Ranking Europe's Top 10 Players on Form
Welcome to the inaugural ranking of the top 10 players in Europe, based solely on form and completely ignoring reputation.
It's a tough assignment to produce the first one, as it's not possible for a player to build a run or streak of impressive performances so early in the season.
With that said, there were 30 to 40 candidates for this edition, and the likes of Dejan Lovren, Danny Welbeck, Diego Costa and Raffael could easily have been involved.
We've picked the top 10—see if you agree and stay tuned for more next week!
10. Edin Dzeko, Manchester City
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Edin Dzeko had a frustrating night in front of goal on Monday, but don't let that cloud your opinion of his fantastic performance against Newcastle United.
Michael Cox of The Guardian has done a fine job explaining how Manuel Pellegrini has achieved balanced attacking playing with minimal—if any—congestion on the pitch, and Dzeko played a key role in this.
He dropped in and out of what seemed a loose 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 formation, swapping roles with Sergio Aguero and David Silva to flummox the Magpies' defence.
He looks a man reborn, and the Premier League should be wary.
9. Emmanuel Riviere, Monaco
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Emmanuel Riviere has had a pretty incredible two weeks.
Monaco have two wins from two, and it's largely down to him after he came off the bench to change the game in the opener against Bordeaux, scoring the first, pivotal goal despite only accumulating eight touches of the ball.
This weekend, at home to Montpellier, he justly rewarded Claudio Ranieri's faith in starting him, bagging a hat-trick consisting of a sublime chip, a poacher's effort off the knee and an easy header following a deflection.
8. Asmir Begovic, Stoke City
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Had it not been for Asmir Begovic, Liverpool would be sitting atop the Premier League table with a plus-five or plus-six goal difference.
They destroyed Stoke City in the league's opening fixture, but save after save from goalkeeper Begovic denied them the opportunity to build on a hard-fought lead.
The Reds nearly blew it, and had Simon Mignolet not saved the Potters' late penalty, Begovic would have been the sole reason Mark Hughes' reign started with a precious away point.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international made 10 saves in total.
7. Robin van Persie, Manchester United
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The athleticism and understanding of the game on show when Robin van Persie plays is unbelievable at times, and he seems to find the back of the net no matter the angle.
After scoring a beautiful header against Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield, he continued his streak of wonder goals by scoring an overhead kick after outsmarting the Swansea City defence.
He followed it up by walloping his second—and Manchester United's third—in from 22 yards, beating Michel Vorm all ends up.
6. Pedro, Barcelona
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The criminally underrated Pedro continues to shine on a consistent basis, and he got his season off to a fantastic start with a brace against Levante.
His selfless nature and clever playing style, as well as a keen eye for goal, have ensured he remains a key figure in Barcelona's plans, and Gerardo Martino will have been impressed with what he saw.
Pedro played from the left in Barca's iconic 4-3-3 formation, splitting his time between cutting inside to deadly effect and maintaining the width to ensure Cesc Fabregas had room to break through the lines.
5. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juventus
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Stephan Lichtsteiner almost single-handedly destroyed his former club Lazio in the Supercoppa on Sunday.
He claimed an assist for both Paul Pogba's opening goal and Giorgio Chiellini's counterattacking strike, then surged through the Biancocelesti defence himself to get in on the scoring act.
It was a destructive performance from the right, ensuring the Old Lady got off the mark at the earliest possible chance in their pursuit of trophies this year.
4. Roberto Firmino, Hoffenheim
It hurts the Bundesliga fanbase to see Hoffenheim crushing a big, traditional club such as Hamburg.
The 5-1 victory at the Imtech Arena was shocking and unexpected, yet downright entertaining.
After Rafael van der Vaart converted a penalty, it seemed as though the home side would turn it around, but Roberto Firmino took centre stage instead.
3. Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
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Cesc Fabregas was the surprise starter in midfield ahead of Andres Iniesta, and his performance more than justified Gerardo Martino's choice.
Putting an irritating Manchester United transfer saga to the back of his mind, Cesc played some of the best, most free-flowing football of his Barcelona career so far.
He was instrumental in destroying Levante, collecting two assists, delivering six key passes and making the incisive runs we all know he is capable of.
An excellent performance from the La Masia product.
2. Guillermo Ochoa, Ajaccio
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Guillermo Ochoa put in what many youngsters will believe is the best goalkeeping performance they've ever seen against Paris Saint-Germain.
The Mexican international continually stumped Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore and co. in trying to find the net, showing off aerial ability, immense reflexes and quickness off his line.
In the end an incredible Cavani effort beat him, but not before Ochoa made 12 saves to frustrate Ajaccio's mega-rich opponents in a 1-1 draw.
1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona
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Any lingering injury concerns over Lionel Messi have been firmly shelved, as the Argentine dazzled for El Blaugrana in their 7-0 win over Levante.
He bagged two goals and an assist, but it was his passing and movement that really caught the eye. His defence-splitting through ball for Pedro's second goal was stunning, and he was constantly involved in quick switches of play—Gerardo Martino's new system coming to the fore, it seems.
Off the ball he was fantastic too, with his pressing from the front leading the line and pinning Levante in their final third.