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Golazo 100 men’s soccer players, ranked: USMNT’s Christian Pulisic, Neymar, Karim Benzema kick off countdown

Written by on June 5, 2024

The Golazo 100 has arrived! Every day for the next week we’ll be peeling back another layer of our ranking of the best players in men’s football, starting with numbers 100 to 81 today.

The big names are already dropping at the early stages, and this section includes one of the most expensive players in the sport’s history, a Ballon d’Or winner and our first USMNT star. Read on to see who has made the first cut and stay tuned over the coming days as we reveal more and more of the best players on the planet, culminating with the inaugural winner of the Golazo 100 on Wednesday, June 12. And, if you want more information on how our list was compiled check out our methodological breakdown here.

Following along with the full Golazo 100 schedule as we bring you all the names you want to know:

  • Wednesday, June 5: 100-81
  • Thursday, June 6: 80-61
  • Friday, June 7: 60-41
  • Saturday, June 8: Top Americans to watch for 2025
  • Sunday, June 9: Top 40 lookahead
  • Monday, June 10: 40-21
  • Tuesday, June 11: 20-11
  • Wednesday, June 12: 10-1

You can check out the full list as it’s released here

100. Ronald Araujo — Center Back, Barcelona

Continuing the tradition of Uruguay’s production of elite center backs, the 25-year-old Rivera native is a menace in the middle. At 6-foot-2, he plays even bigger with his superb aerial ability. He’s got speed and power to push nearly any player off the ball with his aggression. A key piece for Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay national team, if the Charrua make any noise at the Copa America this summer, he will have to play a big role. His 2023-24 season, while strong for an inconsistent Barcelona, will unfortunately be remembered by his questionable red card on Bradley Barcola of PSG in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg. Barca were up 4-2 at that point before their surprising elimination. Those occasional high-profile errors are what keep him from being higher up the list. — Roger Gonzalez 

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99. Federico Chiesa — Winger/Forward, Juventus

The Italian winger narrowly slides onto the list, even though a few years ago he could have been in a higher position. Chiesa, still only 26, had a strong start to his Juventus spell while also winning the Euro 2020 as one of the stars of Roberto Mancini’s Italy. However, an ACL injury suffered in January 2022 sidelined him for a whole year and when he came back he was not able to rise to his forrmer level. Over the past two seasons, Chiesa played in different roles as winger in the 4-3-3 and also as a striker in the 3-5-2 as the Bianconeri played, and sometimes not even as a starter. The feeling now is that he needs a coach who can get the best out of him, because the talent is there and there is no reason to think that he can’t get back to his previous best. Thiago Motta might be the right manager for him at Juventus, but there are also increasing rumors he might also leave Juventus this summer, as his contract currently expires in 2025. – Francesco Porzio 

98. Teun Koopmeiners — Midfield, Atalanta


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The Dutch midfielder was one of the surprises of the season under Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini. He showed surprising attacking qualities, exploding for 15 goals in all competitions. Those are numbers that are usually reserved for strikers have around Europe. The Dutchman has been a key player for Atalanta since he joined the Italian side in 2021, and has attracted the interests of multiple European clubs, including Juventus, who seem incredibly interested in signing him this summer. Koopmeiners is the type of player who could easily make that jump up in notoriety this summer ahead of the new season, but on the other hand, staying at Atalanta would mean the chance for him to play Champions League soccer with a team that just won their first European trophy against Bayer Leverkusen. Remember his name, Koopmeiners is one of those players that could become one of the biggest names around European soccer over the next few years. – Francesco Porzio 

97. Dominik Szoboszlai — Midfield, Liverpool

It’s hard to believe he is just 23 years of age, but not long ago he was that teenage sensation starring at Red Bull Salzburg. A move to RB Leipzig and back-to-back 10-goal seasons resulted in the transfer to Liverpool last summer. Since then, he’s delivered with seven goals in 45 games with four assists. He’s been part of a rebuilt Reds midfield alongside Alexis Mac Allister, and the versatile Hungary international can play wide or centrally. He has the ability to beat a defender one-on-one or deliver clinical vertical passes, while also showing he can put the right amount of touch on a through ball. 

