The most prestigious annual competition in sport — the UEFA Champions League — returned this week with a bang! Let’s look at the players that ushered in the matchweek in this week’s edition of player power rankings across Europe.
Note: Due to the very late nature of Europa League games, Europa League matches will be counted for the matchday after instead of the same matchday as their respective Champions League games. So if you’re looking for any Europa League performers, you will have to wait a week.
10. Joshua Kimmich (New)
Joshua Kimmich has had a stellar season so far in a more advanced role for Bayern Munich, and this week has seen his performances push just far enough to break into the power rankings. Against Union Berlin at the weekend, Kimmich would rule the midfield with the support of Marcel Sabitzer, pushing into advanced areas and finding his attackers with fantastic balls over the top. While he wouldn’t bag an assist, he would score with a laser-like shot that cut through practically the entire Union Berlin team and nestled itself in the bottom corner to bring Bayern on level terms.
Against Internazionale in the Champions League, Kimmich would once again have a fantastic game alongside Sabitzer, this time in a slightly more defensive role but still occasionally pushing forward. The jewel in his crown was a scintillating ball over the top which would be latched onto and scored from by Leroy Sané. Kimmich looks at home once again with his attacking duties, becoming key to Bayern’s play through the middle and fulfilling that role fantastically so.
9. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Last appearance: two weeks ago)
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has become Napoli’s primary attacker ever since he joined the club. The Georgian is already on four goals and two assists for the season, and all of those contributions have been exceptional.
At the weekend, Napoli and Lazio would be awkwardly knotted at 1-1 with seemingly neither team being able to break the stalemate. A fantastic effort from well outside the box by Kvaratskhelia himself would painfully hit the woodwork. Finally, though, he would prove he is beyond common sense with a brilliant first time shot at the edge of the box which would snake its way between Alessio Romagnoli, Patric and Manuel Lazzari before beautifully curving away from Ivan Provedel in goal.
The Champions League would bring Liverpool to the Diego Maradona, and in what would be a magical night for the Partenopei, Napoli would run riot, winning 4-1. Kvaratskhelia would make a brilliant run that left Trent Alexander-Arnold looking like a Sunday League footballer, before outmuscling Joe Gomez and squaring across the face of goal for Giovanni Simeone to tap in.
Kvaratskhelia is one of the most entertaining footballers to watch right now. I would highly recommend watching Napoli games if you aren’t already because the attacking quartet of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski and Victor Osimhen has been elite.
8. Leroy Sané (Last week: 7)
Leroy Sané has been so good, you guys.
Against Union Berlin, he was Bayern Munich’s best attacker despite not getting on the scoresheet or assisting. Later in the week however, under the beautiful Milan sky, Sané would show his quality with a frankly insane touch and dribble past goalkeeper André Onana in goal before slipping it past a rushing Denzel Dumfries in goal. Later, Sané would then play a frankly unbelievable set of touch-and-go passes with Kingsley Coman before chipping it towards goal — leaving Danilo D’Ambrosio to deflect into the back of his own net.
Sané was untouchable this week, but his performances have been marred by a lack of end product at the weekend. You can read more about our thoughts on Sané and Bayern Munich’s performances against Inter Milan in our observations and awards articles right here at Bavarian Football Works.
7. Lionel Messi (Last week: 6)
Lionel Messi continued a run of good games this week for Paris Saint-Germain, although admittedly his production has lessened slightly.
Against FC Nantes at the weekend, Messi would get the party started on the break with a good pass to a free Kylian Mbappé for his first assist of the game. His second assist would come not long after, with Messi messing up the reception of a pass but managing to recover the ball and square it to a rushing Kylian Mbappé for the latter’s brace.
Against Juventus in the Champions League, Messi would fail to get a goal or an assist but was vital to the team’s play in the final third, dropping into the space between Juventus’ banks of three to dictate play and connect the midfield to the attack. It must also be noted that Messi’s defensive contributions have risen lately, alongside those of his attacking partners.
Messi now has three goals and six assists in the league in just six games. Can he and PSG keep this form going into the latter stages of the season?
6. Kevin De Bruyne (Last week: 9)
To no one’s surprise, Kevin De Bruyne returned to great form this week after a disappointing time the week prior.
Against Aston Villa at the weekend, De Bruyne would find space out wide on the right and whip in a peach of a cross to the far post for Erling Haaland to pounce on with a first-time finish. De Bruyne would continue to threaten — hitting the bar with a free kick; playing Haaland into a scoring position; as well as just barely missing a chance created from a one-two with Haaland — but City would ultimately fail to get their second goal and the game ended on level terms.
Sevilla were City’s next opponents. De Bruyne would cross first-time from the byline after a through-ball from Phil Foden, a cross eerily similar to the one he gave to Haaland at the weekend, with a finish to match. De Bruyne could have gotten a goal later after recovering a loose pass, but was denied by Yassine Bounou’s fantastic save.
De Bruyne looks to be adapting extremely well to his new role, which incorporates a lot more central movement — similar to Bernardo Silva’s role last season. We can only hope he slows down at some point because otherwise, it will be impossible to stop Manchester City.
