Soccer culture is about more than mere results. Greatness on the field and the standings may be tangible, perhaps even indisputable, but what draws us to players goes far beyond the pitch. Personality is a real thing. So is a player’s presence. The talents we love the most offer the complete package. That intimacy between performance and culture intrigues us more than precisely how many shots on goal players have on cold, rainy nights in front of more than 15,000 fans who can be classified as “proper fans” by a majority vote on the Twitternet. Numbers aren’t irrelevant, but they are far from what motivates us to consume the game.
That’s what the #SG25 is all about. Best player in the world rankings? They’re ubiquitous, resulting in the debates that are tedious as they are incessant. More than any other sport, soccer’s is a landscape where fandom is minutes-to-minute: from the results on the week, the quotes every weekday, and the snippets of the real lives we see in between. A player’s talents may be enough on the field, but what captures our hearts is charisma.
Those interviews where a player shows us some of themselves? They matter. Those Instagram posts that get five-digits likes, cross platforms and get five-digit retweets? They have a real effect, just as a strong magazine cover, a hot new boot, or a seemingly silly record label can round out our picture of a player. No matter how spectacular a person is on the field, mere performances can only take us so far.
This list isn’t about metronomic precision. It’s about inspiration. It isn’t about being clinical. It’s about imagination. It’s about that space where we fill in the games between the wonders we see on the field and the mysteries that remain off of it.
To be certain, we tried to bring science into this. We rated players across a number of crucial categories, developed a weighted formula that helped bring some fake objectivity to the process. We’ll share those numbers with you as we go.
If you’ve made it this far, though, you deserve to know and we want to be clear: This list isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the 25 players who we’re most interested in following over the next year. It’s about the 25 players who capture our imagination more than any others, who are the source of our soccer inspiration. It’s about the players who intrigue us most.
This, our first #SG25, is the product of the entire Soccer Gods editorial team, but it’s also here for you. Tell us what you love and hate, what surprised you, and where we were outright wrong. Use #SG25 on Twitter or let us know what you think on Facebook. We’ll look out for you. We need to know: Who intrigues you as much as these players intrigue us? And why?
The SG25 – Soccer Gods’ most intriguing players of 2014
1. Zlatan Ibrahimović, Paris Saint-Germain/Sweden
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid/Portugal
3. James Rodríguez, Real Madrid/Colombia
4. Andrea Pirlo, Juventus/Italy
5. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool/England
6. Luis Suárez, Barcelona/Uruguay
7. Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich/Germany
8. Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign/United States
9. Neymar, Barcelona/Brazil
10. Raheem Sterling, Liverpool/England
11. Lauren Holiday, FC Kansas City/United States
12. Lionel Messi, Barcelona/Argentina
13. Paul Pogba, Juventus/France
14. Louisa Nécib, Lyon/France
15. Gareth Bale, Real Madrid/Wales
16. Mario Balotelli, Liverpool/Italy
17. Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund/Germany
18. Sergio Agüero, Manchester City/Argentina
19. Alex Morgan, Portland Thorns/United States
20. Toni Kroos, Real Madrid/Germany
21. Asamoah Gyan, Al Ain/Ghana
22. Keisuke Honda, Milan/Japan
23. Marta, Rosengard/Brazil
24. Didier Drogba, Chelsea/Cote d’Ivoire
25. Karim Benzema, Real Madrid/France