Top 5 contenders for the Ballon d’Or 2019 based on betting odds

As the 2018/19 football season nears its conclusion, debates over who will win the Ballon d’Or is rife. Although the award takes into consideration the first half of the next season, performances in the 18/19 season will sway the eventual decision massively.

Here are the Top 5 contenders for the award based on the present betting odds.

#5. Raheem Sterling – 20/1

The 2018/19 season was the most prolific season for Raheem Sterling in front of goals as he bagged 25 goals in 51 games to beat his last season’s tally of 23 goals in 46 games.

Sterling was one of the best players in the Premier League this season and was a leading candidate to win the Player of the Year award. Although he missed out on a couple of those awards, he has voted the FWA Footballer of the Year and also named the PFA Young Player of the Year along with his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year.

The England international ended the season as a domestic treble winner with Man City in addition to bagging 25 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.

He also had a fantastic season with England, scoring six goals in his last five appearances, and he could end the season by winning the UEFA Nations League.

#4. Mohamed Salah – 15/1

Mohamed Salah was a victim of his own standards as he was overlooked for the PFA Team of the Year and PFA Player of the Year after a record-breaking 2017/18 season. Despite this, Salah ended the season with back to back Premier League Golden Boots.

Salah scored a lot of go ahead or equalising goals for Liverpool in the Premier League this season but more importantly, against Napoli, he scored a crucial goal in the final group stage game of the Champions League to send the Reds through to the knockout stage.

The Egyptian has 26 goals and 10 assists to his name in 51 games this season and he still has the Champions League final left to play. In addition, Salah also has the African Cup of Nations to look forward to in the summer and if he can win both trophies, the odds of him winning the Ballon d’Or will go up massively.

#3. Sadio Mane – 15/1

Sadio Mane’s situation is quite similar to Salah’s in many ways but unlike the Egyptian, Mane was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and he was named in the PFA Team of the Year.

Mane started the season in the usual manner but his form picked up massively in the second half of the season and that helped him leapfrog Salah for the individual awards. He has 26 goals in 49 games so far this season which makes this his best season in front of goal by a three-goal margin.

Like Salah, Mane can improve his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or by putting in a masterclass in the Champions League final and he too has the African Cup of Nations in the summer where Senegal will participate as one of the tournament favourites.

#2. Virgil van Dijk – 7/4

Even with Salah and Mane scoring a plethora of goals, the best contender from Liverpool and even the Premier League to win the Ballon d’Or is the colossus that is Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk cast aside any lingering doubts on why Liverpool paid a world-record fee for him with a dominating performance this season. He ended the season as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season.

He is the first defender since John Terry in 2005 to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and unsurprisingly so as he helped the Reds maintain the best defensive record in the league this season.

In 2018/19, Van Dijk has missed only 125 minutes of action in the league and Champions League combined of which he missed 90 minutes through suspension. Incredibly, while playing for Liverpool, no player has dribbled past him since 3rd March 2018!

If Liverpool wins the Champions League, it will boost Van Dijk’s chances of winning the Ballon d’Or massively. Also, the Dutchman can lead his country to UEFA Nations League glory in the summer and that’s another trophy he can lift this year.

#1. Lionel Messi – ½

Unless Kylian Mbappe can score five goals in PSG’s last league game of the season, Lionel Messi is well on course to winning his sixth European Golden Shoe which will be two more than what Cristiano Ronaldo in second place has.

Messi is having an unbelievable season for Barcelona and could end the season with three trophies. It could have been four if Barcelona reached the Champions League final but despite Messi’s best efforts, his side crumbled in the second leg of the semifinal.

The Argentine has already won the La Liga and Supercopa de España this season with the chance of adding the Copa del Rey also to the mix. He has reached 50 goals for the season in only 49 games and this is the sixth time in his career that he has scored 50 or more goals in a season. He has also bagged 19 assists in all competitions this season which includes a La Liga highest 13 assists.

Like the other four players in this list, Messi also has an international tournament to look forward to in the summer. If he can finally end the trophy curse with the national team, then there is no doubt that the Argentine will win the Ballon d’Or.

5 Premier League stars Real Madrid could sign this summer

Real Madrid will be one of the biggest spenders of the summer after a disastrous season that has resulted in two managerial changes.

They’ve already confirmed the arrival of Eder Militão and Rodrygo Goes for a combined total of €95m and a few stars from the Premier League could be next in line.

#5. Christian Erkisen

Christian Eriksen was one of the players Spurs signed for the money they received from the sale of Gareth Bale six years ago. This summer, Bale could be on his way out of Real Madrid and one of the players who could arrive to revamp the Los Blancos side is Eriksen.

The Dane will enter the final year of his contract next season and there are rumours that he isn’t willing to put pen to paper on a new contract. If Eriksen wants to leave the club, then his decision is understandable as he’s 27-years-old now and he would certainly want to win some major honours while he’s still in the peak of his career.

Eriksen has been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League since he’s joined and he has racked up 66 goals and 86 assists for Tottenham in 276 appearances.

#4. Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane is arguably the best clutch player in the Liverpool squad and he was the one who scored the temporary equaliser for Liverpool in the Champions League final in 2018 against Real Madrid.

Mane arrived in England as a relatively unknown player but he has gone on to score at least ten Premier League goals in every season. The 2018/19 season was his most prolific season as he has racked up 26 goals in 49 games including 22 in 36 league games to share the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Real Madrid have to revamp their attack this summer and they’ll need wingers who can score plenty of goals without compromising the defensive balance of the side. Mane’s work rate is incredible and he has gone on to score 59 times for the Reds in 122 appearances and this makes him a perfect addition to any side.

#3. Paul Pogba

The 2018/19 season was Paul Pogba’s best season strictly in terms of his goal return as he found the back of the net 16 times in 47 games. His previous best was ten goals each in his final two seasons with Juventus.

Even though Pogba scored 16 goals and was the only player from outside Liverpool and Manchester City in this season’s PFA Team of the Year, he has drawn plenty of criticism for his performances this season. 

Manchester United is a club in disarray at the moment and there is a good chance that Pogba will jump at the chance of playing under his football idol, Zinedine Zidane. Also, the current Real Madrid midfield lacks goalscoring midfielders and the two most important midfielders, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, are now 33 and 29-years-old respectively.

Pogba can add a new dimension to the ageing Los Blancos midfield. 

#2. Mohamed Salah

Before Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid, he set the record for most goals by a player in a 38-game Premier League season. Ronaldo went on to have a prolific career with the Los Blancos and to replace him, the club could make a move for the man who broke Ronaldo’s said record for most goals in a 38-game Premier League season.

Mohamed Salah makes sense for Real Madrid from a footballing and business perspective. Salah has been one of the best players in the world since joining Liverpool and a record of 70 goals and 29 assists in 103 games for Liverpool is enough to prove that. In addition, the Egyptian brings with him a huge fan base and very few players in the world can match that at the moment.

Salah can slot into the right wing as a natural replacement or even an upgrade over Gareth Bale and his arrival will not hamper the development of Vinicius Junior who is at his best when he plays down the left.

