Top 5 Players from Around the World This Weekend
The majority of major club leagues take a break over the coming week as the final places at the 2014 World Cup go up for grabs in the next 10 days.
Before then, however, this weekend played home to more important matches across the world's top leagues—including the finals of the Asian and African Champions Leagues.
As such, our congratulations to Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande for their victory in the Asian competition and to Egyptian giants Al-Ahly, led by the outstanding Mohamed Aboutrika, who scored the opener in a 2-0 win, for their African triumph.
Nonetheless, we make no apologies for this weekend's column having selected five European-based players, since all selected were very much on top of their game.
With the qualifiers next weekend, two will be hoping to take this form forward as they go face to face.
Disagree with any of the picks or feel as if there's a standout omission? Let us know in the comments section below.
But before then, here are our top five performers.
Heung-Min Son (Bayer Leverkusen)
Much was expected of the South Korean international when Bayer Leverkusen signed him to replace Andre Schuerrle during the summer, and until this weekend, he hadn't really hit the heights expected of him, having scored just once in his previous eight league matches—and that on the opening day.
But in an extravaganza of attacking football at the BayArena, the 21-year-old enjoyed himself against old friends, as his new side beat his former club Hamburg in an eight-goal thriller, running out as 5-3 winners.
And Son, who swapped clubs for £8.8 million during the offseason, was in eye-catching form, scoring three and making another before being substituted to a standing ovation in the 90th minute.
His first goal saw him latch onto an angled pass from Gonzalo Castro, before accelerating away from Heiko Westermann and firing an angled left-foot shot in off the far post, giving Bayer a ninth minute lead.
Seven minutes later, he'd trebled his Bundesliga goal tally for the season. Sidney Sam's excellent through pass exposed HSV's high defensive line, allowing Son to race clear before rounding Rene Adler and rolling into the back of the net.
Maximilian Beister and Pierre-Michel Lasogga brought Hamburg back onto level terms, but in the 55th minute, Son took it upon himself to put Bayer back in front, steering a right-footed shot past an onrushing Adler.
In the 72nd minute, he would help himself to an assist also—a killer pass finding Stefan Kiessling—to put Bayer in front, 4-2.
All in, it was a wonderful showing of intelligence and tenacity from the South Korean, as he revelled in the space afforded him by the Bundesliga's leakiest defence.
Well, if this is indeed the year where Cristiano Ronaldo breaks Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or run, then performances like this will only have helped.
Just like Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti described, the 28-year-old was simply "out of this world" as he put Real Sociedad to the sword with a complete attacking display in Los Blancos' 5-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Portugal skipper—who will lead his country against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden in their World Cup play-off next weekend—signed off of club duty with a magnificent display of pace, power and precision shooting, with a little finesse thrown in for good measure.
For the entire 90 minutes, he caused La Real's defence problems, his movement off the ball and strength when in possession simply proving too much.
He hammered Karim Benzema's clipped pass into Claudio Bravo's far corner to put Madrid in front, before cutely teeing up the French striker for the side's second minutes later.
A debatable penalty was converted coolly by Ronaldo for RM's third (his second) before Sami Khedira and Antoine Griezmann would trade goals.
The final say in the match, however, would belong to the former Manchester United man—an irresistible free-kick finding the back of the net as Ronaldo netted his ninth goal in four matches, his 24th in 17 games this season and his third hat-trick of the current campaign.
Cristiano Ronaldo (First 17 Games). 2009/2010: 9 2010/2011: 14 2011/2012: 17 2012/2013: 19 2013/2014: 24 HE JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER!!— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) November 10, 2013
It was a showing that once again told the world what it should already know: Despite Gareth Bale's world-record arrival, Cristiano Ronaldo is still the man in Madrid.
Portugal boss Paulo Bento will no doubt be hoping he takes some of this magic home with him next weekend.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain)
If Cristiano Ronaldo carries Portugal's World Cup hopes on his ridiculously talented shoulders, then the opponent who does likewise next week is Sweden's mercurial striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
And if Paulo Bento is hoping that his talisman can take his recent club form onto the international stage, then Erik Hamren will be hoping that his skipper can do likewise, following the 32-year-old's Ligue 1 treble in Saturday's 3-1 win for PSG over Nice.
Le Parisiens were once more indebted to the genius of the former AC Milan and Barcelona striker as he took his tally to 10 goals in his last five matches with a clinical dissection of a usually stubborn Nice defence.
