The statistical best XI in European football this season is an interesting mix of absolute superstars and surprise packages, with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, PSG, Real Madrid and Manchester City all represented.
WhoScored have compiled an XI from the best player in each position via the highest average matching ratings which are determined by an algorithm of their statistical performance data.
We’ve tweaked it just a little bit, with an emphasis on functionality, going from an ultra-attacking 4-4-2 with wide forwards as wingers to a little more balanced 4-3-3 with a proper defensive midfielder. Here’s how that XI lines up in full.
GK: Michele Di Gregorio – 7.16
A relatively unknown name between the sticks, Inter academy graduate Di Gregorio has produced a number of fine performances to play a key role in Monza punching above their weight to sit comfortably midtable in Serie A.
The 26-year-old has never been capped by Italy, but it wouldn’t be a major shock to see him pushing for a spot in Luciano Spaletti’s squad for Euro 2024 if he can maintain these lofty standards.
RB: Joao Cancelo – 7.13
“My performance today was a disaster,” Cancelo told reporters following Barcelona’s 5-3 defeat at home to Villarreal, a result so bad that Xavi responded by announcing his decision to leave the club at the end of the season.
“Tomorrow I will give everything in training to be at my best on Wednesday. We are a great team. The coach is not to blame. He did them well and I did not reciprocate.”
It’s been a strange couple of years for Cancelo, who was widely regarded as one of the best full-backs in Europe before falling out with Pep Guardiola. A loan to Bayern last year didn’t quite work out, while this year Barcelona have been pretty miserable.
Despite his club’s struggles and his self-criticism, Cancelo has been largely decent this season. They might struggle to afford to buy him permanently, but he’s put himself in the shop window.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7.26
Notwithstanding his disasterclass against Arsenal, Van Dijk has been otherwise excellent for Jurgen Klopp’s new-look Reds this season.
After a season to forget last year, the Dutchman has looked back to his best and seems to be embracing his role as captain and leader.
CB: Alessandro Buongiorno – 7.25
Like Di Gregorio, Torino centre-back Buongiorno isn’t one of Serie A’s household names – but he’s started to turn heads with some assured performances.
The 24-year-old has been linked with Milan and Chelsea after receiving his first Italy caps last year. His stock looks set to rise further in the coming months, with a spot in Spaletti’s Azzurri squad all but secure.
LB: Alex Grimaldo – 7.73
An absolute revelation for Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten, Bundesliga-topping Bayer Leverkusen. The La Liga academy graduate went under the radar over the past seven years at Benfica, but now he’s finally getting his dues and ought to start for Spain at the Euros.
Strictly speaking, he’s played more as a wing-back in Alonso’s 3-4-2-1 formation, a system that’s seen him contribute seven goals and nine assists in the Bundesliga.
We’re sticking Grimaldo on set-pieces, too.
Grimaldo's first @bayer04fussball goal isn’t one to forget 😳💥
— 433 (@433) September 19, 2023
DM: Rodri – 7.54
“Right now, yeah, he is the best [holding midfielder in the world],” Man City boss Pep Guardiola told reporters earlier this season.
“Hopefully he can be better and improve but he is an extraordinary holding midfielder.
“We were lucky the club signed this player and when he arrived he was not this type of player. Of course, he plays an amount of games and now he is one of the captains. He is a top-class player.”
No arguments here. It’s over a year since Man City lost a competitive match with Rodri starting.
CM: Jude Bellingham 7.84
It’s easy to forget that Bellingham is still only 20, given he’s already arguably Real Madrid’s best player.
The England international is enjoying an astonishingly good debut campaign with Los Blancos.
CM: Florian Wirtz – 7.53
Another 20-year-old shining in the heart of midfield, and another Leverkusen star – Alonso’s side are the only club in Europe to have more than one representative in this XI.
The youngster has notched five goals and eight assists in 20 Bundesliga appearances so far this season. Bayern are still the favourites to win the Bundesliga this season, but Leverkusen are now 20 games unbeaten. Next up? Die Roten, of course.
FWR: Bukayo Saka – 7.56
Some pundits have suggested that Saka hasn’t been at his very best this season, which is a testament to the insanely lofty standards set by the Arsenal forward.
Saka is outperforming some of Europe’s elite forwards in terms of his goal output and boasts the highest average WhoScored rating for any right-sided forward in Europe’s major leagues.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 7.95
The competition for the spot up top in this XI is ridiculously fierce.
Harry Kane, Erling Haaland, Lautaro Martinez Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy are all enjoying exceptional individual campaigns – averaging 7.5+ WhoScored ratings – but it’s Mbappe that spearheads our attack.
The PSG superstar has been used in a variety of roles by Luis Enrique this season, but he appears to have settled as the central striker for now – a role that’s seen him notch 20 Ligue 1 goals already, which puts him on track for his best-ever goalscoring return.
FWL: Leroy Sane – 8.03
The Bayern forward’s average rating of 8.03 is the highest individual rating in all of Europe’s leagues.
Sane took his time to put his injury woes behind him, and during his first couple of years at the Allianz Arena we were left wondering if he’d ever quite catch fire and realise the frightening potential he demonstrated at Schalke and Manchester City.
Well, we’re wondering no more. Sane has burst into life this season, notching eight goals and 11 assists in 20 Bundesliga appearances, while developing an unstoppable understanding with Kane.