Europe’s Pass Masters: A Look At The Top 8 Creators So Far This Season

We’re almost a third of the way through the 2019-20 European club season, giving us an ample enough sample size to analyze this year’s current statistics in a somewhat meaningful way. There’s one giant caveat to it all and that’s Lionel Messi’s restricted start to the campaign due to a calf strain followed by an abductor muscle injury. He’s only started three of Barcelona’s nine league games thus far, so he's yet to dominate every statistical category.

Still, some things never change. With an average of six shots per game, Cristiano Ronaldo tops that chart for what seems like the 15th straight year. Also, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha continues to dazzle with the ball at his feet and leads Europe with an average of 4.2 successful dribbles per game.   

There are some new names amongst the leaders in certain categories, including Chelsea’s 22-year-old striker Tammy Abraham, whose total of eight goals in 10 Premier League appearances has him in the thick of Europe’s early Golden Boot race. Likewise, 28-year-old Colombian attacker Luis Muriel is enjoying a career year after signing with freewheeling Atalanta over the summer. He has eight goals in just seven Serie A games — what’s more, he’s only been handed three starts.

However, my preferred stats are those that delegate the game’s best creators. As a neutral, I like how these typically point towards players that I want to spend more time watching and — by extension — signify attack-oriented clubs that are worthy of your precious weekend time.

According to Squawka, only four players in Europe’s top five leagues have created 30+ chances so far. Two will come as no surprise, but you might not have anticipated the 34-year-old Santi Cazorla or 25-year-old Chilean Erick Pulgar, who’s justifying the $11.5 million fee that Fiorentina paid to prize him away from Bologna. 

To take things further, according to WhoScored, there are eight players that are currently averaging three or more key passes per game (a final pass that leads to an attempt on goal) in Europe’s top five leagues. Here they are, ranked in descending order.

#8. Santi Cazorla | Villarreal

Key passes per game: 3 | Assists: 4

Synopsis: With 24 goals scored so far, Villarreal boasts the best attack in LaLiga. Santi Cazorla sits alone atop the league’s assist chart with four, and he’s pitched in with four goals of his own as well. He is the renaissance man. 

#7. Joshua Kimmich | Bayern Munich

Key passes per game: 3 | Assists: 3

Synopsis: The versatile 24-year-old has made more appearances in the defensive midfield position this season due to Bayern’s addition of Benjamin Pavard, and he’s showcased his vision and range of passing from the center of the park. Kimmich’s average of 80.6 passes per game is also sixth-most in Europe. 

Last season, Kimmich’s total of 13 assists was only bettered by the 14 posted by Jadon Sancho. Sancho again leads the Bundesliga this season with five.  

#6. Toni Kroos | Real Madrid

Key passes per game: 3.3 | Assists: 1

Synopsis: Despite Kroos’ knack for an adventurous ball and an average of nearly seven long balls played per game, the Real Madrid midfield maestro boasts a ludicrous pass success percentage of 93.1.

And when it comes to delivery from set pieces, the 29-year-old German is still a class apart.  

#5. Dimitri Payet | Marseille

Key passes per game: 3.3 | Assists: 0

Synopsis: The mercurial 32-year-old Frenchman remains one of the world’s greatest attacking catalysts, but he’s yet to register an assist for a Marseille side that’s struggling for goals after Mario Balotelli left for Brescia and Florian Thauvin was ruled out for 3-4 months with an ankle injury.

*Old but too gold highlight* 

#4. Lorenzo Pellegrini | Roma

Key passes per game: 3.3 | Assists: 4

Synopsis: Goals have been difficult to come by for Roma this season, which is why the club is in fifth despite having lost only one match. 33-year-old striker Edin Dzeko is still an admirable player, but it’s never a good sign when your second leading scorer is 33-year-old left back Aleksandar Kolarov.

Still, the 23-year-old Pellegrini has flourished in the attacking midfield role, most notably when dropping three assists in a 4-2 victory over Sassuolo back on Sept. 15.

#3. Erick Pulgar | Fiorentina

Key passes per game: 3.6 | Assists: 2

Synopsis: After arriving at Bologna from his native Chile for a modest fee of $2.6 million back in 2015, Erick Pulgar went about establishing himself in Italy before making the move to Fiorentina this summer for $11.4 million.

The man with a neck tattoo to rival that of Radja Nainggolan’s is quickly establishing himself for both club and country. 

#2. Trent Alexander-Arnold | Liverpool

Key passes per game: 3.7 | Assists: 2

Synopsis: Sometimes, when watching Liverpool, you start to wonder if it isn’t all too predictable: Trent Alexander-Arnold getting possession out wide, whipping in a ball, rinse and repeat. But then you realize just how devastatingly good the formula is and you sit back and enjoy it.

With an average of 2.5 successful crosses per game, TAA is joint-sixth in Europe in that category. There’s been a recent suggestion that the 21-year-old could be deployed more centrally in time, but with his production at right back being what it is, there’s no real reason to do that.

#1. Kevin De Bruyne | Manchester City

Key passes per game: 4 | Assists: 9

Synopsis: He’s not human.

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