Any coach’s dream, he wants to be involved in duels, he seeks contact, and he will fight for the man next to him in any situation. That aggression and toughness can rub off on others, and it was much needed in a Liverpool team that looked like the Europa League and Premier League favorites at one point. — Roger Gonzalez

Don’t miss CBS Sports Golazo Network’s Morning Footy, now in podcast form! Our crew brings you all the news, views, highlights and laughs you need to follow the Beautiful Game in every corner of the globe, every Monday-Friday all year long.

96. Anthony Gordon — Winger, Newcastle 

There’s always a level of uncertainty attached to a youth prospect, some of whom unfairly carry the hopes and dreams of idealistic supporters on their shoulders. Newcastle United‘s £45 million bet in January 2023 to sign Anthony Gordon from Everton was a good one, though, and the 23-year-old’s stock is only rising after a career-best season with the Magpies.

Gordon wrote the prologue to his strong first full season in Newcastle at last year’s European U-21 Championships, scoring two goals and notching one assist as England won the competition and he picked up the Player of the Tournament award. The follow-up act was just as impressive — he scored 12 goals and recorded 11 assists in 48 games for Newcastle during the 2023-24 season, behind only Alexander Isak in the former category. Gordon has not just carved out a place in Eddie Howe’s lineup but also in the club’s history, becoming the first Englishman to score in four league home games in a row for the Magpies since Alan Shearer did so in 1999.

As a changing of the guard takes place at the top levels of the game, Gordon’s name is a worthy inclusion amongst talented young players who are emerging as the sport’s new stars. There’s still room to grow for the 23-year-old, but he is beginning to demonstrate a reliability that serves as a foundational element for any top-tier goal-scorer. — Pardeep Cattry

95. Nico Williams — Winger, Athletic Club

The Spain international has managed to burst onto the scene at Athletic Bilbao alongside his brother Inaki, who narrowly missed this list, but it is the younger Williams brother who looks destined for stardom. A winger with speed, technical ability and incredible talent, he can beat almost any defender with his super dribbling skills. Defenders are often left with the only recourse being to hack him down as his foul-winning ability is one of the best around. Already a key member of the Spanish team, he’s aiming for a deep run at this summer’s Euros. 

He continues to improve in his ability to deliver crosses and fire on goal, and those early minutes in his career are paying off for his development with bigger clubs likely to come calling before long. His ability to play on either side of the wing makes him just that much more valuable. — Roger Gonzalez

94. Alvaro Morata — Striker, Atletico Madrid

The one trait all great strikers share is an ability to find themselves in great scoring positions with frequency. For the best part of half a decade, Alvaro Morata did that, but the ball just did not go in the net as often as it ought to. At almost every club he ended up at he would be the whipping boy, the player who infuriated a portion of the fanbase because so many big chances came and went.


Alvaro Morata’s shots in the 2023-24 season, sized by xG value. From 20.9 xG the Atletico Madrid striker scored 21 goals TruMedia

In his second spell at Atletico Madrid, all that has changed, at least at club level. The 31-year-old is admired by his teammates for the quality of his all-around play and the leadership he brings to the locker room. More important even than that, he is scoring goals and more of them than his expected goal total would suggest. His 21 this season are the best of his career so far, while he also has 11 goals in his last 21 caps for Spain. It has taken time and a lot of mis-steps for Morata to get to a peak lower than it might have been if he had ever found a stable environment. Still, the summit he is at now is higher than most. James Benge

93. Vitinha — Midfield, PSG

The Portuguese midfielder has really come into his own over the last season, becoming an integral part of a Paris Saint-Germain team that made it to the semifinals of the Champions League while also winning Ligue 1 and the French Cup. The 24-year-old Portuguese international joined from Porto in 2022 and had a stellar campaign this season with nine goals in 46 games. His creativity on the ball and ability to shoot from a distance has made him PSG’s most dangerous player, arguably, behind Kylian Mbappe. He only needs a little bit of room to launch a rocket, and he seems to enjoy pulling the trigger from range over getting into the box. 

