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Europe’s Finest: Power rankings for Europe’s best players (September 7th)

The formerly weekly series returns for a new season!

Manchester City v Fulham FC - Premier League Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images

After a hiatus due to a hectic curricular schedule on the author’s end, Europe’s Finest returns for the new season, with a more manageable format. The rankings will now be updated on a bi-weekly basis, rewarding consistency over freak performances, which often left defenders and goalkeepers having to produce otherworldly performances just to get a spot on the list.

10. Rodri

Sheffield United v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The best holding midfielder in the world right now, Rodri has put in an imperious set of performances for Manchester City over the course of the first four gameweeks of the Premier League season. While the Spaniard didn’t end his current run of games in his finest form, in the last month he has put in some star-studded performances including a goal and assist against Burnley on the league’s opening day, a crucial assist in Manchester City’s UEFA SuperCup victory over Sevilla, and a late winner to rescue the three points for City against Sheffield United.

9. Xavi Simons

1. FC Union Berlin v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Marco Steinbrenner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Xavi Simons was already one of the best attackers in Europe last season with PSV Eindhoven, and just a few months on he is now a Paris Saint-Germain player on loan to RB Leipzig. Simons looked dangerous against Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup and while he wasn’t at his best against Bayer Leverkusen in Leipzig’s first game, he came back with a vengeance. Two goals and three assists in the next two games followed, and all of them were showcases of his technical brilliance. His goal against Union Berlin last week in particular was gorgeous, calling to mind a certain Marco Reus circa 2014. Simons is a combination of the explosiveness that Red Bull attackers are bred to inculcate and the gorgeous technical ceiling that can only really be cultivated when a player is exposed to the Dutch and FC Barcelona systems.

8. Alessandro Bastoni

FC Internazionale v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Inter Milan are yet to concede a goal in the Serie A this season, and most of it is down to Alessandro Bastoni’s otherworldly performances. Bastoni has been the defensive bedrock of the entire team, often being the last man while his centre-back partners venture further forward. This is all while being the team’s main outlet from the back, whether that is with smart short progressive passes or even some impressive and imaginative diagonal balls, particularly to Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco. Bastoni has proven himself to be the primary solution to Inter’s tendecy to U-shape at times, although it must be stated that Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s shift in role to being a holding midfielder has also massively changed the way Inter play. A special mention to Lautaro Martínez too who has been simply unbelievable for Inter but was omitted to limit players from the same team appearing on the list (only one club has two players). The best centre-back in the world this season so far.

7. Kylian Mbappé

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

With every season that passes, Paris Saint-Germain feed even more ungodly amounts of cash to Kylian Mbappé, and like clockwork, Mbappé somehow keeps justifying the price tag. After a 0-0 draw with Lorient showed PSG’s complete lack of attacking threat, Mbappé was brought back into the fold. A second toothless PSG attack saw Mbappé introduced with half an hour to go, and he scored an equaliser. In the following two weeks, Mbappé has followed it up with back-to-back braces, taking his tally to five for the season. What a player.

6. Takumi Minamino

FC Bayern München v AS Monaco - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Takumi Minamino has started this season in mercurial form in a strike-partnership alongside Wissam Ben Yedder at AS Monaco. Minamino has had a goal contribution in every game he’s played in for Monaco this season, the peak of which was a brace and assist which the Japanese international picked up against Strasbourg in the second gameweek of the season. Minamino is now on 3 goals and 3 assists after just 4 games, an unbelievable haul. Minamino’s speed is key to Monaco’s counter-focused game, and combined with the midfield’s ability to find him in advanced positions creates a problem for all French defenses.

5. James Maddison

Burnley FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

James Maddison has been dominant for Tottenham Hotspur in their unbeaten run so far, being crucial to Spurs rescuing a point against Brentford by assisting both goals, and while he didn’t get a goal contribution he was still crucial to Spurs’ attack and midfield in their 2-0 victory over Manchester United before Maddison added a goal to his tally in both of his next two games against Bournemouth and Burnley, with his goal against Burnley in particular being a beautiful strike from 20 yards out with the defense left spectating. Maddison has been almost ‘scary’ to face, as he is always looking to win the ball off of defenders and often finds himself in dangerous positions to set-up or shoot, although he has had multiple chances spurned out by his teammates.

4. Victor Boniface

Bayer Leverkusen - Darmstadt 98 Photo by Bernd Thissen/picture alliance via Getty Images

If James Maddison is scary, Victor Boniface is terrifying.

The Nigerian 22-year-old has been unbelievably good for Bayer Leverkusen, with 4 goals and 2 assists in just 3 games. The striker is physically imposing, with a 189cm tall, dominating stature combined with a surprisingly electric burst of pace. On top of that, Boniface is a menace off and on the ball, pushing defenders around like ragdolls with the ball at his feet and running them into the ground when they have the ball. Boniface is a surprisingly capable dribbler for his size, and has an eye for a killer ball too, making him a great creator and not just a tight finisher/presser. Boniface is the perfect physical specimen to put at the top of this Leverkusen system, and it is showing.

3. Leroy Sané

Borussia Mönchengladbach v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Stefan Brauer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

If this list were about players based on how ‘good’ they play aesthetically, Leroy Sané would be at top spot by a mile.

The German winger is turning on the style once again, with quick exchanges and unbelievable dribbles through multiple defenders at will, as well as a cannon of a left foot from range. Sané has been painfully unlucky, hitting the woodwork in every game he’s played this season but despite that has three goals and a forced own goal, which should say enough about how productive he has been. Sané has been Bayern Munich’s wildcard, constantly making dangerous runs to drag defenders to and fro, and has combined this with some tight link-up play with Noussair Mazraoui on the right. He has added track back energy, including some insane sprints like the one where he made notable speed demon Timo Werner look like he was stuck in first gear. Immaculate technique, immaculate work rate and unbelievable performances.

2. Erling Haaland

Manchester City v Fulham FC - Premier League Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images

The newly crowned (and fully deserving) UEFA Player of the Year for 2023, Erling Haaland is already playing the way he did last season.

While the Norwegian had a quiet game against Newcastle United and against Sevilla in the UEFA SuperCup final, his other three games have been excellent. Haaland scored a powerful close-range header against Sheffield United (admittedly after missing a penalty) as well as a pair of goals against Burnley — one of them a smart striker’s finish while the other was just a ridiculous top corner finish from inside the box from in front of the defense. Haaland showed his creative side with a smart cut-back to Julian Álvarez to open the scoring against Fulham, before scoring a hat-trick of dizzying and quick goals, including a goal running in behind the defense, a penalty and a goal from a low cross where the defenders just lost him for half a second. What a striker.

1. Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid CF v Getafe CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Jude Bellingham has finally cracked mentally. He no longer knows anything but football, and boy does he know how to football well.

Bellingham has been Real Madrid’s knight in shining armour, doing so much off the ball work in the defensive and midfield thirds, and become the centre of Real’s play in the midfield and thirds, as well as of course somehow having become Real’s primary goal threat. Bellingham scored a scrappy but ultimately well-taken side-footed volley from a corner on his debut for Real, and followed it up with by far his best performance against Almeria when he netted from close range, doubled his tally with a fantastic run in behind and header from a Toni Kroos ball over the top, and then bagged an assist for good measure. Bellingham has followed it up with a goal each in his next two games as well as numerous chances for his teammates which were disallowed or failed to find the net. Bellingham is truly at the top of his game, and is somehow Real’s best player in all three phases of play right now. Truly world-beating.

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