as mobile as an arthritic pensioner after a trip to an all-you-can-eat buffet, but that doesn’t appear to have affected his vision or passing range.
The Chelsea playmaker would probably be in the conversation for a place in a list of the league’s all-time top 50, so far be it from us to deny him a spot here.
[OPTA] Jogadores em atividade com mais assistências nas 5 grandes ligas:
— Cesc Fábregas (@fabregasbrazil) September 2, 2018
38. John Stones, Man City
Though sniped at still, the former Evertonian has shown his quality as part of Pep Guardiola’s revolution in Eastlands.
As is typical of the Talented Young English Player Cycle, Stones was built up by many only to be chipped at piece-by-piece. His current gaffer saw his ability and has encouraged to play in a way that Premier League crowds are not used to seeing from centre-halves.
Though under pressure for his place in the City side recently, his composure and confidence shines through in his play and means no list of this sort would be complete without him.
37. Jordan Pickford, Everton
When Pickford first emerged onto the Premier League scene, we thought it was actually Thomas Turgoose doing some deep research for an upcoming role in the latest installment of This Is England.
As it turned out, however, this ruddy-faced, slightly chunky lad was an outstanding young goalkeeper destined to reach the top of the game. Pickford now looks an assured presence in nets for Everton, with distribution to match his confident handling.
36. Nemanja Matic, Man United
A dominant presence in Chelsea’s last two title teams, the Serb’s Stamford Bridge so-long is still a bit of a headscratcher, especially when he headed straight to a domestic rival – or are United really that bad?!
The 6ft 4in central powerhouse built his reputation on bossing the space in front of his defence, but is also capable of playing decisive passes forward and has smacked in the occasional belter in his time.
He’s as exciting as a week locked in Jose’s hotel room with an empty minibar, but still among the best midfielders in the league.
35. Anthony Martial, Man United
Dispatching goals with the chilling detachment of a mafia hitman, Martial combines a first touch that can freeze a ball dead with ice-cool finishing and bursts of slippery pace.
The French forward is another whose talent would grace any squad in the world – though unfortunately not Didier Deschamps’ World Cup-winning one of 2018.
34. Kyle Walker, Man City
The English fullback caused a bit of controversy when he departed Tottenham for Man City, but it can’t be unrelated that he suddenly looks like the most dangerous attacking right-back in the Premier League.
Working under Guardiola has done wonders for Walker. If there were any lingering doubts about his class, those doubts were rendered into dust by his performances in Russia.
33. Vincent Kompany, Man City
A man born to play centre-half, he was intercepting passes and heading balls away before he could walk judging by his rock-solid consistency in a City defence.
One of the first signings after the world-spinning arrival of Sheikh Mansour, the Belgian has been anything but shaky in his decade at the heart of the Sky Blues defence, and provided come crucial goals in his time, none more so than his derby winner in 2012 that put them ahead of their neighbours and set-up the “AGUUUUEEEERRRRROOOO!” finale.
32. Marcus Rashford, Man United
One of the few memorable moments from Louis van Gaal’s two years of tedium at Old Trafford was the emergence of a Bambi-like teenager in United’s stuttering Europa League campaign.
However spindly his frame appeared, Marcus Rashford wasn’t long finding his feet, with two goals on debut in both European and domestic competitions. He will trouble defences for years to come – though whether in the red of United or another side remains to be seen.
31. Alexis Sanchez, Man United
Ahead of several others on this list (hello Mo, Eden, Kevin), the Chilean was once mooted as a possible third wheel in discussions about the greatest player in the world alongside Messi and Ronaldo.
His Stakhanovite work-rate and intemperate attitude to slacking teammates didn’t endear him to everyone at Arsenal, but that bustling effort made his dazzling skill and goal-getting all the more impressive.
30. Ederson, Man City
Already imprinted into history as an integral part of an all-time great side, the City goalkeeper is part of a new wave of keepers whose ability with the ball is crucial to their team-s play.
This Brazilian stopper has a passing range that makes Andrea Pirlo look like Lee Cattermole.
29. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham
Class personified, Vertonghen is as graceful and elegant a defender as the league has seen in recent years. But there’s a hard edge to him as well – you don’t brush aside this man with any ease.
He’s been a vital cog in Spurs’ consistently excellent defence since he pitched up in London. Keeping him and Alderweireld will be key to the Lilywhites’ fortunes over the next couple of campaigns.
28. Alisson Becker, Liverpool
He may have the name of a moody American teenager from a rubbish 1990s family sitcom, but Liverpool’s Brazilian goalkeeper is no mug. The ex-Roma stopper impressed in the World Cup over the summer, and apart from a rick against Leicester, has looked a class above most other keepers in the league.
Expected to go from strength to strength as he ‘adjusts to the Premier League’, ie gets over the shock of 568 high balls being punted into his box each game.
27. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
Wait! Come back! Don’t close this tab in a fit of anger. This guy can play football. Few would deny Ozil’s ability – the suspicion lumped onto him has always centred on his perceived lack of oomph. There’s a certain amount of truth to this idea, but the German is almost preternaturally gifted and has an end product that gives him a much worse bite than his bark. We live for an Ozil through-ball.
26. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham
Despite Alderweireld seeming about as keen to continue at Tottenham as a dolphin would be to spend a week trekking the Mojave, he’s still at White Hart Lane/Wembley/Milton Keynes.
Reluctant Spur or not, the Belgian is one of the league’s best centre-backs, especially when alongside his compatriot Jan Vertonghen.
Great hair as well.
25. Naby Keita, Liverpool
It was a long six months for Liverpool fans waiting to see Keita in a red shirt. The Guinean international agreed in January to move from RB Leipzig to Liverpool in the summer, and Reds fans’ patience has been rewarded with some eye-catching performances from Keita.
He’s direct, strong and uses the ball intelligently, and at the age of 23 looks a serious player for the future.
24. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal
Since arriving at Arsenal, the Gabonese forward has looked sharp. His goalscoring record is good, and he looks to be developing a real understanding with those around him.
Now that Arsène Wenger is gone, there’s also every chance that he may actually develop as a player, rather than simply turning into a centre-forward who turns and passes the ball backwards when faced with an open goal.
23. Dele Alli, Tottenham
Robin to Harry Kane’s Batman – he could pull on the mask as a celebration? – the England regular provides a flourish of the unexpected in a Spurs side that has thrilled White Hart Lane in recent years.
Having plied his trade with Wimble- sorry, MK Dons, in the lower tiers, Alli has already accrued over 100 first team appearances for the North Londoners though still just 22, and will expect to hit three figures for the Three Lions too.
22. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
Now that Jamie Vardy’s England career is over, he’s free to focus on his primary objective of becoming a full-time WKD rep on the streets of Magaluf.
The Premier League job is just a side-gig – Vardz is all about realising his dream of late, vomity nights spent pouring watery cocktails down the throats of excitable, sunburnt Lads On Tour.
With every goal bonus secured in Leicester’s colours, that dream gets one step closer.
21. Willian, Chelsea
An underrated footballer, Willian has the technique, physicality and intelligence to rival any other player in the league. On his day, there are few better.
Has been in and out of the Chelsea team at times, but you get the feeling that he’s one who may eventually thrive under Maurizio Sarri. The Blues have a lot of options, but we reckon Willian is arguably the best player at the club after Eden Hazard.
20. Bernardo Silva, Man City
It really isn’t fair. If Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva suddenly evaporated, City would barely skip a beat thanks to the Portuguese plotter they’ve got in reserve.
He stood out in the Monaco side that sunk City in the 2017’s Champions League round of 16, and was central to their Ligue 1 triumph ahead of a seemingly omnipotent PSG.
Now, the Sky Blues benefit from his boundless trickery and crafty control. Some people just get all the breaks.
19. Gabriel Jesus, Man City
The divinely-named forward is blessed with a level of control and technique that has seen those with more earthly monikers – Fred, Jo, Hulk – and brutalist skillsets dispatched from Tite’s Brazilian set-up, though still just 21 years of age.
Entering the Premier League as a teenager, and despite a less than bulky frame, he was expected to contribute to the first team straight away. He has delivered capably, scoring 21 times in 43 first games since January 2017 and looks like a player who could lead the line in the Etihad for years to come.
18. Romelu Lukaku, Man United
Another one that Chelsea allowed to slip away – you sure do know how to pick ‘em Roman – a move to Everton before United showed how the lethal Lukaku could lead a line in the most intensely competitive league in the world.
His contribution to Belgium’s 2018 World Cup run was as notable for his off-the-ball play as it was his goals, and he will be central to any revival in Manchester United’s towards a league title challenge.
17. Raheem Sterling, Man City
Not the most popular name among Liverpool supporters – or with your Ukipper uncle – Sterling has shown steely resolve beneath his natural talent to come through and perform despite the air of negativity that has accumulated around him.
Clearly benefitting from the tutelage of Guardiola, the tricky 23-year-old seems to have been around forever and could still reach greater heights with club and country. It’s a sign of how good he is that he’s central to a City side who could sign more-or-less any young player in the world.
16. James Milner, Liverpool
Who would have thought a few years ago, when Milner has struggling to get a game at left-back for a mediocre Liverpool side, that we’d be talking about him as one of the most important players in the league?
It’s long been held that Milner is one of the most reliable and versatile footballers in England, but his game seems to have moved to another level over the past 18 months or so.
15. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool
In Paddy’s opinion, it’s no coincidence that Big Virg’s arrival at Anfield corresponds with Liverpool’s massively improved on-pitch performances.
It’s fair to say the Dutchman was a huge upgrade on every other centre-back available to the club, and he’s somehow also managed to make Dejan Lovren look like an actual football player again.
That alone is enough to merit his inclusion.
14. Christian Eriksen, Tottenham
What he lacks in pace and hair thickness, the Dane makes up for with precise passing, intelligent movement and crosses that are drawn to Harry Kane’s head like Donald Trump to tall, blonde Eastern European women.
