Suppose you ask any top football fan who the best player in the world is right now. In that case, you will probably hear names like Erling Haaland, Victor Osimhen, Vinicius Junior, Kylian Mbappe, and Messi.
Messi is always there because he is Messi, anyways.
Each of those names has some merit, given the remarkable numbers they are putting out this season.
However, football is not a one-season game. Greatness is not a one-season thing. We have often seen stars rise and fizzle out after one season like a soda mountain.
James Rodriguez is a name that readily comes to mind when you imagine players that lighted up the world for at least one season.
To be named among the greatest, one must play and deliver the goods consistently at the highest level. The requirement is no mean feat and is only achieved by the very best.
To do well beyond just one season requires consistency which can only come from discipline, dedication and hard work. The best footballers possess exceptional skills and put in the effort to maintain their fitness, work on their weaknesses and adapt to different situations.
So we look at the top five players that have shown this level of dedication and consistency for the last three years.
#5 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
We consider Kevin De Bruyne, the fifth-best player over the last three years. The Belgian midfielder is arguably the best player in the Premier League. Man City seems to struggle without him, and when he is on song, they blossom.
De Bruyne’s consistent performances over the past seven years at least have led to numerous individual awards and have helped Manchester City win multiple domestic titles. In addition, he won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 2020 and 2021.
The Belgian has provided 58 assists and scored 36 goals since the start of the 2020-21 season for Pep Guardiola’s side.
#4 Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
There was a time Lionel Messi would have been unavoidably top of this list, but times have changed.
The Argentine moved to a new team and had to adapt to new surroundings and tactics. However, the 35-year-old star power is still there. He won the Ballon d’Or in 2021 and has placed himself as the favourite to win this year’s award after leading Argentina to World Cup glory last year.
Messi also won the Ligue 1 title with PSG last season and is on course to guide them to another triumphant domestic campaign this term.
At 35, age is no longer on his side, and the explosive pace and turn that was part of his game is now muted. But he has kept himself relevant by taking up the playmaking role that has seen him create many chances for his PSG teammates this season.
Messi has scored 20 goals and provided 18 assists in 35 appearances in all competitions for the Parisians so far this term.
#3 Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema looks like a wine that gets better with age. After playing a supporting role to the many superstars who have come and gone at Real Madrid, the Frenchman finally became the focus at the club over the last few seasons.
In the 2021/22 season, he scored 30 goals and provided nine assists in 46 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid. Last season he took his game even higher, producing a string of incredible performances to help Real Madrid win the Champions League title.
His heroics propelled Los Blancos to the La Liga title last term, and he was rewarded for his impressive showing with the Ballon d’Or award.
The 35-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down of late and has 26 goals and six assists to his name in 34 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid so far in the ongoing campaign.
#2 Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)
Lewandowski will probably go down as the best footballer never to win a Ballon d’Or. The Pole was unlucky not to win the award in 2020 when he was clearly the favourite, as the award was cancelled due to COVID.
The former Bayern man was easily the best player in the world in an 18-month window that saw him break records for fun and win the European Golden Shoes in successive seasons (2020-21 and 2021-22).
The Pole is an incredible goalscorer with 27 goals and seven assists to his name in 37 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona, despite being considered a poor output.
#1 Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
To be fair, no one has hit Mbappe levels over the past three seasons.
The Frenchman has been the top scorer in Ligue 1 for four seasons running and could make it five in a row this season, as he currently is the joint-top goalscorer in the league.
The 24-year-old, who was recently made the French national team captain, is tipped to win multiple Ballon d’Or awards in the future and has gone from strength to strength in recent seasons. Mbappe recently became the top scorer in the league in the 21st century.
His blistering pace, agility, an extensive array of tricks and astounding shooting range makes him a nightmare to defend against. He was instrumental in France’s run to the World Cup final in Qatar last year, ending the tournament as the top scorer.
He has scored 32 goals and provided nine assists in 36 appearances in all competitions for PSG so far this season.