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In the second edition of this annual feature, we at Outside of the Boot aim to unearth the best performing footballers from each of the 5 primary Confederations. Rebranded as ‘The Best Series’, we champion football’s top individuals based on performances in the past calendar year.


10. PAULO DYBALA


23 // Argentina // Juventus


At 23 years of age, accumulating close to 200 appearances is praise-worthy, and Paulo Dybala deserves commendation for that and a lot more reasons. He may be an unassuming baby-faced striker, but he is one of Europe’s brightest talents currently.

After his summer 2015 move from Palermo for €32 million, Dybala swiftly adapted to life with the Italian giants. In 34 league appearances last season, the Argentinean maverick scored 19 goals and 23 goals in total. After Juventus had shelled out around €120 million on Higuain and Miralem Pjanic this summer, it was likely that Dybala would be playing a more supportive role. It indeed is a testament to his abilities that despite these high-profile additions, he hasn’t been reduced to the bench on a prolonged basis. He did start the season in worrying form but has got back among the goals quickly. His stock is quietly rising and bearing in mind he is only 23, and a few years away from hitting his peak, it’s almost scary how good he can become in the coming years. Much like Philippe Coutinho, Dybala may look like an innocuous kid but is evolving into one of Europe’s most lethal players.

Written by Aakriti Mehrotra


9. NEYMAR


24 // Brazil // Barcelona


The crowning achievement in 2016 for Neymar was undoubtedly guiding Brazil to their first ever Olympic Gold medal in football in front of a jubilant home crowd.  Despite a slow start to the tournament, Neymar stepped up when it mattered with a wonderful free-kick in the final against Germany and was cool enough to score the decisive penalty to give Brazil the one title that had eluded them for so long.  If that wasn’t enough, he also won a domestic double with Barcelona and has helped bring the Selecao back into a dominant position in World Cup qualifying under new boss Tite, recently scoring his 50th goal for the national team.  Still just 24, this is just the start of what is already a phenomenally decorated career.

Written by Tom Robinson


8. ANGEL DI MARIA


28 // Argentina // PSG


After a highly glamorised, but eventually ineffectual move to Manchester United, Angel di Maria made different lists of fiascos, from Premier League duds to the most expensive ones. For a player with Di Maria’s abilities, it is almost abnormal. After all here is a player with extraordinary skills, incredible pace, and great goal scoring prowess. Thankfully, Laurent Blanc wasn’t deterred and realised it was an aberration when he decided not to give up on securing his signing despite failing the first time.

The French champions bought him for €63m just a year after missing out on him, and the move revived Di María’s year. He rediscovered the joy of playing and had an immediate impact in Paris with goals, assists, pace, energy and talent as PSG maintained almost an embarrassing hegemony in France last season. After a season where virtually nothing happened for him, Di Maria seamlessly managed to be a part of PSG’s domestic dominance, and he quickly won the hearts of the fans at Parc des Princes. In his first season in France, the former Real Madrid attacker scored ten goals and assisted 18 times in the league, the assists being a record number in Ligue 1. His contributions were instrumental in the Paris outfit winning four trophies domestically.

With Monaco and Nice giving PSG a run for its money this time out, Di Maria’s must make even more useful contributions. So far, he has scored once and assisted another five times. Under Unai Emery, PSG hope to win the Champions League this time out, and for that to happen, Di Maria will need to play a key role.

Written by Aakriti Mehrotra


7. SERGIO AGUERO


28 // Argentina // Manchester City


Although Manchester City could only a muster a fourth place finish in the dying embers of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign, star striker Sergio Aguero was one of the few players who came out of the season with any credit.  Second highest scorer in the Premier League with 24 strikes, the diminutive Argentinian had the best goals to minute ratio in the league and has begun life under Pep Guardiola in similarly blistering fashion with eight goals in ten games already this season at the time of writing.   A virtuoso display in the historic 3-1 victory against Barcelona in November highlighted Kun’s importance to the Citizens as they look to go one better than last year’s maiden semi-final appearance.  There was disappointment for the national team, however, Argentina finished as Copa America runners up to Chile for the second year in a row but 2016 still shows that, when fit, Aguero is one of the deadliest strikers around and under Guardiola is adding more strings to his bow.

Written by Tom Robinson


6. CLAUDIO BRAVO


33 // Chile // Manchester City & Barcelona


For a player who as a kid, wanted to play up-front, it is good news for everyone involved that he was forced to play between the posts. He might be unconventional, but Bravo is certainly one of the most talented goalkeepers around. He’s good with his feet, boasts a strong character and leadership skills, is serious on and off the pitch, and the relationship he forms with the back-line is very impressive.

It has been an eventful year for the Chilean. At Barcelona, he was playing for arguably the best team in Europe, and in his second season, he was instrumental in the side coming so close to winning a consecutive treble. Bravo was also the captain of the successful Chile side that emerged victorious at the Copa America for a second straight season, and for the second consecutive season, he was adjudged the “Best Goalkeeper” at the tournament. It wasn’t surprising, particularly as he saved Lucas Biglia’s effort in the final penalty shootout against Argentina. It was another landmark for him as he became the first Chilean to win his 100th cap earlier this year.

Pep Guardiola’s insistence on playing from the back ensured he landed the Chilean from the Catalan giants, and he made a whopping £17 million move to Manchester City. It has been a mixed start for Bravo as he has come under a fair bit of criticism for being shaky at the back. However, his manager has ample trust in him and refuses to give into what the media has to say about his goalkeeper’s performances.

Manchester City fans and critics must give him more time to build a relationship and chemistry with the defence. Because with time, his strengths will compensate nicely for some of his precarious performances in England so far.

Written by Aakriti Mehrotra


The Best Series 2016 | Past Winners | 5-1→

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