Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk are the only two candidates with a real chance to win the Golden Ball, the Best Football Player of the Year award, 2o19. However, with Messi being injured for a big part of the start of this season and Van Dijk not reaching the same form he had few months ago, let us take a look at some other players that have stepped up and taken on major roles, distinguishing themselves in different segments, important for both the offensive and defensive parts of the game. Some of the players are expected to be the best, while others are a complete surprise.
Top scorer: Robert Lewandowski, Bayern
The Polish super-striker is really in an incredible form this season. He became the first player in Bundesliga history to score in all of his opening nine rounds and on top of that – scoring a goal in all three Champions League games so far. In 13 matches – which he played for Bayern Munich this season so far – he scored 19 incredible goals, stats similar to both Messi and Ronaldo’s best seasons.
He scores every 60 minutes. He scores with his left foot, right foot, header, penalties and free kicks – the guy doesn’t discriminate any method of scoring goals. There is no method of scoring goals that is unknown to him, and all defenders are only hoping that the day will finally come when his “riflescope” won´t be so perfectly adjusted as it is right now.
Best Creator: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City
In all the statistics regarding creation in the last third of the field – assists, key passes, opportunities created – there is Kevin de Bruyne at the top of all other players. If you need to play a teammate in the space, deliver a mind-blowing pass or play a double pass, none of this is a problem for him. At this pace, De Bruyne could easily reach 20 assists in a single season and potentially set a new record for the top five Leagues. We all know that Man City likes to play offensive football and having De Bruyne in the squad makes this so much easier.
Top passer: Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
Real Madrid may seem unconvincing this season, but it is by no means Kroos’ fault. In all categories when it comes to passing – whether overall in numbers or efficiency – Tony Kroos is among the top 5 players in the top five leagues. Short passes and long ones, those on the ground and crosses, on the opponent’s and on his own half, are not a problem for him. As Luka Modric is more injured than fit to play this season for Real Madrid, Kroos has had to take on additional responsibility in the midfield this season. Although Modric’s lack of fitness is noticeable in the way Real Madrid is playing, the German maestro has justified all the praise he is receiving lately for his contributions.
Top 1 on 1: Nabil Fekir, Betis
For years, Messi, Hazard and Neymar have been fighting for the first place in this category, but injuries, fatigue and fitness have changed the balance of power at the beginning of this season. It is not fair to leave out Wilfred Zaha, who actually shares first place with Fekir, both in how often he chooses individual solutions and in terms of success. Nabil Fekir is still a step ahead; he is the second most successful dribbler behind Zaha, but he has earned the most fouls and is more efficient in duels by almost 10 percent, which is a huge difference.
Most interceptions per game: Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City
Wilfred Ndidi is what N’Golo Kante was for Leicester in the 2015/16 championship season. The former Genk player, the club from which De Bruyne also originated, is convincingly on the top of the list for retrieving the ball for his team, either through tackles or interceptions. He is so good that his stats are completely comparable to what Kante did back in the 2015/16 season and even though they don´t look alike, since Ndidi is almost 6 inches taller, when it comes to aggression, attacking the opposing line and retrieving the ball, Kante and Ndidi seem to be twin brothers in their style to play this beautiful game.
Won most aerial duels: Bruno Alves, Parma
It is truly amazing how this Portuguese veteran has won most aerial duels by any other players from the top five leagues. Not only is he on the top, by he is 7 percent ahead of the runner up – Niklas Sule. Unfortunately for Parma, the Portuguese veteran, who is about to turn 38, is injured so it remains to be seen how they will do without him.