The 2017 Goal 50 will be revealed on Tuesday, with the world’s best-performing players from the past 12 months ranked from 50 down to 1.
However, often what is most telling about the state of clubs, countries and players is which individuals have fallen out of favour after making the list in previous seasons.
For many players, form is fleeting, and a few bad performances in a row can result in the biggest names being benched or even sold. Fans are quick to find new favourites and demand the departure of stars whose names they recently chanted.
Gareth Bale went from Real Madrid hero to a frustrated figure thanks to repeated injuries and the resulting lack of a consistent spot in the starting XI. As a result, he is one of the biggest losers in this year’s Goal 50 list, having finished fifth in the 2016 selection.
What other big names have flopped in the past 12 months and are not among the world’s 50 best players?
Just a few years ago, Gareth Bale was the next great superstar. He was the world’s most expensive player at Real Madrid, and scored in the Champions League final after making an instant impact at Santiago Bernabeu. Bale also starred for his country at Euro 2016, with Wales shocking the world by making it all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament thanks to three goals from the attacker.
However, last season, the 28-year-old was blighted by injury and could only make 19 Liga starts for Madrid. The club won the double in 2016-17 but Bale was just a fringe performer due to his recurring injuries.
This season continued that trend and saw the Welshman miss out for club and country, with his absence conspicuous for Wales as they were eliminated from the World Cup by the Republic of Ireland, losing 1-0 in Cardiff in their final group game to ensure that Euro 2016’s heroics would not be repeated in Russia.
The Leicester City team of 2015-16 were remarkable. They made history as 5000-1 outsiders who shocked the world by winning the Premier League. Jamie Vardy was the Foxes’ hitman up front, but their true hero was Algeria international Riyad Mahrez, who created the chances Vardy converted and scored 17 league goals of his own. Despite winning the title, Leicester lost midfielder N’Golo Kante and many more of their key names were expected to leave for bigger pastures.
Mahrez was pursued by Arsenal but stayed at Leicester as they and their players regressed the following season. The Foxes finished 12th, having flirted with relegation until Claudio Ranieri was sacked, with only a run to the Champions League last eight offering fans some joy.
The 26-year-old managed just six league goals all season and despite handing in a transfer request, he was unable to find a club willing to buy him this summer – such was his fall from grace.
When Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil, Arsene Wenger planned to build the team around the Germany midfielder. Initially, they were somewhat successful as they won back-to-back FA Cups.
But despite Ozil collecting a third FA Cup winner’s medal in May, the silverware was bittersweet as the Gunners missed out on the Champions League. Arsenal’s 2016-17 was one filled with distractions as both Alexis Sanchez and Ozil’s futures were in doubt, while fans were split on whether to continue with Wenger.
Supporters were unsure if ‘Le Professeur’ was the right man to guide Arsenal into the future, but they were more unified in their stance on 29-year-old Ozil, who they believe has rarely fulfilled his potential at the Emirates. There was a time when Gunners fans would have been outraged at losing one of their biggest names for nothing at the end of the current season but it seems that most have now had enough of the German and his negative body language.
There was a time when Gerard Pique was the first centre-back on the teamsheet. Not just for Barcelona and Spain, but for the world. He has appeared on the FIFPro World XI four times, but was never likely to add a fifth appearance in October after a season of inconsistency at Camp Nou which has continued into the current campaign.
Barcelona endured a miserable season in 2016-17 as they finished behind Real Madrid in the race for La Liga and were thrashed 3-0 on aggregate by Juventus in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Pique was given the run-around in that tie by Argentine star Paulo Dybala, and it seems that the defender is more focused these days on his off-field activities than those on it. He needs to recapture his old focus and form soon if he is to return to the Goal 50 list in 2018.
Sergio Aguero made 31 Premier League appearances last season, bagging 20 goals in the process. That was good enough to finish as the division’s joint fourth highest goalscorer alongside Chelsea’s exiting striker Diego Costa, but was his worst return in three seasons.
Despite those goals, the Argentina international was outshone by Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku of Spurs and then-Everton respectively, but also initially by his Manchester City team-mate Gabriel Jesus, who was a revelation in England following his move from Brazil.
Indeed, were it not for a serious injury that ruled Jesus out for most of the second half of last season, Aguero may have struggled for game time from February onwards. Overall, the 29-year-old enjoyed a good season – certainly in terms of goals – but his exploits were not good enough to earn him a place in the Goal 50.