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.
There is an element of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde about him. There are definitely two different versions of the PSV left-back on the pitch. One is the excellent attacker and superb crosser; the other is the
far less impressive defender.
Georginio WIJNALDUM – PSV/Holland/11/11/1990
Midfielder, PSV captain and a late inclusion in Holland’s 2014 World Cup squad. Rejected an offer from PSG and extended his contract.
Inaki WILLIAMS – Athletic/Spain/15/06/1994
One of the sensations of La Liga this season and the first black player to score for Bilbao. Born in the city to a Ghanaian father and a Liberian mother.
WILLIAN – Chelsea/Brazil/09/08/1988
Right-sided attacker favoured by Jose Mourinho for his defensive capabilities, but his place has been threatened by the arrival of Juan Cuadrado.
Jack WILSHERE – Arsenal/England/01/01/1992
Recent injury lay-offs have shifted attention to his off-pitch habits, but when fit he remains central to manager Roy Hodgson’s plans for the England team.
Axel WITSEL – Zenit/Belgium/12/01/1989
Tall and talented central midfielderwho protects the backline with pace and precision. A crucial figure for the Belgian national side.
Bradley WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – NY Red Bulls/England/12/03/1985
Son of Ian, brother of Shaun, he scored 31 goals last season alongside the now retired Thierry Henry.
XABI ALONSO – Bayern/Spain/25/11/1981
Deep-lying central midfielder with a fine range of passing. Made a surprise switch to Bayern from Real Madrid last summer.
XAVI – Barcelona/Spain/25/01/1980
Midfield metronome who has come to embody Barcelona’s tiki taka philosophy. Has announced his retirement from international football.
Granit XHAKA – Gladbach/Switzerland/27/09/1992
Intelligent midfielder, nicknamed “little Einstein”. Swiss-born to Albanian parents, he backs Kosovo’s move for world recognition.
Andriy YARMOLENKO – Dynamo Kyiv/Ukraine/23/10/1989
Left-sided attacker dubbed the new Shevchenko. Scored Ukraine’s fastest-ever goal after 14 seconds against Uruguay in 2011.