#1. Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard to Real Madrid rumours have been in circulation for many years now and it has gathered momentum in the last 12 months.

Like Eriksen, Hazard will also enter the final year of his contract next season and even though he has won a plethora of trophies with Chelsea in the last seven years, he has always talked up a potential move to Real Madrid. 

The Belgian is a big fan of Zinedine Zidane and the prospect of playing under his football idol at the club of his dreams is something Hazard can’t afford to turn down at the age of 28.

Hazard has thrived in the Premier League, arguably the toughest league in the world, and his record of 108 goals and 91 assists for Chelsea is truly remarkable.

Hazard can improve and add even more goals and trophies to his name in the La Liga and other former PFA Player of the Year award winners such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez have proved that.

5 realistic options to replace Max Allegri at Juventus

Juventus announced that Max Allegri will leave the club at the end of the season after winning 11 trophies in five years. Many top managers have been linked with the vacant job but the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are unrealistic options for varied reasons.

FOX Sports Asia picks out five realistic options to replace Allegri.

#5. Erik ten Hag

Several top European clubs are in search of a new manager and Erik ten Hag will be top of the priority list after leading a young Ajax side to the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League. 

The Dutchman recently said that he will stay at Ajax beyond the summer but his mind could be swayed once the stars of the current team are sold to the highest bidders.

Ajax scored 175 goals in only 58 games this season and 119 of those were scored in only 34 league games. Ten Hag’s tactics are a far cry from what Max Allegri used at Juventus but if he is appointed as manager and can instil his philosophy at the Serie A club, then Juventus could be scoring goals for fun with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line.

#4. Simone Inzaghi

During his playing days, Simone Inzaghi lived in the shadows of his older brother, Filippo Inzaghi, but as a manager, Simone is creating an impressive resume after taking charge of Lazio in 2016.

Inzaghi has a win percentage of 53.25 with Lazio and he has done an exceptional job at the club despite losing players such as Stefan de Vrij, Felipe Anderson, Antonio Candreva, Lucas Biglia, Wesley Hoedt and Keita Baldé during his tenure. 

The Italian has also won two trophies with Lazio. The first was the Supercoppa Italiana in 2017 when his side beat Juventus in a dramatic match and the second was the Coppa Italia which his side won this season.

In 2017/18, his side scored a league highest 89 goals with Ciro Immobile finishing as the Golden Boot winner. Imagine the carnage he can cause with the firepower at Juventus? 

#3. Maurizio Sarri

Maurizio Sarri has done fantastically well to take Chelsea to two cup finals and qualify for the Champions League in his debut season despite the fact that the Chelsea squad needs a massive overhaul. He could end the season as a Europa League winner but speculation over his future at Chelsea just don’t go away and a certain section of the Chelsea fans are quite unhappy with the Italian. 

While at Napoli, Sarri gained admirers for his offensive approach and under him they scored 318 goals in only 147 games and he also had an impressive win percentage of 65.99. His Napoli side in 2017/18 gave Juventus their toughest title race in the last eight years as they scored 91 points!

Juventus have always been known admirers of the Chelsea boss but it would have been extremely difficult for them to poach the manager from Napoli. Now, however, the scenario is different. 

Under Sarri, Gonzalo Higuain equalled the record for most goals in a single Serie A season. If Sarri can get Higuain to do that, Cristiano Ronaldo will be smacking his lips at the prospect of playing under him.

#2. Antonio Conte

The role Antonio Conte played in taking Juventus to where they are today is massive. When Conte took over as Juventus manager in 2011, he inherited a side that finished seventh in the previous season and in his first season in charge, he made them undefeated league champions.

Conte won five trophies in his three years in charge of Juventus with a win percentage of 67.1. It was meticulous planning and some shrewd signings under him that put Juve back among Europe’s elite clubs.

He departed from Juventus after a fallout with the club’s management which makes his return to the club quite difficult. However, many Juventus fans would love to see him back at the club and as a manager, Conte has evolved after his stint in the Premier League.

The former Chelsea manager is being heavily linked with the Inter Milan job. So, Juve will need to act quickly if they want to bring back the man who put them back on the map.  

#1. Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps spent five years of his playing career at Juventus winning ten trophies including the club’s last Champions League title in 1996. After becoming a manager, Deschamps was in charge of Juventus in 2006/07 and he led the club back to the Serie A.

The Frenchman resigned as Juve manager with two games left to play in the season as he had several clashes with the club’s management. Deschamps found a lot of success since leaving Juventus and the most notable achievement of his is winning the World Cup with France last year.

Twelve years have passed since he left Juventus and a lot has changed at the club since. He will inherit one of the best squads in football if he takes over as Juventus manager and given his resume, he will surely have a certain degree of control over how the club is run.

It won’t be easy to convince him to part ways with the national team and return to management at the club level after the success he has had,Juven but you never know.

10 players who could be on their way out of Liverpool in the summer

Jurgen Klopp has done a fantastic job to rebuild the Liverpool team and he has done so by ruthlessly parting ways with players he felt were not good enough.

Klopp will work on improving the squad further in the summer and a few players will have to make way.

#10. Sheyi Ojo

In 2011, Liverpool fended off interest from a host of top European clubs to sign 14-year-old Sheyi Ojo from MK Dons for £2 million! Big things were expected of Ojo but the now 21-year-old is nowhere close to breaking into the Reds’ first team.

Ojo has gone on loan to Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham in the Championship before spending the current campaign on loan at Ligue 1 side Stade de Reims. He signed a new contract before he left on loan but after scoring once in 16 appearances for Reims with no direct goal contributions in the league, Ojo’s time at Liverpool could be over.

The England U-20 World Cup winner could be a target for several championship clubs and Michael Edwards will be hoping to get a decent fee for him.

#9. Ovie Ejaria

Ovie Ejaria spent nine years of his youth career with Arsenal before signing for Liverpool in 2014. He played eight times for the first team in 2016/17 under Jurgen Klopp and has since gone on loan to Sunderland, Rangers and Reading.

Ejaria spent the first half of the 18/19 season at Rangers but his loan was terminated in December. He spent the second half of the season at Reading and has impressed in a few games for the Championship side.

Given the immense competition for places in the Liverpool midfield, Ejaria is better of leaving the club. Like Ojo, Liverpool might find potential suitors from Ejaria in the Championship.

#8. Taiwo Awoniyi

Taiwo Awoniyi has been a Liverpool player since 2015 but the Nigerian FIFA U-17 World Cup winner has not been able to play for the Reds at any level due to work permit issues. As a result, he has played on loan at FSV Frankfurt, NEC, Royal Excel Mouscron and KAA Gent.

The player himself has admitted that work permit issues could derail his hope of playing for Liverpool even though he has nine goals and three assists in 15 games for Mouscron this season. 

It is already reported that Liverpool will sell the 21-year-old for £10m and Schalke are keen on his services.

#7. Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent has been one of the biggest loan success for Liverpool this season but the 22-year-old could be sold if the right offer comes in.

