Here is Bleacher Report's list of 40 players you simply must see this season in the UEFA Champions League.
Punters beware—you won't find Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo nor Yaya Toure here. This list is all about the possibly unsung, the potentially unheard of and the under-appreciated.
There may be a few names you are unfamiliar with on this list, or some that you've never even come across. If you're not a world football aficionado, this list could be incredibly valuable to you.
The deal that saw Marco Verratti join Paris Saint-Germain from Pescara was eclipsed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic's signing parade, but this boy could be one of the best acquisitions Carlo Ancelotti ever makes.
It was Zdenek Zeman, then manager of the Delfini, who moved Verratti into the regista role of his 4-3-3 and he has drawn wild comparisons to boyhood hero Andrea Pirlo since.
His early form looks promising, and he has been pulling the strings in PSG's last two big wins.
Former Banfield playmaker James Rodriguez is currently one of FC Porto's chief attacking threats and boasts a remarkable goal scoring record from the left wing position.
His comfort out wide makes it difficult to believe he made his name in South America as a dynamic No. 10 and he has really taken responsibility for a Dragoes side without Hulk.
"El Nueve Pibe" has already bagged two goals this season—one an astonishing chip against Olhanense—and looks to have secured a bright future with the Colombian national team.
Mateo Kovacic's name has been uttered in the same breath as Robert Prosinecki's—this is a statement that sends most Croatians wild with hope.
He is still aged just 18 and remains a very raw talent, but is playing first-team football for Dinamo Zagreb and remains the second-youngest scorer in UEFA Champions League history.
Plavi are very much easing their precocious talent into life at the top and rightly so. Look for Kovacic to be a high-impact substitute in the short-term, and a potential world-beater in the long-term.
Oleh Husyev is one of the most dynamic and imperious wide men in world football today.
He's exciting to watch and almost impossible to take your eye off, so it's a shame he's been loyal to Dynamo Kiev for nearly 10 years now—we rarely get to see him play.
The UEFA Champions League is your chance! Whatever position he's told to play, he does that same thing—run up and down all day like a man possessed.
He even gives Dani Alves a run for his money.
Julian Draxler, Schalke 04's electric left-winger, has already made just under 50 appearances for Die Konigsblauen, despite not yet hitting 20 years of age.
Plenty of interest from bigger clubs has been mooted in the past and it's easy to see why—give Liverpool fans the choice between this guy and Stewart Downing and let's see who they choose.
The Gladbeck-born wide man was even close to a Euro 2012 call-up and has made two full appearances for the senior side. Can he surpass Mario Gotze and Marco Reus in the next five years, though?
While Olivier Giroud may have taken the headlines in Montpellier's Ligue 1-winning season last year, Younes Belhanda was just as influential, if not more.
His move to the traditional No. 10 position saw him take on a commanding role in La Paillade's attack and with Giroud gone, the Moroccan is now the star player in the side.
He's had difficulty finding his groove this season (as have the entire MHSC team) and clearly misses the link-up play with his old strike partner, but underestimate him at your peril.
Vasilis Torosidis is Olympiacos' captain fantastic and all-round star.
It's fair to say the eyes of Europe will be fixed on Arsenal and Schalke 04 when Kokkini take them on, but keep a lookout for this Greek international.
He's a versatile grafter who plays in a variety of positions, but you'll likely find him in the right-back berth under Leonardo Jardim's leadership.
It's official—Jack Wilshere is back in training. Cue sighs of relief from England and Arsenal fans everywhere.
Many—including Roy Hodgson—see him as the future of the English national team, so his ongoing fitness troubles were a serious cause for concern.
If he can get back up to speed quickly, Arsenal's great start to the season could yet improve in the eyes of the fans.
Juventus scouts watched Dieumerci Mbokani put in a solid performance against Milan as Anderlecht ground out a 0-0 draw at the San Siro (via InsideFutbol.)
Tottenham, amongst others, have also been credited with an interest, so it seems there may be a battle for the Congolese hitman come January.
He's a powerful forward who has flown under the radar in the depths of the Belgian leagues, but that may not be the case for too much longer.