5. Rafael Leão (Last week: 8)
I said we’d be seeing a lot more of Rafael Leão in these lists, and he proved me right immediately.
In one of the best matches of football we’ll see this season, AC Milan faced Internazionale in a Milan derby for the ages. With Milan 1-0 down, Sandro Tonali would drive into the box on the break before passing it to Leão, who calmly slotted past Samir Handanović in goal with a sumptuous left-footed finesse finish. Leão would later find the ball on the left flank and cross it low, again on his weaker left foot, with Olivier Giroud finishing wonderfully first-time. The third goal was the pick of the bunch: an insane run which saw Leão making a fool of Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni while Milan Škriniar tried desperately to catch up. He beat Handanović again with a tight finish into the bottom right corner.
Milan would draw 1-1 against RB Salzburg in the Champions League, but even then the only goal of the game would be courtesy of Leão on the break. He would manage to wiggle his way into the box before finding Alexis Saelemaekers between three defenders; Saelemaekers could then take a touch and power it past Philipp Köhn in goal.
Leão is in the form of his life right now. I would love to see what he can do if he plays like this for Portugal at the World Cup in Qatar.
4. Kylian Mbappé (Last week: 10)
Football’s newest royal family member struck gold once again this week, with four goals across two games in the league and Champions League.
Against Nantes, Kylian Mbappé would open the scoring with a delicious finish that went about as far in the top corner as you can go from just inside the left side of the box. The brace would be completed with a good finish rushing into open space after a squared ball from Messi.
The midweek game would bring Juventus to Paris, and Mbappé would rise to the occasion with two fantastic goals. The first would be a wonderful first-time volley from a gorgeous flicked ball over the top from Neymar Jr. The second would come from Mbappé finding a pocket in the right half-space and playing a one-two with Achraf Hakimi, which gave Mbappé just the amount of space and time he needed to rifle the ball into the back of the net.
Every time the Frenchman’s ability or consistency is questioned he comes back to the headlines with another great performance in a big game.
3. Neymar Jr. (Last week: 1)
After three weeks atop the world, Neymar’s reign over the power rankings comes to an end.
The Brazilian would have a quiet but not ineffective game against Nantes at the weekend, and while his play style and flash does usually bring him extra points for presentation, his (albeit beautiful) assist for Mbappé’s opening goal was really his only significant action of the week.
It hasn’t been a poor week for Neymar, but definitely subpar compared to his previous ones. Could Neymar’s godly run already have come to an end?
2. Erling Haaland (Last week: 4)
Water is wet. Erling Haaland scores goals. It is really that simple.
Haaland would bring City one ahead against Villa at the weekend with a great volley first-time into the back of the net from a De Bruyne cross, a finish that Haaland made look a lot simpler than it was. Haaland would repeat that feat exactly against Sevilla, and would then go on to get a second goal on the break. It would be Phil Foden’s shot that forced a save from Yassine Bounou, only for the ball to land for Haaland to finish calmly.
While Haaland is known for his goalscoring, it must be noted that his link-up has been exceptional, especially in the last few games. His ability to get Foden and De Bruyne involved going forward, in positions where they don’t usually get the ball, has allowed City to diversify their game plans. Haaland is now on twelve goals in all competitions.
1. Robert Lewandowski (Last week: 2)
Robert Lewandowski is the best striker in the world. You didn’t need me to tell you that.
But I did anyway.
Lewandowski would be key to Barcelona’s win in Seville, keeping pace with Ousmane Dembélé and Raphinha on the counter and chipping it beautifully over Yassine Bounou in goal. The ball would be cleared off the line by Fernando, only for Raphinha to poke it in with his head. It would not matter in the end as Lewandowski would still get his goal. Joules Koundé would spot him running into space being spotted, and Lewy controlled the ball perfectly with his chest before winding up a perfect volley into the bottom left corner. It was eerily similar to a goal Lewandowski scored for Bayern against Arminia Bielefeld in the 2020/21 season in the rain, although from a much longer range. Lewandowski could still have gotten a brace were it not for an unbelievable pair of saves from Yassine Bounou at practically point-blank range.
This was just the beginning. Against Viktoria Plzeň, Lewandowski would become the first ever player to score a hat-trick for three separate clubs in the Champions League. His first would be a trademark Lewandowski finish into a bottom corner from the edge of the box; you could tell it was going in before he even took the shot. The second would come from a beautiful Dembélé cross which found Lewandowski completely unmarked at the back post; Lewy dove into the header and domed it into the net. The hat-trick was completed with another simply brilliant finish from Lewandowski. Receiving the ball from Raphinha while 25 yards out, Lewandowski would drive the ball first time and would find the bottom corner. It’s the kind of goal only he can score, and he’s done it a few times for his new club already.
Lewandowski takes the reigns from Neymar as the second ever player to lead our power rankings. How long do you think he’ll hold it for? Who do you think will dethrone him? Is there anyone we missed this week? Let us know in the forum below.