Power rankings for Europe’s best football players (September 15th)
The weekend was quieter than usual due to the cancellation of the Premier League following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but there was still plenty of entertaining football, particularly mid-week with the second matchday of the UEFA Champions League.
For those who are unfamiliar, performances from the first matchday of the UEFA Europa League will be considered this week. Any performances from tonight will be included in the article next week.
10. Joao Cancelo (New)
Despite the lack of football at the weekend, João Cancelo has been so good over the last couple of weeks that I have to include him just for the singular performance in the Champions League.
With John Stones deputizing at right back for Manchester City, the onus was on Cancelo to provide support from the back line against Borussia Dortmund as he had done very well so far this season. Stones would ironically get on the score sheet, but that’s not a critique of Cancelo’s performance, an outing capped off by an outrageous outside of the boot cross to Erling Haaland who slammed it in.
Cancelo has been one of the most consistent fullbacks in the world in the last couple of years, and this season looks no different. He is a contender for the best left-back in the world this season.
9. Theo Hernández (New)
Oh, you were expecting the other Hernández? Well, remember what I said about João Cancelo being the best left-back in the world? Yeah, forget about that.
Honestly, Lucas Hernández was VERY close to being on this list, but being dropped at the weekend lowered his place in my mind, while Theo Hernández put in a man of the match performance at the weekend and THEN had an excellent game against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League.
At the weekend, Sampdoria fell 1-2 to AC Milan despite a red card from Rafael Leão, mostly down to Hernández’s world-class defending after Sampdoria changed their game plan and concentrated their attack down Milan’s right flank. Going forward, Hernández was excellent as well, notably creating a chance for Olivier Giroud who failed to score.
Against Zagreb, Hernández continued his great form, most notably playing a beautiful one-two cut-back with Tommaso Pobega who hammered it against the crossbar and in. Hernández looks like a contender for the best left-back in the world right now.
8. Jamal Musiala (Last appearance: August 18th)
Jamal Musiala had an unbelievable start to the season, but the next few weeks were cut short by injuries. He would come on, get an assist and be dangerous but would not get enough game time to really put his stamp on matches. However, that has finally changed.
Drawing 1-1 with Stuttgart, Musiala decided he had had enough and practically screamed at right back Noussair Mazraoui to pass him the ball at the edge of the box. Mazraoui complied, and Musiala turned Atakan Karazor inside out before slotting it into the bottom corner with his left foot with a wonderful finish. FC Barcelona came to Munich on Wednesday in what was — rather surprisingly — the first clash of teams this season where both teams had players in the power rankings. The big match lived up to its hype with chances coming to both ways, but Musiala would be the pick of the attackers, always threatening. His assist was admittedly not his finest work, a good through pass but Leroy Sané did the heavy lifting. Across the 90 it was Musiala who delivered the most.
You can read more about Musiala’s exploits against Stuttgart right here with our match observations and match awards articles on the match!
7. Alphonso Davies (New)
Remember what I said about Theo Hernández being a contender for the best left-back in the world? Yeah, forget about that too.
Alphonso Davies put on two star-studded performances this week. He and Mazraoui form a formidable wing-back partnership as both have the engine to get forward but also the gas tank to track back. Mazraoui was on my shortlist but it has to be Davies who gets in. The Canadian would help open the scoring after a fantastic run down the left and a cut-back from the byline to 17-year-old Mathys Tel who would score with some help from Florian Müller’s own defenders un-sighting him. Davies would continue that level of play throughout the match although his moves would often be slowed down after he released the ball. Against Barcelona at the weekend, Davies put in a tour de force facing Raphinha and Ousmane Dembélé, both players who have been elite this season (if not top 10, wink wink). He was not dribbled past once, which is insane to think about. On top of that, he himself would dribble past Dembélé, Raphinha, and Gavi multiple times throughout the game. Despite being almost always outnumbered two-to-one on his flank, he would somehow manage to win the ball back and dribble past both men.
If Davies can keep this level of performance up I think the debate for the best full-back in the world will well and truly be over. Hell, the only reason it exists is that Davies had to sit on the sidelines with a heart condition for four months in 2022! You can read more about Davies and Bayern’s game against Barcelona right here with our match observations and match awards articles.
6. Vinícius Júnior (New)
Real Madrid was without Karim Benzema this week as the Frenchman came off injured against Celtic. In his absence, the attack would continue to be fantastic, and it was a team effort. Special mentions must go to Rodrygo and Federico Valverde who were both as good as Vini if not better this week with great goals against Mallorca especially, but it is Vinícius’ great form prior to this week that sees him on the list ahead of his teammates.
