The winter break is over and now the majority of Europe is at the halfway stage which allows us to take stock of the players who striking it hot.
The narrative for each of the top five European leagues is largely in place with Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City running away with their respective domestic titles.
There is much to play for in Serie A, however, but even in Italy the trend has been set in regards to the players who are firing on all cylinders.
With that in mind, we take a look at the leading light for each league to assess who is the player of the year for each so far.
BUNDESLIGA: Leon Bailey
Key passes: 25
Chances created: 29
Successful take-ons: 28
Leon Bailey was allowed time to settle in at Bayer Leverkusen last season after his arrival last summer following an impressive two years at Genk. That patience in the 20-year-old Jamaican is already paying dividends this term.
The attacker has terrorised Bundesliga defenders with his explosive pace and dribbling, scoring six goals and providing four assists in 15 outings so far this season.
The Jamaican’s infectious personality has translated onto the pitch as well with his expressive style of play bringing a greater degree of positivity to Leverkusen’s attack.
His directness, delivery from wide areas and ability to score from range has seen him become one of the most dangerous players in the league.
Leon Bailey – Bayer Leverkusen 2017/18
Ready for the next step. pic.twitter.com/fHtVvOWN0O
— DG (@Mezzapunta) January 13, 2018
LIGUE 1: Nabil Fekir
Key passes: 26
Chances created: 30
Successful take-ons: 56
Paris Saint-Germain were always going to be the runaway favourites in Ligue 1 this season after adding the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to their ranks. However, Lyon have been impressive themselves, despite trailing the leaders by 11 points.
A large part of why they’re even in the hunt though is their influential skipper Nabil Fekir. The Frenchman has been at the heart of Lyon’s attacking play this season from his central attacking role.
At 24, Fekir is maturing into a dependable, consistent performer. With 15 goals and four assists in the league so far, he’s emerged as arguably the finest player in France’s top flight at the moment.
His deadly sharp-shooting, acceleration and vision have really come to the fore this season.
The Lyon talisman averages 2.3 key passes, 3.7 dribbles and 3.3 shots per game. It’s not a stretch to say that Fekir is as instrumental for his side as Lionel Messi is for Barcelona.
If I am Edwards and Coutinho is indeed sold, I would call Aulas at Lyon and give him the 60M£ asking fee for Nabil Fekir. Used to play ST now CAM covering so many bases. Pay attention to goal no.3 from halfway line. Not joking! pic.twitter.com/39VxU6FgPt
— Moby • LFC Scout (@MobyHaque) January 2, 2018
PREMIER LEAGUE: Kevin De Bruyne
Key passes: 59
Chances created: 68
Successful take-ons: 39
David Silva is still an influential figure at Manchester City but while his absence could somewhat neutralise them in seasons gone by, that’s not the case anymore. Instead, it’s Kevin de Bruyne who is the man that really makes them tick.
Pep Guardiola has reserved special praise for the Belgian in the past, holding only Messi in higher regard. The 26-year-old has come into his own in the last couple of seasons and is now one of the most complete midfielders in the world.
De Bruyne is a relentless machine, creating chance after chance for his team-mates. It also helps that his supreme fitness has seen him start every league game for City this term. He’s thrived under Guardiola’s possession-based system and will go down as the driving force behind the team’s success this season should they claim the Premier League title.
What A Goal From De Bruyne⚽️ pic.twitter.com/4WV5hqjgP0
— Cardiff United (@CardiffUnitedFC) November 18, 2017
LA LIGA: Lionel Messi
Key passes: 41
Chances created: 49
Successful take-ons: 101
It’s a testament to how good Lionel Messi is that not much has been made of his brilliant form this season. So he has 17 goals and eight assists in just 19 games? No big deal. It’s just what Messi does.
However, you only need to look over at Cristiano Ronaldo’s paltry four goals for Real Madrid in La Liga this term to appreciate Messi’s persistence at the highest level. While the Portuguese has struggled with his side not being at their best, Messi stepped things up to fill the void left by Neymar, inspiring his team to push on.
