European Assists King 2022/23: Lionel Messi shares award before transfer

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese
  • Updated: 7 Jun 2023 13:03 BST
  • 11 min read
Lionel Messi playing for PSG against Angers.
© ProShots

Players in football’s biggest leagues have reached the end of a thrilling battle to be crowned the most creative player in Europe this season - aka who has the most assists.

The 2022/23 campaign will see another European Assists King award handed out, with Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Muller coming into the year as the players to beat after their exploits last season.

Article continues under the video

Bayern star Muller has been dominant over recent years, impressively being named the continent’s top creative player for the previous three seasons despite the Bundesliga having only 34 games rather than the 38 of many other major leagues.

Premier League top scorers 2022/23

Last year, through, he had to share the award with PSG star Mbappe, as both players finished level after racking up an impressive 18 league assists.

Mbappe and Muller therefore headed into this season as two of the top candidates to produce the most assists in Europe.

Another PSG forward, Lionel Messi, was also a prime contender to register the most assists in Europe’s top-five leagues, having performed consistently well in these standings over recent years.

He was a prolific creator in France last season and previously posted strong assist totals most years for Barcelona in La Liga.

Messi has an impressive assists record
© ProShots - Messi has an impressive assists record

In the Premier League, it was Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Bruno Fernandes who led the betting odds to create the most goals in England’s top flight as the season begun.

They hoped to mount a challenge that ends Muller's run at the top of the creative charts.

The 2022/23 European Assist King award will be won by the player who provides the most assists in the top-five European leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

There are no coefficients or scales used for these leagues - just ranking the most goals created by each player in the top-five leagues condensed into a single table.

READ MORE: European Golden Shoe standings

We have also tracked the players who produce the most assists in each of those five divisions individually, with this page updated with the latest standings throughout the campaign.

Who has the most assists in Europe?

Lionel Messi, Kevin De Bruyne and Antoine Griezmann have all finished tied at the top of the final European Assists King standings of the season.

With 16 goals created in the Premier League, La Liga and Ligue 1 respectively, De Bruyne, Griezmann and Messi had the most assists in Europe’s top five divisions in 2022/23.

Messi went seven straight Ligue 1 matches without adding to his assists tally early in 2023 as Paris Saint-Germain endured a poor run of results and recently found himself suspended by the club prior to his exit being officially confirmed after two seasons in France.

But PSG star Messi still ranked strongly. He created two goals for Kylian Mbappe, as well as scoring himself, in Ligue 1 against rivals Marseille on February 26, ending that dry streak of assists in style as his side won 3-0.

And he had a good run from there, setting up another goal for Mbappe as PSG defeated Brest, before adding another goal and assist in the 2-0 win at Nice, as his side bounced back from recent defeats. Messi once again set up Mbappe in the 2-1 wins at Angers and Auxerre.

PSG star Messi tasted World Cup glory with Argentina to make this a season to remember, and he displayed good form after that success by scoring nine club goals.

Even prior to that career-defining moment in Qatar, he was enjoying a fine PSG campaign.

Messi was the first player in Europe’s top five leagues to reach double figures for assists this season, helped by a flying start that saw him produce seven assists in seven Ligue 1 games.

Before facing Marseille, the attacker had been stuck on 10 assists since setting up a goal – as well as scoring – in the thrilling 4-3 win for PSG over Troyes in Ligue 1 on October 29.

Among his other top performances this season, Messi produced a spectacular display away to Ajaccio on October 21, scoring once and creating two goals as he showcased some fantastic link up play with team-mate Mbappe, who he went on to face in a thrilling World Cup final.

Messi has also been a goalscoring threat, reaching 16 strikes for a total of 32 league goal involvements.

In terms of assists, the Argentina forward has always been an impressive creator.

Last season, Messi’s first in France, was often underwhelming compared to expectations, but he still ended up with 14 Ligue 1 assists, having previously registered a huge total of 20 for Barcelona in 2019/20.

This season he bettered his first campaign in Ligue 1 that to claim a share of the title.

Manchester City star De Bruyne set up Erling Haaland goals against Wolves, Arsenal, Southampton and Leicester City towards the end of the season, adding another as part of a fine campaign when he set up Jack Grealish in the thumping 4-1 win over Liverpool.