Kent has impressed for the Reds during preseason under Jurgen Klopp and under Steven Gerrard for Rangers in the 2018/19 season. He racked up six goals and nine assists for the Glasgow club in all competitions and was named the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year and also in the PFA Scottish Premiership Team of the Year.

Rangers are keen on making his loan move permanent but if they can’t afford Liverpool’s asking price, then there will be other clubs who can sign the winger.

#6. Marko Grujic

Marko Grujic was Jurgen Klopp’s first signing as Liverpool manager and has impressed the Liverpool fans whenever he has played for the Reds in the preseason or in official games.

The Liverpool midfield is stacked at the moment and the Serbian FIFA U-20 World Cup winner will struggle to break into the side. He spent the 18/19 season on loan at Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin and has been a revelation. In fact, the club legend and manager, Pál Dárdai, called him the best midfielder at the club in 20 years.

Hertha are keen on keeping the 23-year-old beyond the season but is rumoured that Atletico Madrid are interested in signing the Serb if they lose Rodri in the summer.

#5. Alberto Moreno

Alberto Moreno was expected to be Liverpool’s long-term solution for the left-back position when he arrived in 2014 but his defensive lapses came to fore quite often in the Premier League.

The Spaniard briefly regained his place in the Liverpool side at the start of the 2017/18 season but after Andrew Robertson broke into the starting XI, Moreno has been left on the sidelines. This season he has totalled just 343 minutes for the Reds in five games across all competitions.

Moreno’s contract expires at the end of the season and Liverpool won’t be renewing it. It is rumoured that Barcelona want to sign him as a backup for Jordi Alba.

#4. Nathaniel Clyne

When Klopp took over at Liverpool, Nathaniel Clyne and Moreno were the club’s first-choice full-backs but both players have lost their place in the side to arguably the best full-backs in the league at the moment.

Clyne was an indispensable member of the Reds team under Klopp in 2016/17 but an injury kept him out for almost the entire 2017/18 season and when he returned, he lost his place in the side to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.

The 28-year-old made only one start for Liverpool this season in the Premier League before spending the second half of the season on loan at Bournemouth. There are several Premier League clubs in need of a new right back and Clyne could be in demand in the summer.

#3. Simon Mignolet

Simon Mignolet joined Liverpool as the first-choice goalkeeper in 2013 but due to his erratic performances, he was initially replaced by Loris Karius and most recently by Alisson Becker.

Mignolet’s only two appearances for the Reds this season came in the League Cup and FA Cup. He has been an excellent professional and a key figure in the dressing room but aged 31, the Belgian is reportedly keen on leaving the club to play regularly.

Liverpool will honour Mignolet’s wish to leave and it is reported that clubs in Belgium are keen on signing the former Sunderland man.

#2. Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana was one of the players Liverpool signed from the money the received from the sale of Luis Suarez five years ago. Even today, Lallana splits the opinion of Liverpool fans and that tells a lot about his stint with the Reds. 

Lallana has had his moments for Liverpool over the years but he has been out with injury for most of the last two seasons. In fact, his last Liverpool goal was on the last day of the 2016/17 season!

The England international is 31-years-old and could prove to be a good player for a midtable club including his former club, Southampton.

#1. Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge was one half of a striking duo that nearly propelled Liverpool to a league title in 2013/14. However, injuries and a change of manager has seen him being reduced to a squad player. 

Sturridge has 68 goals and 26 assists for Liverpool in 160 appearances across six and a half seasons. He averages a goal or assist every 100 minutes in a Liverpool shirt despite his limited playing time and injury woes.

The soon to be 30-year-old earns £120,000 per week and the Liverpool board is not keen on paying that much for a squad player. That’s why Klopp will let him go in the summer when his contract expires and promote the highly rated Rhian Brewster from the academy.

5 wingers Arsenal should target in the summer transfer window

Alex Iwobi is the only wide player in the current Arsenal squad and that has given Unai Emery a lot of problems this season tactically.

The Gunners need to add width and pace to the squad if they are to improve next season and these five players could solve their issues.

#5. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

One of the biggest cause of concerns for a club that signs a player is how well and quickly he can adapt to the demands of the Premier League. If Arsenal sign Ryan Fraser, they can be at least be alleviated of that concern.

The 2018/19 season was the 25-year-old’s third season in the Premier League and he made a massive step up. It was his best season in terms of goals scored as he racked up seven in all competitions and six in the Premier League alone. In addition, he also provided 14 assists in the league and only Eden Hazard (15) has more assists than him in Europe’s Top 5 leagues at the moment.

Outside the Premier League’s Top 6, Bournemouth scored the most number of goals this season (56) and Fraser assisted 25% of those goals. Arsenal needs a winger who can provide good service for their world class strikers and Fraser could be the man to do just that.

#4. David Neres (Ajax)

David Neres is one of many Ajax players who could be on the move this summer and there are many clubs with a keen interest in the Brazilian international.

The 22-year-old is capable of playing on either side of the pitch and can chip in with both goals and assists. In fact, this season, he has 12 goals and assists each for Ajax in 46 games across all competitions. In his entire Ajax career, Neres has 29 goals and 32 assists in only 99 games and in the 2017/18 season, with 14 goals and 13 assists in 32 Eredivisie games, he had more direct goal contributions than any teammate of his. 

The Brazilian will cost upward of €40 million and the question is if Arsenal can cough up that much money without tampering with their other transfer plans.

#3. Steven Bergwijn (PSV)

Steven Bergwijn is another winger from the Eredivisie on the radar of several top European clubs including Arsenal’s fierce rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

The PSV man is one among many talented Dutch players coming to fore in recent years and it is fair to say that Bergwijn could go on to become a key player for the Netherlands in the next decade.

The 21-year-old has 14 goals and 12 assists to his name in 33 Eredivisie games this season and was easily one of the best players in the league. The recently concluded season was his best season after breaking into the PSV first team in 2016. Despite his young age, Bergwijn has 25 goals and 28 assists for the club in 120 games.  

The Dutchman is a well-built and quick player who likes to dribble, with an eye for a goal and the ability to pick out a teammate in an excellent position. Given his traits, it is no surprise that there are so many clubs keen on securing his services. 

#2. Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen)

Leon Bailey was one of the most talked about players during the 2018 summer transfer window but the player has gone under the radar after an underwhelming season this time around. However, Bailey can thrive under the right manager and Arsenal might be able to sign him for a nominal fee after the season he has had.

Last season, Bailey scored nine goals and provided six more assists in 30 Bundesliga games but this season, he only has five goals and one assist to his name in 29 league games.

The Jamaican is still only 21-years-old and has a long and promising career ahead of him without a hint of doubt. It is only a matter of time before a top European club approaches Leverkusen for his signature but any attempts to sign him this summer could be complicated if the club sells other in-demand players such as Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt.

#1. Nicolas Pepe (Lille)

Nicolas Pepe has been linked with several Premier League clubs over the course of the season owing to the excellent season he has had with Lille. The soon to be 24-year-old has played a crucial role in helping Lille qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League. In fact, he has scored or assisted exactly 50% of Lille’s goals so far in the Ligue 1.

