Cristiano Ronaldo tops preseason Player Power Rankings
Ahead of the new European campaign, ESPN FC presents our preseason Player Power Rankings. Our global editorial desks nominated their best performers ahead of the new season, and we collated their picks into the 10 best players of the preseason.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo | Juventus
Why he's here: His Portugal couldn't go any further than the round of 16, but Ronaldo bettered his goal total from the three previous World Cups put together (3), with four goals in four games in Russia. He followed that up by shocking the football world as he swapped Real Madrid for Juventus, and he looks ready to take Serie A by storm.
2. Lionel Messi | Barcelona
Why he's here: It was another disappointing tournament for Argentina, and Messi was the best of a poor bunch, registering a goal and two assists in four matches as La Albiceleste crashed out of the World Cup in the round of 16. But he remains peerless with Barcelona, a club that not only won La Liga last year but has reloaded this summer.
3. Kylian Mbappe | Paris Saint-Germain
Why he's here: He was the breakout star of the World Cup. The 19-year-old scored four times in France's run to lifting the trophy, becoming the youngest player to score in the final since Pele in 1958. Upon his return to PSG, Mbappe will be gifted the club's No. 7 shirt and looks destined to overtake a certain Neymar as the face of the club.
4. Luka Modric | Real Madrid
Why he's here: Mbappe may have been the breakout star of Russia 2018, but Modric was the tournament's best player, winning the Golden Ball after his Croatia fell to France in the final. He prepares to return to Madrid amid rumours of a switch to Inter Milan, following Ronaldo to Serie A. Wherever the 32-year-old plays in 2018-19, Modric will be the best midfielder on the pitch.
5. Eden Hazard | Chelsea
Why he's here: He's another to parlay a fabulous World Cup into a rise up our Player Power Rankings. The Belgium captain scored three times and assisted on two more as he captained his side to third place in Russia. Long linked with a switch to Real Madrid, it seems Chelsea's talisman may yet remain in West London -- and could flourish under new manager Maurizio Sarri.
6. Antoine Griezmann | Atletico Madrid
Why he's here: In a tournament in which France never truly hit top gear en route to lifting the World Cup, Griezmann epitomised their constrained nature, scoring four goals and adding two assists in seven matches -- without every truly dominating any of them. And after rejecting a move to Barcelona prior to the World Cup, the 27-year-old returns to an Atletico Madrid team poised to win La Liga for the first time since 2014.
7. Harry Kane | Tottenham Hotspur
Why he's here: The World Cup's Golden Boot winner, Kane scored a goal a game in England's run to the semifinals. In all likelihood, he would've won the same award in the Premier League last season too, had he not missed four matches with hamstring and ankle injuries. As Tottenham dither in the transfer market, they'll need their talisman in peak form once more.
8. Neymar | Paris Saint-Germain
Why he's here: Russia 2018 was meant to be the tournament of Neymar, but the broken metatarsal suffered in February ended all hope of heading to the World Cup in any sort of form, and his paltry two goals and an assist -- not to mention his headline-grabbing flopping -- ensured Brazil were bounced in the quarterfinals, and the tournament of Neymar wasn't to be. He'll return to PSG in the shadow of teenage sensation Mbappe.
9. Kevin De Bruyne | Manchester City
Why he's here: De Bruyne racked up plaudits as Manchester City cruised to the Premier League title last season under Pep Guardiola, and that didn't change in Belgium's third-place finish at the World Cup. City are expected to repeat, and to do so, they'll need another brilliant campaign from the 27-year-old midfielder.
10. Paul Pogba | Manchester United
Why he's here: Pogba has struggled to live up to the expectations of his one-time world-record transfer fee with Manchester United, but he had no such issues with France, where he was constantly a threat in Les Bleus' engine room en route to winning the World Cup. Can Jose Mourinho coax such performances out of his star midfielder?
Also receiving votes: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
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