Football Features

Europe’s best players from the 2018/19 season

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:56, 12 June 2019

The 2018/19 season has come to an end with some sensational displays along the way.

As much as the teams shone, with Liverpool winning their sixth Champions League and Manchester City becoming just the third team to retain the Premier League title, individual players were as always the true stars. So many magnificent players who elevated themselves and carried their sides to glory.

Everyone is now talking about the Ballon d’Or, and which players deserve to be nominated. With that in mind, here are Europe’s top 10 performers for this year (overall quality is considered, but weighting is given to this season’s displays).

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10. Kylian Mbappé

Forward, Paris Saint-Germain & France

The young sensation of the world game continued to normalise an abnormal level of excellence from such a young player. The Frenchman battered Ligue 1, crossing the 30 goal threshold for the first time in his career.

He finished with 39 in all competitions and also had the joint-most assists in PSG’s truncated Champions League campaign. This kid can do anything.

9. Sergio Aguero

Forward, Manchester City & Argentina

Perpetually underrated likely because of his consistency, Sergio Aguero cracked 30 goals once again for Manchester City and for the first time in his career he has retained a league title.

Aguero’s tactical evolution into City’s undisputed striker has been phenomenal to behold and it has kept him on the field more, allowing him more chances to score those heroic, trophy-clinching goals he’s so good at.

8. Mohamed Salah

Forward, Liverpool & Egypt

Salah came into the season carrying all the expectation of one of the world’s best forwards and has dealt with that pressure admirably.

It would have been easy for pressure to swallow Salah whole but despite not posting the obscene numbers he managed the previous campaign, Salah (mostly playing as a lead striker) still rattled off several crucial strikes and played a huge role in Liverpool winning the Champions League.

7. Eden Hazard

Winger, Chelsea & Belgium

The brilliant Belgian has finally left Stamford Bridge but he did so after one of his most brilliant seasons yet. For the first time in his career Eden Hazard played in a European final and cracked more than 20 goals in a season at Chelsea.

That he broke the threshold in a European final with a brace and a wonderful performance in his final game for Chelsea sums up just how special he is and how much the Premier League will miss him.

6. Sadio Mané

Winger, Liverpool & Senegal

There was a period at the start of 2019 where Liverpool’s season looked like it was about to collapse. After one of the best Decembers ever, they began the new year looking flat and uninspired. They drew several games, letting their lead at the top of the league shrink away.

But were it not for Mané those draws would have been defeats and we wouldn’t have got the incredibly close title race we ended up with. Moreover, without the Senegalese’s supremacy in Munich, it’s unlikely Liverpool would be European champions either. A monumental season.

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5. Frenkie de Jong

Midfielder, Ajax & Netherlands

Ajax made their return to the Champions League this season and did so in utterly mesmeric fashion. That was largely in part because of Frenkie de Jong.

The young midfielder plays the game like a hybrid of Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta, and ran the show for Ajax as they won an incredible domestic double at home and made it all the way to the Champions League semi-final; making fools out of Luka Modric, Thiago, Toni Kroos and Miralem Pjanic along the way. He joins Barcelona next season and will probably take his game to a whole new level.

4. Raheem Sterling

Winger, Manchester City & England

The most dynamic English forward since Wayne Rooney was wearing no. 8 for Manchester United, Raheem Sterling is a joy to watch. Whether that’s breezing by defenders with the ball glued to his feet or scoring crucial goals for Manchester City.

He’s even turned into a true role model off the field, which has to count for something. Sterling played a massive part in Manchester City winning the domestic treble this season as well as England making the Nations League final four. He’s getting better and better.

3. Bernardo Silva

Winger, Manchester City & Portugal

Can you lowkey be the best player in the league? If it’s possible, then Bernardo Silva just did it. The Portuguese was absolutely crucial for Manchester City, stepping up to be both the best right-winger and central midfielder in the squad.

A joy to watch on the dribble, he made Kevin De Bruyne’s injuries largely go unnoticed as he helped City to their domestic treble and he was then absolutely immense for Portugal, helping them win the Nations League with an assist in both the semi-final and final.

2. Virgil van Dijk

Centre-back, Liverpool & Netherlands

Virgil van Dijk has undergone a truly monumental rise to prominence since joining Liverpool and, in 2019, took that dominance to new heights. His excellence at the heart of defence is why the Reds were able to build a sustained title challenge on their defence, and why they made it back to the Champions League final where they expertly shut down Tottenham and claimed their sixth European Cup.

Van Dijk is the consummate cool centre-back, commanding and quality. He organises his team-mates, dominates in the air and on the deck he rarely has to make a tackle, such is the strength of his positional game. In fact he was only dribbled past on one occasion throughout the entire season for club and country, which is just absurd. Truly the best defender in the world.

1. Lionel Messi

Forward, Barcelona & Argentina

There was only ever going to be one answer to this. The most goals in La Liga and the Champions League, the most assists in La Liga, the most dribbles in the Champions League and the second-most in La Liga, the most chances created in La Liga and the most big chances created in La Liga and the Champions League.

You could go on and on. He was thoroughly dominant in every possible way. Even during the 4-0 humiliation against Liverpool he dribbled past countless players and created three big chances that team-mates squandered. He has shouldered the burden of being Barcelona’s chief creative force and their main goalscorer with an absurd level of ease.

Messi is such a lightning-fast dribbler with the ball at his feet and his passing bends space and time, warping your perceptions and glueing your eyes to the screen. He’s deadly, delightful, and dominant. No one on the planet even comes close. As no. 2 on this list, Van Dijk, said himself: “I think that Messi is still the best player in the world and it doesn’t matter if he isn’t in the Champions League final.”