The 2017 ESPN FC 100 was released on Monday and the reactions have been strong around the football world. Wednesday saw Man City and Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne discussing his ranking as the top attacking midfielder in the world. On Thursday, Bayern Munich stars Manuel Neuer (No. 1 goalkeeper) and Robert Lewandowski (No. 1 striker) talk to ESPN FC about their progress.
ESPN FC: It's been a difficult year for you, one beset with injuries. Are you pleased that you've been rated the No. 1 goalkeeper irrespective of that?
Neuer: I feel very honoured to receive this award even though 2017 wasn't the best year for me in a sporting sense, in my opinion. But it will spur me on further to earn the same result in the poll due to my performances in the near future.
ESPN FC: You've never had this much time off from playing football in your life before. What have you been doing over the past few months?
Neuer: My daily schedule is packed with rehab exercise, physiotherapy and all sorts of training exercises. Week by week, there's more I can do and it's getting closer to real football. I miss the ball, obviously. But there's light at the end of the tunnel now.
ESPN FC: Are you confident of being back on the pitch in time for key matches with Bayern - and the World Cup - next year?
Neuer: It's been a lengthy injury lay-off. But there's no doubt that I will be back.
ESPN FC: You've been voted the No. 1 striker in the world by ESPN FC. How do you feel about getting that kind of recognition?
Lewandowski: It's an amazing feeling to be voted best striker. I'm really happy to receive that kind of recognition from the ESPN FC jury. Thank you very much!
ESPN FC: Has this been your best-ever year? And are there areas in which you feel you could still improve?
Lewandowski: What would I say is that the season so far is looking good, especially with so many avenues still being open to me. With FC Bayern, we're well-positioned in all competitions -- the Bundesliga, the Champions League and DFB-Pokal -- and in addition, there's the World Cup with Poland to come.
I work everyday on improving my game further, whether practicing free-kicks, penalties or the shooting technique with my left foot. But there's another factor that goes beyond individual improvement, and that's the combination play with your teammates. That is what ultimately brings success.
ESPN FC: Being a striker means many things in the modern game, from "false nine" to "target man" and everything in-between. How would you characterise your own playing style?
Lewandowski: I find it difficult to compare myself to different types of strikers or to see them as role models at this time in my career. I believe I have developed my own style and I am focussed on becoming better on a daily basis.