If you’ve been with us for a while then you’ll know exactly how this works. On Wednesday 17 December we will publish the #IBWM100 for 2015 - our take on the most exciting young players in world football (born on or after 1/1/1993).
It seems that the universe and their grandmother are publishing lists right now - a reflection of the buzzfeed-centric digital world we occupy, perhaps. We won’t try to suggest our list is any better or any worse than others, the #IBWM100 is merely our version of events. We’ve stuck to the format that served Don Balon so successfully for many years; 100 names and details of where each player is from. We’ll revisit the list in twelve months’ time and assess how the year has panned out for each of the players concerned.
For us, the last twelve months has been all about research and ensuring we eyeball as many of these lads as possible, first hand. As usual, we’ve talked to current and ex-players, scouts, coaches, journalists, agents and fans from across the globe before committing our attention to anyone in particular. We’ve done red eye flights to Warsaw, night buses to Bruges and mid-morning trains to Edinburgh amongst many other trips. We’ve attended games on different continents, sat in front of an obscene amount of TV and done our share of 3am streams covering drab mid table goalless draws from the Bolivian relegation scene. We’ve put the hours in so that you don’t have to....but it was worth it.
The process we use for selecting players remains exactly the same. We might clock someone ourselves, or receive a tip off from elsewhere. If anyone catches our eye, we’ll watch again. And again. And again. If we’re still impressed, we’ll start looking at data, and we’d like to thank Opta - absolutely peerless in what they do – for helping here. He looked good, but how does he compare to others his age? Is his passing up to scratch? Is he too reliant on one foot? Is he playing often enough? Once we’ve taken the numbers into account, we’ll go back and watch again. And again. And again. If the player in question is in good shape and if opportunities look as if they are a given in 2015, he meets our criteria for selection. Even after taking all these factors into consideration we like to make sure that the #IBWM100 has a good balance of nationalities and positions so many individuals still don’t make the cut.
By definition, the very best kids should already be at the biggest clubs. And while many are, it’s the opportunity to play regularly which makes a huge difference. Signing for a Champions League regular in your early teens might offer good money, the best coaches and the best facilities, but if you’re not playing regularly by the time you’re 22, you’re up against it. Dozens of other kids will have already turned out for their club fifty times at a similar level. It’s a cliché, but there really is no substitute for playing first team football. We like players to be performing in the top division of the country they are based too.
This year we’ve included a massive 86 new names with only 14 individuals making the list for a second year running. In all cases we’ve selected players that we believe can truly ascend in 2015 - they have the ability and the stars have aligned to make sure they’ll be on the pitch. There are a lot of big names missing, but for good reason. We think the 100 is a reasonable reflection of where everyone is at right now and every name on this list has held up to close scrutiny on our part, for whatever that's worth.
These are the boys on the steepest trajectory and there is a lot more to come from them. You won’t agree with all the names we’ve chosen, but it’s our call. This isn’t a categorical definition of the best, it’s the group that we are most excited to set eyes upon next year. If we get it wrong, we’ll be accountable in twelve months’ time.
As ever, we love to hear your opinion on the #IBWM100 so please feel free to leave comments below the list when published. We’ll try to answer everything that comes our way.
Thanks for reading and enjoy watching the #IBWM100 in 2015.