How many world-class players does the Premier League actually have?

Harry Kane? Eden Hazard? Mo Salah? England’s top division is unmatched for riches but our definition of world class suggests few of its players are of the very highest standard

This time about a year ago, before Mohamed Salah at Liverpool began to push his way to the front of the queue for the nation’s attention, a debate was taking place over whether the increasingly reliable Harry Kane was good enough to be regarded as genuinely world class. Now the same thing is happening in reverse to Alexis Sánchez. By the time the Chilean left Barcelona for Arsenal his credentials as one of the world’s elite were impeccable. Last month a journalist in Santiago made contact asking for information on why Sánchez was failing so badly at Manchester United.

Genuinely world class. The first word ought to be superfluous, though in football discussions it never is. No one quite knows the parameters here. Some would argue you have to be good enough to hold down a place in a notional World XI, to take part in a pan-galactic match against Planet Zog. Others think that might be a bit harsh, and suggest that any pan-galactic contest would surely be organised along World Cup lines and would therefore require a squad of 23 players, perhaps even a couple more. So you could envisage the criterion as being enough players to form a trial match between the best two sides in the world.

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