‘Vini’ gave Real the lead against Mallorca after a great run and pass from Rodrygo followed by Vini beating his man with a fake shot and slotting it past Predrag Rajković in goal. Real struggled against RB Leipzig in the Champions League, but in typical Carlo Ancelotti fashion shifted through the gears, late into the game, with Vini in the 80th minute, ripping Benjamin Henrichs apart before finding Federico Valverde in a great position. Valverde would turn his man and shoot from inside the box, a beautiful finish.
Real Madrid is so much better than the team that won the Champions League and La Liga, which is scary. The goals are coming from everywhere, not just Benzema anymore, and Vini is key to that diversity with his ideas.
5. Leroy Sané (Last week: 8)
Leroy Sané is a memory-making-machine. It seems every other week that he generates yet another iconic image, and this week was no different.
Against Stuttgart, Sané came on late and change the texture of the game with great runs and passes, but would ultimately fail to get himself or a teammate on the scoresheet. However, against Barcelona midweek, Sané would have the opposite impact, creating chance on chance despite being played on the right flank, an area he has notoriously been poor in. He ingrained yet another legendary image into the minds of the Bayern faithful with a sumptuous dribble before sliding it past Marc-André ter Stegen in goal and celebrating under the lights in Munich.
When Sané gets going he is one of the best players in the world, full stop, and he has been showing it this season consistently despite Julian Nagelsmann playing him out of position or not at all until the very last minutes of games.
4. Neymar Jr. (Last week: 3)
Neymar Jr. continues to slip after two good but not ‘good enough for top 3’ performances this week against Stade Brestois and Maccabi Haifa.
Neymar would score the only goal of the game half an hour in after Lionel Messi did a Lionel Messi thing, finding Neymar on a curving run with a pass you can only really execute on FIFA (no seriously, HOW did he see Neymar at all? There were about seven people standing between them). Neymar would take it down deftly before volleying it home on his left across the face of the goal and into the bottom right corner. Brilliant movement, brilliant pass, brilliant shot, brilliant goal. Against Haifa, Neymar would have an okay game, finally getting on the scoresheet in the 88th minute when Marco Verratti found him in acres of space from deep. Neymar would get his goal once again with a shot across the face of the goal with his left.
Neymar scored in both games but was very quiet otherwise, which was very un-Neymar of him. As much as I dislike PSG and everything they stand for I must say that watching a motivated and always active Neymar was highly enjoyable and made me realize just how much Barcelona fans must miss MSN.
Lionel Andres Messi.
The greatest player of all time (I said it) pulled out another couple of brilliant performances this week for PSG. Against Brest, he was the man who played Neymar in with an otherworldly pass. Against Haifa, he would get PSG’s first goal with a tap-in after a defender fumbled a cut-back from Kylian Mbappé. Messi was not done as he did not even celebrate after, and it showed when he dribbled past four and shoot but managed to only draw a wonderful save and goal-line clearance from Haifa. Messi was not deterred, playing Mbappé in with a ridiculous through ball— slicing between three defenders that Mbappé finished the first time.
People seem to forget that Messi is still a top player due to Ligue 1’s… let’s say controversial standing amongst most football fans, but you just cannot discount him when he’s performing like this, especially in the Champions League.
Okay, if I’m being honest Lewandowski would still be top because while he was wasteful against Bayern Munich, he was anything but wasteful against Cádiz at the weekend.
Against Bayern, he would miss three key chances to score and landed in the pocket of one Dayot Upamecano. Against Cádiz, he didn’t even start. Not a great beginning, but it’s not too bad from there on. Barcelona hadn’t scored yet when Xavi asked Lewandowski to warm up, and by the time he came on Frenkie de Jong had scored but the game was still precariously balanced. Eight minutes after coming on, Lewandowski scored with a superhuman sprint and lunge to latch onto a loose ball in front of an open goal-mouth, and I mean the superhuman part: a defender was about six yards away from the ball while he was at least twelve yards away from it. In the 86th minute, Lewandowski would once again showcase unnatural strength and speed, peeling away from two defenders before squaring the ball to Ansu Fati who would slot it past Jeremias Ledesma in goal. Lewandowski would notch yet another assist in the 93rd minute although it was really a simple pass on the counter to Ousmane Dembélé scored from the edge of the box.
Now, why did I notch Lewandowski down a spot? Well, he did have a poor showing against Bayern, and…