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.

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Jetro WILLEMS – PSV/Holland/30/03/1994

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

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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.

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