On Wednesday 18 December, 2013 we reveal The IBWM 100 for 2014, our annual watch list of the most exciting young footballers from around the world.
How do you choose The 100?
We monitor hundreds of players across the globe and talk to coaches, scouts, managers, journalists and fans to gauge their take on who we should select and why. The process of identifying exactly who should be included in The IBWM 100 never ends.
What criteria do you use?
Our main criterion for selection is that players must have been born on or after January 1, 1992. After that, it’s all about how good they are, the current form they are in and whether the next year looks, at this stage at least, as if it could offer significant opportunities. We've no interest in reserve or youth team players, we want to see it happening, or about to happen, at first team level, wherever that may be.
So these are the very best players in the world at their age?
The 100 is our call, it’s our opinion. It is who we at IBWM are excited to watch in 2014, it’s never a categorical list of ‘the best’, which would be just about impossible to quantify anyway.
You left some good players out last year; Verratti, Lukaku and Wilshere for example, how do you explain that?
We have to draw a line somewhere and those exclusions were based on our informed reading of their situations at the time, it wasn't a reflection on the players themselves. In December last year, Romelu Lukaku was operating as an impact sub for West Bromwich Albion, however, opportunities at his parent club Chelsea were negligible as they arched through a difficult season. Jack Wilshere was just starting to find his feet again at Arsenal after a very lengthy spell on the sidelines and looked, understandably, off the pace and a little fragile. Marco Verratti had suffered a slight dip in form at Paris Saint Germain and wasn’t a guaranteed starter. With a transfer window looming and money no object, we wondered whether his club might invest in a replacement; we never doubted his ability. We try to consider how the year will work out for each player we select and that guides our judgement, but it’s a difficult science to master. We’ll keep at it though.
Who will be missing this time?
Some significant names will not make The IBWM 100 for 2014. While this does not make any of them bad players, recent form and immediate prospects are not what they could be so it feels only right to add some worthy new names to the roster instead. To give a few examples; Phil Jones of Manchester United, Stephan El Shaarawy of Milan and Iker Muniain of Athletic Bilbao are all players we rate very, very highly, but, right now, we can only see a particularly bland twelve months ahead for each. We also worry about Real Madrid's Raphaël Varane, an exceptional player, but is that knee going to hold up in 2014? We may be wrong with our judgement, but that's the way it goes, we like to keep things fresh. With this in mind, these players, along with several others, are not included in The IBWM 100 for 2014. They’ll get over it, so will you.
Who will be in this year?
We’ve tried to identify players that we believe can and will make a significant impact in 2014. Some of these are the ‘names’ you’d expect to see, such as Neymar, who could enjoy a magnificent year, but there is a good mix of the lesser known included too. We’re backing every one of The 100 to do well in 2014 and no player has been selected without very good reason. You'll enjoy watching them all.
How many countries are represented?
Players from 46 nations make up The IBWM 100 for 2014, playing in 31 different countries. Some nationalities are represented for the first time, as are several leagues new to The 100. It has taken a while to have a valid inclusion but we are delighted to see the MLS in there for the first time, for example.
Which country is represented the most?
As ever, Germany, Brazil, Spain and France are well represented, but we've been particularly impressed by a number of players in Belgium's Jupiler Pro League. With clubs such as Anderlecht and Standard Liege putting a lot more faith in youth, there have been a number of strong performers with more to follow. We could have selected a lot more from each country but we have to draw a line somewhere so chose the players we see as ascending the fastest.
Do you favour attacking players?
We’ll always edge a little more towards the talented individuals that can really excite and change a game, nevertheless around 40% of the players included in The 100 are primarily defensive minded, whether actual defenders or defensive midfielders. There are seven goalkeepers included in The 100 this year too.
What if I don’t agree with your selections?
That’s your call, this is ours. We welcome all comments on the website or via Twitter, but you must remember this is just a list of players; nobody’s career depends on it. You might disagree with our selection, but we’ve agonised over The 100 for a long time and we’re happy with the choices we’ve made. If we’ve got any wildly wrong that will be reflected in some scathing reviews next year. IBWM is nothing if not accountable.
What happens next?
The IBWM 100 for 2014 will be published on Wednesday 18 December, 2013 at 10:00 GMT. Our review of the players listed will commence in mid November 2014 - that’s when the grades are awarded. You can see our review of the 2013 list by clicking the ‘100’ link at the top of this page.
Are you available to discuss The 100 with media outlets?