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Footy Player Rankings: Salah vies with Ronaldo for the throne

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. Giovanni Simeone (Fiorentina)

Thanks in part to Giovanni Simeone’s pivotal goals, Fiorentina has enjoyed a renaissance in the second half of the campaign. He’s also led a relentless press, winning possession in crucial areas of the pitch to keep Fiorentina’s attack revving. However, his hat-trick performance Sunday was the most important of his burgeoning career. His goals in the 3-0 victory left Napoli’s title bid in tough shape; more importantly, his efforts have kept La Viola challenging for an unlikely European spot. – Anthony Lopopolo

19. Alassane Plea (Nice)

Alassane Plea’s endeavours haven’t gone unnoticed. Various Premier League and La Liga outfits have been linked with the 25-year-old, who’s established a formidable one-two punch at OGC Nice with Mario Balotelli. In fact, Plea has scored more goals from open play (14) than his Italian peer. He’s not just a penalty-box poacher, either. Plea has often found space outside the area and let rip from distance. – AL

18. Douglas Costa (Juventus)

Whenever Juventus has wobbled, Douglas Costa has been there to keep the Serie A giant on track. After an indifferent start to the season, Costa is now very much a fixture in manager Massimiliano Allegri’s starting lineup. And for good reason: His playmaking ability, willingness to track back, and overall hustle have helped the Bianconeri win crucial points during the title run-in. Costa enjoyed a three-assist performance against Sampdoria and opened the scoring in Juventus’ unlikely 3-2 win over Inter. – AL

17. Edin Dzeko (Roma)

Roma’s unexpected Champions League run wouldn’t be possible without Edin Dzeko’s heroics. His late away goal at the Camp Nou gave his teammates the ammunition to take down Barcelona, and similarly, his strike at Anfield has left them with hope of a comeback versus Liverpool. He’s always keeping opposing goalkeepers occupied – his 143 shots rank fifth among players in the top five European leagues – and he’s a threat from both long and close range. – AL

16. Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

Florian Thauvin first caught fire this season with Marseille in early February when he scored six goals over a four-match stretch, and the crafty French winger is heating up again. His goal against RB Leipzig in the Europa League quarter-final second leg helped his team erase a 1-0 first-leg loss, and he further bolstered Marseille’s European dreams by scoring its second goal of the semi-final first leg against Red Bull Salzburg. – Jonathan Soveta

15. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)

Named to the Professional Footballer Association’s Team of the Year, Christian Eriksen has proven himself as one of football’s finest game-breakers. He’s just as astute at pulling the strings as he is scoring the goals, and now he’s finally receiving the proper recognition. “For me, you can compare Christian with special players like (Kevin) De Bruyne or David Silva. The type of player who is capable to play football, and also run and fight,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said earlier this month.

Eriksen has also been tipped to replace Andres Iniesta at Barcelona – a rumour that his employer won’t be happy to entertain. – AL

14. Luis Alberto (Lazio)

Liverpool’s loss is Lazio’s gain.

Luis Alberto arrived in the Italian capital as a enigmatic player, a talented attacker who hadn’t lived up to expectations. However, he’s become a fixture in Lazio’s starting lineup, racking up 11 goals and 12 assists in his maiden Serie A campaign. Most of his production has come in the past two months, with the 25-year-old scoring twice on April 18 to swing a 4-3 comeback win over Fiorentina. – AL

13. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

Aaron Ramsey has offered Arsenal some much-needed consistency in one of Arsene Wenger’s most turbulent seasons at the Emirates. The Welsh international has contributed to more goals (19) than any other player on his team, splitting his time as both a scorer and provider. He has a good understanding of space, knowing when to time a run into the box and when to play the killer pass. Ramsey has now been a Gunner for a decade, and it seems he’s finally found a suitable role as a an attack-minded central midfielder. – AL

12. Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain)

Angel Di Maria has acquitted himself well in the absence of the injured Neymar, popping up with crucial goals as Paris Saint-Germain paraded to a fifth Ligue 1 title in six years. The Argentine’s future at the club was shrouded in doubt as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe swooped in, but Di Maria has taken advantage of the additional playing time. – AL

11. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

One of the most improved players under Pep Guardiola this season, Raheem Sterling has become a better finisher inside the area and a more selfless servant on the wings. He was a main figure as Manchester City romped to the Premier League title, becoming one of just two players in the English top flight to record double digits in goals and assists. (The other is teammate Leroy Sane.) Though it may seem like it, Sterling isn’t nearly as wasteful as his Premier League peers, posting a higher conversion rate than Harry Kane. – AL

10. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Paul Pogba has reclaimed his status as Manchester United’s midfield talisman. He’s had a hand in five of United’s nine goals this month, supplementing an attack that’s waned under Jose Mourinho. He’s picking the right moments to dash down the middle of the pitch and facilitating the counter-attack. His performance against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final was a particularly timely reminder of how forceful and creative he can be. When he’s not on form, neither is United. – AL

9. Dimitri Payet (Marseille)

Marseille’s captain has been in terrifying form, punctuated by his incredible left-footed strike against Leipzig in the second leg of its Europa League quarter-final. (He would have had two, were it not for an inane off-the-ball foul by Konstantinos Mitroglou.) But where Les Olympiens’ No. 10 has truly shined has been in his role as a creator; in a four-game stretch between the win against Leipzig and the 2-0 first-leg victory over Salzburg, Payet racked up an impressive six assists. – JS

8. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Despite an impressive season spearheading Manchester City’s midfield, De Bruyne ultimately fell short in PFA Player of the Year voting, finishing runner-up to Mohamed Salah. He may find consolation, however, in a new piece of silverware this season; a new “Playmaker” award that will go to the player with the most assists, and with a league-leading 15, De Bruyne will likely make do with that trophy instead. Having locked up the league title already will certainly help, too. – JS

7. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Thanks to Bayern Munich’s dominance over the rest of the Bundesliga, the Bavarians clinched the league with over a month to play, but that won’t stop Lewandowski from scoring. The Polish forward, who didn’t feature in Bayern’s title-clinching win over Augsburg on April 7, scored four in his next three matches, including a brace in a 6-2 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen to reach the DFB Pokal final. With eyes on the treble, Bayern, who fell 2-1 at home to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, will need Lewandowski to transfer his domestic prowess back over to Europe. – JS

6. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)

If this is Griezmann’s last season with Atletico Madrid – and there’s been plenty of speculation that it will be – the Fortnite-loving forward is going out in style. Los Colchoneros have managed to leapfrog city rival Real Madrid in the La Liga table, thanks in part to Griezmann’s efforts – including his equaliser in the Madrid derby on April 8. He’s also to thank for Atletico’s favourable position in its Europa League semi-final against Arsenal, stealing a 1-1 draw in England with a late away goal despite his side playing nearly the entire match a man down. – JS

5. Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

It’s not been the most prolific season of Luis Suarez’s career, but he’s still managed to play a big role in Barcelona’s success. He recorded a treble of assists against Deportivo as the Blaugrana clinched a third La Liga title in four years, one of several selfless displays this season. Suarez’s understanding with Lionel Messi has been absolutely fundamental to the attack, with the pair collaborating for 11 goals in the La Liga season. No other partnership has scored more. – AL

4. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Another month dominated by his meteoric Egyptian teammate shouldn’t diminish what Roberto Firmino has contributed to Liverpool in Mohamed Salah’s immense shadow. His measured aggressiveness earned him a timely assist in Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against City, and he emphatically shut down the Citizens’ European comeback hopes with his goal in the second leg. And while he’s only scored once in the EPL this month, his two-goal, two-assist performance against Roma on Tuesday – in which Salah still managed to eclipse him – will help fans accept his minor domestic drought. – JS

3. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Barcelona has strolled to a La Liga title, but Messi has not taken his foot off the gas. Though he was disappointingly quiet in Barcelona’s monumental Champions League collapse against Roma, Messi helped repay arrears in the 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final, scoring once and assisting twice, including a touching moment between him and departing longtime teammate Andres Iniesta. – JS

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid’s 2-1 away win over Bayern Munich was the only game this month in which the Portuguese virtuoso failed to score. It now feels like an eternity ago, but that run also includes Ronaldo’s otherworldly Champions League first-leg showing at Juventus, where even fans of the Old Lady couldn’t help but applaud his insane bicycle-kick goal. – JS

1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

If anyone (somehow) still had any doubts about Salah this season, they should have been thoroughly extinguished when his Premier League peers voted him the PFA Player of the Year. But, to really silence any remaining naysayers, Salah put in another world-class showing in Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final against his former side, Roma. He played a part in four of his team’s five goals, as the Reds now have one foot in the final. – JS

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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