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Europe’s Finest Midseason Wrap-Up: Power rankings for football’s finest players

What a half-year for football, eh?

FC Internazionale v FC Bayern München: Group C - UEFA Champions League Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Time is a strange thing. Players like Rafael Leão and Federico Valverde seem almost forgotten in the grand scheme of things after the gigantic World Cup tournament that has shaped the players that take up the primary spots in our minds, but nonetheless we must treat it all equally, not letting our recency bias warp our values of players. That’s enough talk about time for half a Christopher Nolan film, let’s jump straight into this!

Note: The World Cup power rankings will account for seven weeks. Ties will be broken by number of weeks spent at the top spot.

10. Sergej Milinković-Savić & Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (4 weeks)

SS Lazio v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Joint in the tenth position are the two best players Serie A has given us this season: Lazio’s midfield engine Sergej Milinković-Savić and Napoli ace Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, each having spent four weeks in the power rankings, and neither having reigned at the top.

Kvaratskhelia has lit up Serie A with 8 goals and 8 assists in 17 appearances, averaging a goal or assist per 90. This includes a couple of fantastic performances against Ajax, his performance in Amsterdam in particular being a masterclass of half-space usage.

Milinković-Savić has been the best player in Italy in my opinion. 6 goals and 10 assists in 23 appearances is simply insane for a midfielder, and Milinković-Savić has done it all without sacrificing his presence in the middle of the park. Simply brilliant.

9. Many (7 weeks)

England v France: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

The ninth position is taken up by six players who never showed up in the power rankings prior to the World Cup. They are:-

  • Jude Bellingham, who has had a fantastic season with Borussia Dortmund and continued that form by running the games for England in Qatar.
  • Bukayo Saka, who has been Arsenal’s best creative force and was similarly productive in Qatar.
  • Cody Gakpo, the best player in the Eredivisie this season so far, who put down his more creative side to instead focus on his striker’s instincts as a finisher for The Netherlands in Qatar.
  • Wojciech Szczęsny, a player who started the season poorly with injury and inconsistent form but was my pick for the best goalkeeper at the World Cup.
  • Bruno Fernandes has improved upon his form from the season prior with Manchester United and was simply brilliant for Portugal at the World Cup.
  • Antoine Griezmann who adapted to a deeper new role in fantastic fashion for Atlético Madrid and then shifted up into another gear for France at the World Cup.

8. Leroy Sané (7 weeks, one week at #1)

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Marcel ter Bals/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Leroy Sané has been so, so good.

Playing on the right in Julian Nagelsmann’s 4-2-3-1, Sané’s approach to football is simply beyond that of any other footballer on the planet. It’s like watching a four-dimensional being trying to communicate through our measly three dimensions. Sané’s movements in pockets, commitment to pressing and tracking back, close control in tight spaces, bursts of pace, (almost) unparalleled vision and unbelievable eye for goal have all combined to create a monster of a player. 10 goals and 6 assists in 17 appearances is insanity when you factor in the fact that over a third of those appearances were off the bench.

Sané’s most notable performances have been in the Champions League, where he dismantled Internazionale by scoring the first and then ‘scoring’ the second (it would deflect off Danilo D’Ambrosio and go down as an own goal), as well as leading the charge against FC Barcelona when they came to the Allianz Arena. Whenever Bayern couldn’t find a goal, it was always Sané at the centre of the breakthrough. Big game player personified.

7. Neymar Jr. (7 weeks, three weeks at #1)

Paris Saint-Germain v ESTAC Troyes - Ligue 1 Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Have we already forgotten about Neymar Jr?

Neymar started the season in ungodly form, averaging three goal contributions a game (!!!) all the way until the end of September. Now on 17 goals and 14 assists in 23 appearances, he still boasts an insane record, although it is padded by some goal-fests against relegation fodder. This is not to say that Neymar hasn’t shown up when it matters, setting up key goals for Paris Saint-Germain against Juventus in the Champions League, scoring the lone goal of Le Classique and inspiring Brazil’s late comeback against Croatia in the quarter-final of the World Cup.

He may have had a marked dip in form post-September, but he has still been world class. That run at the start of the season was just something else however, I honestly think that may be the month or two a footballer has ever had in the history of the game.

6. Kevin De Bruyne (9 weeks)

Croatia v Belgium: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Juan Luis Diaz/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Kevin De Bruyne was okay in Belgium for Qatar. Not disappointing, but he wasn’t exactly a light in dark times either.

For Manchester City however, he has been something else. Adapting to a role he had not played in over half a decade as an advanced midfielder operating as an auxiliary winger at times, Kevin De Bruyne has racked up 3 goals and 14 assists in 19 appearances for Manchester City.

De Bruyne’s best performance in my opinion has been his performance in the Manchester United, setting up two goals in great fashion, as well as his pair of assists against Wolverhampton (as well as his involvement in the build-up to that beautiful third goal), both games taking place in the Premier League. Consistency defined.

5. Jamal Musiala (10 weeks)

FC Bayern München v 1. FSV Mainz 05 - Bundesliga Photo by Helge Prang - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

Jamal Musiala has ascended to the top of football, leading the charge as Bayern Munich’s attacker-in-chief as well as Germany’s best attacker at the age of 19.

