By: COLIN REESE
There’s about to be a regime change in World Football, and Neymar, Paul Pogba, and Raphaël Varane will be the undisputed best footballers in the world at their respective positions: forward, midfielder, defender.
Neymar is widely considered the heir apparent to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but, for this writer, Neymar already wears the crown.
The French midfielder Paul Pogba of Juventus continues to dazzle fans, players, coaches, and the media with his incredible technical ability and completeness as a midfielder, and all of this skill is present in a 6’5” frame that displays power, speed, and rubber band-like flexibility.
This season, Raphaël Varane – another French player – has oddly been the third choice center back for Real Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti after Sergio Ramos and Pepe, but Ancelotti has also shown a tendency to use Varane in the biggest games. Last season, Varane started for Real Madrid when the stakes were the highest.
For this writer, only Thiago Silva is superior to Varane, and the argument can easily be made that Varane is amongst the top three center backs in the world. Varane also excels as a right back – and one would imagine as a left back as well.
While Neymar is the most famous of the three, both Pogba and Varane are household names for soccer fans, and both are considered world-class footballers of the highest order.
As each day goes by, Neymar, Pogba, and Varane become the best footballers around at their respective category of position.
Let’s look at each player in greater detail:
FORWARD: NEYMAR (Brazil, Barcelona)
Neymar is the crown jewel of world football. His overall skill, dribbling, and creativity have no rival, and the speed and spontaneity of his attacking make him impossible to shut down.
While Messi is an incredible passer who constantly breaks down defenses with perfect passes, Neymar has a more versatile arsenal of passing skills. Messi’s perfectly weighted chips and balls played over the top require unbelievably skill, but Neymar’s passing skills are more complete and advanced due to his use of both feet.
Neymar uses both feet interchangeably to dribble, pass, and score, and his ability to beat defenses by himself or by orchestrating the attack make him a once in a generation player.
The Brazilian prodigy is mostly known for his electrifying speed, his tricks, and his ability to score, but Neymar is a very complete attacker that is a deadball and penalty kick specialist, in addition to being a playmaker that makes his teammates better.
Finally, Neymar has always been a big-game player that always delivers despite the pressure. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have always seen much better success in club soccer than in international soccer, but Neymar has always excelled and put up big numbers on both the club and international level.
Neymar is the future King of World Football, and he has the potential to go down as the best footballer of all-time.
MIDFIELDER: Paul POGBA (France, Juventus)
Paul Pogba has always been seen as a prodigy that was a complete midfielder blessed with the physique and athleticism of an NBA shooting guard, but the French midfielder continues to show more and more trickery and creativity in his touches, dribbling, passing, and shooting.
Some of Pogba’s first big-time highlights were his rocketed goals from distance with either foot, but now Pogba is showing a degree of dribbling in tight spaces and in the open field that is often reminiscent of Neymar.
In addition to being a powerful and technical two-way player, Pogba has now become something of a magician that plays like a Number 10 but tackles and defends like a world-class center back.
If you add to all of this that Pogba is so influential all over the field and so tireless in his work rate, the Frenchman becomes a player that can boss games by himself and determine the outcome of games single-handedly.
Paul Pogba is a monster of a midfielder, and the undisputed best midfielder of his generation.
DEFENDER: Raphaël VARANE (France, Real Madrid)
Like Neymar and Pogba, Varane looked world-class as a teenager. It was simply impossible to watch Varane play against elite players and not see a center back that was basically perfect with his tackling and technical ability, and he is close to unbeatable in a foot race.
Varane is about 6’4”, and this size and speed combined with his calmness on the ball make him the heir apparent to Thiago Silva. Varane is already a proven performer at the very highest level, and he not only performs well as a defender, but he often outshines every other defender by some distance.
In many games, Varane shuts every opposition attacker down and makes it almost futile to even attempt to get past him. If you get past him, he’ll catch you and win the ball back with a clean tackle or takeaway, but most of the time opposing players can’t beat him 1v1.
The overall skill and grace Varane shows in his technical ability with the ball is a sight to see, and Varane’s skill and athleticism is all effortless. The French defender often looks like he is just jogging around when he easily outpaces attackers and passes the ball around with ease.
Raphaël Varane is a monster of a center back, and he is the undisputed best defender of his generation. Varane even looks much better than the legendary French defender Lilian Thuram.
The Effect on the Ballon d’Or Race
With both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo years away from slowing down, it will be interesting to see how Neymar, Pogba, and Varane affect the Ballon d’Or race. Neymar has already been knocking on the door for about two years, but now Pogba has to be considered a serious contender from now on. Varane will likely be at somewhat of a disadvantage as a defender, but his grace, speed, and solid defending will certainly make him an undeniable contender for years to come.
How long will the Ballon d’Or be a two-man race?