With the little genius in their corner, it’s no wonder the Catalans remain unbeaten this campaign, scoring 12 more goals than any other team in the division.
Messi has grown into his more central, play-making role with aplomb as Andres Iniesta’s powers have waned. His latest evolution is just another feather in his hat.
Lionel Messi is not a human. This pass confirms it…pic.twitter.com/kth3aeNmlS
— Caño Football (@CanoFootball) January 11, 2018
SERIE A: Mauro Icardi
Key passes: 20
Chances created: 21
Shot accuracy: 72%
In his element, Mauro Icardi is one of the finest strikers in the world and he’s proved as much over the course of the current Serie A campaign.
The Argentine is a fighter, a street footballer even, and it’s that tenacity and drive with which the Inter skipper has dragged his side into the top three at this stage of the season.
His 18 goals in the league is second only to Ciro Immobile. A rather flat Inter midfield has seen the onus fall on attack with Icardi leading the line expertly, aided by wide players Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva.
The 24-year-old has made the most of the service afforded to him, scoring over 50% of his side’s goals this season.
“It’s absolutely sensational at San Siro from Mauro Icardi, what a player” pic.twitter.com/HEHgzQWY0W
— skinny saf 🇸🇴 (@safeeyaar) January 16, 2018
Pele‘s spokesperson dismissed reports the footballing legend had been hospitalised on Friday, saying the 77-year-old was resting at home.
The Brazilian cancelled a trip to London this weekend for a dinner in his honour with the English football Writers’ Association (FWA), with the FWA saying he had collapsed from exhaustion and been taken to hospital.
But his spokesperson branded those reports as “fake news”.
Pele made his first public appearance since December’s World Cup draw with a zimmer frame in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
“He said he’s not going because it’s going to be very tiring, very stressful,” said Pepito Fornos.
“He had this trip to England, but the trip to Rio was very tiring and so to face another trip, with transits at several airports, wasn’t possible.”
Pele – the only player to win three World Cups – has struggled with ill health and was unable to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games.
Pele “has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion”, said the FWA earlier on Friday.
“He is on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery. Thankfully there is no suggestion of anything more serious.”
Pele helped inspire Brazil to World Cup victories in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
He scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during his 21-year career, including a Brazilian record 77 goals in 92 international appearances.
Qatar will host every game of the 2022 World Cup, the country’s senior tournament organiser insisted on Friday, amid speculation the Gulf political crisis would force the emirate to relocate matches.
Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary-general of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, also maintained that preparations for the tournament were on schedule, despite the ongoing and increasingly bitter eight-month crisis.
“Qatar is the sole host country of the 2022 World Cup and will host the 64 matches of the tournament across eight planned venues,” Thawadi told AFP in a statement.
He was responding to a recent media claim that the 2022 matches could be played elsewhere in the region, specifically Iran, because of political and economic uncertainties.
Last June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar over Doha’s alleged ties to Islamist extremists and a warming relationship with Iran, Saudi’s great regional rival.
Qatar denies all the accusations, but the crisis rumbles on with the World Cup an increasingly vulnerable issue.
“If North and South Korea can come together for the winter Olympics,” says Hassan al-Thawadi, “so can the Middle East at the World Cup.”
— Justin D. Martin (@Justin_D_Martin) January 18, 2018
Last year, an official from the UAE claimed that if Qatar gave up 2022 it could end the entrenched political stalemate.
And the Emirati foreign minister Anwar Gargash said Qatar could only host the World Cup if it shunned “extremism”.
The regional tensions have seemingly undermined Qatar’s claims for the first World Cup in the Middle East to be “a tournament for the region”.
Thawadi added that all stadiums would be finished by 2020, with FIFA to decide later this year on the final number of venues.
He also said there would be enough accommodation provided for visiting fans – claiming that Qatar would exceed its bid promise of 100,000 rooms – and none would be housed in migrant labour camps, as recently reported.
“The project is very much on schedule and FIFA is happy with our progress,” added Thawadi.