Ever since player ratings were introduced to FIFA back in 2004 fans of the series have anticipated who will be chosen as the best overall player in the game. Turning back the clock, we’ll uncover some expected, and not so expected, facts about the top-rated players in each regular release since FIFA 2005 (excluding World Cup, Euro etc. editions).
A Rundown of the Top-Rated FIFA Players
Let’s start with the obvious. Lionel Messi has been named the best in-game player the most times at nine. He also holds the record for consecutive years as the best – seven, from 2010 to 2016. In case you are curious, Cristiano Ronaldo has been named the best five times, three of which in consecutive years in 2017-2019 (tied with Messi in the latest of those).
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Moving to the curious aspects of this topic, it is a goalkeeper that holds the record for the highest starting overall rating ever. Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon shared the top spot with Frenchman Thierry Henry in the first FIFA to ever include ratings – FIFA 2005. The goalie and the striker were rated at 97 – a feat not likely to ever be broken considering EA’s intent on nerfing ratings in recent times.
Buffon was a mainstay at the top of the ratings for the first four years of their existence, until he was finally overtaken in FIFA 2009, although he never held the crown unanimously. In one of the more bizarre facts to pop up in this article’s research, the Italian was actually tied with another goalkeeper in FIFA 2006. Iker Casillas, more on him later, matched Buffon and Ronaldinho’s 95 rating, making this the first and likely final instance of two goalkeepers sitting atop the rating mountain.
Ronaldinho himself had to settle for second place in FIFA 2007 as young Wayne Rooney was keeping Gianluigi company instead. The Brazilian returned for yet another three-way tie involving Buffon in 2008 - the keeper’s final appearance on the list and Cristiano Ronaldo’s first. Iker Casillas would hold the mantle for goalies for another couple of years, matching Ronaldo’s 91 rating in 2009 and Lionel Messi’s 90 in 2010. That would be the last case of anyone other than Messi and Ronaldo topping the charts.
The year of our Lord 2010 would be the the start of Lionel Messi’s incredible run of seven successive top-rated stats in FIFA – 90 in 2010-11, 93 in 2015, and 94 in 2012-14 and 2016. Ronaldo finally broke the streak with a 94 overall himself in FIFA 2017, beating out Messi by one point. The pair were tied for the first and what would surely remain the only time in FIFA 2019, where they both held a 94 rating.
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Although considered rivals, Ronaldo and Messi have set a FIFA record together that will hardly ever be broken, much like Henry and Buffon’s for highest overall. Leo and Cristiano have been the top two ranked players in the game for ten consecutive years – ever since it first happened in FIFA 2011. Approaching their mid- 30s, this streak is bound to end soon enough, but even if that happens in FIFA 21, this record will likely forever stand as a mark of two legends’ consistent brilliance.