The Ivorian is the second highest goal scorer and assist provider in the Ligue 1 this season with 20 goals and 11 assists respectively. He is also one of only a handful of players in Europe’s Top 5 leagues with at least ten goals and assists each to their name.

The biggest stumbling block for any potential suitor of his will be Lille’s asking price as it is rumoured that the French club wants upward of £65 million for him!

10 first team players who could be on their way out of Barcelona in the summer

After the recent humiliation at the hands of Liverpool in the Champions League, speculations on the future of several Barcelona players continue to grow.

Here are ten first-team players who could be on their way out of the club this summer.

#10 Douglas

After playing eight games for the Barcelona first team while winning five trophies and spending the last three seasons on loan, it is finally time for Barcelona to say goodbye to Douglas as his contract expires at the end of the season.

The Brazilian was a shock signing back in 2014 and never really looked like a Barcelona player. The Catalan side tried to sell him several times but after failing to do so, they opted to loan him out until his contract expired. 

#9 Denis Suarez

In 2016, Barcelona used a buy-back clause to bring Denis Suarez back to the club and he was expected to become a key player for the club. However, in his first season at the club, he could only manage 12 starts and he continued to remain on the fringes of the first team.

This season, he did not make a start for Barcelona in the league or Champions League and only played 257 minutes across eight games for the club before going on loan to Arsenal. He totalled 95 minutes in six substitute appearance for the Gunners without registering a goal or assist and will be on his way back to Barcelona.

It is no secret that Barcelona want him off their books and they’ll be hoping any club can come up with a decent bid.

#8 Thomas Vermaelen

Thomas Vermaelen arrived at Barcelona with a huge reputation and he had the herculean task of replacing Carles Puyol. However, to do so, the Belgian had to be on the pitch first and in his first season, he made just one appearance after struggling with injuries.

Vermaelen’s Barcelona career has been blighted with injuries and as a result, he has made only 53 appearances for them. He was used as a squad player this season but the 33-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season and there is no reason whatsoever for Barcelona to extend it.

#7 Rafinha

Rafinha is another promising player whose Barcelona career has been hampered by injuries. Now, with the ever-increasing competition for places in the Barcelona side, the 26-year-old should be moved on.

The Brazilian spent the second half of last season on loan at Inter Milan and the Serie A club was keen on signing him last summer but a deal could not be struck with Barcelona. That has not worked out for any of the parties involved as Rafinha played only eight games this season with a total of 348 minutes on the pitch. 

#6 Andre Gomes

Barcelona signed Andre Gomes for a fee of €35 million, plus €20 million in add-ons and he has ended up as one of the club’s most expensive flops. He struggled to make any significant impact at the club and looked out of place once Ernesto Valverde took over. In fact, he did not score once in 31 appearances under Valverde.

The Portuguese international spent the 2018/19 season on loan at Everton and found some success.  If he ends up joining permanently, it will enable Barcelona to recoup some of the money they spent on him and will also help Gomes move to a good club in a major European league.

There is also interest in the player from Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

#5 Jasper Cillessen

Jasper Cillessen is a fantastic goalkeeper but the fact is, he is competing with an even better goalkeeper at Barcelona and as a result, he has had to be content with a backup role. In fact, Cillessen might be the best backup goalkeeper in the world at the moment.

The Dutchman has made it clear that he wants to play weekly and aged 30, he has to make a move at the earliest if he wants to play at the highest level for maybe four to five years. Also, since age is not on his side, the earlier Barcelona sell him, the more money they can make.

#4 Malcom

Barcelona signed Malcom from under Roma’s nose last summer for €41 million but for a player who cost so much, Malcom has not played enough for the Catalan side this season.

Malcom has struggled for playing time even though Barcelona had to cope with injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Leo Messi for significant periods. In fact, he has eight starts in all competitions and only five in the La Liga.

Since the Brazilian is only 22-years-old and has a lot of potential, Barcelona might be tempted to loan him out. That way, he can either come back to the club as a better player or they can sell him for a profit in the future.

#3 Samuel Umtiti

Many Barcelona fans are opposed to the idea of selling Samuel Umtiti as the Frenchman has shown he’s a fantastic player when fit. The problem is that Umtiti has had his share of injury problems this season and has also lost his place in the starting XI to compatriot, Clément Lenglet. 

If Barcelona sell Umtiti in the summer, then it will be only because they’ve succeeded in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt. One thing is for sure, if Umtiti is placed on the transfer list, then there will be a queue of clubs for his signature. 

#2 Philippe Coutinho

Barcelona went through a lot of trouble to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool and it is even reported that because of this deal, they have to pay £100 million extra if they attempt to sign any Liverpool player in the next few years.

After arriving as Barcelona’s most expensive signing, Coutinho was expected to do big things at the club. However, he is now a mere shadow of the player he was at Liverpool.

Valverde has given the Brazilian ample opportunities but he hasn’t done enough to convince the manager or the fans that his future should be at the club. If Coutinho stays at Barcelona longer and makes his 100th appearances, then the club will have to pay Liverpool significantly more money because of the add-on clauses in the player’s contract.

The biggest problem in selling Coutinho will be Barcelona’s asking price which will be close to what they originally paid for him. There are very few clubs in the world that can pay that sort of money and even fewer who are keen on his services. 

#1 Ivan Rakitic

Since moving to Barcelona in 2014, Ivan Rakitic has been a crucial member of the Barcelona side under both Luis Enrique and Valverde. He has played 265 games, scored 35 goals, assisted 36 more and won 13 trophies so far.

Despite his importance to the squad, Barcelona will sanction a transfer for the Croatian if the right offer comes in as he is already 31-years-old. There are too many players on the wrong side of their 30s in the current squad and among them, Rakitic will be relatively easier to replace. 

It is already rumoured that Inter Milan are keen on signing him and they are offering a fee of €50 million.

Top 5 attacking fullbacks in Europe’s Top 5 leagues

Due to the evolution of football over the years, the fullbacks have been evolved to become players who are both defensively resolute and offensively threatening.

These five players from Europe’s Top 5 leagues are statistically the best-attacking full-backs this season.

#5. Jordi Alba – 2 goals and 8 assists

Jordi Alba is easily among the Top 3 left-backs of this decade and it is the consistency of his attacking game that has made him a crucial member of the Barcelona team. In fact, he has 15 goals and 57 assists for the Catalan club in 298 appearances.

This season, Alba has continued to be a massive attacking threat down the left-hand side and has formed a brilliant understanding with Lionel Messi. When Ousmane Dembele doesn’t start, Alba provides the necessary pace on counter-attacks.

This season, the Spaniard has contributed with two goals and eight assists in 35 La Liga appearances and only six players in the league have more assists than him. Among the Barcelona players, he is the second highest assist provider behind Leo Messi.

#4. Andrew Robertson – 11 assists

Liverpool’s famous left-back, John Arne Riise, said in December 2018 that Andrew Robertson must add more goals to his game and rightly so as the left-back has scored only once in 76 appearances for the Reds. However, when it comes to assists, the Scott has 18 to his name of which 13 were provided this season across all competitions.

Robertson is a mainstay in the Liverpool defence alongside Virgil van Dijk and has started 36 league games this season.

