This weekend of football saw some major upsets, particularly in England and Germany, and such interesting weekends always make for interesting analyses! Let’s go over our power rankings for the week leading up to August 25th.
Note: Cup games will not be accounted for as most of them did not have any international telecast and any featured top teams were up against lower division sides.
10. Luka Modrić (New)
We start the week with the first appearance of a Real Madrid player in the power rankings. Luka Modrić has become one of the few players who can say they’ve defeated the greatest footballing force of all: time. Soon to turn 37 in a few weeks, the Croatian midfielder continues to churn in quality performances. This weekend against Celta Vigo, Modrić would stun the crowd after breaking Renato Tapia’s ankles outside the box and unleashing a beautiful curling strike from 20 yards out that would nestle itself right in the top corner. He would follow it up just 15 minutes later with an incisive through ball between the centre backs that would see Vinícius Júnior — a fellow candidate for the top 10 this week — through on goal, who would take it around the keeper and finish it with his left.
Modrić has fully rediscovered himself under Carlo Ancelotti after a few years of comparatively colder performances, especially on the offensive and creative front.
9. Leroy Sané (New)
It was immensely difficult to pick out a player from the Bundesliga this week as all of the top teams fell victim to upset results, except for Bayern Munich. However, even in Bayern Munich’s 7-0 romping of VfL Bochum, there was no one individual performance that stood out. You could have any one of Joshua Kimmich, Kingsley Coman or Sadio Mané in this spot and I wouldn’t blink an eye.
However, I believe Leroy Sané was the pick of the bunch. Yes, Coman had more goal contributions but the way Sané moves on the pitch is so unique it can change games on the fly, and it did just that this weekend. Starting on the left, Sané would effectively act as a 10 at times, drifting into the centre to orchestrate play, and even taking shots from range that rattled the keeper which he has become notorious for doing. This strategy was presented in crystallised form in the opening of the game, as I myself commented that Sané looked switched on, and just two minutes later he would pick the ball up on the left, link up play while driving into the middle and receive the ball back from Coman right at the edge of the box before sending the ball rocketing into the top right corner with his weaker foot, doing it all seemingly without thinking. When Sané is feeling it, he is one of the best players in the world, perhaps even the best in his position in the world.
8. Gerónimo Rulli (New)
The more I watch Villarreal play this season, the more I realise them beating Bayern Munich was no fluke. Unai Emery’s men have turned winning against big teams into an art form, constantly pestering them with squandered chance after squandered chance before creating a singular chance from an errant tackle or pass and converting it. Rulli has been crucial to Villarreal’s success in the last year or so, and showed it once again this weekend making save after save against a fired up Atlético Madrid with what seems to be a much more dynamic and fluid attack, led by an in-form Álvaro Morata, who had scored a brace last week. Atlético are no longer the conservative defense-minded team they have been marked as, but Villarreal made them tap out, the late red card for right wing back Nahuel Molina being the summit of Los Rojiblancos’ frustrations.
Just 15 seconds in, Atlético found themselves in Villarreal’s 6 yard box, and Morata volleyed it at goal from practically point blank range only for Rulli to just about manage to get his shoulder in the way. It seems unintentional but upon closer replay you could see Rulli intentionally raising his shoulder at the last second to get between the ball. Unfortunate that the save technically does not count as Morata was offside. With 7 minutes left, Villarreal were 1-0 up but Atlético had a golden opportunity after the Villarreal defense slept for a half second allowing Yannick Carrasco to receive a cross at the far side of the goal from Molina. Carrasco would pull it back to Matheus Cunha who drove the ball towards goal with his head which Rulli would flick onto the bar with his outstretched leg, but the ball would rebound fortunately for the attackers, falling right back to Carrasco who nodded it towards goal, only for Rulli to manage to get on his feet and dive at the ball with superhuman speed, managing to wrap his arm around it on the line. Simply brilliant.
7. Robert Lewandowski (New)
It hurts. It never won’t hurt.
For the unfamiliar, Robert Lewandowski was my favourite player of all time. He was the reason I began supporting Bayern Munich when I first starting watching football in 2014. I have never known a Bayern Munich without Lewandowski or a Lewandowski without Bayern Munich until now. I cannot let personal bias affect my decisions however. Lewandowski had a fantastic weekend and no amount of saltiness will change that. After a relatively quiet game against Rayo Vallecano the week before, Lewandowski would lead the lines fantastically against Real Sociedad, conducting play verbally and through his movements.
He would score his first goal for Barcelona — on his birthday no less — just 46 seconds into the match when Alex Baldé put in an admittedly poor cross as Lewandowski was being marked by Robin Le Normand. However, the cross would fall behind both men, and while Le Normand wasn’t able to turn around fast enough to get to the ball, Lewandowski showed agility beyond his years to get to the ball first and managed to turn it into the goal with his first touch. He would complete his brace in the second half when he was teed up by Ansu Fati — a contender for the power rankings himself — in the box with a great lay off to finish first time past Álex Remiro in goal. The best was yet to come as just ten minutes later Lewandowski would receive the ball at the edge of the box and would find Ansu Fati through three defenders with an outrageous backheel, and Fati would put it past Remiro. Make no mistake, this is the very same Lewandowski we used to see at Bayern. Its a different fanbase behind him this time.
6. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (New)
I know what your first reaction is.
When Khvicha Kvaratskhelia moved to Napoli from Dinamo Batumi for €10m in the summer, it wasn’t met with any significant amount of excitement. Not even Napoli fans would have thought any player would be able to replace Lorenzo Insigne in the Napoli team this quickly. I can tell you now, they’ve found their Lorenzo Insigne replacement.
