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Europe’s Finest: Power rankings for football’s top players (October 20th)

The power rankings shape up very interestingly this week with the World Cup drawing ever closer.

FC Bayern München v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

Some massive match-ups ended with massive ramifications this week, including the Premier League’s two most successful teams in the last few years facing off in Liverpool and Manchester City, multiple clashes across the top four in the Bundesliga, Le Classique and of course, the biggest game in club football, El Clasico. Let’s see who wrote themselves amongst the legends of these games this week.

10. Kevin De Bruyne (Last week: 4)

Liverpool FC v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

All of Manchester City took a hit this week with the 1-0 loss to Liverpool, and Kevin De Bruyne was no different.

Playing as one of a makeshift front three against Liverpool, De Bruyne failed to make any significant impact. His wide runs were not assisted with an overload. His creativity through the middle was stifled by the double pivot of Thiago Álcantara and Fabinho as well as the marauding centre backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who cut out a lot of dangerous passes.

De Bruyne failed to make any real impact and honestly can count himself lucky to still be in the top 10.

9. Lionel Messi (Last week: 10)

Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique Marseille - Ligue 1 Uber Eats Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Lionel Messi returned to action this week and immediately showed his quality, being Paris Saint-Germain’s best outfield player (Gianluigi Donnarumma had a fantastic game in net) in Le Classique against Olympique Marseille. While he failed to register a goal or assist, he ran play in the final third with his movement and ability to involve the midfielders in the final third. It allowed PSG to exploit the spaces between the lines and eventually earn the only goal of the game (via Neymar Jr., through Vitinha). Messi did also hit the woodwork from a free kick which could have been the opener of the game.

Messi continues to be simultaneously the most overrated and overhated player in the world this season. He has good performances that are neither as amazing as his fans think, nor as bad as the detractors say.

8. Alphonso Davies (Last appearance: September 15th)

FC Augsburg v FC Bayern München - DFB Cup: Second Round Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Alphonso Davies is the best full back in the world this season.

The Canadian had a fantastic performance against SC Freiburg, holding down his flank perfectly and advancing with great vigour, too. His new role in the half-space while teammate Sadio Mané hugs the touchline has seen him used a lot more as the man to play in the final ball after receiving a ball in between the lines.

Against Augsburg in the DFB-Pokal, Davies was even better. Defensively he was unbeatable, rushing down anything and everything. Offensively he was unbelievable, speeding past one or two Augsburg players every time he received the ball without fail. He was quite literally unplayable, ending the game with a first-time hit into the top right corner, courtesy of a great pass from Thomas Müller.

You can read more about Bayern’s exploits against Augbsurg in the cup right here with our match observations and match awards articles.

7. Leon Goretzka (Last week: 6)

FC Augsburg v FC Bayern München - DFB Cup: Second Round Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Leon Goretzka put in a pair of shifts for Bayern Munich this week.

While the German international failed to get on the scoresheet, his role was adapted to be more defensively leaning and it paid dividends. Bayern shut out Freiburg in the league and the Augsburg goals were down to a mix of bad luck and goalkeeper error. Goretzka’s ability to progress the ball into the final third was apparent as ever, and his telepathic partnership with Joshua Kimmich saw the two switching positions seemlessly. Goretzka was defensively astute once again, especially in the tackle, almost never losing a one-versus-one duel while off the ball.

6. Rodrygo (New)

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Rodrygo made an impact in El Clasico in just a handful of minutes.

Played clean in on goal by Federico Valverde, Rodrygo turned Eric García well enough that the Spanish centre back had to resort to tripping the player to stop the chance. After a VAR review, the penalty was given and Rodrygo made no mistake with the finish.

Rodrygo had a great game against Elche midweek, playing a sliced through ball to Vinícius Júnior who cut it back for what would have been the opening goal, but it was all for nought as Vinícius was marginally offside. Rodrygo would get his assist with a cheeky backheel return pass to Karim Benzema. In the dying embers of the game Rodrygo came alive once again, running in behind the Elche defense with Vinícius playing him through. The Brazilian managed to outpace the defender before using the last of his momentum to cross it to Marco Asensio in the middle. He crashed to the floor as Asensio managed to loop it in first time.

Rodrygo in his new role as a free man floating to all spaces in the final third has seen him pop up at just the exact places needed to make massive impacts on games.

5. Federico Valverde (New)

Elche v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Fede Valverde has been simply brilliant for Real Madrid this season, and continued that form with a goal in each of two matches this week.

In El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu, Valverde received a pass at the edge of the box from Ferland Mendy, set it up for himself and took a fantastic driven shot into the bottom left corner between three defenders and past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. He also nearly got an assist when he played Rodrygo in on goal, a pass that resulted in a penalty instead.

Valverde opened the scoring against Elche mid-week with another goal from outside the box, this one somehow even more spectacular. A fizzy loose ball found its way to Valverde outside the box. He chested it down and took the shot on the volley while pressured by multiple defenders. The shot cannoned into the top left corner, another highlight reel-worthy goal from the Uruguayan midfielder-turned-winger.