In the 36th league game of the season against Huddersfield Town, Robertson assisted his 11th and final goal of the season and thus equalled a Premier League record for most assists by a defender in one season which was previously achieved by two Everton full-backs,  Leighton Baines (in the 2010-11 season) and Andy Hinchliffe (in the 1994-95 season). However, the record was broken on the final matchday of the season by a teammate of Robertson’s.

#3. Trent Alexander-Arnold – 1 goal and 12 assists

By providing the assist for Liverpool’s final Premier League goal of the 2018/19 season, Trent Alexander-Arnold made Premier League history by becoming the first defender to assist 12 goals in a season.

The England international shared right-back duties with Joe Gomez in the first half of the season but after an injury kept Gomez out for several months, Alexander-Arnold had to play almost every game for the Reds.

He started only 27 Premier League games this season and still managed to break the all-time assists record for a defender because he takes a considerable number of crossed free-kicks and corners for his side. In the entire league, only two players had more assists than him this season and both those players are forwards.

#2. Joshua Kimmich – 2 goals and 12 assists

Joshua Kimmich started his career as a midfielder and hence, he has turned into one of the best offensive full-backs in the game at the moment. In fact, he has nine goals and 32 assists to his name while playing as a right-back in 91 games.

This season, Kimmich has chipped in with two goals and 12 assists and has started and played the full 90 minutes in every single Bundesliga game so far. That being said, Kimmich had 13 assists in only 29 league games last season.

The German is the second highest assist provider in the Bundesliga at the moment with one game left to play. The only player with more assists than him is Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho who has 14 assists.

#1. Kenny Lala – 5 goals and 9 assists

Kenny Lala is not a household name in football but after his performance this season, Lala could be on his way to a top European club in the summer and then, people will take notice.

The Strasbourg full-back helped his club win the Coupe de la Ligue this season but it is his contributions in the league that has caught the eye. In 32 Ligue 1 games, the 27-year-old has 5 goals and 9 assists to his name. Only Téji Savanier, Nicolas Pepe and Angel Di Maria have more assists than him this season.

Lala is a huge threat going forward as his stats suggest and he is equally good defensively. It is no surprise that he’s being linked with a summer move to the Premier League with Manchester City and Arsenal among his potential destinations. 

5 Premier League records that were broken this season

The 2018/19 Premier League season ended with Manchester City claiming their second consecutive title under Pep Guardiola. Although City didn’t break the records they set last season, several other Premier League records were broken this season.

#5. Fewest draws in a season – 2

The record for the fewest draws in a season could have gone to Spurs alone had they not drawn to Everton in the final match of the season. However, now, they’ll share that record with Manchester City.

The first game Spurs drew this season was in the 29th match of the season against archrivals Arsenal. Man City, on the other hand, did not draw a game after their stalemate at Anfield in the eight league game of the season.

In addition to setting the record for the fewest number of draws in a season, Spurs also set the record for fewest away draws in a season (0) and most consecutive games without a draw (32 games).

#4. Most assists by a defender in a Premier League season – 12

With eleven assists, the record for most assists by a defender in a Premier League season was jointly held by two Everton players, Leighton Baines (in the 2010-11 season) and Andy Hinchliffe (in the 1994-95 season).

Andrew Robertson matched that record during Liverpool’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield but he couldn’t add to his tally in the two games that followed. However, Trent Alexander-Arnold matched that tally in the penultimate game of the season against Newcastle United and then crossed the 11 assists mark with his assist for Sadio Mane’s second goal against Wolves in the final match of the season.

Alexander-Arnold ended the season as the third highest-assist provider and Robertson has the fifth highest tally.

#3. The fewest number of teams represented in the PFA Team of the Year – 3

Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s dominance this season reflected in the PFA Team of the Year as all but one player was from either club. The only player who made the PFA Team of the year from outside these two teams was Paul Pogba.

Pogba’s inclusion was widely debated because of his on and off form and there were several other worthy candidates who were left out. Even with the Frenchman, this year’s PFA Team of the Year had the fewest number of teams represented.

Incredibly, two of the three Golden Boot winners, Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the Golden Glove winner, Alisson, did not have a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

#2. Fastest goal scored – 7.69 seconds

Shane Long is not a prolific goal scorer and he has only hit double figures in the Premier League once in his career. However, against Watford on the 24th of April 2019, it didn’t take Long long to score.

The Irishman scored past Ben Foster in under eight seconds to score the fastest goal in Premier League history by beating Ledley King’s record of scoring within 9.82 seconds for Spurs against Bradford way back in the 2000/01 season.

Other than Long and King, no player has scored in under ten seconds in the Premier League history.

#1. Most points in a season without winning the league – 97 points

Liverpool and Manchester City scripted arguably the greatest title race in Premier League history and in the end, Jurgen Klopp’s men had to settle for the second place by just one point.

The Reds’ valiant effort saw them become the first team to not win the Premier League title after scoring more than 90 points. Before Liverpool, Manchester United held the record for most points by a team that did not win the league title when they amassed 89 points in the 2011/12 season only to lose to Manchester City on goal difference in a dramatic manner.

In the history of the English top flight, only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have scored more than 97 points in a season.

The Reds are also the highest scoring runner-up in Europe’s top 5 leagues, beating the previous record of 96 points by Real Madrid in 2009/10 when they lost out to Guardiola’s Barcelona!

5 players you won’t believe have scored more goals than Alexis Sanchez this season

Alexis Sanchez’s first full season at Manchester United was terribly disappointing as he struggled with form and injuries. In the end, the Chilean played only 877 minutes in the Premier League and scored once. Here are five players you won’t believe have more league goals than Sanchez this season.

#5. Karlan Grant (Huddersfield Town) – 4 goals

Karlan Grant joined Huddersfield Town in January 2019 to try and help them avoid relegation but the 21-year-old could do very little to stop the inevitable.

Grant arrived from the League One side Charlton Athletic and still managed to score four goals in the Premier League in only 874 minutes. A player from the third tier of English football scored four goals for the Premier League’s worst team and also the lowest scoring team (22 goals) while Sanchez could only score once in the entire Premier League season and twice in all competitions. 

The 21-year-old managed to score against Arsenal and also bagged a brace against West Ham.

#4. Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – 3 goals

Nuno Espírito Santo rarely rotated his Wolves side this season and as a result, Ivan Cavaleiro only got six starts in the league and played only 687 minutes.

Despite playing as an understudy to Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota throughout the season and playing nearly 200 minutes fewer than Alexis Sanchez in the Premier League, Cavaleiro still managed to score three goals.

#3. Lucas Perez (West Ham) – 3 goals

Lucas Perez made a switch to West Ham before the start of the season after rarely getting a look in at Arsenal. However, the Spaniard still struggled to get playing time in the Premier League despite West Ham’s injury woes.

Perez only started four Premier League games all season and was on the field for only 469 minutes. Even though the Spaniard played over 400 minutes fewer than Sanchez and also started five games fewer, he still found the back of the net three times.

Two of the Spaniard’s goals came against Cardiff in a 3-1 win and his other goal was against Tottenham way back in October.

