Cristiano Ronaldo just won his fifth Ballon d’Or this year to match Lionel Messi’s achievement. The Portuguese striker led Real Madrid to their 12th Champions League title in the spring of 2017 and netted his 600th career goal in the final.
Despite not firing on all cylinders in the La Liga this season, the 32-year-old man remains lethal in the Champions League with nine goals so far.
Ronaldo and Messi have been so dominant for over a decade that they would usually top any list of best players. However, world football is not only about them. There are several other performers who currently lay claim to being Europe’s best.
Here they are:
David De Gea – Manchester United
It bedazzles many that De Gea has never received official acknowledgement for being the best between the sticks. The 27-year-old has been outstanding at Old Trafford ever since his arrival in 2011. Without him between the posts, the Red Devils would have been a different team.
As of September 18, 2017, he has 100 clean sheets for Manchester United. He fought to 14 clean sheets from 33 Premier League fixtures last season. The former Atletico Madrid goalie is currently one of the best keepers around. It is no wonder that he has been heavily linked with a switch to Real Madrid for some time now. He almost joined the Los Blancos in 2015, but Manchester United eventually blocked the move.
Despite the latest 2-1 loss to the Citizens, United still have the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season – 9. And this is no small share due to De Gea.
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool
The winger made the headlines after expressing his desire to leave Anfield in the summer. Barcelona jumped on the possibility of signing the Brazilian, but all three very lucrative offers were rejected by the Merseyside club. The latest report claims that Paris Saint-Germain have joined the battle for the Brazilian.
Coutinho is currently one of Europe’s finest in the centre of the park, but he can also play as a winger and that makes him special.
He reminded of his quality following his return from injury when he netted his first Champions League hat-trick in Liverpool’s 7-0 trouncing of Spartak Moscow at Anfield in the group stage’s final match. The former Inter Milan star has bagged nine goals and provided seven assists for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Pogba is in a different class. His role is very significant for Manchester United, and Jose Mourinho knows this very well as the Red Devils struggled when the France international was absent for two months with a hamstring injury.
Pogba’s absence affected United’s attacking creativity. Before his injury, the Red Devils averaged 3.2 goals a game. This dropped to just 1.57 with Pogba on the treatment table. The former Juventus ace was back again when Jose Mourinho’s side welcomed Newcastle United in mid-November.
Unfortunately, he earned himself a suspension in against Arsenal – missing the Manchester derby. As a conseuqence United lost the match 2-1.
Kylian Mbappe – PSG
The French wonder-kid rocked the football world with his performances at AS Monaco last season. He led the Red and Whites to the Champions League semi-finals last season, where a defeat was suffered at the hands of Juventus. Even the Bianconeri’s legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon admired the 18-year-old’s skills.
The video of Buffon kissing Mbappe’s head went viral. And that is something. Mbappe wasn’t even born when Buffon played in the 1998 World Cup.
Mbappe netted 26 goals in 44 matches for AS Monaco last term. After being heavily linked with Real Madrid, PSG signed him as a loanee with the option of making the deal permanent next season.
His collaboration with last season’s Ligue 1 top scorer Edinson Cavani and the world’s most expensive player Neymar makes PSG one of the teams with most potent front-line in Europe.
Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
He has scored 12 goals in the Premier League this term. Last season, he won the Golden Boot after bagging 29 goals in the process. His outstanding performances in the previous three seasons have drawn the attention of Real Madrid, who were reportedly willing to splash €200 million on him.
While Kane still stands as one of Europe’s top striker, he desperately needs a good partner to play with up front.
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool)
Salah is taking the world of football by storm. His name is on the lips of pretty much everyone who reads the football news.
He currently tops Premier League’s goal-scoring chart this season with 13 goals. He is lightning quick and can score from an awkward position as shown in the Merseyside derby last weekend. The 25-year-old striker is reportedly wanted by Real Madrid, and Liverpool should offer a new contract if they don’t want to lose the former Chelsea and AS Roma ace.
Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
The blond man has produced eight assists this season. The Belgium international has been dubbed as Europe’s king of assists since 2015. Last season, he provided 18 assists in the Premier League.
Manchester City have offered a new contract for the ex-Chelsea and Wolfsburg midfielder that includes a salary rise. It is the logical move as Real Madrid are also chasing his signature.
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich
Lewy was once the most hated player after moving from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich. One thing hasn’t changed. He has been consistent in scoring goals everywhere. He won two Golden Boot awards in 2013/2014 (20 goals for BVB) and 2015/2016 (30 goals for FC Hollywood).
The 29-year-old striker still tops Bundesliga goal-scoring chart, having scored 14 goals from 15 matches. Lewy, who was previously linked with Real Madrid, racked up 16 goals for his country in European qualifying campaign for the next year’s World Cup.
Neymar – PSG
No matter whether you like it or not, he deserves to be on the list. His move from Barcelona to PSG was a trending topic in the summer transfer window. The winger is now the world’s most expensive player following his transfer to Paris with a staggering €222 million.
He may have annoyed a few and especially Edinson Cavani after a spat between the two over who would take a penalty in the Ligue 1 match against Lyon. But the world has a reason to admire his skills on the pitch.
PSG scored the highest numbers of goals in the Champions League group stage (25 goals). Cavani and Neymar each netted six. But Unai Emery’s squad will facea real test of character in Europe as they face 12-time Champions League winners Real Madrid in the competition’s round of 16.
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
He might be underappreciated. Yet, he is the only player who can win the Premier League back-to-back for two clubs (Leicester City in 2015/2016 and Chelsea in 2016/2017).
Last season, Kante was initially not the priority for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte as the Italian manager was in the race for AS Roma’s Radja Nainggolan. However, as I Lupi were not willing to see the back of their genius midfielder, Conte turned to Kante, No mistake there. Kante has proven to be a vital player for the Blues, especially after the departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United this season.