Champions League: The Top 10 All-Around Attacking Players

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The second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 is next week. There are plenty of world-class goal-scorers in the remaining field, but who are the best all-around offensive players among the teams competing for the trophy?

Let’s clarify.

There many people who are great at putting the ball in the back in the net, but they may not be up to par when it comes to setting up their teammates. Conversely, there are a number of great playmakers who do not necessarily do well in scoring goals.

There are players whose mere presence on the pitch helps all the players around them produce goalscoring opportunities and others who also are more directly involved in the push up the pitch.

An all-around offensive player does all of those things. These are the players that make opposing coaches shudder like a house cat in the rain during a Wisconsin spring. The reason for this is that these players can do and will do anything on the pitch that causes trouble for their opponents: passing, shooting, running, menacing, and influencing.

There are sixteen teams left in the Champions League and these are the best all-around offensive players left among those clubs.

Before starting this ranking, there are important criteria that the nominees all have to meet. For consideration a player must:

  • Have played at least 1125 minutes of competition in their domestic league;
  • Have scored at least five goals in league competition;
  • Five or more of their goals must be from open play; and
  • Have been credited with at least four assists.

Using these criteria, the field of players from the sixteen remaining Champions League teams that qualified for this ranking was 32 players.

Three other metrics were considered in consideration of ranking the players. First, non-penalty expected goals plus expected assists per ninety minutes (npxG+xA/90). This metric looks at each player’s expected goals, excluding their penalty shots plus their expected assists, which is the accumulation of the expected goals that resulted from the player’s key passes. Key passes are considered passes that directly lead to shots.

Second, the xG of every possession that the player was involved in per 90 minutes (xGChain 90). This is the measure of the player’s direct influence on the offense of his club.

Lastly, the xG of every possession that the player was involved in without a key pass or a shot per 90 minutes (xGBuildup90). Basically, this is taking the xGChain score and removing all of the shots and key passes from the equation. In other words, this is only looking at the player’s contribution in the build-up of play on offense without the end result.

In developing the ranking, I noticed a problem.

In order to develop an appropriate sample size, I had to look at the player’s statistics in league competition. The problem comparing players from different leagues in Europe is the level of competition is not the same across the board.

There are some leagues that are of a higher level of competition than others. As a result, some players’ numbers are based on playing weaker competition while some other’s are based on stiff competition. I felt that it is only fair to take this into account.

To be fair, taking league strength into account needed to be based on some form of objective information. The only information I found that seemed to be objective was UEFA’s co-efficient rankings of each countries league club performance.

The lastest UEFA co-efficient rankings are:

  1. England
  2. Spain
  3. Germany
  4. Italy
  5. Portugal
  6. Scotland
  7. Netherlands
  8. France

The remaining Champions League clubs are from England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. In order to take into account the strength of the leagues, I added “bonus points” to each player based on the ranking of each country they play in. The bonus points for each country’s league players were as follows:

  • England (Premier League):  +1.5
  • Spain (La Liga):  +1.25
  • Germany (Bundesliga):  +1.0
  • Italy (Serie A):  +.75
  • France (Ligue One):   0

Players from the two Ligue 1 clubs received no bonus points due to the fact that France is ranked 8th in the UEFA co-efficient while England, Italy, Spain, and Germany all were ranked in the top four.

So on to the rankings. The number by the player’s name is their total score using the previously mentioned criteria and metrics. All the statistics, unless otherwise indicated are from understat.com.

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