#2. Scott McTominay (Manchester United) – 2 goals

Despite being one of the highest paid players in the world and being a forward, Sanchez was outscored by several teammates of his including midfielders and defenders! 

Among the Man Utd players who outscored him is Ashley Young but the more significant name is Scott McTominay who was without a professional goal to his name up until April 2019.

The 22-year-old Scott scored his first goal for Man Utd in a 2-1 defeat to Wolves and doubled his career tally with a striker against Huddersfield.

#1. Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal) – 2 goals

Shkodran Mustafi has given Arsenal fans plenty of reasons to be angry this season with his defending but he can give the Gunners’ fans something to smile about from an offensive perspective.

Mustafi scored twice in the Premier League this season. His first goal was against Cardiff in a 3-2 win back in September and his second goal came against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

With his goal against United, Mustafi outscored his former Arsenal teammate this season in the league. Even in all competitions, Mustafi has more goals (3) than Sanchez (2). 

Alexis Sanchez’s fall from grace has been catastrophic and it looks like there is no future for the Chilean at Manchester United.

Tottenham 0-1 Ajax – 5 major talking points as Ajax get priceless away win

A dominating first-half display from Ajax helped them win the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Tottenham Hotspur. Here are five major talking points as Spurs ended on the losing side despite a positive display in the second half.

Pochettino can’t catch a break

It has been a season of milestones for Spurs so far. First, they became the first Premier League club ever to not sign any player in a season and more recently, they qualified for the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.

Pochettino has done well to take his team this far while missing the likes of Harry Kane, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela through injuries. In the first leg against Ajax, he was also without the in-form Son Heung-Min through suspension.

A day before the game, it was revealed that Harry Winks is unlikely to play again this season after undergoing surgery for a groin injury. To make matters worse, Pochettino was forced to take Jan Vertonghen out in the first half after the Belgian suffered a head injury. 

The lack of squad depth due to injuries is clearly affecting Tottenham’s performance in the league and in Europe.

Ajax make early domination count

Ajax raced out from the blocks when the first whistle was blown and dominated the game for the first half an hour. They pinned Spurs back in their own half and made the opposition defence work hard.

At one point in the first half, the visitors had around 70% of the possession and was mopping up the occasional long ball to Fernando Llorente with relative ease. Unlike in the first legs against Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax made their early domination count and scored the only goal of the game in the 15th minute through Donny van de Beek. 

Spurs fought back fiercely in the second half but Ajax still had the best chance of the game when David Neres hit the post in the 78th minute. 

Blessing in disguise

Ajax’s early domination had Pochettino worried and his problems were compounded when Vertonghen came off. Instead of bringing on another centre-back, Pochettino opted to change his team’s shape by throwing on Moussa Sissoko who returned from injury.

The introduction of Sissoko added some much-needed energy and pressing into the Spurs midfield that looked jaded early on. The Frenchman pressed, ran with the ball and stopped Ajax from counter-attacking as Spurs pressed hard for an equaliser in the second half.

Parity returned to the possession statistics after the former Newcastle United man was introduced and he made ten recoveries; no Spurs player made more.

Son Heung-Min was terribly missed

Son Heung-Min scored three of Spurs four goals against Manchester City in the quarterfinal and he was terribly missed against Ajax.

In Son’s absence, Fernando Llorente was given the task of leading the Spurs attack but he struggled to threaten Andre Onana in goal. Early in the game, the Spaniard struggled to hold on to the ball to bring his teammates into play and he wasn’t making runs in behind to trouble Ajax’s high defensive line.  Son’s pace, dribbling and movement would have given Spurs that extra quality they needed to score a goal.

On the bright side, the South Korean has got some much-needed rest and Spurs fans can hope that his return will make all the difference a week later.

Ajax need to make the home advantage count

With their win at the New White Hart Lane, Ajax have now won three consecutive away matches in the knockout stage. What makes this run impressive is the fact that they’ve won at the home of some of the best teams in the world.

Away from home, Ajax have scored seven goals and conceded only two goals in their last three games. However, in stark contrast, at home, they’ve not won their previous two matches as they lost 1-2 against Real Madrid and drew 1-1 against Juventus. 

In the previous two matches, Ajax played at home in the first leg which gave them a chance to turn things around in the second leg. They’ve to be wary of Spurs in the return leg as the North London club have to score as things stand. 

Why Jurgen Klopp is a better manager than Pep Guardiola

At the end of the 2018/19 Premier League season, one of Manchester City or Liverpool will end the season as the highest scoring runner-up in the league’s history and chances are that that team will be Liverpool. Despite that, Jurgen Klopp has managed his side better than counterpart Pep Guardiola. Here’s why. 

If Liverpool fail to lift the Premier League title after amassing over 90 points, then they can do nothing but curse their fate because they are fighting with arguably the greatest squad in the Premier League. The fact that Jurgen Klopp’s side has gone toe to toe with this Manchester City squad itself is a testament to his managerial abilities.

The truth is, Jurgen Klopp is a better manager than Pep Guardiola. The trophies count and managerial statistics will tell you otherwise but they don’t give the whole picture.

The inherited squad and the net spend comparison

Klopp took over as Liverpool manager in October 2015 after a dismal start to the season under Brendan Rodgers. He inherited a squad with a few talented players but one which lacked balance and did not have enough quality players.

To put things into perspective, the players from the squad he inherited, who are currently at the club, are Simon Mignolet, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, and Divock Origi.

Among the aforementioned players, only Gomez, Lovren, Milner, Henderson and Firmino are key first-team players. In fact, the remaining five players are likely to be moved on in the upcoming summer transfer window. It’s evident that Klopp had to build a completely new squad and he did so with a net spend of only £121.6 million!

The German signed players worth around £400 million at Liverpool but also sold players worth £277 million, including the sale of Philippe Coutinho for an initial £105 million, which could rise to £142 million.

Klopp has made some fantastic signings as in charge of the Reds, which includes the likes of PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andrew Robertson, Alisson, Fabinho, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

While the German built his side with meticulous planning over the course of three summers by slowly phasing out the players he inherited, Guardiola rebuilt his Man City squad in a contrasting manner.

From the squad that Guardiola inherited, Vincent Kompany, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph, Eliaquim Mangala, David Silva, Fernandinho, and Nicolas Otamendi are still at the club. Barring Mangala, all the other players have played a key role under Guardiola.

The Spaniard spent over half a billion pounds to rebuild the Manchester City squad. In fact, the exact amount he spent is roughly around £550 million with a net spend of £385 million! To put things into perspective, Guardiola’s net spend is more than three times Klopp’s net spend at Liverpool.

The struggle faced by both managers to rebuild their respective squad is best highlighted by their fullback situation. Klopp played James Milner as left-back throughout the 2016/17 season, promoted Trent Alexander-Arnold from the academy before phasing out Nathaniel Clyne and signed Andrew Robertson for around £8 million. Guardiola, on the other hand, signed Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo in the same summer for nearly £127 million.

