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Europe’s Finest: Power rankings for football’s top players (March 17th)

March madness has hit Europe too!

FC Bayern München v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s been a massive week for football! As teams have fought for and earned or lost positions in Europe’s premier competitions, let’s look at the players that shone brightest!

Note: The Europa and Europa Conference League matches played on the night of March 16th will not be counted, I’m very sorry Manchester United and Arsenal fans, those performances will factor into next week!

10. Nathan Aké (New)

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Nathan Aké has been fantastic for Manchester City this season, and the last week has been the epitome of his performances.

The Dutchman was brilliant against Crystal Palace, keeping the London outfit quiet as well as having his best showing of the season so far against RB Leipzig in the Champions League quarter-finals. Dominant in the air, quick to get to ground but never failing to get something on the ball, and so smart with his positioning to halt Leipzig’s whip-smart attack. City were massively lucky to have the momentum of the game shift in their favour thanks to some criminally poor refereeing decisions, but Aké showed his class through it all. Aké was fantastic not just off the ball, but on the ball too, as his passing was accurate as is expected of a Pep Guardiola defender, but unlike what is expected of a Pep Guardiola defender, he has been defensively rock-solid with no mistakes or slip-ups to report.

9. Matthijs de Ligt (Last week: 2)

FC Bayern München v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Matthijs de Ligt may have dropped quite a few places, but it’s only because the game he played against FC Augsburg was a good one but nothing special unlike the player around him.

Bayern Munich conceded thrice against De Ligt but for no fault of his, as Bayern seemed to switch off of trying to defend and just attacked for a full 90 in the Bavarian derby, often leaving De Ligt as the last man. De Ligt has shown his capability to turn impossible situations into clean sheets before but when you’re 1v2 numerous times every game it’s only a matter of time before you start conceding. De Ligt still had a fantastic game still however, often winning these impossible situations anyway despite the odds.

8. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Last appearance: October 20th)

SSC Napoli v Eintracht Frankfurt - UEFA Champions League Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia continues to be one of the best wingers in the world after another set of gorgeous performances in the league and Champions League.

While Matteo Politano — a nominee for this week by the way, what a couple of performances from him — seemed like the main Napoli threat early against Atalanta with multiple great chances created and attempted, Kvaratskhelia warmed into the game with his signature mazey runs and drifting disturbances in between the lines, eventually getting the deadlock breaker, receiving a pass from Victor Osimhen and making the Atalanta defense look like amateurs with some Oscar-worthy fake-outs before launching a rocket into the top left corner. It was a beautiful goal from a player in top form. If you ever need a treat for the eyes, treat yourself to this goal as the way five or six Atalanta players almost simultaneously react to Kvaratskhelia’s movements is almost mesmerising.

Kvaradona was notably less active against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League round of 16 second leg, probably because the play that game was so much more focused down the right flank but he still chipped in with some great contributions when inverting into the half-spaces and sometimes even centrally as an auxiliary number 10 linking up with Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen and Piotr Zielinski. What a player he is.

7. Joshua Kimmich (Last week: 8)

FC Bayern München v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga Photo by T. Kieslich/FC Bayern via Getty Images

Bayern Munich lined up with a double pivot of Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala against Augsburg, so the onus was on Kimmich to contribute defensively and build up from deep as Musiala was expected to play as effectively an attacking midfielder.

Kimmich played this role of single pivot perfectly as has become almost custom for him. There is really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said about him before, he is simply the best holding midfielder in the world. The defensive solidity, the passing precision, the adventurous balls over the top, the explosive shots from deep, and the unstoppable engine. He has it all.

6. Kim Min-Jae (Last week: 7)

SSC Napoli v Juventus FC - Serie A TIM Photo by Franco Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kim Min-Jae might just be the most consistent centre-back in the world.

Another couple of clean performances against Atalanta and Frankfurt. Two clean sheets. A couple of hiccups along the way but nothing expensive. Kim might just be the smartest defender in the world as he keeps dropping these masterclasses while barely ever getting into a ground duel. His positioning is simply second to none.

