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.
Much-travelled defensive midfielder who has played in Germany, Italy, Spain and France, and remains a mainstay of his national side.
Atsuto UCHIDA Schalke/Japan/27/03/1988
Dynamic right-back who missed the 2015 Asian Cup through injury but has been a key figure for Japan since his debut as a teenager in 2008.
Samuel UMTITI – Lyon/France/14/11/1993
Cameroon-born centre-half who has been Lyon’s most impressive defender this season. An under-20 world champion with France.
Jonathan URRETEVISCAYA – Penarol/Uruguay/19/03/1990
Strong and skilful winger who should have achieved more in his career. Now back home after six years in Portugal.
Mathieu VALBUENA – Dynamo Moscow/France/28/09/1984
Dynamic, diminutive striker who is used mostly on the right side of attack. Left Marseille last summer for the Russian league.
Jaime VALDES – Colo Colo/Chile/11/01/1981
Returned home last year after over a decade in Europe. Plays a deep midfield role, from where his range of passing makes a big impression.
Jorge VALDIVIA – Palmeiras/Chile/19/10/1983
Talented playmaker who is a joy to watch on his day. However, his frequent absence through injury make some question his cost-to-benefit ratio.
Enner VALENCIA – West Ham/Ecuador/04/11/1989
Quick striker, previously a winger, who has risen rapidly over the past two years. Signed on the back of his World Cup displays.
Robin VAN PERSIE – Manchester Utd/Holland/06/08/1983
Captain of Holland and still a key figure for United despite injuries that have curtailed his influence this season.
Hans VANAKEN – Lokeren/Belgium/24/08/1992
Highly rated attacking midfielder, the former PSV trainee has thrived at Lokeren over the past two seasons. Capped at under-20 and under-21 level.