There is no doubt he’s more settled in the French capital and his performances indicate a player at the top of his game, with a knack for recovering the ball high up the field just an added bonus to an all-around star. With Mbappe leaving PSG, he is set to become one of the new faces of the club as they pursue European glory, and he’s expected to be a key part of Roberto Martinez’s Portugal plans this summer at Euro 2024. — Roger Gonzalez

92. Raphinha — Right Wing, Barcelona

His play might be overshadowed by Barcelona’s incredible consistency of being inconsistent, but the Brazil international just wrapped up his third straight season (two at Barca) with double-digit goals. The former Leeds United man can finish in a variety of ways, but it’s his ability to be in the right spot at the right time, on top of creating danger down the right, that makes him such a concern for opposing defenses. He figures to have a solid role with the Brazil national team at Copa America, and if it weren’t for him, Barca’s season probably would have been worse than it already was. 

Raphinha is exceptional when it comes to beating a defender in tight spaces as his ability to react to the slightest hesitation will see him clean through more often than not. With the speed to beat you down the flanks, he does a superb job of putting the ball into dangerous areas for his teammates to finish. — Roger Gonzalez

91. Ademola Lookman — Forward/Winger, Atalanta

Lists like these are generally a celebration of the glamorous side of sports, featuring players who most anticipated would be stars and lived up to the billing from a young age. Most sports journeys, though, are not linear but a lengthy road to landing in the right place at the right time can be a triumphant one. Just ask Ademola Lookman, who is finally hitting his stride.

The 26-year-old Lookman landed at his sixth club in three countries when he joined Atalanta in 2022. It was one of those moves that attracted limited attention — the England-born Lookman was chewed up and spit out of the Premier League and landed at a club on the rise but far from anyone’s list of top contenders for silverware. Quickly enough, those perceptions did not matter — he scored on his Serie A debut, a 2-0 win over Sampdoria and scored 15-plus goals in consecutive seasons across all competitions. He mixed that in with acclaim for Nigeria, scoring three goals en route to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations final and making the team of the tournament.

Lookman’s crowning achievement, though, is the hattrick he scored in this year’s UEFA Europa League final in Dublin. The promise many had identified in him once upon a time was clearly on display — he barely put a foot wrong that day, scoring on each of his shots and beating his defender on just about every occasion. Lookman’s success is a reminder that there’s no one right way to the top, and there’s plenty to celebrate about that. — Pardeep Cattry


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90. Joao Cancelo — Fullback, Barcelona

When he started to show all promise at Valencia a decade ago (how is he already 30 years old?), he looked destined for superstardom. Another Portuguese prodigy ripped from Benfica for big money, only to then play for Inter Milan, Juventus, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona in a six-year span. While his maturity is often questioned, his ability is not. He’s as fast as they make them, he can dominate you with his technical skill, and even though he’s a fullback, he’s an attack-minded player with all the potential in the world. 

His four goals for Barca this season are a career high, and despite those defensive woes, he offers enough to be on this list due to talent and production.

Now, if he were simply playing as an attacking winger (I think he should), I think he’d be much higher on his list because he does posses the skill to set up his teammates and create space to cross it in from the wing. Though he can struggle passing if he drifts centrally, he balances it out with the one-on-one ability. — Roger Gonzalez

89. Neymar — Left Wing, Al-Hillal

Just about scraping onto this list, despite not having played much soccer in the best part of two years is the Brazilian superstar who does not even have a goal to his name with Al Hilal yet after making a mega money move from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. Neymar is now 32, and although he remains important for his country and a darling of the nation, his best days are definitively behind him, and it is unlikely that he will be featuring in many more lists like these unless there is a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. Given how injury-prone the South American has been in recent years, it might be a better plan to get back to playing regularly before considering whether European soccer is worth one final crack. A brilliant player on his day but not consistent nor motivated enough over the final meaningful years of his career means that this feels like things ending in ignominy unless Neymar can summon huge inner strength and belief to get back to something close to his best one final time. — Jonathan Johnson

