Five things about world sports

Our definitive list of the best football teams in the world in 2024 – do you agree with our top 10?

“We’re by the far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.” Everyone sings it, but only one team can ever boast it as truth.

A host of historic giants are experiencing troubled patches right now. The days of Manchester United challenging for everything that glitters are over, Chelsea’s purple patch under Roman Abramovich has faded into chaos and Juventus no longer carry the threat of former days, to name a few.

On the contrary, several traditional heavyweights have restored pride in recent seasons, while a cluster of upstarts have threatened to challenge the established order.

We have based our rankings on a host of aspects, including short-term form and medium-term success. Trophies and honours do count towards a club’s standing, but context is crucial. Continental performance is often a strong barometer of success when comparing the titans in each nation.

Infrastructure, current squad, manager and overall trajectory have also been considered as we ponder the greatest teams in world football right now.

10. Tottenham

Hear us out. Tottenham have hoisted one trophy in the 21st century, a lone League Cup in 2008. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement for their inclusion on this list of elite, global heavyweights.

However, Spurs increasingly feel like a club to be reckoned with. The state-of-the-art stadium, the steadily assembled squad of talents on the rise, the infectiously ambitious manager – the ingredients are there – and Spurs are finally starting to produce results that match their infrastructure.

Tottenham’s recruitment has been nothing short of sublime in recent times with several new signings, who have already punched in performances worthy of a title race, yet to fulfil their potential.

Spurs have built a strong platform, a healthy base for growth and appear set to justify their inclusion at the top table with a flow of silverware in the near future.

9. Napoli

More than a mere flash in the pan, Napoli have enjoyed an increasingly upward curve with Serie A gains being made in each of their past four seasons, culminating in lifting the title in 2022/23.

Napoli also reached the Champions League semi-finals last term, proving their competence at the top table of domestic football. Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia contributed double digits in the goals and assists columns last time around and are likely to attract plenty of suitors in the months to come.

The gloss of Napoli’s title victory has faded slightly due to their poor performance in 2023/24 so far, but the incredibly tight nature of Serie A this season should be taken into account. It’s too soon to write them off.

8. PSG

Nine Ligue 1 titles and 21 domestic cup trophies since 2013 speaks volumes about PSG’s dominance over the domestic game. No side has overwhelmed their nation in a top domestic league for such a period of time as PSG have done over the last decade.

The fantasy football all-star trio of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar made a mockery of the French top flight, but that’s where our praise for PSG has to end. Simply, given the resources ploughed into the club, given the box office managers and players who have called Parc des Princes their home, PSG’s continental return has been sub-standard.

In the glittering last decade, PSG have failed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League in nine of 11 seasons, while their run to the 2020 final involved relatively favourable matches against Atalanta and RB Leipzig.

Now, Messi is gone, Neymar is gone, Mbappe appears to be going. Maybe the best thing for the club is a reset, re-evaluation and a reboot with a team unit, not a mish-mash of individuals.

7. Barcelona

You’d be forgiven for absorbing the near-exclusively negative press swirling around Barcelona and assuming they are a spent force, a giant ready to be tucked in for a long sleep. That simply couldn’t be further from the case.

We’ll leave discussions of their long-term future and financial state to others, but in terms of on-field action, Barcelona have plenty to feel optimistic about.

Xavi settled in nicely at the club last year and conquered La Liga against the might of Real Madrid in 2022/23. Pedri and Gavi look set to take world football by storm and Robert Lewandowski remains a lethal force. Barca’s European exploits have tailed off since Lionel Messi’s departure, but they remain a force to be reckoned with.

6. Inter Milan

The Milanese giants may have conceded last season’s title to Napoli, but they remain a strong force in Italian football right now. The dark ages of a decade ago are over and they are back to the summit in Serie A.

Inter won the title in 2021, sandwiched either side by second-place finishes, plus another in 2023. They also lifted the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italia last year and reached the Champions League final against Manchester City.

