On Wednesday, 23 December at 10am (GMT) we will publish the #IBWM100 for 2016 - our list of the most exciting young* players in world football.

As always, we’ve stuck with 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.

The process we use for selection remains exactly the same.  We talk to scouts, coaches, players, journalists, fans and bloggers from around the world to get a clear a picture of exactly who we should be watching and why.  Across the year, we monitor each player on our long list to see how things are going while considering what the future is likely to hold for them.  Eventually our long list becomes the #IBWM100 – nothing definitive, just the players that we believe will really soar in 2016.

By definition, the very best kids should already be at the biggest clubs.  While many already are, it’s the opportunity to play regularly which makes a huge difference.  Signing for a Champions League club 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 turn 22, you’re going to be 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. 

We want to ensure that the #IBWM100 has a good balance of nationalities and positions and we always try to bring as many new names into the mix as possible.  Because of this approach, many outstanding individuals don’t make the list. 

This year, for example, despite meeting our criteria for selection, we’ve not included Aymeric Laporte, Adrien Rabiot, Marquinhos, Matthias Ginter and Hakan Çalhanoğlu to name but a few.  Outstanding young footballers all, but players that we think may already be operating at the top end of their range.  We could have included them, certainly, but that means we’d have to ignore someone new and that goes against what we’re trying to do.  The #IBWM100 is all about catching the right player at the right time as they make their way to the top.

We don’t expect you to agree with all our choices, just to understand why we’ve picked the players that we have.  If we get it wrong, we’ll be here in December 2016 to justify our selections and assess how the year has gone for every single player on the list. 

There are 46 nations represented this year with some exceptional talents included.  Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands continue to lead the way but Eastern Europe – in particular the Adriatic States – is posting a clear warning of how things are likely to develop over the next decade.  Exciting times lie ahead.

As ever, we love to hear your opinions on the #IBWM100 so please feel free to leave comments below the line when the list published.  We’re also available on Twitter and will try to answer everything that comes our way. 

Enjoy watching the #IBWM100 in 2016, good luck to them all.


*born on or after 1/1/1994