Valverde played a heavy part in David Alaba’s wonder goal too, being the one to play the initial one-two to push Alaba behind the midfield line before the Austrian repeated the act with Benzema to find himself in on goal, although the goal would be disallowed for offside.

4. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Last week: 7)

SSC Napoli v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia started Napoli’s game vs. Bologna in a charged fashion, playing Mário Rui in on goal, only to see the Portuguese left back strike the woodwork from a narrowing angle.

Bologna took the lead against the run of play via a composed finish from Joshua Zirkzee, but could not withstand Napoli’s relentless firepower. Kvaratskhelia nearly gave his team the advantage himself early in the second half, receiving the ball over the top from Rui and dancing between two defenders beautifully. His shot would miss, but the ensuing chaos resulted in Hirving Lozano’s goal and Napoli’s first lead.

Bologna would quickly equalise, but once again Kvaratskhelia came to the rescue , with a defense-splitting through ball for a sprinting Victor Osimhen. That proved to be the decisive goal, though for good measure, Kvaratskhelia nearly bagged himself a second assist with a great weighted pass to Piotr Zielinski. The Polish midfielder could only hit the frame of the goal after a key block from Jhon Lucumí on that occasion.

Is there any stopping Napoli and their electric attack? That will depend if teams can successfully smother Kvaratskhelia — and right now, that doesn’t look likely.

3. Erling Haaland (Last week: 2)

Liverpool FC v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


Okay, I’m not celebrating Erling Haaland struggling. I’m just celebrating the fact that I finally have the leeway for some variety in the podium. For the first time since the 1st of September, the top two of the power rankings does not consist of Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski. No joke, these two have practically monopolised (duopolised?) the title of Europe’s Finest for the last two months, ever since Neymar’s drop in form.

Haaland struggled to get on the scoresheet against Liverpool, which came down to some fantastic defensive performances from Van Dijk and Joe Gomez. Van Dijk in particular seems to consistently get the better of the Norwegian, as this is the second time Haaland has failed to score against him this season. Haaland had a few chances to score but failed to convert.

Van Dijk versus Haaland really does seem like the clash of two genetically engineered superhumans, and I’m excited to see what happens the next time these two face off. Pep Guardiola will inevitably come up with something to get Haaland up and running against the Reds. Odds of Pep playing Haaland as a right winger with Phil Foden as a false nine?

2. Robert Lewandowski (Last week: 1)

FC Barcelona v Villarreal - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Robert Lewandowski... does something every game. It isn’t always a goal, sometimes an assist.

In El Clasico, Lewandowski had a sub-par game, marked by multiple misses, including one at an empty net which he managed to scuff over the bar. Lewandowski would get an assist with a heel flick fake-out with old teammate David Alaba — a signature from their time together at Bayern — but it was a ruse. Lewandowski merely changed the ball’s trajectory enough to let Ferrán Torres have a comfortable shot at the far post with no keeper or defender to stop him.

Lewandowski had a much improved performance against Villarreal, opening the scoring with a clever pivot which flattened both Pau Torres and Raúl Albiol before pivoting once again to face the goal and shoot past a rushing Gerónimo Rulli. The newly crowned best striker in the world according to France Football (don’t ask me how that doesn’t step on the toes of the Ballon d’Or, which was won by a striker not named Robert Lewandowski) showed his clinical finishing ability in his second goal of the match. It was an otherworldly finish into the top right corner from the edge of the box after receiving the ball out wide on the left and driving into the middle.

A great performance midweek but the poor performance in El Clasico knocks him down a peg for me. Honestly it was a toss-up between him and number one but I’ve had to give it to the player who hasn’t put in a poor performance pretty much the entire season.

1. Leroy Sané (Last week: 3)

FC Bayern München v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

With Leroy Sané injured for the next couple of weeks, don’t expect him to hold this position even into next week.

The German forward has been Bayern Munich’s ace of spades. Simply brilliant. The way he changes games is unparalleled in the modern game — not even Messi or Benzema can stake a claim to the kind of game-changing ability Sané possesses with his pace, quick exchanges and runs in behind.

Playing wide right as usual in Bayern’s 4-2-3-1 against Freiburg, Sané bagged an assist with a delicious through ball to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who finished from a narrow angle. The favour was returned when Sané cut in from the right and played his trademark one-two with Choupo-Moting, with the Cameroonian adding his own flair to the play with a backheel, and Sané made sure the move was completed properly with a finish right into the corner. The move was reminiscent of Arjen Robben, who was coincidentally (or was it fate?) in the audience that night.

Sané’s pace, workrate, pressing, passing, positioning, shooting and decision-making are all perfect. I will wager that there is no player currently better at long shots in the world, and as the rankings show I believe that as of now he is the best in the world full stop. Sané has not had a bad game for Bayern all season, and fully deserves this spot, even if — due to injury — he can now only hold it one week.

What do you think of the rankings this week? Do you think Lewandowski deserved to stay atop the ladder? Let us know in the discussion below.

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