First season contrast

Jurgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool midway through the 2015/16 season. As a result, he didn’t get to take his side for pre-season and did not personally make any addition to the squad. Despite the limitations he faced, he led Liverpool to the final of both the League Cup and Europa League even though they did not win either trophy.

The fact that the former Dortmund manager took a mediocre Liverpool team to two finals while beating his former club and Manchester United along the way itself is a testament to the brilliance of the man.

Guardiola, on the other hand, had a full preseason with his side and also signed players such as Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Claudio Bravo, and Gabriel Jesus to bolster his side.

Despite all the additions he made to the excellent squad he inherited, he could only secure Champions League football on the last day of the season, got knocked out from both domestic cup competitions, and was eliminated in the Champions League Round of 16 by Monaco.

Guardiola needs specific players to make his system work and couldn’t do well with those at his disposal in his first season in England. As a result, he kept on adding to his squad which in turn has given him a depth other clubs can only dream of. The fact that former PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, has only started 13 Premier League games this season shows just that.

Even at their former clubs, the story is similar for both Guardiola and Klopp. The Spaniard inherited fantastic squads at Barcelona and Bayern Munich which helped him rack up numerous trophies. Klopp, on the other hand, inherited a Borussia Dortmund side in turmoils, slowly built a superb squad, won back to back league titles with them and led them to a Champions League final.

Based on the evidence of their careers so far, one can be certain that Guardiola can never undertake a project like the one Klopp took at Dortmund.

Head to head record

Pep Guardiola is a difficult manager to beat. In fact, in his entire managerial career, he has lost only 11% of the matches he has been in charge with a win percentage of 72.8! 

Very few managers have got the better of Guardiola on more than one occasions but Klopp has proved to be his kryptonite. The Spaniard has played thirty-one managers in five or more matches and his worst record is against Klopp.

The pair have faced each other sixteen times and Guardiola has won only six games which means his win percentage against Klopp is nearly half that of his overall win percentage as a manager. He has also lost eight times against Klopp in his career and as a result, nearly 12 per cent of his managerial defeats have come against the same man!

Klopp has a superior record over Guardiola even though the latter has clearly managed the superior team on paper. All things considered, Klopp is a better manager than Guardiola.

5 unbelievable Lionel Messi statistics as he wins his 10th La Liga title

Lionel Messi came off the bench to score the only goal of the game against Levante on Saturday and secure the league title for Barcelona. With his recent triumph, Messi has broken even more records.

Lionel Messi has either scored or assisted in every LaLiga appearance at Camp Nou this season

Messi has only started 27 league games this season despite which he leads the race for the European Golden Boot. At the Nou Camp, Messi has featured in 17 La Liga games this season and scored as many as 19 goals and provided seven assists. 

Incredibly, in every game he has played at home in the league this season, he has been directly involved in a goal or assist.

To put things into perspective, Antoine Griezmann has only scored 15 La Liga goals in this entire season while PFA Player of the Year candidate, Sergio Aguero, has 19 goals during the course of the entire league season.

Lionel Messi is the first non-Spanish player in LaLiga history to win 10 titles

Lionel Messi won his 10th La Liga title this season and he became the first non-Spanish player and only the third player ever to win ten or more league titles.

Now, Messi has as many league titles as former Real Madrid player Pirri and is chasing the record held by Paco Gento who won 12 league titles with the Los Blancos.

After Messi, the non-Spanish player with the most league titles is Dani Alves who won six titles during his time with Barcelona.

Lionel Messi has beaten Andres Iniesta to become the Barcelona player with most La Liga titles

When Andres Iniesta left Barcelona at the end of last season, he had 32 trophies to his name at the club level alone which was also Messi’s tally at that point. However, Messi surpassed Iniesta’s overall trophies tally at the start of this season when his side won the Supercopa de España.

After Barcelona’s La Liga triumph this season, Messi now has 34 trophies with the Catalan club including ten league titles. Thus, he has overtaken Iniesta as the player with most trophies for Barcelona and also as the player with the most number of La Liga titles.

Messi has scored 36 goals in 78 games after coming on as a substitute

Lionel Messi did not start Barcelona’s league game against Levante since his side has a crucial Champions League match against Liverpool during the week. However, since the match remained goalless at halftime, the Argentine came off the bench and scored the only goal of the match in the 61st minute.

With his goal against Levante, Messi now has 36 goals in 78 games as a substitute which means he averages a goal almost every other game. His goals to games ratio as a substitute (0.46) is better than the overall goals per games ratio of players such as Raul (0.41), Aritz Aduriz (0.37) and Antoine Griezmann (0.42) in the La Liga.

Two trophies short of equalling the record of most titles won by a player with the same team

As mentioned earlier, the league title Messi won this season is his 34th trophy with Barcelona. This trophy haul of his consists of ten La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, six Copa del Reys, eight Supercopa de Espana titles, three European Super Cups and three Club World Cups.

Messi only needs two more trophies to equal the record of most trophies won by a player with a single club which is currently held by Ryan Giggs who won 36 trophies during his time with Manchester United.

The record can be equalled this season itself if Barcelona can win the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League. 

8 players in Europe’s Top 5 leagues with at least 10 goals and assists each

Very few players reach double figures for goals in a league season and even fewer players have ten or more assists in a season.

This is why, at the end of every season, there is only a handful of players with ten or more goals and assists each and this season, there are only eight such players so far.

#8. Leroy Sane – 10 goals and 10 assists

Before the most recent Manchester Derby, there was only one player from the Premier League in this list but thanks to Leroy Sane’s goal assisted by Raheem Sterling, both players have made the list.

Sane started only 20 Premier League games this season despite which he has ten goals and ten assists to his name. He is one of 28 players with ten or more goals this season in the Premier League but he is only one of six players with ten or more assists.

The German averages a goal or assist every 88.5 minutes in the league this season and only nine players in the league have been directly involved in more goals than him. To put things into perspective, he has had a direct hand in more goals this season than Son Heung-Min.

#7. Dries Mertens – 12 goals and 10 assists

Dries Mertens transformed into a prolific goalscorer under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli and even scored 28 goals in only 35 league games in 2016/17. This season, under Carlo Ancelotti, he has been restricted to only 20 starts in Serie A and that has affected his overall output.

Nevertheless, the 31-year-old has still scored 12 goals and provided 10 assists. Only eight players in the Italian top flight have more goals Mertens this season but no player has more assists than him. In fact, he is the only player with ten assists.

The Belgian has played only 1966 minutes of football in the Serie A this season which means he is directly involved in a goal every 89.4 minutes.

#6. Pablo Sarabia – 11 goals and 13 assists

Pablo Sarabia is only one of two players from the La Liga on this list and the Sevilla man is arguably the most surprising name on the list given how little attention he has received despite his incredible performance this season.

Sarabia is the 17th highest goalscorer in the league with 11 goals which is quite fantastic because he plays as a midfielder. He also has 13 assists to his name which is not only the most in the league but also the most any player has in Europe’s Top 5 leagues.

It’s incredible that the former Real Madrid youth player has not been capped by Spain at the senior level. The 26-year-old averages a goal or assist every 102.5 minutes this season and if he can keep up this level of performance, then he will soon be on the wishlist of bigger clubs.