Milan's No. 92, Stephan El Shaarawy, is one of Italy's bright young talents emerging from Serie A.
He broke out late last season after an injury crisis decimated the Rossoneri's ranks up front, making a certifiable impact and landing himself a tasty contract extension.
He's made four starting appearances already this season and, despite il Diavolo's slow start, looks a wonderful prospect for years to come.
Quality left-backs are at an all-time high premium, so if you grab one, keep hold of them.
Malaga let a lot of quality go in the summer transfer window but held onto one of the best—and most unsung—players.
Nacho Monreal is someone who would have suited Manchester United better than Alexander Buttner and take over the first-choice left-back mantle in the place of the under-performing Patrice Evra immediately.
Athletic Bilbao will always be sniffing around, given his Basque nationality, so Los Boquerones could be facing another challenge come January.
It'll be interesting to see how Axel Witsel fares in Russia.
He's a good player, but he's not world-class. €40 million is an awful lot to spend on one player and the Belgian's performances in the UEFA Champions League will come under heavy, heavy scrutiny.
Witsel is fully capable of holding his own in any team and will become an integral part of an emerging Belgium team. Watch his progress with interest.
Ilkay Gundogan is just another quality young player in a long line of emerging Germans.
He's been handed a sizeable task, though—to fill the gap Nuri Sahin left when he departed for Madrid just over a year ago.
The former Nuremburg midfielder is not nearly as tidy as the Turk, but that aspect of his game is fast-improving. Sebastien Kehl is there to do the dirty work, while Gundogan plays the simple balls.
He is prospering in Jurgen Klopp's incredibly flexible footballing system and developing an excellent all-round game.
No one knows how long Jose Mourinho can hold a grudge, and it appears Sergio Ramos was the victim of the Portuguese tactician's fury after an abject opening to the La Liga season from Real Madrid.
Raphael Varane came into the side for Los Merengues' UEFA Champions League clash with Manchester City and, despite conceding two goals, was more or less left helpless by an undiscplined showing from Pepe.
Mourinho was quick to absolve the Frenchman of blame and he may well feature further.
Some were suggesting Daley Blind would be a good fit for Manchester United's left-back berth during the summer.
While that kind of move may be a few years premature, there's no doubting the 22-year-old's ability in the game.
He's a versatile performer, capable of playing in midfield or at the back. He operated on the left side of defence in Ajax's UEFA Champions League opener with Borussia Dortmund and will likely feature heavily in this position.
This article focuses on the lesser-known players, but Manchester City's squad is so star-studded it's tough to find a player we don't already know inside out.
Matija Nastasic, however, is a relatively new commodity to most. His season with Fiorentina last year was solid and Roberto Mancini obviously saw a lot of potential in him, either for the two-man or three-man central defensive scheme.
He's still a young guy, so the Italian tactician will be desperate for him to turn out better than Stefan Savic did. To avoid that though, he needs games.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, simply put, is Armenia's only footballing hope.
Shakhtar Donetsk parted with a considerable amount of money to recruit him at just 20 years of age, and he's already repaid the $7.5 million outlay.
His brace in the first round of matches secured his club a 2-0 victory over Nordsjaelland and got Hirnyky off to a superb start in a tough group, so it'll be a great test to see how far he's come when he faces Chelsea and Juventus in the coming weeks.
Kwadwo Asamoah is one of the most exciting players to watch in world football.
He's currently being deployed as a left-wing-back at new club Juventus and has twice saved The Old Lady's bacon as they continue their formidable unbeaten run.
He made his name as a dynamic, attacking midfielder with Udinese last season after initially moving from a holding role, making him one of the most versatile, powerful players in the game.
Everytime he gets the ball, something positive happens.
Cesar Azpilicueta signed for Chelsea at the end of the summer transfer window—anyone remember that?
Branislav Ivanovic commands the right-back berth, but when the Spaniard finally integrates himself into the team, he'll certainly be one to watch. He's halfway there after a clean sheet against Wolves.
He's an all-action, committed defender who's happy on the ball and excellent going forward. He's used to UEFA Champions League football from his time at Marseille, so he should slot in seamlessly.