De Bruyne also had a goal created for Grealish in the Manchester derby, an assist which ended a run of eight straight top-flight games without one. The Belgium international, like Messi, bounced back from a quieter period of assists in great style, also setting up John Stones against Arsenal, a match in which he scored twice himself.

The playmaker had made a fast start to the campaign to make him a consistent leading figure in the creative charts, helped by a fine display in the first Manchester derby on October 2.

This season he promptly developed a strong link up with new signing Haaland, one which was showcased in the home derby, with De Bruyne setting up two of the former Dortmund striker’s three goals against Man Utd.

Haaland also had two assists in that stunning 6-3 win and had eight in total this season, meaning he also appears in the standings tracking the most creative player in Europe.

Riyad Mahrez (10 assists), Jack Grealish (seven assists), Rodri (six assists), Phil Foden (six assists) and Bernardo Silva (five assists) have all featured in our standings at different stages of the season to ensure strong Man City representation.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Moahmed Salah racked up an impressive total of 12 assists. He superbly set up all three goals as Liverpool defeated Leicester City 3-0 on May 15 and created further goals in the draws with Aston Villa and Southampton.

Bukayo Saka fared well with 11 goals created, his latest coming against Southampton. He also had one in the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace. Saka also scored two goals in a fine outing.

Meanwhile, his team-mate Leandro Trossard has surged up the standings after setting up all three goals in the 3-0 win for Arsenal over Fulham, before adding another goal created in the wins against Palace and Leeds, as well as in the defeat to Man City. He then finished the season on a high with two goals created in the 5-0 final-day win over Wolves.

Neymar was prominent in these standings earlier in the season.

Neymar and Messi impressed with their assists for PSG this season
© ProShots - Neymar and Messi impressed with their assists for PSG this season

While his team-mates Mbappe and Messi were among the prime candidates to win this award coming into the campaign, it was Neymar who made the fastest start for PSG as a creative force in 2022/23.

However, his hopes of winning the award were over when he required ankle surgery that will kept him out from February until the end of the season for PSG.

Neymar's spectacular start to the season prior to his injury woe means he has featured prominently in the Golden Shoe standings as well as these rankings tracking who has the most assists in Europe's top five leagues.

The Brazil international scored 13 Ligue 1 goals as well as his 11 assists.

Neymar got an assist in the 2-1 win against Strasbourg in his first match back with PSG after the World Cup, but he was later sent off. His goal created against Lille on February 19 - a match in which he also scored - was his first league assist since December 28, but he had to leave the game on a stretcher.

Neymar was closing in on his best previous assists tally in a season, which was a total of 13 reached in just 20 games during his first campaign with PSG (2017/18).

Messi and De Bruyne were not the only stars who featured prominently in the creative standings this season.

Randal Kolo Muani (11 assists) and Raphaël Guerreiro (12 assists) were involved in a thrilling battle to have the most goals created in the Bundesliga so far, sitting narrowly ahead of Bayern Munich star Jamal Musiala, Dominik Szoboszlai and Alassane Pléa.

Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic lost first place in the Serie A creative charts to Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who had 10 assists, rising up these standings amid Napoli’s Scudetto push.

Strong totals from Piotr Zieliński (8 assists) and Mário Rui (6 assists) meant Napoli players feature regularly in the assist standings.

In La Liga, Ousmane Dembele was leading the way earlier in the season, but Mikel Merino (9 assists) and Griezmann later took turns to hold top spot.

Griezmann had a remarkable surge towards the end of the season to claim a share of the title with Messi and De Bruyne, who had been involved in a two-man battle for much of the campaign.

Atletico Madrid star Griezmann had two assists on the last day of the season in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal.

Half of his assists came in a remarkable run of eight goals created in his last eight league games. The forward also scored four goals in that span.

Defending champion Thomas Muller reached eight assists having created two goals in Bayern's 3-0 win over title rivals Union Berlin and adding another against Stuttgart in March before his most recent assist against RB Leipzig.

Earlier this season he set up a goal in Bayern’s 1-1 draw with Frankfurt on January 28 and also got an assist – as well as scoring – in the 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on September 30.

But having only started 21 times in the league, and having runs of six games and nine matches without registering an assist at two key points of the season, his chances of retaining this award were damaged. He was eight assists off the pace.

Meanwhile, PSG’s Mbappe - who shared the award with the Bayern star last year – took until October until he got off the mark with two Ligue 1 assists and the matches against Marseille, Lens and Strasbourg have been the only occasions when he managed to add to that total as he finsihed on five

With Muller and Mbappe not hitting the heights of last year in terms of their assist totals, it opened the door for three new winners to be crowned this season.

