- 29 January
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European Team of the Season
Another season has come and gone in most leagues in Europe, with a campaign that will unfortunately be partly remembered for a continuation of no fans in stadiums.
There is a light at the end of that particular tunnel, with low numbers of supporters starting to be allowed back into stadiums, including at the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea.
Even though no fans have been present, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some outstanding individual performances on the pitch whether it be in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, or further afield.
Here, FootballTransfers looks at the top leagues from around Europe to determine the best XI of the past campaign.
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid
It’s been another brilliantly consistent season for Jan Oblak in goal for Atletico Madrid, with the Slovenian lifting the La Liga title for the first time with the club.
The 28-year-old played every minute of the season, keeping a league-high 18 clean sheets and helping Atleti to the best defence in the league with 2.7 saves per 90, and two penalty saves across the season.
No club in the top five leagues conceded less goals than Atletico with their magnificent stopper between the sticks.
Right-back: Joao Cancelo – Man City
Joao Cancelo could easily have been a victim of his own versatility here as he has played most of the season shifting from right-back to left back.
But, the Portugal international has been outstanding for City this campaign and deserves his place. His performances became so effective, particularly at left-back, that he was regularly selected in that role over proper left-footed players.
He and Guardiola almost formed a new inverted full-back role for him that saw him gallop down the left wing only to cut back inside for a cross into the area with his right foot.
But, for the purposes of our XI, we’ll stick him at right-back because he excelled in that position too.
Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Man City
Man City have always been outstanding going forward under Pep Guardiola, but this season he has put together one of the best defences in Europe, mostly due to the presence of Dias.
He made 32 appearances in the Premier League, and helped City to 17 clean sheets.
Dias has had a miraculous impact on the Man City team, so much so that they have eventually won back the Premier League from Liverpool after no real competitors matched their results after Christmas.
Centre-back: Edmond Tapsoba – Bayer Leverkusen
Last season Bayern Leverkusen sold Kai Havertz to Chelsea in a record deal for £72m making him the most expensive sold player in their history.
With the way Edmond Tapsoba is going, he could end up commanding a similar fee as he has been majestic at the back for the German side in 2020/21.
Despite being just 22-years-old he relishes responsibility and is already one of the best defenders in Europe at playing out from the back.
In the entire top five leagues there wasn’t a single central defender who could better his remarkable average of 94.9 passes completed on average per game.
Left-back: Raphael Guerreiro – Borussia Dortmund
While Dortmund have undoubtedly had an up and down season, one of the players they have been able to rely upon each and every week is left-back Raphael Guerreiro. From his perch on the left flank, the full-back has an exquisite ability to dribble with the ball from deep or make darting runs down the flank to swing crosses in for Dortmund’s attackers.
No full-back has amassed more assists in the Bundesliga this season than the Portugal international and along with his defensive duties Guerreiro has proved to be a vital cog in Dortmund’s attacking play as well.
Centre-midfield: Toni Kroos – Real Madrid
Toni Kroos was a shining light for Real Madrid all season, one of their best players as Zinedine Zidane’s side fell just short of Atleti in the title race.
The German had 10 assists for the season, third-best in La Liga, and his 94% pass completion on the season was not bested. Only Sergio Busquets averaged more passes and touches P90.
At 31 years of age, Kroos remains one of the world’s premier midfielders on his day, capable of turning a game on his head with his intelligence, vision and passing range.
Centre-midfield: Kevin De Bruyne – Man City
If every player in the Premier League performed at the peak of their powers Kevin De Bruyne would emerge as the best in the country.
Though he has his fair share of injury problems in 2020/21, starting just 23 out of the 38 league games, he was again imperious when on the pitch.
The Belgian scored six goals and recorded 12 assists and once again displayed some creativity in his passing that only he could pull off.
Without him, City remain a good team, but with him, they really could beat anyone on their day.
Centre-midfield: Ilkay Gundogan – Man City
Man City may eventually have proved all-conquering in the Premier League this season but they had some wobbles along the way, having to rely on individual brilliance to get them through games.
There was a period between January and February when the legs became tired in the squad, but that allowed Ilkay Gundogan to take the bull by the horns and pull his team-mates up to his level.
From January 17 to February 13 he scored eight goals and recorded two assists in 10 games from midfield as City saw their lead at the top of the table grow.
Overall, he would go on to score 13 goals in 23 games despite being deployed in central midfield.
Right-forward: Lionel Messi – Barcelona
When Lionel Messi had only scored four times in his first 10 games in La Liga, it looked as if he might finally have an actually human season.
But he didn’t get the memo, scoring 26 goals in his remaining 25 games of the season to end the season on 30, five goals better than his previous season’s return.
Barcelona looked miles off the pace at the beginning of the campaign, but Messi dragged them back into the title race almost single-handedly.
Messi created an outrageous 24 big chances across the season, eight more than any other player, but had only nine assists out of those – rather indicative of Barcelona’s deeper problems.
It remains to be seen where he will be playing his football next season, but Barca and La Liga fans will be desperate to keep the magician in Spain.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich
Having matched Gerd Muller’s record of 40 league goals in a single season, it’s more than likely that Robert Lewandowski could finish this Bundesliga campaign as the most prolific striker in German football history.
Indeed, few could now doubt that the Poland international is now arguably the very best No.9 in all of world football and over the course of this league season he has shown that time and time again.
While Bayern haven’t always been at their best this season, Lewandowski has often plucked goals out of nowhere and turned games on their head just when they’ve looked like causing all sorts of trouble for his side. The striker is undoubtedly Bayern’s most important player and the best player in the division this season.
Left-forward: Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain
Kylian Mbappe started the season complaining of fatigue but finished in quite brilliant style, notching a personal best goals tally in all competitions as he scored 42 times in 41 starts for PSG plus added a further 11 assists to that tally.
With Neymar spending much of the season struggling for fitness, Mbappe was regularly the man who stepped up when it mattered, and given his outstanding statistics it is hard to argue against him being the player of the season.
Now PSG’s challenge is making sure that he does not depart.