FC Nordsjaelland don't have an awful lot to shout about and are more or less in this competition to make up the numbers, but it's worth checking in on Michael Parkhurst's performances for the reigning Danish champions.
The full-back is in and out of Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. national team and is currently playing on the right side of defence for The Wild Tigers.
When Nordsjaelland visit Stamford Bridge, it'll be interesting to see how Parkhurst stands up against the current holders.
Belarussian Renan Bressan had quite the controversial summer as he scored against the the country of his birth—Brazil—at the Summer Olympic Games, then celebrated like a mad man.
He was the standout player for his nation and the same applies for his club, BATE Borisov.
He's typically skillful with the ball at his feet, a long-range threat and a domestic goal machine.
Dante is what you call a late bloomer.
He endured a less than significant playing career until Lucien Favre transformed Borussia Monchengladbach. Just shy of 100 appearances over the course of three years later, the Brazilian has assumed a key role in the centre of Bayern Munich's defence.
What's even more impressive is that he's ousted Bayern's favoured son, Holger Badstuber, for this position, leaving the German international to make do with a left-back berth.
(That's his afro in the background.)
Lucas Digne is another emerging left-back who won his first-team position midway through last season with Lille.
At 19 years of age, he is still very much a work in progress, but he's learning fast and shows no fear.
During the summer, WhoScored? ran an assessment on the top five young full-backs emerging in Europe. Digne rightfully won a place.
Fernando Gago has been a major disappointment to those hoping both he and Gonzalo Higuain could take Europe by storm.
His time at Real Madrid was fruitless, and his loan to Roma was unproductive. Now, at Valencia, the talented midfielder has a decent chance to get his career back on track.
He will share a pitch with compatriot Ever Banega and has the chance to form a strong partnership, benefitting both Los Che and la Albiceleste.
With a few possible exceptions, David Villa is admired by most.
He's come back from a horrific bone-breaking injury to play a significant part in Barcelona's good early form this season, giving Tito Vilanova unbelivable luxuries of choice up front.
Ultimately, it's a relief to see him run again, let alone perform at the top level, and that's why you should enjoy watching him play again.
It's safe to say FC Twente got raided after a good domestic 2011-12 season, and Ola John was one of many who sought pastures new after a telling breakout season.
Benfica splashed a fair chunk on him—€9 million, rising to €12 million—and the Portuguese club have big hopes for him heading into another fiercely competitive Liga Sagres season.
John made the preliminary Netherlands squad for Euro 2012 and is expected to take big steps forward this year.
Romulo is one of the best shuttlers in the game at just 22 years of age.
His silent, yet effective nature and hard-working ethic will see him earn international recognition with Brazil and he had a stellar Olympic Games.
He followed a risky trend of talented Brazilians moving to Russia for large sums of money, but fortunately his move to Spartak Moscow has gone better than team mate Rafael Carioca's.
The former has produced excellence on a regular basis, while the latter has spent every minute since arriving in Eastern Europe trying to claw his way back to South America.
Adam Matthews is the de facto first-choice right-back at Celtic and made his UEFA Champions League debut in August 2012.
He was a highly anticipated arrival in Glasgow who has fallen off the global radar a bit since leaving Cardiff as yet another hot prospect.
At 20, he's earned his starting berth at Celtic Park, collected nine international caps and remains a true professional on and off the field.
Manchester United have a central defensive crisis. Again.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic are injured. Jonny Evans has just come back to fitness and Michael Carrick is on standby, so Rio Ferdinand is the go-to guy in the Red Devils back line.
The 81-cap England international has the chance to prove all his critics, his doubters and his haters wrong with a string of fine performances on the European stage.
Can he stay fit and lead his team through the group stages?
After dabbling in Dutch domestic football for a few seasons, precocious talent Nordin Amrabat set sail for Turkey to play for Kayserispor, and now Galatasaray.
The Moroccan international shone at the Olympic Games and won a move to Gala as a result, costing the Turkish heavyweights €8.6 million.