Gregory van der Wiel fed him his first, swinging a cross that left Lucas Veronese in two minds and allowed Ibrahimovic to pounce at the far post.
Ibra's second came in the 55th minute from the penalty spot. It was the Swede's sumptuous clipped pass for Edinson Cavani, which took out the away defence and saw Veronese fly out of his goal, bringing down the Uruguayan. Ibrahimovic converted, sending the keeper flying in the wrong direction.
And after Nice had reduced the deficit, the Swedish tower ensured his side secured a five-point lead atop Ligue 1, heading home after excellent wing play from Lucas Moura.
Despite the big money signings in other positions, it remains the personality of Ibrahimovic that embodies PSG, and he remains pivotal to their success. And, as he has throughout his club career, he's delivering.
Now, his countrymen will be hoping that he can do similarly and lead them to Brazil.
The weight of expectation on Ibrahimovic's broad shoulders is now far greater than it has ever been before. Prepare for fireworks.
Yura Movsisyan (Spartak Moscow)
It is Henrik Mkhitaryan, the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder, who currently can lay claim to being Armenia's finest talent, but if we take that as certain, then Spartak Moscow striker Yura Movsisyan is probably second in line.
And in Russian football's biggest game of the season so far, the 26-year-old—something of a late bloomer—helped himself to a perfect hat-trick as improving Spartak beat leaders Zenit St. Petersburg 4-2.
It continued the powerful striker's excellent recent goalscoring run, which has seen him score in eight of his last nine matches for club and country, a run featuring 10 goals.
The match itself at the Stadion Lokomotiv was a spectacular affair, and both it and the role played by Movsisyan typified his explosive on-field demeanour. (Find the goals on YouTube here.)
Movsisyan was booked inside a minute for deliberate handball and then saw Aleksandr Kerzhakov hand Zenit a lead after six minutes. Brazilian Hulk should have doubled that advantage, but for the second time in a week, he struck a miserable penalty.
Until that point, Luciano Spalletti's men had dominated proceedings, but then Spartak, and particularly Movsisyan, took control.
A 32nd-minute corner from Denis Glushakov was clipped to the near post, and then the Armenian met it with a deft flick that saw the ball go past keeper Yuri Lodygin and in off the far post.
If that goal showcased subtlety, Movsisyan's 44th minute drive—a fizzing low drive into the bottom corner—did anything but, giving the hosts the lead.
Nonetheless, Movsisyan saved the best for last three minutes after the break: Tino Costa's left-footed strike deflected into his path, and taking it for the first time on the half-volley, he sidefooted with his weaker right foot into the top corner—the kind of composed, unerring finish befitting a man in form.
Hat-trick Movsisyan...get on the phone to Martin Jol, Gus Poyet, Chris Hughton...— James Appell (@jamesappell) November 10, 2013
Movsisyan would be replaced in the 58th minute by ex-Dortmund man Lucas Barrios after picking up an injury, but this striking display—part of a performance full of hard running and clever link play—meant that the day belonged to Armenia's second in command.
If he continues having days like this, don't back against Valery Karpin's side having their say in the destination of the Russian title for the first time since 2001.
Tim Krul (Newcastle United)
The Dutch international has had something of an indifferent campaign so far, but this was the kind of performance where you understand why Newcastle boss Alan Pardew believes him to be the Premier League's No. 1.
"I think he is the best Dutch goalie for sure and I think he is the best in the Premier League," said the Toon Army boss, as reported by the Daily Mirror.
It was French striker Loic Remy who finished coolly to give the Magpies an early lead when played through by compatriot Yoan Gouffran, but as the game continued, Tottenham Hotspur made all the attacking moves. And time and again, they were repelled by the magnificent Krul.
The 25-year-old made a quite incredible 14 saves during the course of events at White Hart Lane—two of which, denying Christian Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, were truly world-class (see them here on YouTube)—while he also took command of his area and cajoled his defence throughout.
Positionally, the Newcastle stopper didn't put a foot wrong throughout, while his handling was perfect on all but one occasion—and even then he redeemed himself by reacting to the loose ball.
In short, it has perhaps taken over Willy Caballero's showing at the Santiago Bernabeu as the best goalkeeping performance of the season so far.
WhoScored gave him a perfect 10 rating, and he kept his clean sheet. The Dutchman deserved no less.
Tim Krul has been sensational! As good a goalkeeping display as you're ever likely to see.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 10, 2013
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