88. Dusan Vlahovic — Striker, Juventus

The Serbian striker had a very strong season at Juventus after a disappointing start and is now set to start a new chapter under Thiago Motta at the club after the Euros he will play with Serbia. Apart from the 18 goals scored in all competitions this campaign, Vlahovic finally seemed to be finally back at the level he was at Fiorentina before signing for Juventus. The feeling is that he can only improve under Motta, and a lot will also depend on how Juventus will play next season when they will also be back to play Champions League soccer. So far, Vlahovic performed better when he was playing with another striker playing next to him, rather than in the 4-3-3. If the Serbian striker will be able to make that extra step we are all expecting, we should consider him among the best ones around Europe. –  Francesco Porzio

87. Manuel Neuer — Goalkeeper, Bayern Munich

Manuel Neuer’s reputation as one of the game’s best goalkeepers is already set. The World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner is considered a trendsetter for today’s shot-stoppers, skilled with his feet in a way that was once unique, but is now the standard for the game’s elite goalkeepers. At 38 years old, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for Neuer but he impressively remains a valuable asset for both Bayern Munich and Germany, even as both storied teams hit a period of uncertainty.

He had to overcome his own hurdles to keep his stock high nearly a decade after winning the World Cup, though. Neuer spent the better part of a year away from the pitch after fracturing his right knee during a ski trip in December 2022, but played his first game in 350 days when Bayern beat Darmstadt 8-0 in October of last year. He has since collected new individual records in his comeback year, chief among them breaking Iker Casillas’ record for most clean sheets in the Champions League. Neuer now has 58 clean sheets to his name in European competition, the most recent of which came in Bayern’s 1-0 win over Arsenal in the quarterfinals, when the usually attack-minded team delivered a defensive masterclass.


How Manuel Neuer compared to other goalkeepers in last season’s Bundesliga TruMedia

He can still come up big against the best players in the game, too. Look no further than their second leg semifinal tie against Real Madrid, when Neuer made five saves in a loss. The icon may be in the twilight of his career, but there’s no reason to suggest he’s behind the pace at the elite levels of the game just yet. — Pardeep Cattry

86. Karim Benzema — Striker, Al-Ittihad

It seems like only yesterday that the French superstar was being crowned Ballon d’Or winner after some unstoppable form with Real Madrid, but things are a far cry from that glorious moment in Paris less than two calendar years later. Benzema, like a few others on this list, benefits from form being temporary and class being permanent — his Al-Ittihad spell in Saudi Arabia has certainly not been going according to plan so far since his arrival to great fanfare last summer. The former Olympique Lyonnais man’s incredible trophy haul with Real — notably five UEFA Champions League and four La Liga titles — will live long in the memory but it is hard not to feel that the 36-year-old’s final few years are fading into obscurity. With fellow Al-Ittihad man N’Golo Kante still holding down a UEFA Euro 2024 squad berth despite being out of European soccer for a year now, it could be that the end of Benzema’s international career with France brought about the premature closure of his club days too. — Jonathan Johnson

85. Lois Openda —  Striker, RB Leipzig

Few expected the Belgium international to maintain his hot form with RC Lens quite as spectacularly as he managed to do during his first season with RB Leipzig with 28 goals and seven assists across all competitions including a first taste of UEFA Champions League action. Openda is one of European soccer’s most in-form strikers at present and is expected to take that clinical edge into this summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 with the Belgians which could make Domenico Tedesco’s men dark horses in Germany, which is where the RBL man now plies his trade. Die Roten Bullen are known as a stepping stone club despite their regular continental forays so the chances are that Openda or strike partner Benjamin Sesko will be wanted men sooner rather than later. However, the 24-year-old along with Xavi Simons was one of the Bundesliga outfit’s top performers all year long and will have another shot at the UCL next term before a potential suitor comes calling. — Jonathan Johnson