Most assists in Europe 2022/23

PlayerTeam Assists
Kevin De BruyneMan City16
Lionel Messi PSG16
Antoine GriezmannAtletico Madrid16
Mohamed SalahLiverpool12
Raphaël GuerreiroDortmund12
Leandro TrossardArsenal12
Bukayo SakaArsenal11
Michael OliseCrystal Palace11
Randal Kolo MuaniFrankfurt11
Khvicha KvaratskheliaNapoli10
Florian KainzCologne10
Riyad MahrezMan City10
Remy CabellaLille 10
Jamal MusialaBayern10
Benjamin BourigeaudRennes10
Caio HenriqueMonaco9
Alassane PleaGladbach9
Jonas HofmannGladbach9
Vinicius JuniorReal Madrid9
Mitchell WeiserWerder Bremen9
Jonathan ClaussMarseille9
Borna SosaStuttgart9
James MaddisonLeicester City9
Mikel MerinoReal Sociedad9
Trent Alexander-ArnoldLiverpool9
Sergej Milinkovic-SavicLazio8
Patrick WimmerWerder Bremen8
Thomas MullerBayern8
Filip KosticJuventus8
Branco van den BoomenToulouse8
Dominik SzoboszlaiRB Leipzig8
Florian SotocaLens8
Bruno FernandesMan Utd8
Rafael LeaoAC Milan8
Ivan PerisicTottenham8
RodrygoReal Madrid8
Piotr ZielinskiNapoli8
Andrew RobertsonLiverpool8
Christian EriksenMan Utd8
Erling HaalandMan City8

Who had the most assists in previous seasons?

Thomas Müller and Kylian Mbappe shared the European Assists King award with 18 goals created each last season, beating Lionel Messi (14) into third place.

Mohamed Salah (13) was in a tie for fourth position after registering the most Premier League assists, while Domenico Berardi and Ousmane Dembele (both 13) came out on top in Serie A and La Liga respectively.

Muller was named the European Assists King outright in each of the previous two seasons (2019/20 and 2020/21), as he recorded 40 assists across those campaigns in the Bundesliga.

Thomas Muller's assists record is incredible
© ProShots - Thomas Muller's assists record is incredible

The Bayern star finished five assists clear of joint runners-up Harry Kane and Filip Kostic in 2020/21, with 19 goals created in total.

Iago Aspas (13) had the most assists in La Liga that year, while Ruslan Malinovskiy and Memphis Depay (both 12) topped the assist charts in Serie A and Ligue 1 respectively.

Muller’s first crown came when he had 21 assists to only just beat Messi, who had 20 in La Liga 2019/20 for Barcelona. Kevin De Bruyne was another to narrowly miss out after he also set up 20 goals and topped the Premier League charts.

The award for most creative player in Europe in 2018/19 went to Eden Hazard. He had 15 assists for Chelsea, meaning he narrowly beat Jadon Sancho (14) and Ryan Fraser (14) to the award.

Kevin de Bruyne is a goal-creating machine
© ProShots - Kevin de Bruyne is a goal-creating machine

De Bruyne had the most assists in Europe during 2017/18. He created 16 goals for his Man City team-mates. Leroy Sane (15), Dimitri Payet (14) and Luis Alberto (14) all narrowly missed out.

Previous winners

2021/22Thomas Müller, Bayern/Kylian Mbappe, PSG (shared)18
2020/21Thomas Müller, Bayern19
2019/20Thomas Müller, Bayern21
2018/19Eden Hazard, Chelsea15
2017/18Kevin De Bruyne, Man City16

What is an assist?

An assist in football is usually credited to the player who plays the final pass or cross before a goal is scored. A player may receive recognition for creating a goal by being awarded an assist even if the pass or touch they have made to set up the goalscorer is unintentional.

There can be slight differences in how assists are recorded and allocated depending on the criteria of each official competition. For example, if a player’s pass towards a goalscorer takes a deflection on its way to the intended target, an assist is often not credited. A player who wins a penalty that is then scored does not usually get an assist either.

As well as a recognised official statistic, assists are often important in fantasy football games and betting markets.

Never miss the next big transfer!

Get the latest transfer insights and analyses directly in your mailbox.