Football Features

The best combined XI from Europe’s top five leagues this season

By Ben Green

Published: 11:30, 29 May 2019

After a whirlwind season of intense highs and dispiriting lows, the curtains have finally closed across Europe’s top five divisions.

In the Premier League, Manchester City continued their stranglehold on English football by clinching an unprecedented domestic treble.

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain made light work of the French top flight, though Thomas Tuchel’s side did manage to somehow falter in the French Cup to Rennes.

Juventus also had little trouble fortifying their dominance on Italian soil with an eighth consecutive Scudetto, though the Coppa Italia evaded them, and found its way to the capital with Lazio scooping the coveted cup.

There was a much tighter title race in the Bundesliga, but there will be no prizes for guessing who eventually took home the Meisterschale, with perennial powerhouse Bayern Munich securing a seemingly habitual double.

Finally, Barcelona were good value for Spanish supremacy having retained their La Liga crown, but the Blaugrana slipped at the final Copa del Rey hurdle to Valencia.

And so, it was another epic campaign of contrasting emotions, but which players performed the best across the continent? There are certainly too many to choose from, but fear not, we have considered all the options and ultimately selected a combined XI (including subs) based on impact and performance.

For fairness and variety a maximum of four players have been selected from each league, but who made the cut?

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak

The Slovenian shot-stopper was imperious between the sticks for Atletico Madrid this season, keeping a La Liga best 20 clean sheets – the second-most in Europe’s top five leagues – while conceding just 29 goals as Diego Simeone’s side finished runners-up.

His dexterous exploits culminated in a league-high save percentage of 79.39 – for ‘keepers to have played over four matches – which saw him scoop a fourth successive Zamora Trophy for lowest “goals-to-games” ratio, equalling Victor Valdes’ record.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

This was a coming of age season for the local Liverpool lad, who went from exceptionally promising youngster to elite level right-back in just one season. His sharp-witted corner against an experienced Barcelona side was the piece de resistance in a campaign that has accelerated his burgeoning reputation.

With a record-breaking 12 Premier League assists – the most across the continent for defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold is the archetypal modern full-back, combining brains, pace and an end product to make him one of Europe’s most gifted defenders – not to mention he will be playing in another Champions League final this weekend.

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk

Last season the plaudits and back pages were reserved for Liverpool’s lethal attacking trident, but this time around, Jurgen Klopp’s defence has flourished in equal tandem with their attacking counterparts, arguably having an even greater impact.

Klopp’s side conceded 38 league goals in 2017/18, but fast forward a year and the Reds have shipped in just 22 this term, with Virgil van Dijk the fulcrum of that resilience, and a deserved winner of the Premier League Player of the Season accolade.

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Centre-back: Kalidou Koulibaly

In a transitional season for Napoli, moving from Maurizio Sarri’s ‘Sarriball’ philosophy to a more fast tempo brand under Carlo Ancelotti, Kalidou Koulibaly has been the catalyst in making this tactical transformation a fluid one.

The 27-year-old has generated plenty of noise at the San Paolo Stadium, and with good reason. A league-best 2229 successful passes for defenders has seen the Senegal international bracketed with some of the continent’s best ball-playing centre-backs, and rumours have been rife of a move to either the Premier League or Real Madrid as a result.

Left-back: Jordi Alba

Jordi Alba enjoyed another stellar season for the Catalan club, providing a quite ridiculous 13 assists across all competitions, as Barca cantered to another league title.

His 2018 successful passes was a La Liga high for full-backs, and the fifth-most of any player in the division, proving just how influential the buccaneering defender continues to be for the Blaugrana’s high-press style of play.

Right-midfield: Jadon Sancho

The Borussia Dortmund wunderkind has experienced a meteoric rise to prominence this season, and a quick look at his direct goal contributions tells you everything you need to know about his impact: 13 goals and 14 assists.

At just 19, the teenage tyro was a consistent threat in Lucien Favre’s starting XI as the Ruhr district giants came agonisingly close to clinching the Bundesliga title.

Central midfield: Daniel Parejo

Captain. Leader. Legend. The 30-year-old Valencia operative was Marcelino’s main man, dictating play from the centre of the park, forming a luxurious axis in midfield, and also, coming up with the goods in the final third.

With 10 goals and seven assists across all competitions, Parejo was an inspired skipper as Los Ches finished fourth, reached the Europa League semi-final, and brilliantly thwarted Barca to secure a first Copa del Rey trophy in over a decade.

Central midfield: Bernardo Silva

If Ederson was the rock, Sergio Aguero the reliable source of goals, and Raheem Sterling the talisman, then Bernardo Silva was the conductor. The miniature magician wreaked havoc across the pitch, caused mayhem in the final third and, ultimately, inspired City to glory.

His riveting displays culminated in a place in the PFA Team of the Year, while he was also rewarded with the Manchester City Player of the Year accolade, taking over from his namesake – David – as the most influential Silva in the North West.

Left-midfield: Raheem Sterling

Just pipped to the Premier League Player of the Season award by Van Dijk, Sterling may feel hard done by that the highly sought-after gong somehow managed to elude him, as he was quite simply a breathtaking component in Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut.

Under the Catalan’s tutelage, the England international has taken his game to world-class heights, and this season was indicative of the transformation he has enjoyed since the former Barca tactician relocated to Manchester, scoring an emphatic 25 goals while carving out 12 assists.

Striker: Kylian Mbappe

French football’s Golden Boy is good, we know that, but the World Cup winner has somehow managed to add another layer to his expanding repertoire, joining an elite band of players who have a propensity to find the back of the net more times than they play.

His 33 Ligue 1 goals in just 29 games is a feat reminiscent of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but Mbappe is no longer a player who provokes comparisons, instead, he has cemented his own name in that fabled list of footballing greats – and all at the age of just 20.

Striker: Lionel Messi

At the age of 31, there are no signs the mercurial marvel is starting to slow down, especially when you consider he has just netted 50 or more goals for the sixth time in his career.

There are simply no superlatives left to describe Messi’s balletic brilliance. The six-time European Golden Shoe winner has once again made the impossible, possible.

Substitutes

Peter Gulacsi, Joshua Kimmich, Youcef Atal, Alejandro Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nicolas Pepe, Fabio Quagliarella

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