Ranking the Top 16 Players in the Champions League So Far
Bleacher Report brings you the top 16 players in the UEFA Champions League so far.
There are two prerequisites for a player to make the list:
1) This article will not select multiple players from the same club. So, if Xavi is chosen then Lionel Messi can’t be selected.
Why have this precondition? To avoid overloading the list with players from the same major clubs.
2) The player must have played in all three Champions League match days.
For example, Nordsjælland’s Andreas Laudrup may have played 84 UCL minutes this season but since he’s played in all three games, he is eligible to be considered for the list.
Whereas Wayne Rooney has been at his creative best but since he’s only played in two match days, he’ll be ineligible for this article.
This article judges players on form, not reputation.
16. Roberto Soldado, Valencia, Centre Forward, Age: 27
Considering BATE Borisov's dogged defending against Bayern Munich and Lille, it was a notable effort for Roberto Soldado to score a hat trick.
Marko Simic and Yegor Filipenko really struggled to contain Soldado's smart runs.
After 69 minutes, Soldado was on pace to equal Lionel Messi's achievement of five goals in one UEFA Champions League game.
15. Christian Eriksen, Ajax, Attacking Midfielder, Age: 20
If Christian Eriksen started as a false nine for all three UEFA Champions League games, he'd probably top this list.
Against Manchester City, he showed the Eriksen Ajax fans have come to love instead of the one that froze for Denmark during Euro 2012.
City couldn't handle Eriksen's movement, nor could they stop him from orchestrating some splendid moments of football with Lasse Schöne and Siem de Jong.
14. Éder, Braga, Centre Forward, Age: 24
Éder, Alan and Ruben Micael have combined to produce some lively football.
Micael pulls the strings, Alan is always trying to beat his marker and Éder is a handful to deal with.
Just ask makeshift centre-back Michael Carrick, who was utterly embarrassed by Éder's trickery, which led to Alan poaching another goal.
The 3-2 win to Manchester United doesn't do Braga justice because the Portuguese club's attack cut the Red Devil's defence wide open time after time.
Two of Alan's three UEFA Champions League goals have been created by Éder.
13. Oscar, Chelsea, Attacking Midfielder, Age: 21
When Oscar had scored his second goal in two minutes against Juventus, people were googling to see who held the record for the fastest hat trick in UEFA Champions League history.
It was Lyon forward Bafétimbi Gomis, who took seven minutes to net three times during that fascicle 7-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb in last season's Champions League.
Oscar didn't break Gomis' record but the Brazilian proved he wasn't going to be an expensive Brazilian flop like Denílson, Lucas Severino and Geovanni.
12. Mário Felgueiras, Cluj, Goalkeeper, Age: 25
For those who watched Cluj's 2-0 win over Braga, you would have noticed Hugo Viana mimicking Cristiano Ronaldo's shoot-first philosophy, but you would have also been fortunate to witness Mário Felgueiras' epic display of keeping.
Jon Mancini, a Bleacher Report commenter, made an astute observation:
The Braga-Cluj game was remarkably ironic. Mario Felgueiras was a Braga player the last four years, but he was always loaned out. He then returns to Braga and shuts them out in their own stadium.
Even though Felgueiras made less saves against Galatasaray, the degree of difficulty was higher because of the conditions of the pitch, his team being a man down and Galatasaray dominating proceedings.
If he didn't stop Felipe Melo's penalty, Cluj would have walked away with a loss. Instead they earned a point following a 1-1 draw.
11. João Moutinho, Porto, Centre Midfielder, Age: 26
João Moutinho not only controls the tempo of Porto's attacks but he creates shots for his teammates and contributes defensively.
Can you imagine how dominant a midfield three of Sandro, Mousa Dembélé and João Moutinho would be?
Unfortunately for Tottenham Hotspur, Porto will wait for a massively inflated transfer fee before selling Moutinho, just like when Zenit came calling for Hulk.
10. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke, Centre Forward, Age: 29
Lewis Holtby, Jefferson Farfán, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Benedikt Höwedes and Roman Neustädter have more to do with Schalke being second in the Bundesliga this season than Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Whilst he has struggled to efficiently score league goals, averaging 9.3 shots per goal, he has been his normal self in the UEFA Champions League.
Without his goals, Schalke wouldn't be on top of group B, which is ironic because they're carrying him in the Bundesliga.
Like Robin van Persie with Arsenal, it seems that Huntelaar doesn't want to sign a contract extension with Schalke.
Will he join Liverpool?
9. Andrei Gorbunov, BATE Borisov, Goalkeeper, Age: 29
If you polled 100 casual football fans, 99 of them wouldn't have know who Andrei Gorbunov was before the Lille game.
I would have been part of that 99 and if you asked me to guess who he was, I would have said some Soviet politician during the Cold War.
