Messi, Ronaldo, Salah: Who are the world-class players in Europe’s top leagues?

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The term ‘world-class’ is probably used a little too often these days.

Players who have done very little in the game get hyped up after a few good performances.

We remember the time Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill described Ashley Young as a “genius” and “world-class” - and even compared the winger to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - after he scored two goals against Everton in 2008.

The truth is, there is no way to determine what a ‘world-class’ footballer is. It’s all down to personal opinion.

But we think ‘world-class’ should be reserved for those rare few who would get into almost every other team on the planet.

With that in mind, here are the players we believe are truly ‘world-class’ in each of Europe’s top five major leagues…

Premier League

Virgil van Dijk | Liverpool

Arguably the world’s best centre-back, there’s absolutely no doubt that Virgil van Dijk is world-class. Liverpool have badly missed their talismanic Dutchman in recent months.

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Mohamed Salah | Liverpool

Mohamed Salah’s goalscoring record at Liverpool speaks for itself. In 188 games, the Egyptian forward has bagged a magnificent 118 goals, winning two Premier League Golden Boot awards in the process.

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Alisson | Liverpool

The Premier League’s best goalkeeper, Alisson helped turn Liverpool into title challengers into champions.

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Sadio Mane | Liverpool

Sadio Mane’s form may have been a little patchy this season but Liverpool’s Senegalese winger was consistently excellent over the previous three seasons. It would be harsh to suggest the 28-year-old isn’t currently world-class.

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Andy Robertson | Liverpool

Is there a better left-back in world football? Alphonso Davies might run him close, but it’s hard to think of anyone else. Therefore, the Scotland international is world-class.

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Bruno Fernandes | Manchester United

There are some doubts over Bruno Fernandes’s ability to shine in big games but, on the whole, the Portuguese attacking midfielder has been outstanding for Manchester United. In 61 games, Bruno has been directly involved in 54 goals (34 goals and 20 assists).

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Kevin De Bruyne | Manchester City

The Premier League’s best player, in the eyes of some, Kevin De Bruyne’s passing ability is extraordinary. There’s no doubt that the Belgian midfielder would get into every other starting XI in the world.

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Sergio Aguero | Manchester City

Sergio Aguero is the Premier League’s fourth-highest goalscorer in history, let’s not forget. The 32-year-old has missed most of this season through injury but when he’s fit, there are very few better forwards around than the Man City icon.

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Harry Kane | Tottenham

One of the best No. 9s on the planet, Harry Kane has scored 210 goals in 321 games for Tottenham. If he decides to leave Spurs, there will be no shortage of top clubs queuing up to secure the England international’s signature.

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Son Heung-min | Tottenham

Kane’s reliable teammate Son Heung-min has also earned ‘world-class’ status following his move to Spurs from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.

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Honourable mentions: Raheem Sterling, Ederson, N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gundogan, Joao Cancelo, James Rodriguez, Bernardo Silva, Thiago Alcantara, Phil Foden.

La Liga

Lionel Messi | Barcelona

No explanation needed. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time and still produces magic most weeks at the age of 33.

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Marc-Andre ter Stegen | Barcelona

Barcelona have been on the receiving end of a few hammerings over the past 12 months but don’t be fooled into thinking that means Marc-Andre ter Stegen is an average goalkeeper. The German is top-drawer and arguably the best ‘keeper in the world.

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Sergio Ramos | Real Madrid

As well as being a top defender, Sergio Ramos has also bagged 100 goals for Real Madrid over the past 15 years, which is remarkable. The 34-year-old is still quality.

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Karim Benzema | Real Madrid

Overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo for much of his Real Madrid career, Karim Benzema has consistently scored a healthy number of goals in each of his 12 seasons at the Bernabeu. You don’t spend that long as Madrid’s first-choice centre-forward unless you’re world-class.

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Luka Modric | Real Madrid

Still one of the first names on Real Madrid’s teamsheet each week, 35-year-old Luka Modric - winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or award - is still one of the world’s best central midfielders.

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Luis Suarez | Atletico Madrid

Many thought Luis Suarez was finished after Barcelona sold him last summer, but Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone certainly didn’t - and he was spot on. The Uruguayan has netted 16 goals in 26 games for Atleti this term.

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Jan Oblak | Atletico Madrid

The world’s best goalkeeper in the eyes of some, Jan Oblak has been consistently excellent for Simeone’s side since arriving from Benfica in 2014.

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Honourable mentions: Thibaut Courtois, Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Busquets, Eden Hazard, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, Joao Felix.

Bundesliga

Robert Lewandowski | Bayern Munich

Probably the best centre-forward in world football, Robert Lewandowski’s goalscoring record in recent seasons is ridiculous. The Poland international scored 55 goals in just 47 games last term and currently has 34 goals in just 32 games this term. The 32-year-old is absolutely deadly inside the box.

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Joshua Kimmich | Bayern Munich

Still a little underrated by the wider football community? Joshua Kimmich, who is just as good in midfield as he is at right-back, is a truly top-class player who every manager in the world would love to have in their ranks.

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Manuel Neuer | Bayern Munich

We all saw last season that Manuel Neuer, who turns 35 later this month, is still a world-class goalkeeper. The German has been the best in the business over the past decade.

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Alphonso Davies | Bayern Munich

Still just 20 years old, Alphonso Davies caught the world’s attention with his eye-catching performances with Bayern last season. The lightning-quick full-back looks set to enjoy an incredibly successful career at the highest level.

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Erling Haaland | Borussia Dortmund

From what we’ve seen of him so far, Erling Haaland has the potential to become one of the best players of his generation. Since joining Borussia Dortmund in January 2020, the 20-year-old has scored 43 goals in just 44 games.

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Honourable mentions: Jadon Sancho, Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Raphael Guerreiro, Leroy Sane, Dayot Upamecano.

Ligue 1

Neymar | Paris Saint-Germain

The Brazilian divides opinion but there’s no denying his quality. Neymar is probably the world’s most skillful footballer and, at his best, is a joy to watch.

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Kylian Mbappe | Paris Saint-Germain

It will be a surprise if Kylian Mbappe doesn’t end his career with at least one Ballon d’Or to his name. The French striker recently proved he’s destined for greatness by scoring a stunning hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League.

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Honourable mentions: Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Keylor Navas.

Serie A

Cristiano Ronaldo | Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo turned 36 last month but is still scoring goals for fun. No player has scored more Serie A goals than the legendary forward (19) this term.

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Romelu Lukaku | Inter Milan

Things didn’t work out for Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United but the Belgium forward has been sensational for Inter Milan, scoring 58 goals in 82 games.

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Paulo Dybala | Juventus

A borderline one, this. On his day, he’s world-class. That left-foot of his is magical. If only he was slightly more consistent, the Argentine would be unstoppable.

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Honourable mentions: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ciro Immobile, Lautaro Martinez.

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