The attack-minded midfielder is a real livewire with the ball at his feet and remains as versatile as he is tricky.
Rafael Bastos' time at Braga was tumultuous to say the least, so for him to bag a brace and down Os Arsenalistas on his return with new club CFR Cluj must have been sweet poetic justice.
His goals at the Estadio-AXA were a product of swift counterattacking moves in which the Portuguese side failed to leave adequate cover in defence.
With The Railwaymen likely to be underestimated yet again in their next fixture, Bastos could well strike in a similar fashion.
Braga controlled the game against CFR Cluj despite losing 2-0, and Custodio was a major part of why it was so easy to exert sustained pressure on the Romanian champions.
His recycling of possession was incredibly efficient, providing constant supply to the likes of Alan and Eder.
He's in Paulo Bento's favour too, as his selection for and late appearances during Euro 2012 for Portugal show he's on the cusp of breaking into an excellent side.
Lewis Holtby is a shining example of a club treating a young player properly in order to get the most out of him.
His loans to Bochum and Mainz were productive and beneficial, helping him ease into first-team German football so Schalke 04 could reap the rewards later.
He's one of the first names of the team sheet for manager Huub Stevens, bagging three goals already.
Mattia De Sciglio is the boy who Milan fans hope can solve their drought of quality full-backs in the last several seasons.
Having previously been blessed with the likes of Cafu and Mauro Tassotti, the Rossoneri faithful have recently been left dismayed by the likes of Djamel Mesbah and Taye Taiwo donning the shirt.
De Sciglio is quick, skillful and confident. Landing the No. 2 shirt did a lot for his self-belief and he has two starting appearances under his belt already this season.
He saw as much of the ball as anyone against Anderlecht in the opening round and contributed to a clean sheet.
Jesus Gamez is another player who could have been snapped up by a bigger fish at any point in the last three years.
He's now captain of Malaga and has over 200 appearances for the Andalusians under his belt, having stuck with the side he gained promotion to La Liga Primera with in 2008.
Gamez is an attack-minded right-back who stays wide, passes well and creates chances. He had an excellent game against Zenit St. Petersburg in the opening round, grabbing an assist and keeping a clean sheet.
Ajax are enjoying yet another unbeaten run to start the season even without the mighty Jan Vertonghen. Why? Toby Alderweireld, that's why.
The Belgian has taken up the mantle his compatriot left on his departure for Tottenham, and has set about forming his own formidable central defensive pairing with Niklas Moisander.
Alderweireld is strong, plays a confident pass and remains a key cog in Frank de Boer's slick footballing system at the Amsterdam-ArenA.
Marvin Martin was signed by Lille in an attempt to plaster over the gaping hole created by the departure of Eden Hazard.
After over 100 appearances for Sochaux, it's strange to see Martin don a Les Dogues shirt, and the fans have high hopes he can settle in quickly.
The midfielder was desperately close to sealing a spot in Laurent Blanc's Euro 2012 squad after being tipped to break out during the tournament, but Yann M'vila's resurgence spoiled his party. For now.
Selcuk Inan is the Turkish Xavi.
He's already had an immense start to the 2012-13 season, recording two goals and three assists from just three matches in total.
His playmaking ability, world-class passing range and calm demeanour have seen him become a huge favourite at the Turk Telecom Arena.
Joel Matip might end up becoming a victim of his own versatility, but for now he's flourishing in any role he's given in a strong Schalke 04 side under Huub Stevens.
He's played the season at centre-back so far alongside Kyriakos Papadopoulos, and in their opening UEFA Champions League fixture Benedikt Howedes was pushed to right-back to allow Matip into the side.
He can also play in the full-back position or in central midfield, so he's got an extensive array of skills to admire.
Burak Yilmaz can't seem to stay in one place for too long, and has become only the second player to represent Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor thanks to his 2012 summer move to the Turk Telecom Arena.
Hot-footing from one city to the next doesn't seem to affect his goal scoring abilities though, and last season was his most prolific yet.
His 34 goals in 41 appearances for the Black Sea Storm earned him a move to Gala—a club where he's already netted four goals from five appearances.