As the group stages of the Champions League drew to a close, let’s take a closer look at who has really stood out of this season’s competition.
Best Goalkeeper – Marc Andre Ter Stegen
The German goalkeeper has had an excellent start this season at the Nou Camp, and he’s carried his league form into Europe’s elite competition this year.
After a few teething issues since his arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach, including injuries and being second choice goalkeeper behind the likes of Victor Valdes and Claudio Bravo, Ter Stegen has taken the mantle of Barcelona number 1 very well.
With impressive performances against Juventus both home and away, Ter Stegen hasn’t put a foot wrong through the entire campaign so far, keeping 4 clean sheets in the 5 games that he’s played so far.
Obviously, the likes of Alphonse Areola of PSG and Hugo Lloris of Spurs have played incredibly well in the competition so far too. Yet, it’s easy for Areola with the attacking players PSG possess, that he doesn’t have to do much.
In terms of Lloris, he has been at the top of his game for many seasons now, and in my opinion is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, and we expect him to do well every game.
Ter Stegen, however, is on the rise, and is coming into form at exactly the right time in his career. So much so, that he might even be German number 1 in the World Cup, especially with Manuel Neuer’s injury record in recent times, and he would have thoroughly deserved it.
Best Defender – Layvin Kurzawa
Great defenders not only defend, but they also contribute attacking wise, and that is exactly what Layvin Kurzawa has done in this season’s Champions League.
The PSG defence have only conceded one goal in this season’s Champions League, which was against Celtic on matchday 5.
Yet, Kurzawa hasn’t just defended resolutely this season, he’s also contributed a lot to PSG’s already star-studded attack.
In the Parisiens 5-0 victory over Anderlecht, Kurzawa became the first defender in Champions League history to score a hat-trick, which is an astonishing achievement.
It was between Kurzawa and Azpilicueta for best defender in this season’s competition so far, but the Spaniard’s performance away at Roma on matchday 4 was incredibly below par. They’ve also been bright performances from Tottenham’s defenders and Leipzig’s defenders, but Kurzawa edges it for me.
Best Midfielder – Raheem Sterling
To even think that Sterling could reach this level even a year ago would be a ludicrous statement to make, but the Englishman has played out of his skin so far this season.
We always knew he had pace and could create chances for his teammates, but this year, Sterling has added goals to his game, which has made him even more of a danger to opposition defenders.
He’s popped up at crucial moments in this season’s Champions League so far for Manchester City, in particular his goals against Feyenoord on matchday 5 and both games against Napoli. He is, in my opinion, one of Europe’s best wingers at the moment.
There have also been stand out performances from other players in this season’s Champions League, but we expect it from them. The likes of Eden Hazard, Marco Verratti and Kevin de Bruyne have all played to the level we expect from them.
But, the transformation of Raheem Sterling since the arrival of Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad has been phenomenal.
Will his form continue into the World Cup? Or will Sterling falter again on the international stage? If he continues playing the way he is in both the Premier League and Champions League, he will be one of the best players in Russia.
Best Forward – Harry Kane
This was the easiest position to pick.
Harry Kane has been head and shoulders above every other striker in this competition so far. He’s excelled against every opposition he’s faced so far, taking on and conquering the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
His finishing ability has been second to none, and he’s finally proving on a European stage just what he’s capable of.
The likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann have all had a poor Champions League campaign so far this season. While players like Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar have kept on scoring goal after goal in this season’s Champions League, and now Kane can add his name to those great players as one of Europe’s best strikers.
There has been a lot of talk recently about whether Kane will move to Real Madrid, and I think it would be an absolutely ridiculous career move to go to Real Madrid. Kane would be under the microscope a lot more than he already is, and if he has one or two off games in La Liga, the Spanish press would be flying over him like a bunch of vultures.
Kane is far better off staying at Tottenham and focus on breaking Alan Shearer’s all time Premier League goal scoring record.
Written by Sion Misra
Follow Sion on Twitter @sionmisra
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