10 Best Creative Players in Europe so Far in 2013-14

Alex Richards@@AA_RichardsContributor IDecember 31, 2013

10 Best Creative Players in Europe so Far in 2013-14

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    Here's a look at 10 of the best creative players in Europe so far this season, a quick gander at those players who have proved vital to their respective side's in the creation of chances and goals.

    As an aside, strikers and those players whose most typical acts come in the form of scoring goals rather than creating themCristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez to name the primary triohave NOT been included, as their goalscoring feats far outweigh their secondary contributions.

    It's no slight on them, it's just that that isn't where the focus of this article is pointed.

    Anyway, on with the 10, who are in no particular order, and remember to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

    All statistics via WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated.

Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

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    Real Madrid's decision to allow Mesut Ozil to depart the Santiago Bernabeu after Gareth Bale's departure was met with surprise.

    Arsenal (of all clubs) and their decision to spend £42.5 million on the German schemer similarly caught the footballing world off guard.

    However, Arsene Wenger knew exactly what he was doing in adding the German playmaker to his side, and the 25-year-old has shown in wonderful flashes at the Emirates Stadium why he is one of Europe's premier creators.

    Artful in possession, clever with his lateral movement and seemingly always in complete control of the ball, Ozil has been the Gunners' main architect for goals and scoring chances so far this term.

    The former Werder Bremen star has served up seven assists in the Premier League already (only Wayne Rooney has made more) while he's averaging three key passes per match as well.

Francesco Totti (AS Roma)

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    Creator-in-chief for the Giallorossi for some 20 years and rocking in the false nine position before it even had a name, Francesco Totti still appears unwearied by age.

    The Roma skipper continues to raise the game of those around him and continues to set pulses racing with his array of intelligent touches, clever passes and the all-round fantasy that he brings to the Stadio Olimpico.

    Now 37, L'unico Capitano was outstanding for Roma before succumbing to a hamstring injury, and it's his performances in the opening eight games of the seasonand his recent return to the starting XI against Cataniathat earns him his spot here.

    As Roma surged to 10 wins from their opening 10 games (of which Totti figured in eight) Totti helped himself to six assists, while making an average 3.4 key passes per game (only David Silva hits more). He has also proved himself to be more than adept at switching play for his side once again, hitting 49 accurate long balls from 58 attempts.

    Rudi Garcia's side have been outstanding thus far, and Totti has proved how vital he is.

Koke (Atletico Madrid)

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    As Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid try their hardest to break the duopoly at the top of La Liga, the versatile Spanish midfielder Koke has emerged as a fine footballer.

    Capable of playing anywhere across midfieldas well as at right-back, where he has recently been utilised by the national teamKoke's quick feet, smart brain and temperament have more than stood him in good stead for Los Rojiblancos.

    2012-13 was a major breakthrough season, as he went from something of a 12th man to something approaching first pick, playing a key role in the Spanish Cup Final win over Real Madrid.

    And thus far this term he has only improved further, becoming increasingly decisive, particularly in the final third.

    Already the 21-year-old has picked up eight assists in La Liga, while averaging 2.4 key passes per match and just under two accurate crosses each game also.

    As Simeone's side look for domestic and European glory in 2014, no doubt Koke's ability to create chances will play a key role.

Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

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    Nominated for the Ballon d'Or following his exploits throughout the year, Franck Ribery was simply awesome as Bayern Munich romped to an unprecedented treble under Jupp Heynckes last season.

    Seemingly, as the matches became more important, Ribery's impact became more telling.

    And in the new campaign, since the arrival of Pep Guardiola at the Allianz Arena, the 30-year-old French winger has continued with his excellent form, for both club and country.

    When France needed him in their World Cup play-off second leg against Ukraine, Ribery proved able to extrapolate himself from the visitors' attempts at double-marking, finding two assists in Les Bleus' 3-0 win.

    But it is at club level where Ribery's pace, drive and fleet-footed running have continued to unlock doors for Die Roten. Seven assists have been forthcoming in 13 games, as well as 2.9 key passes and six dribbles per game as Bayern have romped to the top of the table.

    Ribery was also excellent in the European Super Cup Final win over Chelsea and played his part in the Club World Cup win over Raja Casablanca.

Alessio Cerci (Torino)

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    A pacy, direct and tricky dribbler, Alessio Cerci poses a multitude of problems to opposing defenders. 

    And this season the Torino winger has done his burgeoning reputation the world of good, leading his side in both goals and assists and taking the role of his side's best player and truly embracing it.

    Perhaps earlier in his career Cerci was a stereotypical, flaky winger, but the 26-year-old has found himself a consistently high level of performance during the current campaign from his position on the right wing.

    Not a creator in the traditional sense of picking clever passes, Cerci has emerged as something of a whirlwind dervish for his side, picking up the ball in wide or deep positions and running directly toward the opposing goal, before either hitting the byline to cross or coming inside to shoot or play a pass to tee up a teammate.

