Goal 50: Defining the greatest players of the season

Ronaldo, Messi, Sneijder, Messi, Ronaldo - and now our annual list is set to run for the sixth time on Monday July 29
By Sulmaan Ahmad | Global Editor-in-Chief

Football is celebrated with awards throughout the season - for players, coaches, clubs and national teams - by competition, country, continent and worldwide - by age, position and much more.

The forward inspired Manchester United to Premier League and Champions League glory.

The Barcelona star helped defeat the reigning European champions as Pep Guardiola's side began to establish their dominance of the continent.

The playmaker drove Inter to treble glory before leading Netherlands to the final of the World Cup.

Another Champions League winners' medal and 53 goals saw the Argentinian clinch his second Goal 50 crown.

Despite being outscored by Messi, the Portuguese fired Mourinho's Madrid to the Liga title with a record points tally.

The Goal 50 stands alone thanks to its voters. We are in every football country, following all the game's leading and emerging stars. No comparison is complete without subjective debate - and there is no better authority on football than Goal to rank the world's best players.

Lionel Messi, after winning the 2011 award, said: "To win the Goal 50 makes me proud and honoured. I thank all of Goal’s staff and the millions of readers who have always given me so much affection."

It's not just about the most popular and most recognised - Fernando Torres has only featured once, and Kaka only twice. Nor is it just about the most attacking or skilful - Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Ashley Cole, Maicon, Nemanja Vidic and other defensive players have hit the top 10 in previous years.

We consider great players to be defined by level of consistency, big-game performances, footballing legacy and team success at both club and international level.

We vote by season, capturing and celebrating football's defining moments as they happen - in May and June - but also fully accounting for alternative football calendars, such as Brazil.

Votes are cast regionally - every territory is guaranteed to be comprehensively scouted - and our network of experts and analysts ensure nobody, regardless of club, country, age or position, misses out on the chance to make the list.

And yet so few do make the list consistently. Our shortlist this year came in at 151 players, and by the time it reached 50, several stars had been omitted. In the five editions of the Goal 50 to date, only six players have made every list - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Wayne Rooney and Dani Alves.

There is no free pass into the 50. Every season there are players in every position and every country who emerge, or return - some even end up being one-season wonders - but what the Goal 50 guarantees every year is a record of footballing greatness you won't find anywhere else.