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Footy Player Rankings: Red-hot Ronaldo roars into top 3

Taking into account each player’s form over the past month of action, theScore has ranked the 20 best footballers who ply their trade in Europe’s top five leagues.

20. Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

With Neymar and Nabil Fekir nursing injuries since Feb. 25, Ligue 1 luminaries are in short supply in this list. Thauvin has admittedly been off the boil in March by his standards – he scored one against Nantes, and assisted Lucas Ocampos in a Europa League visit from Athletic Bilbao – but 2017-18 has been the pinnacle of the Newcastle United reject’s career with 16 goals and 10 assists in league play. – Daniel Rouse

19. Mauro Icardi (Inter)

What a way to end a goal drought. Icardi walked out onto the Stadio Luigi Ferraris pitch on March 18 having scored only once in three months, but put Sampdoria to the sword with four goals in just 51 minutes. Despite boasting an impressive haul of 22 Serie A strikes this term, the 25-year-old needs consistency to force his way into Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina squad. He was overlooked for this month’s international friendlies, gifting Angel Correa, Cristian Pavon, and the in-demand Lautaro Martinez to push for selection in La Albiceleste’s stacked attack. – DR

18. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Immobile counts a league-high 24 goals this season, giving him the confidence to try things others couldn’t imagine. In the dying seconds at Cagliari, Lazio was down 2-1 and weakening its bid for the Champions League qualification places – until Immobile stepped up. Most players would’ve tamed Felipe Anderson’s flat delivery to the edge of the box, but the striker instead flicked his right heel at it, lobbing a helpless Alessio Cragno between the sticks. It was audacious trickery. – DR

17. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

“Stopping (Harry) Kane, just me alone, is pretty impossible,” Chiellini said before Juventus’ two-legged tussle with Tottenham Hotspur. There’s no defender in world football more suited to that challenge than the gladiatorial veteran. Chiellini relished the second leg in particular, restricting Kane to one shot on target, and has been similarly uncompromising in league play. Chiellini has blocked more shots (14) and whacked more clearances (127) than any Juventus teammate in the 2017-18 Serie A campaign. – DR

16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Hazard has blown hot and cold over March, and that may be partly down to Antonio Conte’s swapping of personnel and switching of shape in the Chelsea attack. He’s cut a frustrated figure as a false nine, and hasn’t shone when shadowing a frontman despite some promising outings behind Alvaro Morata earlier this season. It will take divine intervention from Hazard and other standouts to launch an improbable mission for a top-four finish in the Premier League. – DR

15. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

Iniesta’s effervescence was apparent on Friday in Spain’s 1-1 draw with world champion Germany. The Barcelona legend found space between four green shirts, and manipulated his body shape so the opposition were dumbfounded when he slipped a beautifully weighted, disguised pass into Rodrigo Moreno’s path. When the 33-year-old leaves Barcelona – he may move to the Chinese Super League – it will leave a void that cannot be filled. – DR

14. Willian (Chelsea)

For much of this term – or, indeed, much of his stay in English football – Willian laid claim to the dubious title of the Premier League’s best bench-warmer. The absence of Morata and faltering productivity of Pedro granted the Brazilian an extended run in the starting lineup, and he’s promptly become Chelsea’s most consistent attacker. He’s scored 13 goals in all competitions for the Blues – his best return in a single season for the club. – DR

13. Alisson (Roma)

Alisson has risen from being second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny at Roma to being arguably the best goalkeeper on the planet right now. Out of Serie A’s nine teams vying for European qualification, only Sampdoria concedes more shots per game than Roma, but Alisson has been phenomenal. It takes a special goalkeeper to keep Manchester City’s Ederson out of Brazil’s starting XI, and the Giallorossi’s 25-year-old is just that. – DR

12. David Silva (Manchester City)

Usually a mainstay in the Manchester City lineup, Silva has been in and out of Pep Guardiola’s starters lately while he travels to be with his son Mateo, who was born prematurely. When he’s been called upon, he’s simultaneously been the metronome and creative force, relieving some of the burden from Kevin De Bruyne and the grossly underrated Fernandinho. The March 12 trip to Stoke City was a Silva masterclass: he scored two and recorded a passing accuracy of 95.7 percent. – DR

11. Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)

The spotlight is on Paris Saint-Germain’s record goalscorer Cavani. Following the loss of Neymar to a potentially season-ending injury, the Uruguayan has shed the label of second-fiddle to become the focal point in PSG’s attack. Even without Neymar, PSG continues to stand head and shoulders above the competition in France, as Cavani, who’s scored a pair of goals in March, edges toward lifting his fourth Ligue 1 title since signing with the capital city outfit in 2013. – Gordon Brunt

10. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Manchester City has become a collective rather than just resting on the talents of one of its expensive recruits, which means De Bruyne isn’t the obvious prominent figure he was earlier in the season. In most campaigns, he would saunter to the PFA Player of the Year prize, but seems increasingly likely to fall behind Mohamed Salah for that distinction; that’s despite leading the league in assists (14), key passes (96), and shots by a midfielder (76). – DR

9. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

The true impact of Kane’s loss through injury could be revealed in the next month when Tottenham attempts to navigate through a difficult slate of fixtures, which includes clashes with Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City, without the reigning Golden Boot winner. With the English forward’s season in jeopardy following a nasty ankle injury, Tottenham will hope the likes of Heung-Min Son and the rarely used Fernando Llorente can fill the void left by a striker who was in position to possibly win the top scoring honour in England’s top flight for a third consecutive season. – GB

8. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)

Higuain’s improved form in 2018 carried over to March when the Juventus striker added two goals to bring his total to nine in his last nine matches in all competitions. Although the rate of return is a bit lighter than Juve fans have become accustomed to, his two goals were important in ensuring the Bianconeri maintain their spot atop Serie A, as well as helping the team secure a place in the Champions League quarter-finals. – GB

7. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

With all the attention on Salah, it’s easy to forget the importance of Firmino in Liverpool’s attacking scheme. The crafty Brazilian doesn’t possess the same scoring touch of his Egyptian teammate, but Firmino’s industrious style and composure with the ball at his feet are a combination of skills that have helped the 26-year-old thrive in Jurgen Klopp’s system. It’s hard to imagine Liverpool’s success in front of goal will continue without him in the fold. – GB

6. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Outside of a hat-trick against lowly Hamburg, Lewandowski’s name has popped up more in the gossip pages than the score sheet in March. Yet, the Polish forward’s movement off the ball is an underrated aspect of his game that leaves opposing defences in disarray and creates gaps on the pitch that Bayern Munich teammates often take advantage of with devastating results for Bundesliga adversaries. Despite only scoring three goals in March, Lewandowski continues to enjoy a 10-goal lead atop the Bundesliga scoring chart.– GB

5. Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Compared to last month, March was relatively quiet for Suarez, who only scored once while providing a pair of assists for La Liga leader Barcelona. However, his presence alone continues to be sufficient enough for Barcelona’s potent attack. This was best displayed in a Champions League clash with Chelsea, as a subtle run by Suarez proved to be the perfect decoy as he lured Antonio Rudiger away to open up acres of space for Ousmane Dembele to double the Spanish side’s advantage. – GB

4. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico Madrid fans face another nervous wait to discover what the future holds for Griezmann, who said a decision will be made before the World Cup. But, until then, supporters should savour Griezmann’s sublime talent as he continued to lead Atletico’s rejuvenated attack in March. He scored in each of the club’s last three matches to bring his tally to 10 goals in his last seven matches, including a stunning chip against Atalanta to help Atletico progress to the Europa League quarter-finals. – GB

3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

If critics weren’t convinced after the opening two months of 2018, March should’ve finally ended claims from earlier this season that Ronaldo is in the twilight of his career. The Portuguese superstar, whose two stoppage-time goals led his country to victory over Salah’s Egypt team on Friday, continued his breathtaking start to the year with a devastating display in front of goal for club and country that’s resulted in Ronaldo scoring 11 goals in five games. Although rising up the rankings will likely depend on the top two cooling off, reports of Ronaldo’s demise should be a thing of the past. – GB

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Messi feasted on the competition in March to reclaim his place as La Liga’s top scorer, scoring five goals in four matches. Messi headed into the international break by scoring in his sixth consecutive match to reach the 25-goal mark for the ninth straight season in Spain’s top flight. After his brace resulted in Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League, Messi led the charge for a Barcelona team missing Luis Suarez through suspension with his lethal finishing and vision to secure three points against Athletic Bilbao and maintain the team’s grip on top spot in La Liga. – GB

1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

On the heels of an incredible run in February when a match didn’t go by without Salah popping up on the scoresheet, the Liverpool superstar started March with a goal before a rare dip in form saw him fail to find the back of the net in consecutive matches for the first time in five months. Irrational panic gave way to an avalanche of praise when Salah banged in four goals during Liverpool’s penultimate match of the month to maintain his title as football’s best player. – GB

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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