Football Features

The most consistent game-changers in Europe’s top five leagues this season

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:49, 16 March 2020 | Updated: 14:53, 24 November 2022

Football is a sport riddled with game changers.

We’re talking about those elite players who have the knack of popping up at the right moment — courtesy of a goal or the creation of one — frequently so their input becomes expected.

So much so when they invariably hit a dip in form the old adage of form being temporary is wheeled out because they’ve earned such stellar reputations.

With the beautiful game currently halted across Europe’s top five leagues it’s worth looking at which players have been consistently performing above their peers in this regard.

Someone you can rely on

The most productive contribution someone can make during a match is either scoring or assisting. When considering who has been doing this on the most occasions it’s still a tad surprising to find out that none other than two of Europe’s premier marksmen are top of the pile.

Incredibly, when looking at Robert Lewandowski’s figure for games scored or assisted in, he’s only failed to contribute in three games this season – and the ruthless Pole has made 23 league appearances. An outrageous run at the start of the season which saw him score in 11 consecutive Bundesliga outings has certainly helped his cause.

Side-by-side with the Polish striker is Ciro Immobile, who succeeded him at Borussia Dortmund and is now wreaking havoc in Serie A with Lazio.

The Italian centre-forward bagged 27 goals — across three more games than Lewandowski — before Italy’s top division was suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Behind them is a quartet of players who have registered (either a goal or assist) in a total of 17 games. They include Ballon d’Or recipient Lionel Messi, his eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo, compatriot Angel Di Maria and Ligue 1 sensation Wissam Ben Yedder. The foursome produced their individual tallies of 17 in one game more than a Premier League trio consisting of Kevin De Bruyne, Raul Jimenez and Mohamed Salah.

Creator and finisher in 90 minutes

A truly special footballer is someone who can score and provide an assist in the same game. Naturally, those who do this more often than not are found at one of Europe’s top performing clubs, and the standout name this season is Jadon Sancho who has achieved this feat in no fewer than nine league games for Borussia Dortmund.

Given such an impressive tally you can start to understand why he’s fast-becoming one of Europe’s most wanted men, with Manchester United among a growing list of elite clubs being regularly linked with the England international’s signature. The powers that be in Dortmund seem resigned to their fate, with sporting director Michael Zorc recently conceding that the next transfer window will be hectic.

There’s set to be no shortage of interest in Sancho, but the well-trodden path to rivals Bayern seems unlikely as Germany’s biggest club have their own first-rate forward in Serge Gnabry who’s managed this neat return in a total of five games.

Gnabry is tied with the aforementioned Immobile who is enjoying a season to remember for the Eagles, though unlike Sancho his numbers are very much skewed in favour of goals. The 30-year-old has registered 27 goals and seven assists whereas Sancho is almost finely balanced (14 goals and 15 assists).

Catching up with the England forward, and surpassing him, will be tricky even once football is resumed after the present shutdown. Seven players have currently scored and assisted in four matches, including his Bundesliga rival Timo Werner, who has quietly enjoyed a strong campaign.

Luis Suarez — who is currently recovering from injury — and former Barça teammate Neymar, who’s also endured a stop-start season, are present but there is no Messi. Instead, the only other La Liga representative is Real’s chief goalscorer Karim Benzema. De Bruyne and Sadio Mane, meanwhile, fly the flag for the Premier League.