84. Mike Maignan — Goalkeeper, AC Milan

Established as France’s undisputed No. 1 since the retirement of Hugo Lloris after the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar, this summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 is the first chance for Milan’s shot stopper to make a name for himself at international level. On the club scene, consecutive titles in Ligue 1 and then Serie A have been added to by the UEFA Nations League with Les Bleus and Maignan is finally getting the overdue silverware and individual recognition that his ability warrants. The 28-year-old French Guiana-born Rossoneri goalkeeper is considered one of the best in Europe right now and formative club Paris Saint-Germain’s decision to sign Gianluigi Donnarumma which paved the way for Maignan’s Italy switch looks questionable from the French giants given their push for domestic talent of late. Expect to see this late bloomer rival the likes of Thibaut Courtois in being recognized as Europe’s best netminder over the next few years and possibly even being coveted by a continental juggernaut before the age of 30. — Jonathan Johnson

83. Viktor Gyokeres — Striker, Sporting CP

A winger turned striker, Victor Gyokeres has broken out since moving to Sporting Lisbon. From being a relative unknown in Brighton’s academy to emerging as a dangerous attacker with potential at Coventry City to now now showing that he’s the real deal in Portugal, Gyokeres’ improvement under Rubin Amorim has been striking. Some forwards are the type to artfully curl shots into the net, but not Gyokeres who strikes every ball like it will be his last. Making the net ripple with every goal, the Swedish striker puts a venom on the ball that even if a keeper gets their hand to it, they may not stop it. It may be an interesting summer for him as transfer interest grows, but it’s rightly deserved. Add his abilities with the ball to strength retaining it and being good at pressing and it makes a forward who any manager would want. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be at Euro 2024, but it does provide the added benefit that he’ll be well rested entering the season, wherever that season may be. — Chuck Booth

82. Luis Díaz — Left Wing, Liverpool

One of the focal points of Jurgen Klopp’s final Liverpool team was the embarrassment of riches he had in attack. Not only did he have several noteworthy players to choose from, he also had enough options to rotate through as the Reds made deep runs in four different competitions. Even as Klopp spread the love, some players naturally ranked above others in the team’s most important games. Luis Diaz was on the pitch more often than not to generate — and score — chances.

Diaz scored 13 goals and recorded five assists in 51 games this season, doing his part in Klopp’s final season. He did so on important occasions, too — he scored in extra time of Liverpool’s second leg of their EFL Cup semifinal against Fulham, sending them to the final and playing a big role in the team that won the trophy. He also managed to carve a place for himself amongst the top attackers in the Premier League this season, ranking within the top 20 for expected goals with 11.88, shots with 95 and chances created with 64. The 27-year-old will be counted on to impress for Colombia at the Copa America, a few short months after scoring twice for Los Cafeteros in their first-ever World Cup qualifying win over Brazil in November. Diaz has a habit of emerging from a crowded field as a dependable attacking force, offering both his club and country a healthy chance to win each and every time he’s on the pitch. — Pardeep Cattry

81. Christian Pulisic — Winger, AC Milan


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What’s a list of top players in the world without the current Captain America on it? Possibly the best American soccer player ever produced, Pulisic has won a Champions Leauge title with Chelsea, a DFB Pokal with Borussia Dortmund along with multiple honors for the United States men’s national team. Now, entering the prime of his career with Milan, it seems like Pulisic is enjoying his soccer while also producing results with it. Still only 25, the versatile attacker has yet to even enter the prime of his career ahead of an important summer where he’ll lead the USMNT during Copa America on home soil. 

Things are trending well ahead of 2026 which could be a crowning year in Pulisic’s career with a chance to lead the USMNT at a World Cup on home soil. Growing in his role in Serie A will set him up well but so will the fact that Pulisic has been a world traveler able to integrate in three of the five major European Leagues while scoring along the way shows that even if Pulisic just continues to do what he has done that he’ll go down as one of the best American careers ever. For more on Pulisic, don’t miss this full breakdown on why he made the list and what it says about American talent. — Chuck Booth

Don’t miss CBS Sports Golazo Network’s Morning Footy, now in podcast form! Our crew brings you all the news, views, highlights and laughs you need to follow the Beautiful Game in every corner of the globe, every Monday-Friday all year long.

The post Golazo 100 men’s soccer players, ranked: USMNT’s Christian Pulisic, Neymar, Karim Benzema kick off countdown first appeared on CBS Sports.

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