Well, that happened. More than a few controversial results over the course of the last fortnight, but we are through it now, so let’s look at where Europe’s best players lie now.
10. João Neves (Last week: 7)
By far the most intriguing match of the Champions League line-up this week was the face-off between Portugal’s league leaders SL Benfica and Italy’s finest in the form of Internazionale, and the game delivered on its promise, serving up a six-goal thriller that ended with both teams taking a point home. Key to this for Benfica was João Neves, who was at the centre of everything Benfica did, picking up the ball from defense and advancing it into more dangerous areas with relative success despite having to face Inter’s high midfield press of Davide Frattesi and Davy Klaassen. Neves was fantastic in the middle, breaking through the lines with his dribbling and preventing Inter from doing the same — he recorded a mind-boggling nine tackles this game. A true hard-working performance from the young Portuguese midfielder, it’s no wonder Bayern Munich are on his trail amongst the rest of Europe’s elite. Meticulous.
9. Leon Goretzka (New)
Almost a year ago, a certain writer on this very site posited the idea of Leon Goretzka as a centre-back. Today, that idea has become reality, as Goretzka is putting in perhaps the best and most consistent performances of his career as a makeshift centre-back in the absence of a proper backup in the Bayern Munich squad.
Goretzka started in defensive midfield against FC Köln and put in a fantastic performance, preventing Köln from pushing through the middle with his overwhelming physicality and even getting some licks in of his own through a couple shots from distance and a few carries into advanced positions, as well as the occasional long ball. Against FC Copenhagen however is where he really shone through, having by far the most touches of the ball of anyone on the pitch and conducting play from deep. Goretzka played two games in two completely different positions and yet kept the same level of performance, and earned a pair of clean sheets for Bayern as well as a spot on the rankings for himself. Mighty.
8. Bruno Fernandes (New)
With every passing week it seems to be more and more impossible for Manchester United to live without Bruno Fernandes.
United faced Everton at the weekend and while United may have gotten an early goal through an Alejandro Garnacho overhead kick, the other two goals were made by Bruno, who set Anthony Martial up for two goalscoring chances (the first resulted in a penalty after Martial was tripped, the second was dispatched by Martial himself). Bruno got another assist to open the scoring against Galatasaray in a do-or-die game in the Champions League, receiving the ball with three players pressing him before effortlessly finding Garnacho who slammed it in. Bruno then got a goal himself, an absolute peach of a long shot which curled away from the diving hand of Fernando Muslera before wrapping itself around the left post, rounding out a stellar set of performances from the Portuguese attacking midfielder. Mesmerising.
7. Erling Haaland (Last week: 10)
There is no player on planet Earth who seems more inevitable and superhuman than Erling Haaland.
Manchester City faced a visiting Liverpool side in the Premier League, the re-igniting of a rivalry of a few years ago as Liverpool have returned to their best. Haaland’s first taste of what this game could look like was not a bad one, as he scored City’s only goal of the game, a well-taken finish from the edge of the area after a great run and pass from Nathan Aké. City similarly had a tough time against RB Leipzig in the Champions League, conceding twice in the first half without reply. However, Haaland dug his hand into the furnace and pulled out a goal that would end up being the first of three to complete a turnaround and snatch a win from the jaws of defeat. Mammoth.
6. Rodrygo (New)
No Vinícius Júnior? No problem. Rodrygo has you covered, Real Madrid fans.
Rodrygo opened the scoring for Real against Cádiz with a ridiculous run and shot darting in from the left side, and doubled his tally with another teasing, swerving run here and there before he took another fantastically placed shot. It was déjà vu against Napoli in the Champions League, as Rodrygo once again made a darting and daring run from the left before he took a ridiculous shot from the edge of the area that curled right into the top corner to level things out for Real, the start of what would end up a 4-2 win inspired by Rodrygo’s goal. However, the Brazilian is far more than the production. Rodrygo’s ability to bring his teammates into the game with his movement and passing is far more refined than he is given credit for, exemplified by a period last season where in Karim Benzema’s absence, Rodrygo was made to play in the middle of attack in a false 9 role and did the job perfectly. Maestro.
5. Harry Kane (Last week: 2)
Harry Kane may have had a slow couple of weeks, but he is still the best striker in the world, no doubt about that.
The Englishman was kept quiet by Copenhagen thanks to an extremely highly populated deep block that saw two, sometimes three players on Kane at all times, but he at least got a goal against FC Köln on the rebound after an effort from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was cleared off the line. Kane now stands on 18 goals in the league, 22 in all competitions for Bayern this season, an outstanding amount for this early in the season. Even when he’s going through a ‘quiet period’, he’s still picking his moments to strike the opposition where it hurts most. Measured.
4. Antoine Griezmann (Last week: 4)
If it was not for Antoine Griezmann, Atlético Madrid would have been the fifth or even sixth best club in Spain over the last decade.
The French international was the difference-maker against RCD Mallorca, a game in which Atlético just could not seem to find the breakthrough (Álvaro Morata gotta Álvaro Morata, right?) despite numerous chances. It was a poor showing from the forwards who just could not seem to get anything on target except for Griezmann, who latched onto a cross from Mario Hermoso to score a running header. How often do you hear that? A Griezmann headed goal? He truly can do it all. Against Feyenoord too, Griezmann was extremely effective, orchestrating play from deep but knowing when to advance and let the midfielders take over, creating space for his teammates with his movements and amazing passing range, and even helping out defensively. Griezmann nearly scored too, hitting the woodwork after a great volleyed attempt from just inside the box. There is simply no stopping the magic from flowing when he is on the pitch. Midas.
3. Leroy Sané (Reign: 70 days)
The longest reign in Europe’s Finest history comes to an end. After over two months, Leroy Sané has finally been ousted from his throne atop football.
Bayern Munich struggled to finish chances against Köln, and Sané was amongst the culprits. While Sané created several chances that went begging for a finish, he himself did also miss a couple of chances to score, ultimately resulting in the game ending just 1-0 to Bayern. Sané was given a much awaited rest against Copenhagen in the Champions League, as he had been played into the ground prior to this game. Sané came on late but made little difference, failing to change the score-line from its 0-0 state. Mellowed.
2. Jude Bellingham (Last week: 6)
Jude Bellingham returned to the pitch for Real Madrid and did so with a bang.
Bellingham scored Real’s final goal of the game against Cádiz, a simple yet well taken finish from close range after a tee-up from Rodrygo. It was against Napoli however that Bellingham really re-emerged since his injury, scoring a fantastic running header as well as assisting Joselu’s nail in the coffin for 4-2 with a great ball across goal, one he had to slide to reach but still managed to place in just the right corridor to avoid the defenders and goalkeeper.
1. Álejandro Grimaldo (Last week: 3)
Álejandro Grimaldo is addicted to being really good at football, and he’s not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Up against Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen were completely dominant, and much of it was down to Grimaldo’s fantastic performance running up and down the left flank, the side from which all three goals originated. The cherry on top is of course Grimaldo getting his customary goal, and as always it’s a beautiful curled shot from distance from the left half-space, this time from a tighter angle but just as gorgeously placed in the side-netting. There is no player better than him right now in terms of pure execution. Magnificent. The very best in the world.
What do you think of the rankings this time around? Is there anyone you would’ve included? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion below.