‘Kvara’ was on my shortlist for last week when he scored and assisted once against Hellas Verona, but I had to cut him. Nothing has held him back this week, as he scored a brace against Monza to make it four goal contributions in two games. It should be noted that he did not play more than 70 minutes in either game. Kvara’s first goal was a thing of beauty. Beating his full back, he would cut into the middle and launch a shot into the top right corner from 25 yards out, which would go in off the post. In the second half, Kvara would be found by Stanislav Lobotka on the edge of the box, would beat two men and move towards the byline before letting rip on his left, beating a centre back and the goalkeeper with the shot. Very rarely do you see a player at this stage of their career burst onto the scene so quickly after a transfer.
5. Kylian Mbappé (New)
Kylian Mbappé has been the target of many headlines recently due to his seemingly fracturing relationship with teammate Neymar Jr. However, the Paris Saint-Germain player put himself in the headlines for all the right reasons this last week scoring a hat-trick against LOSC Lille, and linking up with Neymar excellently while doing it.
Mbappé’s first goal would come in a record 8 seconds from kick off, with an absolute beauty of a ball from Lionel Messi over the top of the Lille centre backs — who were hilariously out of position — finding the French striker. Mbappé would play a pivotal role in the fifth (yes, fifth) goal as his dummy would send the Lille defense into chaos before the ball wove its way to Neymar and then into the goal. Later in the game, Mbappé and Neymar would link up excellently, working their way through the defense before Mbappé would play a ball over the top to send Neymar into the left flank with acres of green ahead of him. Mbappé would then show his blistering pace as he caught up to the Brazilian and ran past the defense to get on the end of a through ball and finish. Ten minutes later, it was once again these two as Neymar would find Mbappé with a wonderful through ball, and Mbappé would beat José Fonte before scoring with his trademark near post finish to end the scoreline at 7-1. The PSG front three is well and truly clicking.
4. Gabriel Jesus (Last week: 2)
Arsenal had a strong outing against Bournemouth, and Gabriel Jesus was important to it but his slight lack of end product has knocked him down a couple spots.
Jesus was brilliant in the first goal, dribbling past three defenders and laying it off for Gabriel Martinelli to have a shot on goal which would deflect into the path of Martin Ødegaard (a player who missed this list by millimetres). Jesus was also important to the second goal as he would (granted, unintentionally) setup Ødegaard’s shot and be credited for the assist. A relatively quieter game after the electric one he had last week, but a good game nonetheless.
3. Lionel Messi (Last week: 5)
The current holder of the Ballon d’Or put in a stellar performance against Lille which earned him this spot, acting as the deeper-sat playmaker of the front three, allowing them complete freedom within the final third.
It was Lionel Messi’s delicious through ball over the top that allowed Mbappé to score what is the fastest goal I’ve ever seen, the kind of pass only the finest can conjure up. Messi would then get on the scoresheet after picking the ball up in midfield, linking up with Mbappé and finding Nuno Mendes on the left with a wonderful through ball. Mendes would cut it back to Messi who rolled it into the net with his right foot. The Argentinian would also play Neymar through on goal for the fourth goal of the game, although the assist would not be credited to him as the ball took a massive deflection off of Lille’s defensive midfielder Angel Gomes. A great performance from a player who is looking more and more like his former self, especially now that he is partnered with world class attackers once again.
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Last week: 3)
Kevin De Bruyne receives an upgrade this week not really due to an exceptional performance but due to Gabriel Jesus disappointing me a little. Don’t let the lack of an outrageous performance fool you however, De Bruyne was still excellent, playing a key role in Manchester City’s comeback from 3-1 down to 3-3 against Newcastle United. De Bruyne’s creative output was tremendous but underpinned his brilliance in midfield. Newcastle had no choice but to foul him to try and keep him out of the game, as his vision and control on the ball had the entire midfield area on strings.
It was De Bruyne’s cross to the far post that caused major confusion in the Newcastle defense and led to the loose ball being potted by Erling Haaland to make the score 3-2. The very next minute, De Bruyne would play Haaland through again, but the Norwegian striker would fail to finish, drawing a save out of Nick Pope (who was excellent on this day, for what it’s worth). Undeterred, the next minute De Bruyne would receive the ball in the centre of the pitch and would find Bernardo Silva with a through ball I could not find enough superlatives in a thesaurus for, and the Portuguese international would finish it around Nick Pope in goal. I’m not joking about that De Bruyne through ball, I would highly recommend you try finding it. It was gorgeous (alternatively, here it is!).
1. Neymar Jr. (Last week: 1)
Neymar maintains his spot atop the power rankings with another otherworldly performance against Lille, and is the third PSG attacker on this list.
You’ve already heard about Neymar’s exploits with Mbappé, but he did a lot more. Neymar would pick up the ball in the right half-space early on and would play Achraf Hakimi through on goal who would finish towards far post past Leo Jardim in goal. Neymar would get a goal with a fantastic driven volley from the aforementioned deflected Messi through ball, and would complete his brace minutes later with a great finish from a Hakimi pass that used Mbappé as a dummy to fool the defense. Two goals and three assists added to his tally, Neymar now has seven goals and eight assists in four games. Pure insanity.
What do you think of these power rankings? Will Neymar and PSG continue this insane form come the Champions League group stages? Will we see the bigger teams get back up and running next week with more expected results? Let us know in the discussion below.