Musiala has 12 goals and 11 assists in 24 appearances, a simply unbelievable amount, but Musiala doesn’t end with goals and assists. He is perhaps the best dribbler in the world, and I say that with full knowledge of the existence of a certain Argentine. Musiala’s tracking back has been fantastic too, playing as a third midfielder as much as he has a fourth attacker.

Musiala’s best performances have been against Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, although I think the one he will be most remembered for is that lesson in close control and dribbling against Costa Rica at the World Cup, a game in which he completed a record-breaking thirteen dribbles and (rather unluckily) hit the woodwork twice. What a talent.

4. Erling Haaland (10 weeks, two weeks at #1)

Manchester City v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Is Erling Haaland human?

24 goals and 3 assists in 19 appearances. Is that allowed in football? Is there nothing in the rulebooks against that? Honestly, having Erling Haaland in your team should be considered foul play. He is not a man. He is a force of nature. He may not be the most glossy player technically, but he is just ruthless. Whereas others are much more gifted on the ball, Haaland makes fine products out of stone tools.

His hat-trick and two assists in the Manchester derby will go down as an iconic moment in the history of the Premier League, perhaps what will be remembered as Haaland’s announcement to the rest of the league before a long legacy of goals, goals and goals. Let’s not forget when he hit two hat-tricks in the same week too, although they were against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace, not exactly the most fabled teams.

Haaland is the engineer’s perfect footballer. A specimen to be studied.

3. Robert Lewandowski (11 weeks, six weeks at #1)

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

Robert Lewandowski has led the way for most of the season, leading the power rankings for half of the club season but failing to register himself amongst the top performers at the World Cup.

Robert Lewandowski has been Barcelona’s ace in the hole, constantly saving them from dire situations. The Polish international has racked up 20 goals and 5 assists in 23 appearances in all competitions this season, spearheading the attack in Catalonia and in Qatar excellently with his link-up play, unparalleled finishing ability and underrated skill on the ball. His best performances include scoring the sole goal of the game against Valencia, scoring and assisting twice in just half an hour off the bench against Cádiz, a hat-trick of fantastic against Viktoria Plzeň, as well as a late brace to rescue a point and hope of qualification to the Champions League knockout rounds against Internazionale.

Lewandowski has (characteristically, may I add) failed to show up in most of Barcelona’s big games but his consistency is ever-present.

2. Kylian Mbappé (12 weeks)

Argentina v France: Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

Kylian Mbappé has been the least effective of Paris Saint-Germain’s famous front three (which still makes him very effective), but an otherworldly World Cup performance which saw him pick up the Golden Boot sees him snatch the runner-up spot.

Mbappé has 27 goals and 7 assists, 19G and 5A of which came in PSG colours. Mbappé has been brilliant on the break, although a couple of blind spots have blotted his record this season. My favourite performance from Mbappé has been a hat-trick of cracking goals against LOSC Lille, one of the best—okay okay let’s talk about that Argentina game. Mbappé may well go down as the only player to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final and not walk away with the trophy. He may have been quiet until the dying embers of the first 90, but when he turned on, he turned ON. That second goal in particular could have been the most significant goal in footballing history if France managed to lift the trophy and officially marked the start of Mbappé’s reign over football.

Mbappé’s bid to the throne of greatest player of all time is going to take a massive hit when his PSG teammate inevitably lifts the Ballon d’Or at the end of the season, as winning eight Ballon d’Ors starting at age 24 is going to be nigh impossible when there’s players like Erling Haaland and Jamal Musiala hanging around.

1. Lionel Messi (19 weeks, seven at #1)

Argentina v France: Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Is Lionel Messi the greatest player of all time?

Yes. I remember the amount of arguments that broke out last time I said this. I haven’t changed my opinion on the matter.

Messi was the only player to feature in the top 10 every single week during the club season, although he never got to take the top spot. However, he won the World Cup and took home the Golden Ball, being marked as the best player in the World Cup power rankings too (can’t figure out which one of those two accolades is more prestigious). 19 goals and 19 assists in 26 games is form that we have only ever seen from Lionel Messi himself a decade ago when he broke Gerd Müller’s record for the most goals scored in a calendar year. If Messi can keep this form up, this could go down as the best season in any player’s career ever, although of course that would require a triumph in the Champions League with PSG which will be a tough task.

Messi’s best Ligue 1 performance in my opinion was against Clermont Foot. Yes, they are considered relegation fodder by most, but Messi’s goal contributions were just something else, capped by that bicycle kick. His best performance overall however was of course his performance in the World Cup final, centering Argentina’s play around himself and scoring a brace.

World Cup winner, inevitable Ballon d’Or and Ligue 1 winner, and part of the favourites to win the Champions League at the moment. It’s all coming up Lionel Messi this season.

I don’t like how much I’m singing Messi’s praises as of late as somebody who really doesn’t like him, but the facts are the facts, he is the best player so far this season according to my power rankings. What do you think of these rankings? Are they accurate to real life? Let us know in the discussion below.

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