We have endeavoured to compile a list of the world’s most talked-about players – the most newsworthy players who, by definition, are the most important. We started 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 then added players who were important figures for their national sides and in their respective regions.
Stocky midfielder who has been crucial to Augburg’s survival and subsequent progress in the Bundesliga. A former under-21 international.
Gareth BALE – Real Madrid/Wales/16/07/1989
Capped his first season in Madrid with a goal in the Champions League Final, but the target of angry fans this term for poor performances.
Mario BALOTELLI – Liverpool/Italy/12/08/1990
Eternally troublesome striker whose off-pitch antics have detracted from his footballing abilities. A move back to Italy in the summer looks in the offing.
Ross BARKLEY – Everton/England/5/12/1993
One of the great white hopes of English football. The midfielder has come through the Everton ranks but may have to move clubs to fulfil his potential.
Augusto BATALLA – River Plate/Argentina/30/04/1996
Highly-rated keeper who starred at the South American Under-20s. Linked with a move to Real Madrid as Iker Casillas’ long- term replacement.
Claudio BEAUVUE – Guingamp/France/16/04/1988
Late-developing Guadaloupe-born midfielder turned forward who scored 11 goals in a run of 15 games earlier this season.
Karim BELLARABI – Leverkusen/Germany/08/04/1990
Winger who scored the Bundesliga’s fastest-ever goal after nine seconds against Dortmund last August. Called up by Germany in October.
Mehdi BENATIA – Bayern/Morocco/17/04/1987
Central defender and one of the most wanted in last summer’s transfer market but has yet to match his Roma form.
Lars BENDER – Leverkusen/Germany/27/04/1989
Hard-working, tactically astute midfielder or right-back, missed the 2014 World Cup through injury. Twin of Dortmund’s Sven.
Dario BENEDETTO – America/Argentina/17/05/1990
Forward whose transfer from Tijuana to champions America was the biggest domestic story of
the winter in Mexico.