The top 10 chance creators in Europe in 2023-24: Isco, Fernandes, Neto, Wirtz…
There are few more impressive roles in football than that of a creative wizard, a player with the intelligence and technical ability to play passes that break through the opposition defences.
Taking a look through the numbers of chances created is usually illustrative of the best playmakers around, and this season is no different with star names from Manchester United, Brighton and Bayer Leverkusen featuring near the top.
Here are the top 10 players across Europe’s top five leagues (the Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A) for key passes – the final pass before a team-mate takes a shot at goal. We’re counting them in order of their total key passes.
10. Bruno Fernandes
Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United have made an inauspicious start to the 2023-24 campaign, losing three of their five Premier League outings so far, but newly-appointed club captain Fernandes has looked as decent as ever.
The Portuguese playmaker has often been at the heart of everything good that the Red Devils have managed going forward in 2023-24 so far. He’s played every minute of the club’s captain so far and notched 16 key passes and offered a reminder of his creative talents with a hat-trick of assists for Portugal in a 9-1 mauling over Luxembourg in the international break.
Only one player in the Premier League has registered more key passes so far this season.
Did Bruno Fernandes create the most Expected Assists in the Premier League?
2023/24*: ✅ pic.twitter.com/M3vl9O3q2Q
— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) September 11, 2023
9. Pascal Gross
But long-serving Brighton stalwart Gross has as many, and inches ahead of Fernandes in this ranking having played 10 minutes less.
The 32-year-old has been rewarded for his fine form by earning his first-ever Germany caps over the international break. He’s been one of the Seagulls’ standout individuals as they punch well above their weight to sit fourth in the table.
After spending his final years at Real Madrid as a bench warmer who rarely made an impact, Isco moved to Sevilla last summer with hope of rekindling his career. But things didn’t quite go to plan as he terminated his contract in December and spent the remainder of last season without a club.
Now he’s back in the city of Seville once again, with his former club’s fierce rivals Real Betis, and making a much more successful go of a renaissance this time around.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Verdiblancos have had a mixed start to the 2023-24 campaign but Isco has looked bright and lively, notching 16 key passes and a goal from his first five appearances this season.
🗣️ "While he was on his own, Isco worked like a dog."
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) September 15, 2023
7. Andrej Kramaric
The Croatian veteran is now into his ninth season at Hoffenheim after his ill-fated stint at Leicester City and he continues to be one of the Bundesliga’s most consistently solid performers.
Kramaric has notched 16 key passes, two goals and one assist from his four appearances in the Bundesliga top flight this season.
6. Florian Wirtz
Anointed as the Bundesliga’s new wonderkid, Wirtz surely looks set to follow in Kai Havertz’s footsteps as Bayer Leverkusen’s next big-money sale if he keeps up these standards.
The 20-year-old’s development was hampered by a serious ACL injury suffered last year but he doesn’t appear to have lost any of his quality upon his return.
Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen have been talked up as genuine challengers to Bayern Munich this season and Wirtz is one of the key reasons why. The attacking midfielder has one goal, two assists and 16 key passes for his club, who have taken 10 points from four matches so far this season.
5. Vincenzo Grifo
In and out of Italy squads over the past few years, Grifo isn’t a household name but has quietly done well to help establish Freiburg as a solid Bundesliga outfit in recent years.
Nothing has changed at the start of the 2023-24 season. The 30-year-old midfielder has notched 16 key passes from just 315 minutes of Bundesliga football this season and recently registered both assists in their 4-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
4. Pedro Neto
The top chance creator at this fledgeling stage of the 2023-24 campaign, Neto looks to have finally kicked on after taking a long old while last season to refind form after a serious injury.
The 23-year-old Portugal international has notched 17 key passes in the Premier League and sits joint top of the assists chart, alongside Mohamed Salah, with four.
Gary O’Neil’s Wolves have lost four of their five matches so far this season but have caught the eye with fine performances in their defeats to Manchester United and Liverpool. Neto has been their standout player so far.
🔐 Pedro Neto is averaging more key passes per game (3.4) than any other player in the Premier League this season pic.twitter.com/0UTMqLGjh8
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 18, 2023
3. Romain Del Castillo
Brest are sitting pretty in second place in Ligue 1, having taken more points than perennial champions PSG after five games.
A huge part of that has been the form of right winger Del Castillo, who has three goals, two assists and 17 key passes from his first five appearances this season. Carry on like this and he’ll be knocking on Didier Deschamps’ door for a Les Bleus call-up.
2. Teji Savanier
Another relatively lesser-known name from Ligue 1, 31-year-old Savanier is currently enjoying the form of his life for hometown club Montpellier.
Montpellier have a mixed record and just one win so far but Savanier has been their brightest spark. He’s set up goals in draws against Le Havre and Montpellier and notched 19 key passes in total.
1. Iago Aspas
Premier League watchers will only remember that infamous corner, but those who keep abreast of La Liga will tell you that Celta Vigo’s homegrown hero Aspas has genuinely been up there with Spanish football’s standout inviduals over the past half decade.
Aspas might be 36 but he shows no sign of slowing down, and is as important as ever following the departure of his wonderkid successor Gabri Veiga.
Rafael Benitez is already under pressure as the club’s manager after a string of iffy results, but his strategy of leaning heavily on their talisman is not a bad one. Aspas has registered 21 assists for his struggling side so far this season.
“Aspas is a kid who likes football, here he is an idol and he can bring us that quality,” Benitez said after being appointed Celta boss.
“I send you a message: you have to be smart and take advantage of quality moments, not think about quantity.”