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Europe’s Finest: Power rankings for football’s top players (September 22nd)

Sigh.. the international break has arrived. Let’s see how the players stack up as club football comes to a break.

Germany v Hungary: UEFA Nations League - League Path Group 3 Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

The international break has come and brought with it a halt to club football. Let’s see how the players stand as of now!

For clarity, this ranking will not take into account performance for their national team, taking into account the league games of the week gone by as well as the second matchday of the UEFA Europa League.

10. Leroy Sané (Last week: 5)

FC Augsburg v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Bayern Munich really are in a rut, aren’t they? Not even their (so far) guaranteed top performer could get it done this week.

Leroy Sané’s run of excellent games has finally come to an end. It wasn’t even a poor run out against Augsburg as Sané was very productive, being at the centre of most attacks and generally acting as the primary orchestrator for Bayern Munich in the final third. However, Bayern just couldn’t finish their chances, Sané himself missing a key chance in the game that would ultimately cost Bayern any points.

You can read more about Bayern’s recent struggles with our match observations and match awards articles about the Augsburg game right here at Bavarian Football Works.

9. Sergej Milinković-Savić (New)

US Cremonese v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Sergej Milinković-Savić has been on the precipice of breaking into the top ten for a while, and finally he has done it.

Lazio ate five goals against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, but managed to ship one from Sergej Milinković-Savić who got a little bit of space 25 yards from goal and let loose. The shot wasn’t the best or even well placed but the movement was exquisite, sending the keeper diving in the wrong direction. However at the weekend Lazio were the complete opposite, with the only constant between the two games being Milinković-Savić being the best player on the pitch in a Lazio shirt. Just seven minutes in, Milinković-Savić picked up the ball in front of the defense and slotted Immobile in with a beautiful weighted through ball, who calmly carried it a few steps and smashed it past Ionut Radu in goal. At the stroke of half-time, a great curling shot from Mattia Zaccagni would fall loose in the six yard box and Milinković-Savić would be the first to it, gently lifting it over the fallen body of the goalkeeper.

The Serbian continues to show why he is the best midfielder in Italy and one of the very best in the world, and I personally love that he seems content to stay in Lazio instead of selling out for a fat contract.

8. Kim Min-Jae (New)

AC MIlan v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

After weeks and weeks of hoping somebody will slip up just enough to let Kim Min-Jae into the rankings, I’ve finally gotten my wish.

Kim Min-Jae has been the best centre back in the world this season. I do not say that lightly. The world’s eyes fell upon Milan this weekend as AC Milan and Napoli faced off at the San Siro for what could very well be the last time, and while Kim may not have kept a clean sheet against Milan, he still put on a defensive masterclass with fantastic defensive prowess and aerial ability, most notably a crucial block late in the game that prevented Pierre Kalulu from most certainly equalising with an open goal mouth at his mercy. Credit must also go to goalkeeper Alex Meret who kept out a few very good shots from the Milan players, most notably a pop-shot from Olivier Giroud very early into the game that Meret just managed to push onto the bar.

Kim has immediately slotted himself into the Napoli team as Kalidou Koulibaly’s replacement much like teammate Khvicha Kvaratskhelia immediately made himself known to the world and to Napoli fans as their Lorenzo Insigne replacement. He has been so enjoyable to watch, and I hope he can continue to keep this level of performance up.

7. Lorenzo Pellegrini (New)

AS Roma v US Cremonese - Serie A Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images

Hey, look, I know that’s three Serie A players in a row, all (most) of the best players so far this season turned up this week, what can I say? Lorenzo Pellegrini in particular was in my opinion the best player in Italy last season.

Against HJK in the Europa League, Roma had a strong start with a couple of chances, but the score remained 0-0 at half-time. The second half started with a beautiful Roma move, and a showcase of Roma’s dynamic attack. Leonardo Spinazzola held the ball out wide on the left and found Pellegrini in a dangerous position in the box with a dodgy bobbling pass. The defenders all repositioned themselves around him but Pellegrini showed world class anticipation and precision, running back ahead of the defensive line and then sending a no-look first time pass to Paulo Dybala on the edge of the box who slammed it into the bottom left corner on the half-volley. It was a move of beauty and I would highly recommend trying to find it as my commentary cannot justify it. Pellegrini would get a goal not long after, although Nicolò Zaniolo admittedly did most of the work with a great mazy run down the left flank along the byline before cutting it back to Pellegrini who managed to sneak it in with his stomach. Zaniolo in particular was very good this game, even scoring a beautiful first time volley that was disallowed, as well as setting up Andrea Belotti for the third goal of the game in very similar fashion to the goal he set up for Pellegrini. Roma would lose to Atalanta at the weekend, but it was not due to a lack of chances, as Pellegrini would create numerous chances but his teammates failed to finish.

Roma’s finishing has been a recurring issue this season, but creativity certainly has not as Pellegrini has been world class at the heart of part-time manager and full-time UK drill enthusiast José Mourinho’s 3-4-2-1 system.

6. Kevin De Bruyne (Last appearance: Two weeks ago)

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Once again, Kevin De Bruyne dips out of the rankings for a week only to immediately bounce back and return.