They have found consistency and security in the upper echelons of the Italian top flight, something not to be taken for granted given the erratic form of AC Milan and the collapse of Juventus in recent years. Serie A also boasts plenty of tenacious dark horses with Atalanta, Fiorentina, Lazio and Roma all showing flashes of competitiveness.

5. Bayern Munich

A run of 11 consecutive Bundesliga titles has cemented Bayern Munich as the undisputed dominant force in Germany. Dortmund and RB Leipzig have tried to overhaul the order in a number of individual seasons but failed to truly make a lasting dent on them.

Many could argue, like PSG, that the relative weakness of the league should count against them, but that’s where Champions League performance has to play a factor in determining their true strength.

Bayern have reached the semi-finals in nine of the last 16 campaigns, with four finals and two victories in that time. They reached the knockout rounds in all 16 of those seasons and only lost twice in the Round of 16 stage. A true continental heavyweight aiming for the grand prize with Harry Kane at the helm.

4. Liverpool

Liverpool are certainly one to watch in terms of 2024 rankings as the year rumbles on. There are no two ways about it, the Reds endured a poor season last term by their standards, but they are very much back.

Jurgen Klopp remains an elite manager, able to coax the best out of players, from academy stars to frugal new signings. The Reds have the ability to spend big but not on the same scale as the likes of Manchester City, enhancing the impressiveness of Klopp’s achievements.

Liverpool have reached three Champions League finals in six years, they won the Premier League in 2020 and recorded two second-place finishes in recent times. They also won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in 2022. The Reds have bounced back in 2023/24 with a title charge very much on the cards.

3. Arsenal

It would be lazy to simply throw Arsenal’s name up to the very summit based on one season inside the Premier League top four since 2016, but the Gunners’ form started in 2022 and has barely relented since with a youthful team that will continue to grow under Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal’s growth under the Spanish gaffer has been nothing short of remarkable, winning almost 60 per cent of his first 200 matches in charge of the club, lifting them from the outskirts of European places into the heart of successive title races, picking up domestic trophies in the process.

Like Liverpool, Arsenal don’t boast the spending power of City, but have splashed vast amounts of cash in the right places at the right times. The addition of Declan Rice appears to be a sublime investment, and they boast world class talent throughout the spine of their team, from William Saliba at the back to Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka going forward. This team can go toe-to-toe with any team in world football and will only continue to develop positively.

2. Real Madrid

Spanish giants Real Madrid remain arguably the toughest draw in European football having won the trophy four times since 2016. For context, only six teams have won four or more trophies since the European Cup’s inception in 1956.

Jude Bellingham is the hottest young talent in world football, Luka Modric remains imperious in midfield, though his involvement is slowing down, and David Alaba may be the best defender in the world. Young players such as Vinicius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni will lock in Real Madrid’s continued success for years to come.

However, while they are the long-term kings of European football, Madrid’s lack of total dominion over La Liga has dented their air of invincibility. They finished a second to Barcelona by 10 points last term and are currently wrestling with Girona, who are embroiled in the most audacious title bid since Leicester in 2016.

1. Manchester City

Manchester City brought a European trophy back to the Etihad in 2023. Finally, it feels like they have arrived at the top table and have earned their feast.

It’s hard to raise Manchester City’s decade of success without acknowledging Premier League charges that accuse the club of alleged financial rule breaches. The club strongly denies any wrongdoing and the debate will rumble on for months, and potentially years, to come, but for now we will focus on their on-field heroics.

City have won five of the last six Premier League titles and will be firmly in the hunt for another in 2023/24. They boast the best coach in world football, Pep Guardiola, and several of the best players in the world including Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.

It didn’t all go City’s way in 2022/23, but we hold them to such a high standard that even brief blips in form are seen as catastrophic crises. City are the dominant force in the most lucrative, highest quality league in world football with relentless evolution of their style set to keep them at the very top for a long time to come.

The only stick to beat City with was their lack of a Champions League trophy in the cabinet, though they were showing clear progress in this area with three consecutive semi-final berths before clinching the trophy in 2023 to secure their status as the team to beat.

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