We are well passed the halfway stage through the season. It’s been something of a roller coaster for some whereas others have been going on with their business as usual. Leicester City are top of the Premier League with Chelsea a few points off the relegation zone. On the other hand Barcelona are top of La Liga followed by Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. PSG lead the Ligue One by a huge margin. Whereas injury hit Bayern Munich still are on top with Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund hot on their heels. So let us have a look at the top 5 players who have helped shaped the season so far—
5) Zlatan Ibrahimović (7.97 rating)- Zlatan defies the laws of physics in every way possible. He is 34 yet he keeps on getting better year after year. Old is perhaps gold as they say. His goals keep on getting better, his contribution to his team is more than ever.
The only supposedly weak point in his resume is he playing in the so called “weakest among the top leagues.” Still he is the top scorer of Ligue One with 17 goals and 6 assists in 16 appearances. His current team PSG lead second placed Monaco by 21 points and are undefeated this season.
Already the all time top scorer of Ligue One, he has won plenty of trophies and accolades throughout his career with the UEFA Champions League being the only notable exception. A Puskas Winner in 2013, he has won league titles in every country he has played. Reports suggest he may be on his way to the Premier League next season although he also professes a desire to play in the MLS in the near future.
Zlatan may very well be regarded as among the best players of this generation. His acrobatic finishes, volleys from in and out of the box, screamers from 30 yards are all a delight for any football fan. They just wish this legend keeps on playing and defy the odds everywhere he goes.
4) Luis Suárez (7.96 rating)- If there was any doubt before as to who is the best striker in the world, Luis Suarez has put them to rest this season. Since moving to Barcelona in the summer of 2014, he has scored 55 goals and assisted 28 others in 72 appearances on the way to winning the 5 trophies in 2015.
With 18 goals in La Liga he is the top scorer of the league and has the most goals in Europe this season with 30 strikes. He was also adjudged the best player in the recently held Club World Cup. His partnership with fellow forwards Messi and Neymar has made them the deadliest trio in modern football. On way to winning the Champions League last season, the trio plundered goals at will against the champions of England, France, Germany and Italy. In the last El Clásico held at the Santiago Bernabeu, Luis Suarez was again at the limelight with his two superb strikes helping the team demolish rivals Real Madrid 0-4.
With the kind of form he is in, Barcelona are the firm favourites to retain the Liga and Champions League. His unselfish attitude, strength and constant hassling of the opponents are added bonus for the team who perhaps lacked a striker of his quality since the days of Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o.
3) Riyad Mahrez(7.94 rating)- Perhaps the most surprising selection in this list but no less deserving than the rest. His partnership with Jamie Vardy has made them the most dangerous strikeforce in the Premier League. Leicester City now lead the BPL standings ahead of more fancied teams like Manchester City and Arsenal. And Mahrez has been at the forefront in the team’s quest for glory.
With 13 goals and 8 assists in 21 games, he averages contributing a goal every game. His partner Vardy who set a Premier League record for scoring in most consecutive games is joint top scorer with 15 goals. Mahrez has scored 4 winning goals this term and his exploits have directly resulted in winning 16 points for his team. Mesut Özil and Kevin de Bruyne are some of the other midfielders in top form this season but Mahrez edges them out to be on this list.
Constantly linked to clubs like Chelsea and Barcelona, boss Claudio Ranieri is confident of keeping his squad intact atleast till the end of the season. With 16 games to go anything can happen but if Leicester do manage to win the title, it will be a feat in itself and Mahrez is sure to be among the big money transfers to big European clubs this summer.
2) Gonzalo Higuaín (7.89 rating)- Perhaps he is having one of his best campaigns so far. Gonzalo Higuaín’s prolific goal scoring exploits have raised hopes among Napoli’s fans of a Scudetto win. The last time that happened, another Argentine, a certain Diego Maradona was donning the blue jersey.
Nicknamed “El Pipita”, Higuaín at point of time was considered one of the best goal scorers. His stay in Madrid was characterized by his goal scoring exploits but he failed to win the favour of the manager after a dip in form and was sold. At Brazil 2014, he missed a sitter in the final as Argentina fell at the last hurdle to champions Germany. He was targeted as one of the reasons for the loss. Many would have succumbed to the pressure. Not this man. He is back to his best and Argentina and Napoli would like him to continue on this path in their quest for silverware.
In 21 league appearances, he has 21 goals and 2 assists. That makes him the frontrunner in the European Golden Shoe. Serie A is regarded as the most defensive of all top leagues in Europe and to be able to manage more goals than Messi and Ronaldo while playing there speaks volumes about his performance this season.
1) Neymar(8.78 rating)- Neymar Jr. has really stepped up this season. After Lionel Messi was out injured for two months, Neymar has been giving fine performances consistently. His dribbling, pace and ability to draw defenders have reaped rich dividends for the team.
While it was never in doubt that Neymar was an extra ordinary player, but his meteoric rise this season has firmly placed him in pole position to win next year’s Ballon d’Or. With 21 goals across all competitions, he has been the standout player of the season so far. In 17 appearances in the La Liga, he has scored 16 goals and assisted 9. Joint second top scorer of the league, he has scored against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Malaga and Athletic Bilbao with match winning performances.
If he does extend his contract which he will eventually, Barcelona fans can be assured their future is secure in the hands of Messi’s heir apparent.
This list may come as a surprise to many considering Messi and Ronaldo do not make the cut so far. But to be fair, other players have been better and deserve every bit of glory for their contribution to the beautiful game of football.
*Ratings have been taken from Whoscored.com