Five key players in Europe's top five leagues this season
29th November 2017.
There has been four months of domestic football already played this season, which is a good barometer to understand and analyse Europe's standout players.
Of course, there will always be Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the list, but there have also been some superb players the average fan might not know in detail.
Here are five of Europe's best players, one picked from each of Europe's top five leagues:
- England Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City, midfielder
- England Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City, midfielder
Under Pep Guardiola, the former Chelsea starlet has enjoyed unprecedented success in his career so far. While he has not won the title with the Citizens yet, De Bruyne has played the best football in his career and is consistently placing himself in the world-class bracket each time he steps onto the field.
The Belgian international has dropped deeper into midfield, rather than take his formative number 10 role, thanks to Roberto Martinez, the Belgian coach, trying this out, which Guardiola then soon emulated at Manchester City.
By being a mainstay in the heart of City's midfield, De Bruyne is on the ball far more than if he was just playing by either Sergio AgÃ¼ero or Gabriel Jesus. As seen this season, De Bruyne drives with the ball from deep and either delivers an unbelievable defence-splitting pass, or goes for goal. Both come off for him with regular success.
While De Bruyne is not the sole player responsible for City's triumphs at the top of the table, as well as in Europe, he is pivotal to everything Guardiola's team do. Everything runs through the Belgian as they look to him for creative ingenuity. He will not register an abnormal amount of assists this season, but he is always an integral part to the attack and the likely player to deliver the 'pre-assist'.
- Spain Gon§alo Guedes Valencia, winger
The on-loan Portuguese winger from Paris Saint-Germain has been a revelation at Valencia this season, and is one of the main reasons as to why the Spanish side have had a resurgence and find themselves second in La Liga.
No one had really seen this Valencia side being Barcelona's main competitors four months into the new season, especially given the quick turnover in coaches at the Mestalla Stadium. In May, when the 2016-17 season ended, Valencia finished in 12th place. They were uninspiring to say the least, but with a new manager and some astute acquisitions, Marcelino Toral's team have risen up the leaderboard.
Guedes is a tricky winger who applies his trade down the left-hand side. While he is known to take on his man and whip the ball into the area from the byline, his main strength is cutting inside expertly on his favoured right foot. It is the reason why he has already recorded five assists in 11 appearances this season in La Liga.
There are high hopes for Guedes, and he is now starting to hit his stride and gather some momentum, taking his performances to the next level. The Portuguese international has great chemistry with Rodrigo and Simone Zaza, Valencia's two forwards, and combines with them at ease.
In 13 games this season, Valencia have scored 33 goals, just one behind league leaders Barcelona. That is an unbelievable tally, given their troubles last season, and is partly down to Guedes' creative influence.
- France Edinson Cavani Paris Saint-Germain, striker
There have been many sceptics of Cavani over the last few years, purely because he has underperformed in what you might class as the 'bigger' games, but time after time, the Uruguayan striker produces unbelievable figures for his club.
Just this season, in 19 games for PSG, Cavani has scored 22 goals and recorded two assists. That is a phenomenal amount and the most any player in Europe has scored this season, emphasising how fantastic the forward is.
PSG have spent a fortune on new players, there is no denying that, but Cavani seems to carry on the way he was previously showing for the Parisian club. Unai Emery's team have scored 45 goals this season, the most in Europe's top five leagues, and consistently reach preposterous figures in the Champions League - no matter the opposition.
The real test for PSG, and Cavani, will come in the latter stages of the Champions League - the competition their Qatari-based owners are desperate to win - but, for now, the former Napoli centre forward will continue to prove his critics wrong and firmly plant his name among the world's best players.
- Germany Philipp Max Augsburg, left back
Perhaps an unheard of player in Germany, but the Augsburg left back has been one of the Bundesliga's best players this season. Max has been phenomenal in Augsburg's defence, with most of his praise being his impressive runs forward and five assists already recorded - the most in the division from any player.
It is only a matter of time before Max receives his first full international call-up by Joachim Löw, and it would be fully deserved based on this year's performances.
Not only is Max a prolific attacker, he is also increasingly resolute in defence, understanding when to sit back in the block of defenders and when to go and close his man down - his spatial awareness has been acknowledged by many top clubs around Europe.
What is also a plus point about Max is his versatility. Because of his attacking intentions, the German has the ability to play as a left midfielder or as a left winger - as he has done in the past for Augsburg.
Max certainly has the potential to become a fully fledged German international and, at 24 years old, there is time on his side to lock down that position. It seems there is only a matter of time before he leaves Augsburg in search of a new challenge.
- Italy Milan Skriniar Inter, centre back
When Inter signed Skriniar from Sampdoria over the summer for an initial €25m, not many would have bet on the fact that he would be on the league's best players. The jump up, in terms of size of the club and quality, is a big one, but the Slovakian centre back has taken it well within in his stride and is playing with a cool confidence.
One of Skriniar's best traits is dissecting the opposition teams' midfield with splitting passes. He is a wonderful ball-playing central defender, as well as being physical and domineering when defending his own goal. At just 22 years old, it appears Skriniar is only going to get better, but also clear to see that he is already an accomplished player that has matured ever so quickly.
Inter are still undefeated in Serie A and sit just behind Napoli in second place. This, partly, is down to the Nerazzuri's robust defence and will to keep on winning - they have an immense team spirit and a never-let-die spirit.
Skriniar was named Slovakia's best U21 player in 2016 and his rise since then has been meteoric. He is now a mainstay in Inter's defence with a lot of eyes on him. Yet, with Inter's form and ability to challenge for the title, there will be no reason for the centre back to move any time soon.
This article was written by Liam Canning for Soccer Box, the number one place to buy all your official soccer jerseys for the biggest club teams in European football.