His and others’ performances across the last week have shown that we are entering yet another golden age for centre-backs with the rise of players such as Matthijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano, Kim himself and many others. There is hope for the defenses of the world just yet.

5. Erling Haaland (Last appearance: October 20th)

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Erling Haaland plays football like he’s playing FIFA on amateur difficulty.

Yes, he may have had a disappointing game at the weekend against Crystal Palace even if it was punctuated by a goal from the spot, but that performance against RB Leipzig. I will say it again, this performance must be taken with a grain of salt. The refereeing was horrible, and Haaland’s first goal from the spot was a direct result of a poor refereeing decision. But no amount of hypothesising over if the officiating was fair can take away from Haaland’s performance as a whole. Five goals in a knockout game has only been done once before by a certain Argentine seven time Ballon d’Or. Haaland was simply extraordinary this game, finishing any half-chance that came his way. I have placed him here because I don’t like placing newcomers to the top ten too high off the bat, his performance against Palace was subpar and the performance against Leipzig, unheard of as it may be, was helped by favourable officiating.

4. Alphonso Davies (Last week: 6)

FC Bayern München v FC Augsburg - Bundesliga Photo by T. Kieslich/FC Bayern via Getty Images

Alphonso Davies continues to defend his crown as the best wing-back in the world with another elite performance against Augsburg.

The Canadian wide man was faultless against Augsburg, holding down his flank for most of the game and forcing his opposition to look elsewhere for breakthroughs despite Bayern’s defensive structure being very loose throughout the game. Offensively Davies was fantastic as always, consistently beating his men and linking up often with Serge Gnabry and Sadio Mané. The goal was the capstone to Davies’ performance, a gorgeous cross from João Cancelo which Davies met with a signature slide — because of course no one has ever seen Davies kick a ball without slipping.

3. Marcus Rashford (Last week: 1)

Real Betis Sevilla v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford had a disappointing outing against Southampton in the Premier League which has knocked him down a peg. However he was fantastic against Real Betis, bagging a great goal through a powered finish when the ball fell to him after an errant slide from Luiz Felipe.

Rashford is one of those players who may not always contribute to the spine of a team but he is always there to run in behind and get those crucial few touches to goal. He has taken on the responsibility of goals up front and he has taken it with vigour. I am so excited to see where his career goes as he is still only 25.

2. Vinícius Júnior (Last week: 5)

Real Madrid v Liverpool FC: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Vinícius Júnior made Trent Alexander-Arnold look completely inept for a full 90 this week, dribbling past him almost at will as Real Madrid eased to a 1-0 win against Liverpool, the only goal of the game being assisted by the Brazilian winger who was consistently Real’s only real threat throughout.

Vini was Real’s primary threat against RCD Espanyol at the weekend, linking up well with fellow Brazilian Rodrygo in attack, scoring the equaliser on the day — which would become the first of three goals — an expertly taken finish into the far bottom corner that snaked between three defenders. Vini continues to be the most consistent winger in the world and Real Madrid’s ace in the hole this season.

1. Victor Osimhen (Last week: 4)

Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli celebrates after scoring the... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

Victor Osimhen has been Napoli’s best player since his return to the team and this week was yet another week of exemplary performances.

Osimhen was simply brilliant against Atalanta, not scoring but consistently latching onto chances but being unlucky with blocks and saves from his opponents, including an audacious overhead kick attempt which was saved by Juan Musso. He would get a goal contribution eventually with his pass across the face of the defense to Kvaratskhelia for the aforementioned goal.

Osimhen was fantastic against Eintracht Frankfurt. Captained in his UCL fantasy team by yours truly, Osimhen would bag a brace of goals. Osimhen’s first goal was a picture perfect leap and header that looped into the top corner past Kevin Trapp, and his second was signature Napoli — a quick counter down the right, a square ball from Matteo Politano, Osimhen slides in. Osimhen offers pace, skill on the ball, verticality both physically and on the pitch, and above all is brutally clinical. He is everything a team wants in a striker. The perfect attacker.

What do you think of our rankings? Is there anyone you would have included? Let us know in the discussion below.

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