Eriksen is often accused of ‘going missing’ in games, which is a classic Yer Da way of saying that he doesn’t charge about like a meerkat on LSD trying to get hold of the ball.
13. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool
Look at his teeth. Just look at his teeth! Even if those pearly whites aren’t enough in themselves to justify inclusion here, his reinvention of the false nine role probably is.
Firmino has been a driving force in Liverpool’s evolution from also-rans to contenders with his hard-running and intelligent movement. He creates space so Salah and Mané don’t have to.
12. Riyad Mahrez, Man City
Kanté’s former Leicester City team-mate is now a Man city maestro, and it looks as if he’ll slot nicely into Pep’s side.
A man who could trick an angry country musician into proudly wearing a Nike tracksuit, there are few players who excite as much as the Algerian when he’s on the ball.
It will be fascinating to see how Guardiola improves him over the coming season – with Mahrez’s gifts, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he progressed into one of the best players in Europe.
11. Paul Pogba, Man United
Can someone call Graeme Souness and check if he’s ok?
The flamboyant Frenchman’s physical traits would make him an imposing presence in any midfield, but it’s the combination of a deft touch, outlandish passing ability and eye for goal that separates him from others with similar natural gifts.
And all this with the ability to sit down and get his haircut once a week!? Imagine how good he could be if he stayed away from the hair dye!
10. David Silva, Man City
What a joyful little man David Silva is. He’s been Man City’s most consistent midfield performer for seven or eight seasons now, and isn’t showing any signs of age just yet.
Silva has always been a remarkably agile footballer, with a vision and technique to match his physical prowess.
He has gone about his business quietly and with understatement, which shouldn’t belie what a hugely talented and important figure he is.
9. Sadio Mané, Liverpool
Having arrived from Liverpool’s south coast feeder club in 2016, Mané has improved drastically under Jurgen Klopp, hitting heights alongside Firmino and Salah as part of the division’s most terrifying strikeforce.
The Senegalese pretty much has everything you want from a forward, although his finishing can occasionally look a bit suspect. That’s just splitting hairs though, to be perfectly honest – Mané is a top player.
8. Leroy Sane, Man City
Joachim Low opting to omit Sane from his World Cup squad now looks pretty much the worst decision since another well-known German leader divided his forces and sent half of them to spend a winter fighting in the Russian steppe.
There isn’t a more fearsome direct runner in Europe at the moment than Sane.
7. Sergio Aguero, Man City
‘Past it’. ‘Not a Guardiola player’. Sergio Aguero has responded to such claims with 44 league goals in 60 appearances under Pep.
He’s also four off 150 Premier League goals, which would make him the joint eighth-highest scorer in the league’s history – his scoring rate is also significantly better than nearly everyone else in the current top ten (only Thierry Henry comes anywhere close).
There’s a growing case that he’s the best centre-forward to have ever played in the Premier League.
6. David De Gea, Man United
There’s been a lot of talk about De Gea’s form recently, mainly as a result of his poor World Cup showing and a more general struggle to replicate club performances at international level, as well as an iffy start to the season with Manchester United.
But there isn’t really much doubt that he’s one of the most reliable keepers in the country, and many would probably make him the outright best.
5. N’golo Kanté, Chelsea
Also known as The Nicest Man In The Premier League™.
Rumour has it that it wasn’t the Russian artillery that put paid to the Charge of the Light Brigade, but rather a perfectly timed N’golo Kanté sliding tackle. We’ve heard that he warms up for matches by knocking out a quick ultra-marathon.
But Kanté has also improved vastly his ball-skills in recent times. He’s now an attacking threat, and looks all the better for it.
4. Harry Kane, Tottenham
When he’s not staring blankly at a wall breathing out of his mouth, Harry Kane is arguably the most lethal current centre-forward on the planet.
Off the pitch, he may be as dull as a roll of grey linoleum, but he’s as sharp as a tack when he’s playing football.
Not much more needs to be written about him, as we all know how good he is.
3. Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Chelsea’s Belgian skill-pixie is a genius with the ball. There’s no more elusive dribbler, no-one better at manufacturing space with a jink or a twist of those snakelike hips.
It’s a uniquely thrilling experience to watch Hazard in full flow. Oh, and he ain’t half bad at kicking the ball really hard into the net, either.
2. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
Probably better known as Ramzan Kadyrov’s bezzy mate, Salah has exploded onto the global football scene since he swapped Tiber for Mersey in 2017.
At this stage, there won’t be many denying he’s one of the top few players in the world, not just the Premier League. You’d have to be made to leave him out of this list.
1. Kevin De Bruyne, Man City
What more is there to said about the Premier League’s best, and most perpetually sunburned, midfielder?
King Ginge is an irresistible force, a pasty wunderkind with the ability to pass a beach ball through a basketball hoop from sixty yards.
KDB could probably find a yard of space in a telephone booth full of starving cheetahs. Making him number one is the easiest choice we had to make.