#5. Jadon Sancho – 11 goals and 13 assists

Jadon Sancho is the youngest player on this list and it’s amazing that he is on the list given the fact that this is his breakthrough season.

When the season started, Sacho was often on the bench but he proved to be quite efficient whenever he was put on the field and he quickly became an indispensable member of the Dortmund squad that’s fighting for the Bundesliga title.

The 19-year-old who recently became an England international has 13 assists to his name which is a league highest and also the joint-most in Europe’s Top 5 leagues. Sancho has also scored 11 goals this season with an average of 90.3 minutes per goal or assist.

#4. Raheem Sterling – 17 goals and 10 assists

Raheem Sterling has become one of the best if not the best winger in the game under Pep Guardiola and this season, he is in contention for the prestigious PFA Player of the Year award for spearheading the Man City team.

Sterling has scored 17 league goals this season and that tally is only bettered by Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Sergio Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has also provided ten assists which again is only bettered by four players in the league but it’s the joint highest for a Man City player this season.

The 24-year-old was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the first time in his career and rightfully so as he averages a goal or assist every 92.9 minutes in the Premier League this season.

#3. Eden Hazard – 16 goals and 13 assists

Eden Hazard is the third and final player from the Premier League on this list with 16 goals and 13 assists to his name this season in 34 Premier League matches.

Hazard is the Premier League’s and Europe’s highest assist provider this season and he is the seventh highest scorer in the league at the moment. If Hazard scores one more goal this season, then this will be his best season in terms of goals scored in the league and in all competitions.

The Belgian has been directly involved in 29 Premier League goals which and that tally is the highest in the league this season and yet, he has no place in the PFA Team of the Year. He also averages a goal or assist every 94 minutes in the Premier League this season.

#2. Nicolas Pepe – 19 goals and 11 assists

In a league where Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria plays; Nicolas Pepe is the only player who has hit double figures for both goals and assists this season!

The Ivorian has caught the attention of many top European clubs with his performance for Lille this season. He has scored 19 Ligue 1 goals this season –  a tally bettered only by Mbappe and he has also laid on 11 assists so far which is the highest in the league.

The 23-year-old averages a goal or assist every 98.5 minutes and his brilliant performance has helped Lille climb to second in the league.

#1. Lionel Messi – 33 goals and 13 assists

The other seven players on this list have direct involvement in 20 to 30 goals in their respective leagues this season but Lionel Messi has proved that he is in a class of his own with direct involvement in 46 goals in only 31 games (27 starts).

Messi is the joint-highest assist provider in Europe’s Top 5 leagues along with Eden Hazard, Jadon Sacho and Pablo Sarabia. However, he’s the outright top scorer in Europe’s Top 5 leagues with 33 goals! 

The Argentine has played only 2485 minutes in the La Liga this season because of injuries and being rested ahead of crucial Champions League ties. Therefore, he averages a goal or assist every 54 minutes in the league this season and that averages comes down to 53.25 if you include his contributions in the Champions League.

With Barcelona in the hunt for yet another treble, Messi has already put one hand on this year’s Ballon d’Or.

5 Ajax stars who could make a big move in the summer

Ajax’s recent success has come at a cost. They’ve already agreed to sell midfielder Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona next summer and several other players from the current squad could also make a big move and these are the five players who are likeliest to do so.

Donny van de Beek

Donny van de Beek is probably the most underrated of all the young Dutch internationals in the Ajax team at the moment but he’s someone who could become a superstar in the future.

The 22-year-old midfielder has been a crucial starter for Ajax since the start of the 2017/18 season and since then, he has scored 28 goals in only 89 games across all competitions. He predominantly plays as an attacking midfielder and because of the sheer number of goals and assists he provides from that position, he reminds many of another Ajax youth product, Christian Eriksen.

This season, van de Beek has scored 15 goals and assisted 11 more in all competitions. His contribution in Ajax’s Champions League run includes assists against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and more importantly a goal against Juventus in the away leg.

Van de Beek was on the verge of a move to Milan two years ago and a future transfer to the Serie A club is rumoured but there is also interest in the player from Premier League clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.

Nicolás Tagliafico

Ajax signed Nicolas Tagliafico from Independiente for only £4 million in January 2018 and 18 months later, they could make a huge profit on the player given the interest in him from the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

The Argentine is an offensive minded full-back with significantly good passing, crossing and ability to read the game. Since joining Ajax, he has been involved in 14 goals in only 56 games and this season, he scored three goals in the Champions League.

The 26-year-old has turned down a contract extension at Ajax and the player and his agent have spoken of his interest to move to a different club in the summer with no shortage of admirers.

“I think in the summer it could be a natural time to take the step. Yes, it’s flattering [the links to English clubs] because I think it’s the most competitive league. When you are a child, the target is to come to Europe and play in a top league like the Premier League” – Tagliafico said in an interview with the Mirror.

David Neres

David Neres is a product of the famous Sao Paulo academy through which players such as Kaka, Denilson, Lucas Moura, Oscar and Eder Militao came through. A few weeks before Neres turned 20, he moved to Ajax for €12 million after only playing 11 times for the Sao Paulo first team.

Neres initially played for the reserve team but broke through during the 2017/18 season scoring 14 goals and assisting 13 more in 32 league games. This season has been equally good for the recently capped Brazilian and in total, he has 29 goals and 32 assists for the club in 95 games.

The 22-year-old has been linked with a move to several Premier League clubs including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton. It is said that an offer of around £43 million will be enough to convince Ajax to part ways with the in-demand winger.

Hakim Ziyech

Ajax signed Hakim Ziyech from FC Twente in 2016 for €11m and he has since gone on to score 39 goals and assist 57 goals for the team in only 125 outings! Now, the attacking midfielder is wanted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs. 

Ziyech was born in the Netherlands and represented the country at the youth level but after being overlooked for the senior team, he chose to represent Morocco, the country of his parents. What a loss that is for the Dutch team! 

The 26-year-old’ has predominantly played as an attacking midfielder throughout his career but this season, he was played out wide on the right side and he has still managed to do well with 19 goals and 14 assists in only 39 games.

The Morrocan was previously linked to several Premier League clubs but it seems like Bayern Munich are actively pursuing the player. He may or may not join the Bavarian club but he is certain to leave Ajax in the summer. 

Matthijs de Ligt

Despite all the fantastic attacking talent in demand at Ajax, the crown jewel of their current squad and the player who is likely to fetch the biggest transfer fee is Matthijs de Ligt.

The 19-year-old is the most recent winner of the prestigious Golden Boy award and he has already played 112 games for Ajax while also scoring 12 goals. He has quickly become one of the most coveted players in football at the moment mainly for his composure and leadership skills that defy his young age. In addition, his passing abilities, quick feet and aerial prowess are fantastic traits for a modern-day defender

The Dutch international was linked with a move to Liverpool where he could form a potent partnership with his compatriot Virgil van Dijk. He was also linked with Bayern Munich as a long-term replacement for the ageing Jerome Boateng. However, the club that’s presently leading the race to sign him is Barcelona.