1: Lionel Messi — FC Barcelona/Argentina
Magical. Marvelous. Majestic. There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how good Lionel Messi has been over the past decade and a half.
This year, he’s been no different, scoring 40 and assisting 17, guiding Barcelona to the 2018/19 La Liga title, as well as to the top of the league this term.
More impressively however has been the manner in which he’s acclimatized to a rapidly changing environment at Camp Nou. Whilst many of his peers of yesteryear have either moved on or retired, the Argentine has still managed to keep up his outrageously high-performance levels amongst a new, and vastly more inexperienced, roster.
The greatest there ever has, and ever will be.
2: Sadio Mane — Liverpool FC/Senegal
When Liverpool signed Sadio Mane from Southampton for $45 million in the summer of 2016, it was taking on a raw but potentially brilliant talent.
In the three-and-a-half seasons that have followed, the Senegalese forward has developed into one of the most devastating attackers in world football.
At his current pace, Mane is managing a goal every other game for Jurgen Klopp’s men, which for a winger, is impressive going. More importantly, however, his symbiosis with Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah has made Liverpool’s attack the most feared in Europe, of which Mane is the epitome.
Pacy, direct, skillful, accurate, and strong, Sadio Mane is a defender’s nightmare and one that may be about to fire Liverpool to its first Premier League title.
3: Virgil van Dijk — Liverpool FC/Netherlands
Van Dijk told cameras he was “extremely proud to be in the same company as two of the greatest players to ever play” after finishing second, between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, in this year’s Ballon d’Or standings.
But the Dutchman need not worry, as his performances over the last year have put him firmly in the same bracket as the Argentine and the Portuguese.
Van Dijk has been an omnipresent force in Liverpool’s defence (not one player dribbled past him the whole of last season), guiding it to Champions League glory and a second-place finish in the Premier League. He also won the PFA Player of the Year.
4: Kylian Mbappe — Paris Saint Germain/France
Mbappe took the world by storm at the 2018 World Cup, where he finished with four goals and the Best Young Player award as France won their second-ever title.
Since then, he’s just gotten better and better. The 20-year-old ended last term as Ligue 1’s top scorer with 33 goals in 29 games, and he’s already got another five this term to set PSG on its usual course to domestic domination.
He’s still got plenty of time, but it’s unlikely to be long until the Ballon d’Or sixth-place finisher leaves France for one of Europe’s biggest clubs, such as Barcelona or Real Madrid, and firmly establishes himself as the sport’s biggest talent since the emergence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
5: Donny van de Beek — AFC Ajax/Netherlands
At the start of 2019, very few people would have known the name Donny van de Beek. Now, he’s one of the household names in European football.
The Dutch youngster outshone some of the best midfielders on the planet — Toni Kroos, Miralem Pjanic, and Thiago Alcantara included — in last season’s Champions League as Ajax enjoyed a thrilling ride to the semi-finals.
He was also excellent in the Eredivisie as Erik ten Hag’s side won the Dutch top division for the first time in five years.
6: Kalidou Koulibaly — SSC Napoli/Senegal
Koulibaly was named Serie A’s best defender for the 2018/19 season as Napoli pushed Juventus right to the last day in the race to the Scudetto.
He also excelled at the Africa Cup of Nations in the summer, being named in the Team of the Tournament as Senegal finished as runners up to Algeria.
Napoli has put a $89 million price tag on the 28-year-old’s head in an attempt to ward off potential suitors such as Real Madrid and Manchester United, according to Il Mattino.
Given his CV, that’s a bargain.
7: Robert Lewandowski — FC Bayern Munich/Poland
Robert Lewandowski is like a fine wine — he gets better with age.
The Polish striker turned 31 at the beginning of the season and has since enjoyed his finest ever start to a domestic campaign, netting 28 goals in all competitions, which is, by a long shot, the best of any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
Last season wasn’t too bad either, as he scored 40 and claimed the Bundesliga top scorer award for the second consecutive year and for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
8: Alisson Becker — Liverpool FC/Brazil
Liverpool had long craved the stability of a world-class keeper before the arrival of Alisson Becker from AS Roma in 2018.
And the effect the Brazilian has had on the club has been quite astounding. Not only has he been untouchable between the sticks, but he’s also given Liverpool’s defence a huge confidence boost, and the attack an extra outlet thanks to his sharp distribution.
The best keeper in world football right now, Alisson won the inaugural Yashin Trophy at this year’s Ballon d’Or awards, as well as both the Premier League’s and the Copa America’s Golden Gloves.
9: Kevin De Bruyne — Manchester City/Belgium
“Poetry in motion” is how you would describe Kevin De Bruyne playing football. Everything the Belgian does, he does with unmissable grace and elegance, making the beautiful game look easy and, well, beautiful.
The Manchester City star missed a large chunk of last season through injury. However, having returned to full fitness over the summer, he’s been back to his very best this term.
The 28-year-old already has six goals and nine assists to his name in the Premier League, the latter being the highest total in the division.
10: Hakim Ziyech — AFC Ajax/Morocco
After last year’s phenomenal Champions League run, Ajax saw a number of its biggest talents, including Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, pawned off for big bucks.
Fortunately for the Dutch champion, it was able to hold on to the talismanic Hakim Ziyech, despite confirming he would in-fact leave the club in the summer, according to the BBC.
Keeping the Moroccan has proved a quality piece of business, as he’s already scored seven goals and managed 15 assists in all competitions this term to help Ajax back to the top of the Eredivisie table.