The group stage of the Champions League is over, and it’s no surprise who the standout player of the first round was.
Lionel Messi may have only finished fifth in the voting for this year’s Ballon d’Or, but he’s playing like the best player in the world at the moment.
He finished the round as the second-highest scorer, behind Robert Lewandowski, and the two players lead our list of the group stage’s top ten…but who else made the cut?
1. Lionel Messi
Messi made a mockery of the Ballon d’Or voting with his displays for Barcelona in the group stage. Six goals, including that brilliant one against PSV Eindhoven with four players around him, helped his side cruise into the knockout stages.
Lionel Messi has now contributed to AT LEAST 70 goals in each of the past five calendar years.— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelonaHQ) December 13, 2018
2014 - Goals + assists: 80
2015 - Goals + assists: 78
2016 - Goals + assists: 90
2017 - Goals + assists: 70
2018 - Goals + assists: 71
2. Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski was the top-scorer of the group stage with eight goals, and Bayern Munich have desperately needed him to be in that form. For an in-crisis team, the striker scored over half their goals across the six games.
3. Virgil Van Dijk
Liverpool‘s defensive improvement with Van Dijk in the lineup has been well-documented, and it’s safe to say that he’s one of the biggest reasons they can be considered among the favourites for the Champions League title. His display against Napoli in the final group game was brilliant.
4. Dusan Tadic
Imagine what Southampton must be feeling at the moment. Languishing in the relegation zone, struggling for goals, and a player they let go this summer is among the top scorers in the Champions League. Tadic and Ajax certainly aren’t complaining.
Only Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi have more Champions League goals than Dušan Tadić this season (5).— bet365 (@bet365) December 12, 2018
He's just made the Champions League last 16.
Southampton sold him for just £10m. pic.twitter.com/l24I9C1C8p
5. David Silva
Is David Silva the best midfielder in the world on current form? With Luka Modric having dropped off since the World Cup, there’s an argument that he is. The Spaniard’s play in midfield for Manchester City has been superb.
After a disappointing World Cup, Neymar‘s performances for Paris Saint-Germain were always going to come under increased scrutiny. It’s Champions League trophy or bust for both player and club this season, and so far, the Brazilian is delivering, scoring five goals in the group stage.
7. Kylian Mbappe
The world’s best young player continues to see his star rise. Mbappe was among the leading assist providers in the group stage, and since the start of last season only James Milner has provided more assists in the Champions League.
Most assists in the 2018-19 Champions League group stages:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 12, 2018
🇫🇷 Kylian Mbappé (4)
🇳🇱 Memphis Depay (4)
🇩🇿 Riyad Mahrez (4)
Europe's top creators. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/l9M7QO6M23
8. Nicolas Tagliafico
On current form, Tagliafico is the best left-back in Europe, and he’s a big reason why Ajax are marching into the Round of 16 with an unbeaten record. Players like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt are getting most of the attention, but Tagliafico is doing just fine as the unsung hero.
4 - Nicolas Tagliafico scored or assisted more goals in his last four Eredivisie games (4) than in his first 23 combined (3). Wings.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) December 2, 2018
9. Paulo Dybala
Cristiano Ronaldo is the star attraction at Juventus, but Dybala stole the show in the group stage, top-scoring for the club and getting his first Champions League hat-trick in the process. His return to form is coming at the perfect time.
5 - Paulo Dybala has scored five of the last seven Juventus’s Champions League goals. Key. #YBJuve— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 12, 2018
10. Raphael Guerreiro
Borussia Dortmund’s leading scorer in the Champions League isn’t Christian Pulisic, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, or Paco Alcacer. Left-back Raphael Guerreiro is the surprise man topping the charts, and he’s also been a big part of Dortmund ending the group stage with the competition’s best defensive record.
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