    Already this term he has racked up seven assists in Serie A—more than anyone elseand is averaging 1.3 key passes and three dribbles each game.

    He's likely to be something of a wild card for Cesare Prandelli at next summer's World Cup.

Neymar (Barcelona)

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    Overrated. Overhyped.

    Overly criticised.

    There is no doubt that the 21-year-old divides opinionsometimes with good reason; sometimes rather ludicrously. Equally, there will be those who won't reckon his inclusion here is warranted.

    But in the Brazilian's first six months in European football, there is no doubt that he has acclimatised to life outside his home country well.

    Adapting to a new system, built around tiki-taka (despite some of Tata Martino's style changes) and the finishing prowess of Lionel Messi, Neymar has taken second billingsomething that hasn't happened too often during his career.

    Nonetheless, he has adapted to it very well and has grown into his role as a creator from the flanks.

    His passing in and around the penalty box has long been an underrated and overlooked part of his game, but in his brief time at Camp Nou, he's shown that he knows when to dribble and when to make the telling pass.

    Eight assists have arrived in 14 La Liga matches, as well as an average of just under two key passes per game.

    Add in the 48 successful dribbles he's already made and another four assists in six Champions League matches, and the Brazilian has already made a very good impact on European football with Barcelona.

David Silva (Manchester City)

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    There's a school of thought that perhaps Manchester City playmaker David Silva hasn't been at his best for Manuel Pellegrini's side so far this season, while a calf injury having put him out of action for most of November.

    However, it is something that I don't subscribe to on a personal level.

    For whenever the 27-year-old has been available, he has invariably played for the Citizens, and more often than not his class has shone through.

    Scheming in between the lines and given license to float across the entire field by Manuel Pellegrini, Silva's ability to interpret space and pick the intelligent option has built many a City opportunity.

    Five assists from 11 Premier League games have been forthcoming, as well as an average 4.1 key passes per gamemore than any other player in Europe.

    Indeed, the diminutive midfielder has been averaging 72.6 passes per Premier League match, with an impressive 88.1 percent completion ratioa fine figure for someone who spends the majority of his time looking to speculate in the final third.

    Throw in the four Champions League assists that Silva has claimed also, and he's certainly been among Europe's most creative stars.

Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)

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    The Croatian international is an intelligent player, capable of filling a variety of roles through the spine of a side, be it as a deep-lying midfielder, box-to-box type or in an advanced role off the front.

    And so far in the 2013-14 campaign, he has starred for Sevilla and must surely have emerged on the radar of Europe's elite (he's eligible for the Champions League latter stages).

    Not blessed with great pace, the 25-year-old is an intelligent dribbler, has excellent close control in tight areas and knows how to pick a pass. 

    An ever-present this season in La Liga bar illness or suspension, he's been vital as Unai Emery's side have won four of their last five matches, climbing to seventh in the division.

    There have been six assists from Sevilla's chief creator this term, as well as an average of 2.7 key passes, 3.1 accurate crosses, 5.3 accurate long passes, and 58.5 passes per game.

     

Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)

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    No footballer in Europe has made more assists in league football than Cesc Fabregas so far this season, the Barcelona midfielder having made nine in 16 matches.

    The World Cup winner has thrived under new Barca boss Tata Martino, whose addition of quicker vertical passing at Camp Nou has brought the best out of the ex-Arsenal man.

    Always a clever mover off the ball, Fabregas is now running through the heart of teams, before receiving the ball in the final third; when there, he has the class and the appreciation to pick the correct option, whether it means taking a shot or laying the ball to a teammate, time and again.

    Always heavily involved in Barca's play, in 14 La Liga starts and two substitute appearances, Fabregas is averaging 58.1 passes per game, with a success percentage of 86.2.

    Add in an average of one through pass per match to hand a colleague a goalscoring opportunity and just under two key passes per game, and it's clear Fabregas has had a major creative impact for Los Cules as they've claimed the top of the Spanish table for their own.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

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    Manchester United may not have enjoyed a particularly glistening start to life under David Moyes, but it would have been much worse had it not been for Wayne Rooney.

    The England international has filled a number of roles for the Red Devils already this term, but in recent weeks he has certainly been far closer to midfield than earlier in the campaign.

    And at present, Rooney would appear to be thriving.

    His nine goals have taken most plaudits (and could be argued as a reason why he shouldn't be included here), but it's been his ability dropping deep and shaping matches that have done the most for his side and which have made him the Premier League's best creator (statistically speaking) so far this season.

    Nine assists have been his Premier League reward for his mixture of wonderful passing and composure when in possession, while he's averaging 5.3 accurate long passes and 2.4 key passes per match also.

    No one in Europe has made more assists in league action than Rooney, while he's also added a further six in five Champions League games and two more in 103 minutes of League Cup action.

     

    Twitter: @AA_Richards