Lionel Messi led the way in 2012 but will Cristiano Ronaldo edge out the Barcelona forward this time?
“Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home,” said Arsène Wenger in one of his better put-downs. At the time he was involved in a superb spat with Sir Alex Ferguson about who had the best team and the best players.
As it is with the cream of football management, so it is with the rest of us mere mortals. Few things are more likely to elicit strong opinions among football fans as the stunningly subjective question “who is the best?”
It is the ultimate pub discussion, perfect for these wintry evenings when even the Europa League has gone into hibernation. And since we love to kickstart debate here at the Guardian, we have once again donned our metaphorical tin hat and embarked on the foolhardy mission of assembling a world football order of merit.
One year ago our inaugural list really caught your imagination. Occasionally you called our knowledge into question, so this year we recruited the esteemed figure of Alessandro Nesta, possessor of a World Cup winner’s medal and towering reputation, as our lead judge in a beefed-up panel of 15 experts. Try telling him he doesn’t know his football.
We also brought in the former England women’s coach, Hope Powell, and the retired, much-travelled USA goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, as guest experts.
The remaining 12 judges are selected from our own network of Guardian journalists, picked for their global spread, knowledge and expertise. They comprise:
• Daniel Taylor, chief football correspondent
• Marcus Christenson, football editor
• Barney Ronay, senior sports writer
• Sid Lowe, Spanish correspondent
• Paolo Bandini, Italian correspondent
• Raphael Honigstein, German correspondent
• Fernando Duarte, Brazilian correspondent
• John Duerden, Asian correspondent
• Jonathan Wilson, columnist and international football expert
• Michael Cox, editor of Zonal Marking
• Amy Lawrence, football writer
• Paul Doyle, football writer
We asked each judge one simple question: who have been the 40 best players in the world in 2013? They ranked their answers in order, from 1-40. We awarded 40 points for a No1 choice, 39pts for No2, and so on down to one point for their 40th choice. We added all the numbers together. Over the coming days, you can see the result.
Today we reveal Nos 100-71, on Sunday Nos 70-41, on Monday Nos 40-11, before unveiling the top 10 to complete the list on Tuesday, when we will also publish the voting breakdown.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo usurp Lionel Messi as No1? Will there be any Englishmen at all this year? Will Emmanuel Mayuka make another surprise appearance on the list? All will be revealed by Christmas Eve.
Of course our Top 100 isn’t rigorously scientific, definitive, hewn from endless statistics, devised by complex algorithms or bearing an official Fifa stamp. But it is the sum of our opinions – and we hope you like it.