Wingers have become a little antiquated in the modern game, but there's still plenty of benefit to having fast, attack-minded players in wide positions. Blessed with pace and persistence to beat their markers and make it to the byline for a cut-back cross, they can be truly dangerous.
Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund
Reus has been hampered by injuries. If he had been fit this season, German football might boast a player not far below the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship were denied Reus' talents. He is 27 now, when players are supposed to hit their peak, but has missed all of Borussia Dortmund's season so far with a torn abductor muscle.
Without him, Dortmund are unable to challenge in the Bundesliga. In full flow, off either wing, his delicate, slender frame allows him to glide beyond defenders, and his finishing is explosive. Bayern Munich coveted him in the past, as have Real Madrid, but after joining Dortmund from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012, Reus has remained in his home town. A player whom Franz Beckenbauer declared "extraordinary" in 2014 has never found the fitness for a top team to take an expensive risk.
Angel Di Maria, Paris Saint-Germain
During the summer of 2014, Di Maria appeared almost unstoppable. His long, surging runs -- not those of Ronaldo -- were key to Real Madrid's 4-1 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid. At the 2014 World Cup, Di Maria was the ideal foil for Lionel Messi as Argentina pushed to their first final since 1990 before losing to Germany.
A £59.7 million move to Manchester United that summer proved a disaster. But in 2015, PSG were the beneficiaries of a player eager to prove himself once again. He starred in last season's runaway Ligue 1 title win, rattling in 10 goals and supplying 18 assists.
Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
He is just 21, but Sterling is already in his fifth season at the top level. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and England coach Roy Hodgson tried him as a central forward, but Sterling has excelled as a winger for Pep Guardiola. A preseason text message of encouragement from Manchester City's incoming manager was the first step in rehabilitation from a mediocre first season at the Etihad.
"He gives you little details and instances of when it's happened with players he's dealt with," Sterling said of Guardiola, someone he is clearly keen to learn from. Sterling is no longer the speed merchant dancing past opponents. He is a player of genuine physical power, tough to knock off the ball. The £49m fee City paid Liverpool in the summer of 2015 no longer seems extortionate.
Where might Chelsea have been without Willian last season? Probably much lower than 10th place. While the likes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Oscar wilted during the storm that brought down Jose Mourinho, the Brazilian flourished.
Mourinho wanted to take him to Manchester United in the summer, but he signed a new contract at Stamford Bridge. "When someone like him is interested in you, then you are happy," Willian said in August, after penning a new four-year deal.
He has proved himself indispensable as an exponent of modern wing play, with an eagerness to work back in defending. Willian is a powerful, speedy attacker all across the front line. He's also a free-kick expert, with all five of his goals in last season's Champions League coming from the dead ball.
Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich
At 33, his powers have waned a little since the club collected a treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in 2013. Back then, he and Arjen Robben ripped teams apart in tandem. But injuries and the arrival of Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman have supplanted them.
When fit, Ribery still displays the gifts that made him a favourite sidekick to Zinedine Zidane in France's run to the 2006 World Cup final. Ribery's current muscle problem, suffered at the end of September, occurred just as Carlo Ancelotti saw him score twice in five Bundesliga appearances.
"When he is on the pitch, he has an incredible energy and is not just at his limits, but even beyond," Zidane said of Ribery in December 2015. The mentor retains faith in his pupil.
Nolito, Manchester City
Nolito has been a late developer. First, he was snapped up by Barcelona at age 22 after playing third-division football. Then, having failed to make the grade at the Camp Nou, a move to Benfica turned his career around before three seasons at Celta Vigo brought him to La Liga prominence.
His attacking talents off the left wing, where he cuts in on his right foot, won favour from both Vicente del Bosque, who selected him for each of Spain's matches at Euro 2016, and Guardiola, who made him among his first Manchester City signings. He was rewarded with three goals in Nolito's first three matches.
Having failed to make Guardiola's great Barcelona team, Nolito is making himself very useful in his manager's current project.
Arda Turan, Barcelona
"This year, he's showing the form we all knew he was capable of," Barcelona manager Luis Enrique said after Turan had scored an equaliser as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Sept. 28.
Perhaps that slow burn is the result of sitting out half of the 2015-16 season while Barcelona served a FIFA transfer ban. Turkey's captain is yet to replicate the impact he had at previous club Atletico Madrid, where he was one of Diego Simeone's most reliable performers. In the Champions League semifinal second leg at Chelsea in 2013-14, Turan scored to effectively confirm Atleti's place in the final.
Juan Cuadrado, Juventus
These days, there's a growing group of players who are proving Mourinho wrong, and the Colombian is towards the top of that list. Signed by Mourinho and Chelsea from Fiorentina in January 2015, Cuadrado was never given much chance to replace the likes of Willian and Eden Hazard. Cuadrado featured in just 13 Premier League matches -- nine as a substitute -- before being loaned to Juventus seven months after arriving in West London.
Having starred in Juve's league and cup double triumph of 2015-16, Cuadrado's stay in Turin was extended for three years, though he's still on loan from Chelsea, which is an oddity of the London club's labyrinthine loan system. Back in Italian football, he has been able to display the flair and eye for goal that attracted his parent club in the first place.
Yevhen Konoplyanka, Sevilla
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk guarded their prize asset jealously for years. Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre spent a fruitless few days in Ukraine in January 2014 and failed to land a fast-breaking player whose fierce, right-footed shooting from the left flank had won admirers across the continent.
Konoplyanka eventually became a free agent in the summer of 2015 and moved to Sevilla, against whom he had played his final Dnipro match -- a 3-2 loss in the Europa League final in Warsaw. He is currently on loan at Schalke in the Bundesliga, having been an unused substitute in last season's Europa League showpiece, as Sevilla beat Liverpool 3-1.
A move to English football seems unlikely. "If I was two-and-a-half metres tall and didn't know how to control a ball, then I may have gone to England," he said last September.
Nicolas Gaitan, Atletico Madrid
Manchester United fans have heard plenty about Gaitan over the years. He was linked with a move to Old Trafford during each transfer window from 2011 to 2016, when he finally left Benfica to join Atletico for a fee of €25m.
A match-winning performance for Benfica in a Sept. 2015 Champions League match at the Vicente Calderon helped secure his move to the Spanish capital. Gaitan signed off from Lisbon having won three consecutive Superliga titles, though he has yet to fully impose himself in Simeone's team.
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FC 100 is the result of a comprehensive vote among ESPN FC writers, experts and regions to determine the top 100 in the men's game right now. Our ballot breaks things down by position to more accurately reflect the top performers all over the pitch, not just the ones who dominate the headlines.