On the final Monday of each month, theScore will be ranking the top 20 footballers throughout Europe. In September, two left-footed Argentines have been a class above the rest of their peers.
Just missed: Malcom (Bordeaux), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).
20. Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta)
Papu’s been dancing all season. The diminutive Argentine magician, once again Atalanta‘s talisman, has scored four goals in his last five matches, carrying a side that was expected to take a significant step back after some high-profile summer departures.
19. Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan)
Inter quietly got its hands on man-mountain Skriniar this summer, and it already looks like one of the continent’s best pieces of business. The 22-year-old has arguably been Luciano Spalletti’s most consistent player to start the season, playing all 540 minutes of the Nerazzurri’s Serie A campaign thus far.
18. Nelson Semedo (Barcelona)
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Barcelona‘s right-back conundrum is no more, as the blistering Portuguese, 23, already looks right at home along the Camp Nou touchline. He blends pace and creativity going forward with dutiful defensive work, filling a hole that had gaped since the departure of Dani Alves.
17. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)
I’m just as surprised as you are, but it’s impossible to deny Ciro Immobile the credit he’s due for a scorching September. In five matches this month, the Italian striker has nestled the ball home eight times. His marquee performance came against AC Milan, when he tore Leonardo Bonucci to shreds en route to scoring a hat-trick.
16. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Still one of the most criminally underrated players in Europe, Tottenham chief conductor Eriksen is arguably Spurs’ most important player; people who don’t appreciate his creative brilliance would certainly notice if he wasn’t on the pitch.
15. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
The quietly excellent Spaniard continues to go about his defensive work without much praise, but people have started taking notice of his offensive contributions; he has four assists this season, all of them for compatriot Alvaro Morata. Azpilicueta stepping out of the back-three and whipping in a delicious cross for Morata has been a staple of Chelsea‘s game this season.
14. Dries Mertens (Napoli)
In case you were wondering, no, Mertens‘ 33-goal campaign (across Serie A and the Champions League) was no fluke last season. It’s a shame it took until he was 29 before he got the chance to play as a central striker, because he’s been among Europe’s most prolific forwards since assuming the marquee spot in Napoli‘s high-powered attack.
13. Edin Dzeko (AS Roma)
Last season’s Capocannoniere with 29 Serie A goals, Dzeko has picked up right where he left off, hitting six so far this year – including five in his last three matches. There have been some growing pains with new manager Eusebio Di Francesco’s system, but Dzeko has been excellent regardless. When things do fully click, look out.
12. Adrian Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain)
One of the smoothest midfielders in the game, there’s something calming about watching Rabiot glide through the centre of the pitch, beating opponents easily and picking out sumptuous passes. His luscious performance against Celtic in the Champions League was his standout showing thus far.
11. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Remember when everyone thought Aguero, one of the Premier League’s most ruthless finishers, would be thrown to the curb by Pep Guardiola in favour of the younger, more mobile Gabriel Jesus? Yeah, nope. The Argentine has been on a tear in September, scoring six times in his last four matches – including a hat-trick against Watford – and is now just two goals shy of setting the all-time City scoring record.
10. Isco (Real Madrid)
The most dominant single-match performance of September came on just the second day of the month, when Spanish dribbling sensation Isco eviscerated Italy in a crucial World Cup qualifier, scoring twice – including a lovely free-kick – and putting Marco Verratti on skates at the Bernabeu.
9. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
How would Morata fare in the big, bad Premier League? Just fine, thanks. After being bred into the Chelsea squad slowly by Antonio Conte, the 24-year-old striker is now off and running; his hat-trick against Stoke – a match in which he could have scored a couple more, too – brought his Premier League tally to six in as many games. Diego Costa, who?
8. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Harry Kane is scoring goals, so it must be September. No player gets more excited about the arrival of this particular month than the 24-year-old. His August scoring troubles are well-documented, but come the turn of the calendar, he reverts to type, finding the net with stunning frequency. For club and country, the Englishman has recorded eight tallies in six matches since waving goodbye to August.
7. David Silva (Manchester City)
Manchester City looks downright scary right now – Pep Guardiola’s side has scored an absurd 20 goals, without conceding any, over its last four matches in all competitions – and Silva, despite not finding the net himself, has been at the heart of it all. With five assists in his last three matches, it’s clear that, unlike Samson, Silva can still be a force without his hair.
6. Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Lukaku was worth every penny. Manchester United looks to once again be a legitimate title contender, and one of the main reasons for that ascent to the upper echelon of the Premier League is the Belgian scoring machine, who is equal parts fast, powerful, clever, and ruthless; he’s the prototypical centre-forward in a Jose Mourinho-coached side. Since joining United he’s made eight competitive appearances, and has scored at least once in all but one of those matches.
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Having David Silva pull the strings is difficult enough for opposing sides to deal with. Throw in De Bruyne, who is enjoying a breathtaking start to the campaign that has him among the (very) early front-runners for the PFA Player of the Year award, and stopping City looks almost impossible.
4. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Some bickering over set-piece and penalty-taking duties aside, life in the French capital has been a breeze for Neymar since his €222-million move from Barcelona. The lithe Brazilian is the undisputed main attraction for a finely tuned attacking juggernaut, and is already showing why PSG
broke the bank made a small dent in its coffers to bring him aboard.
3. Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco)
No Kylian Mbappe or Bernardo Silva, no problem. Falcao is too hot to touch right now, leading Europe’s top five leagues with 11 goals in just seven Ligue 1 fixtures. On his own, he’s currently outscoring 14 clubs in France’s top flight. It took some time, but his renaissance after what could have been a career-crippling knee injury has been marvellous to watch.
2. Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Everything Dybala touches has turned to gold this season. He leads Serie A with 10 goals in only six appearances – he’s scoring at a ludicrous (and unsustainable) rate of once every 47 minutes – and has carried an otherwise underwhelming Juventus all on his own.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Spectacular as Falcao and Dybala have been, there was only ever going to be one winner here. Messi is operating, as he always does, in a different stratosphere. With Neymar gone, Luis Suarez looking sluggish, and Ousmane Dembele injured, Barcelona’s living legend has gone Super Saiyan. His personal record of 50 La Liga goals in 2011-12 could be in serious jeopardy, which is, frankly, an incredible thing to be typing. He’s kicked things into a gear that no other player on Earth can match.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images unless otherwise stated)