De Bruyne would begin the game in typical De Bruyne fashion. Good link-up with Phil Foden down the right and he would perform another one of his trademark runs towards the byline through the right flank, and would follow it up with his trademark first time low cross after a back-heeled ball from Foden. Erling Haaland, lurking in the penalty area, would miss it but Jack Grealish would meet it at the far post to make it 1-0 in just the first minute. De Bruyne and Foden would wreak complete havoc throughout the game with their positional inter-play, and it became even more dangerous once Erling Haaland got involved. The three players would swap positions in a manner I can only describe as orgasmic to watch. I’ve never teared up just because of how good a play is but goddamn those positional interchanges had me feeling some type of way. Haaland would pick up the ball in the right half-space just outside the box, and Foden would dart into the middle to take over the striker role while De Bruyne made yet another run down the right to the byline. Haaland would meet him with a through ball and De Bruyne would cross it low first time to Foden, who would sneak it in with his right foot.

De Bruyne has chalked up an assist through a run down the right and first time cross atleast four if not five times so far this season, it must be said that his adaptation to the new system has been excellent, and he has continued to be the most important cog in the Manchester City machine.

5. Neymar Jr. (Last week: 4)

Olympique Lyonnais v Paris Saint-Germain - Ligue 1 Uber Eats Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Neymar Jr. slips down the rankings once again with a not-poor but once again not world class showing against Olympique Lyon.

It should be said that Neymar did not have a poor outing but was denied by Anthony Lopes who put in a monstrous performance in goal for Lyon, but the lack of end product still puts a cloud over his performance. Paris Saint-Germain got off to a flying start when Lionel Messi beat his man and played a pass to Neymar who drove into the box and laid Messi off, and Messi finished it beautifully. But after this, the PSG attack failed to get on the score-sheet, with the game ending 1-0.

Has the spark gone from Neymar’s mind? Are we seeing him fade away already? It seems like it as he has failed to really light any games up for what feels like a month now.

4. João Cancelo (Last week: 10)

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images

If De Bruyne has been the focal point of City’s play in the final third, João Cancelo has been the focal point of City’s progression from deep.

Cancelo recorded the most touches of any player on the pitch against Wolves, and it shows when you notice his playstyle as part of a double pivot with defensive midfielder Rodri. Cancelo was great at progressing the ball, but was productive even later in the pitch with multiple key passes as well as being able to beat his man and give City a man advantage carrying the ball into the attacking zones. He was defensively solid too, screening early on while the midfield pressed but never failing to track back to his flank when Wolves’ play failed to break down. When Grealish moved into more central zones, Cancelo showed great awareness by occupying the wider spaces and was very effective, putting in multiple great crosses that unfortunately would not result in any goals on the day.

Cancelo has become a complete player and is perhaps the best full back in the world right now. For real this time.

3. Lionel Messi (Last week: 3)

Paris Saint-Germain v Stade Brest - Ligue 1 Uber Eats Photo by Tnani Badreddine/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Lionel Messi put on a great showing once again, scoring the aforementioned fantastic goal against Lyon and continuing to be PSG’s best player on the day.

He created numerous chances for his teammates, most notably for Kylian Mbappé who would fail to get on the scoresheet despite his best efforts. Messi dominated the game, roaming into whatever spaces he could find and dragging defenders here and there. He could have gotten his second of the game not too long after, receiving the ball after a loose cross and clearance at the right post, and flattened two defenders and Anthony Lopes in goal before chipping it elegantly over them. However, a third defender, Castello Lukeba, managed to get to the goal line and headed it off the line denying the Argentine forward.

Messi looks like he has returned to his very best with stellar performances throughout this season. Can he lead PSG to their elusive European glory?

2. Erling Haaland (Last week: 1)

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

If you’ve been following this series you already know who number one is now. Erling Haaland has still been elite, make no mistake.

Against Wolves Haaland would help set up the aforementioned Foden goal with a gorgeous goal that for my money is the best goal I’ve seen this season, and that sort of positional intelligence is the kind of attribute Haaland has become notorious for. However, it was not positional intelligence that would bag him a goal on the day. Shutting up the critics who claim he only scores ‘tap-ins’, Haaland would receive the ball in the opposition half but instead of holding up play and looking to run into the box after a lay-off, he would continue to drive at the defense and would catch everyone off guard with a shot on his weaker right foot from outside the box which would wriggle its way in at the near post. A beautiful goal that shows his intelligence not only positionally but on the ball as he knew exactly when to catch the defender and keeper napping.

A great showing from Haaland but the game of hot potato between him and a certain other striker continues.

1. Robert Lewandowski (Last week: 2)

FC Barcelona v Elche CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Robert Lewandowski scores goals and he scores them every week.

Elche came to the Camp Nou and were sent home packing by FC Barcelona who closed the game out in the first half itself. A few minutes past the half hour mark, Pedri would find Alejandro Balde with a great pass and Balde matched it with his pace before cutting it across the face of goal. Memphis Depay missed it at the near post but it would sneak past not only him but Edgar Badia in goal and John Donald too, eventually running towards the far post where Lewandowski slid in and slotted it into an empty net. Great positioning and a showcase of his ability to adapt to having a second striker alongside him with ease. A driven low cross from Ousmane Dembélé would once again find Depay at the near post, but this time the ball was cleared out. However, the ball would only be cleared out as far as Lewandowski at the edge of the area, who wasted no time in smashing it into the bottom right corner past the keeper on his feet and with two defenders on the line, completing his brace.

Lewandowski becomes the first player in the history of the power rankings with two separate reigns! Can this one last longer than the first, which ended in just one week?

A familiar face takes the throne from Erling Haaland, how long will this reign last for the Polish goal-machine? Are there any players we omitted which we shouldn’t have? Will I ever let go of my obvious bias against defenders and finally include some in my list which I have never done before? Let us know in the forum below.

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