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6. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus/AC Milan)
The lone center back on the list, Leonardo Bonucci edges Marcelo as the best defender in the world. Simply put, the 30-year-old has been a rock for Juventus and the Italian national team over the past seven years. Now he’s headed to AC Milan, a fact that, understandably, doesn’t sit well with Juve fans.
Bonucci has led Juventus to six consecutive Serie A titles, while also winning three Italian Cup championships and he’s reached the Champions League final twice in the last three years. Not only is he the best pure defender in the world, he is also a fantastic passer, who has the ability to change games by finding teammates in small windows. Just check out this 50-yard assist from Euro 2016 against Belgium. On top of that, his timing on tackles and in breaking up passes is impeccable.
Bonucci was named to the Serie A Team of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and was the Serie A player of the year in 2016. He was also on UEFA’s Team of the Year in 2016 and was named to the Champions League Team of the Season for 2016-17. It’s a safe bet he’ll be taking home more hardware in the near future.
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5. Neymar (FC Barcelona, Brazil)
Arguably the most purely talented player in the world, it’s crazy to think Neymar just turned 25. It feels like he’s been around forever. The FC Barcelona forward is unmatched with the ball at his feet, an absolute wizard with individual skill and dribbling, it is truly amazing to watch him. He also might be the world’s best passer. And the scary thing is he probably hasn’t even hit his ceiling.
Since his transfer to Barcelona in 2013, Neymar has been an offensive force for the club. He has scored 105 goals in 186 total appearances. During the 2014-15 campaign he was stellar, scoring 39 in 51 appearances, and he followed that up with 31 goals in 49 showings in 2015-16. He did slow a bit last season, tallying 20 times in 45 total matches. He’s already helped Barcelona win two La Liga titles (2015 and 2016), three straight Copa del Rey trophies (2015, 2016, 2017) and a Champions League crown in 2015.
At the 2014 World Cup, Neymar established himself as Brazil’s next great leader, as he tallied four goals and one assist, earning the Bronze Boot, while being named to the 2014 World Cup Dream Team.
Neymar finished third in 2015 Ballon d'Or voting, and was fifth in 2016. He’ll almost assuredly win the award some day, and is on a path to be No. 1 on this list. Unfortunately the 2016-17 campaign didn’t represent a step forward for him, which is why he’s at No. 5 on this list. But don’t bet on him staying this low for long.