Gorbunov was sensational against Lille, but surely he's not going to produce the same heroics against the much vaunted Bayern Munich side.
Well, he did—and in a 3-1 win.
One small footnote: What if Toni Kroos scored when he had an open net?
Even when Gorbunov conceded three against Valencia, the glass-half-full perspective would be he stopped Roberto Soldado from scoring six.
Theoretically, the Spanish forward could have scored six times if Pepe Reina was in goals because Soldado had a remarkable six shots on goal from seven attempts against BATE Borisov.
8. Łukasz Piszczek, Borussia Dortmund, Right-Back, Age: 27
This UEFA Champions League season, Łukasz Piszczek leads Borussia Dortmund in shots created, tackles per game and tackles per foul.
He pushed a submissive Samir Nasri around when Manchester City undeservedly claimed a draw.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who averaged 9.5 shots per Champions League game going into the match against Dortmund, was only limited to three shots against Dortmund.
That was mainly because of Piszczek and BVB's philosophy of constant contain and press.
However, Piszczek was caught up field when Ronaldo neatly lofted the ball over Roman Weidenfeller.
Here's the question I asked in May:
The question isn't if Łukasz Piszczek is the best right-back in the Bundesliga, more so, is he the best right-back in the world this season?
Right now, it's a toss up between Sevilla's Cicinho and Piszczek. Who do you think is the best right-back right now?
7. Isco, Málaga, Attacking Midfielder, Age: 20
Isco is something special because he can dribble, he can create, he scores, he's versatile and he presses.
Bruno Alves was all over the place trying to defend against Isco when Málaga beat Zenit 3-0.
There's a misconception that he's the sole reason for Málaga being relevant. This is because he's the only nameable Málaga player to the average footballing fan.
That's not the case, because Málaga's success thus far has been predicated on resolute defending and team unity.
Ignacio Camacho, Nacho Monreal, Martín Demichelis, Weligton, Jesús Gámez and Willy Caballero deserve just as much adulation as Isco.
After all, Málaga are tied with Real Madrid with least goals conceded in La Liga and the Andalusia club are the only team in the UEFA Champions League that has yet to concede a goal.
Last but not least, the No. 1 reason for Málaga not falling to pieces is Manuel Pellegrini.
6. Fernandinho, Shakhtar Donetsk, Box-to-Box Midfielder, Age: 27
Fernandinho runs the show for Shakhtar Donetsk.
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Teixeira and Willian getting all the attention, Fernandinho's leadership and all-round displays are overshadowed.
3 tackles per game, 4.3 interceptions per game, 2.3 shots created per game and completes 91.7 percent of his 64 passes per game—talk about bossing a midfield.
5. Claudio Marchisio, Juventus, Centre Midfielder, Age: 26
Juventus should have been down-and-out after Oscar's two minutes of brilliance, but Claudio Marchisio engineered a comeback to level the game at 2-2.
He does so many things that can't be quantified by statistics.
He runs till the last whistle, he reads the play well and slots into space vacated by his teammates to ensure Juve aren't caught out of position.
4. Joe Hart, Manchester City, Goalkeeper, Age: 25
Should Manchester City somehow qualify for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Joe Hart's colossal performance Borussia Dortmund coupled with a ridiculous penalty call will be marked down as the game that bailed City out.
He was world-class against Real Madrid and not at fault for Cristiano Ronaldo's late winner because Vincent Kompany put off his own keeper by ducking.
3. Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain, Centre-Back, Age: 28
Thiago Silva not only scored against Dynamo Kyiv but he shut down the dangerous Ideye Brown.
Jackson Martinez, who is one his way to becoming a world-class forward, wasn't on song for Porto because of Silva.
Dinamo Zagreb's attempts to play Sammir as a false nine backfired since he had no chance against a centre-back of Silva's class.
|Goal Scoring Record Before vs. PSG||Goals||Games|
2. Lionel Messi, Barcelona, Deep-Lying Forward, Age: 25
Lionel Messi is so transcendent that when he doesn't go beast mode, you're left disappointed.
It's as if you expect him to score at a rate like Fernando Peyroteo, even though he is generally marked by three or four opposing players, who are all generally playing for a draw.
Messi hasn't dribbled as much this UEFA Champions League season and his shooting has been a bit wayward.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid, Left Attacking Midfielder, Age: 27
|Shots Per Goal||9||4.4|
|Shots Created Per Game||2.3||2.3|
|Completed Dribbles Per Game||2||3|
Generally speaking, Cristiano Ronaldo is more inefficient than Lionel Messi, but that hasn't been the case in this season's UEFA Champions League.
He shredded Ajax. He came up big against Manchester City. Wasn't so impressive against Borussia Dortmund but still scored.
He's cerebral when it comes to scoring goals.