Twelve months on from its first incarnation, the World Soccer 500 is back.
As with last year, we began by drawing up a list of the key players by league – starting with 50 each for the leading leagues in Europe (England, Germany, Spain), 40 for France and Italy, between 15 and 25 for middle-ranking leagues, and ending with between five and 10 for smaller leagues.
We tried to include players who fell into five different categories:
1 In-form players who have been making headlines in the 2015-16 season.
2 The young talents who have earned rave reviews in the past year.
3 The internationals who are key figures for their respective national sides.
4 The headline-makers who have made news for their actions off the pitch.
5 Those genuine world-class players who regularly feature in World Xls.
Reaching the final list was not easy. There are many players who missed the final cut but who came very close. For example, Obafemi Martins, a regular scorer for Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer, did not make the 500, following his late switch to China, but we did include Jackson Martinez, a flop at Atletico Madrid, because his move to China generated headlines around the world.
We have also tried to include at least three players from each of the teams at Euro 2016, the major footballing event of the year. So we included Jonathan Walters, scorer of the goals that took the Republic of Ireland to the finals but not Edin Dzeko, mostly on the bench for Roma and whose Bosnia side was beaten by the Republic in the play-offs. We also included players who are likely to feature in the Copa America and Rio Olympics.
Read on for the full list: