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Raiola, Kompany, Neville, Di Marzio, Pele among Most Influential 40-31

ESPN FC is counting down the top 50 most influential men and women in football, as compiled by our editors and writers from around the world.

MOST INFLUENTIAL: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

40. Pele, former player

Pele is still one of the world's most recognisable players.

Still the benchmark of excellence in football. Even if debate continues to rage over who is the best between Pele and Diego Maradona (and now Lionel Messi), the three-time-World Cup-winning Brazilian has always been the level against which others are measured. Pele's total of 1,281 goals in 1,363 games may never be beaten.

With such a profound legacy, Pele remains one of the most marketable names in world football, endorsing all sorts of products and services through the years such as Volkswagen, Procter & Gamble, Santander and Subway. When he speaks, people listen, and although the 74-year-old has struggled with health problems of late, "The King of Football" still has the power to capture the headlines -- and the imagination.

39. Gianluca Di Marzio, journalist and transfer guru

Gianluca Di Marzio is often at the forefront of the football world's latest transfer news.

When the big transfer stories break, it's highly likely that the first rumblings (if not the big reports) came from the Italian journalist. Based in the heart of European football, Di Marzio is at the centre of where news happens, which in turn makes him an effective mover in the market. His headlines ripple out, causing clubs to act and players to make decisions. Pep Guardiola's arrival as manager of Bayern Munich is just one example of his ability to break news.

38. Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of FIFPro

Theo van Seggelen has recently taken up the cause seeking equality for women's football.

FIFPro, the worldwide representative association of 65,000 professional footballers, is administrated by Van Seggelen in his home country, the Netherlands. Under his charge, the organisation has attempted to give voice to player concerns, flexing its muscle on the dangers of concussions and proper protocol as well as making the case that the current transfer system denies its members "true freedom."

FIFPro's remit has recently shifted to women's football, announcing of a new "global outreach initiative" during the 2015 Women's World Cup. The organisation has also advocated for players' rights in the areas of racism, match-fixing and clubs not paying players (most recently in Portugal and Greece), and also runs the annual World XI selection that runs in tandem with FIFA's Ballon d'Or award.

37. Gary Neville, Sky TV analyst

When Gary Neville speaks, football's decision-makers listen.

The former Manchester United full-back has significantly raised the bar for punditry while also acting as a coach for the England national team. Quite simply, no one explains the game in the English language with as much insight as he does. At the start of matches, Neville typically watches the tactical cam (the one that shows the entire pitch) to get a concrete and vivid idea of each side's game plan, which then informs his analysis when tactics shift during play.

He's also brilliant in defining how a particular player's role can be the difference between victory and defeat. His newspaper columns are also a revelation, whether he writes about the likelihood of Liverpool never returning to the summit of English football or the evolution of football management from one of all-seeing guru to the "era of the technical director."

It's probably not just the fans who are listening, either. Not long after his criticism of Manchester United's hasty rejection of the 4-3-3, manager Louis van Gaal reintroduced the formation and subsequently secured a top-four finish and return to the Champions League.

36. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, former Qatar prime minister, Qatar Investment head

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani,
Sheikh Hamad has been a driving force for Qatar.

Qatar has the 2022 World Cup to prepare for. Qatari interests own Paris Saint-Germain, the French club with pretensions and the capability to become a giant of the European game, while also sponsoring Barcelona. The small Arab nation -- the richest country in the world per capita through its huge natural gas and oil reserves -- has become a strident force in the game thanks to Sheikh Hamad's influence and foresight.

Sheikh Hamad is the force behind Qatar's global football ambitions, including controversially winning the 2022 final bid in 2010. The Qatari national team play in a stadium named after him as a testament to his involvement and he has been the patron of the Aspire Academy of Sports Excellence since 2003.

Although his focus these days is largely on property acquisition -- he was cited by one English newspaper as "the man who bought London" -- Sheikh Hamad holds a clear interest in the continued development of football.

35. Vitaly Mutko, Russian minister of sport and FIFA ExCo member

Vitaly Mutko serves as Russian president Vladimir Putin's eyes and ears at FIFA.

Qatar 2022 has been the focal point of the FIFA scandal but let's not forget about the 2018 edition in Russia. Mutko certainly won't. He was the chairman of that successful bid, after all; as a government minister and FIFA ExCo member, he also offers eyes and ears to President Vladimir Putin as Russia prepares to host the biggest competition in football.

Mutko is also standing as a candidate in September's election for a new president of the Russian Football Union (RFS) with the backing of organisations, including the Federation of Football for the Volgograd Region. The 56-year-old headed up the RFS from 2005-2009 and his links to big corporations would help improve the financial state of the organisation, which is $25 million in debt, if he is re-elected.

In other words, Mutko is a name we'll be hearing a lot more of in the years to come.

34. Frederic Thiriez, president of the French Ligue and president of the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL)

Frederic Thiriez has been the voice of Europe's clubs in their fight against a winter World Cup in 2022.

The Richard Scudamore of France, Thiriez has led French league football since 2002. A lawyer by trade, the 63-year-old is a driving force behind making Ligue 1 one of the best in Europe. While he has some distance to go, Thiriez has quietly improved the league's bottom line, increasing Ligue 1's TV revenue from €270m in his first year in charge to almost €1 billion in 2014; their most recent deal, which runs from 2016 to 2020, makes France the fourth richest league in Europe.

Thiriez is also a founding member of the European Football Professional Leagues and ascended to its presidency in 2013. He has led the EPFL's battle with FIFA, arguing against a winter tournament for Qatar 2022, but his major challenge is to make sure his voice is heard -- and heard loudly -- among the European corridors of power.

33. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City and Belgium captain

Vincent Kompany has emerged as one of football's more socially conscious ambassadors.

As the two-time Premier League-winning captain of Manchester City, Kompany has been synonymous with the success enjoyed at the Etihad Stadium since the Abu Dhabi group bought the club in 2008. His influence on the pitch is apparent (when he's playing well, anyway) but, more importantly, the Belgian defender also has the ear of club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

The 29-year-old is part of Belgium's golden generation of players who reached the nation's first World Cup since 2002 and have designs on winning next year's European Championship. But off the field, Kompany also sets a fine example as a leader to the next generation of players. An articulate thinker and spokesman for the game, he often takes to Twitter to register his opinions on contentious topics, such as calling for more transparency at FIFA. Clearly, this is a player who has a future in football well beyond his playing days.

Kompany is one of those rare players who want to take an active role in social issues and to use his position for positive change. He is an ambassador for SOS Children, has supported projects in Congo and in 2013, he bought a Belgian third-tier club as a "social commitment toward the youngsters of Brussels."

32. Javier Tebas, president of Spanish League

Javier Tebas has championed to collectivise television revenues within Spanish football.

You expect your league president to shy away from making bold statements but Tebas never got that memo. As president of La Liga in Spain, he has come to the public's attention much more than his predecessors mostly for his willingness to publicly speak his mind. He has even taken on the vested interests of Real Madrid and Barcelona by becoming an advocate for the proposal to collectivise television revenue, which would eliminate the existing situation in which those two super clubs reap more than the rest of the league combined.

"A new La Liga has arrived and it will develop unstoppably in order to equal and overtake our competitors," Tebas said after the government passed a proposition which stops clubs selling rights individually.

Tebas has also clashed with the Spanish FA over who should distribute the money and the saga almost resulted in a player strike at the end of last season.

A president with a distinct impression of where La Liga fits in the global football order, Tebas has been an outspoken critic of the Premier League's spending power and, as a buffer against that, is a defender of third-party ownership. He has also said that that neither Barcelona nor Espanyol will be able to play in the Spanish league if Catalonia ever achieves independence and has threatened players with jail sentences if found guilty of match-fixing.

31. Mino Raiola, agent

Mino Raiola represents some of Italy and Europe's most sought-after footballers.

One of the world's leading "super agents," Raiola is a colourful character who speaks seven languages (Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Neapolitan) and reportedly learned English by watching Disney films. After failing to graduate from law school as a teenager, Raiola was working in his father's pizzeria when he was named a sporting director at HFC Haarlem at the age of 19, but he made his first steps in the game at the Sport-Promotion agency where he helped to broker a deal for Dennis Bergkamp to join Inter Milan from Ajax.

Now he represents the likes of Mario Balotelli, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba; the latter's next move could well be one of the biggest and most influential deals of the next decade. Raiola's star client, however, is the one and only Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has described him as a "genius" and credits Raiola with changing his attitude to both the sport and his career.

Raiola clearly has the personality to match the size of stars he represents and has hit out at Ibrahimovic critic Pep Guardiola, also telling Johann Cruyff to "go to hell" over the same player.

His thoughts on Sepp Blatter? Raiola called the FIFA president a "dictator" and suggested he might run against him. Such abrasiveness has helped him become established as one of the foremost agents in the game.

MOST INFLUENTIAL: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

Information from Miguel Delaney and John Brewin was used in this report.


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