The UEFA Champions League is undoubtedly the holy grail of club football and Europe’s premier club competition has been responsible for the making of legends down the years.
Players have a platform to showcase their qualities on the continental stage and excelling in the UCL is often equated to a good or world-class player. Thus, the very best in the business have lit up the Champions League stage at some point in their careers which is why many dedicate their lives to making it at the top level.
Who has been the most impressive players in the 2021/22 Champions League season so far? After four games, there are a few of the usual suspects as well as a sensational green horn which we have come to expect every season.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah and Sébastien Haller have grabbed the headlines on each Champions League night this season, and deservedly make it onto our list as we roundup the most convincing players in the Champions League so far.
The Pole is the best every time he steps on the pitch and live statistics and trends prove his team’s dominance. Lewandowski netted a marvelous hat-trick last time out to become the quickest man to score 80 in his first 100 Champions League appearances.
The 33-year-old has hit eight goals and an assist in only four games so far, and could have hit Benfica for four had he not missed a penalty. Lewandowski has now scored in eight consecutive Champions League games, something seen as just ‘normal’ for a player of his form and calibre.
The Bayern Munich marksman has kept up his tremendous goal-scoring form with 23 goals and two assists in only 17 matches in all competitions this season. Consequently, Lewandowski looks the frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or award especially as it was now awarded in 2020.
A quick glance at his UCL record makes the fact he is yet to win a Golden Ball award a modern-day travesty.
Arguably the most in-form player in 2021/22, the Egyptian started the campaign at his prolific best as he went on a 10-game scoring run in all competitions.
He helped himself to five goals already as his stunning showings helped Liverpool secure top spot in Group B after four matches. During that ruthless patch, Salah also became the highest-scoring African in the Premier League as he surpassed Didier Drogba’s tally of 104 with a hat trick against Man United.
The 29-year-old remains behind the Ivorian striker’s 44 goals in the Champions League, but Salah’s record-tumbling also saw him surpass Steven Gerrard’s 30 to become Liverpool’s record goalscorer in the competition.
Should Jürgen Klopp’s men recreate their 2019 UCL-winning heroics, there is no doubt Salah would be instrumental and some more records would have been smashed.
Popularly dubbed the ‘Egyptian Messi’, there is a claim of Salah being the best winger the Premier League has ever seen. If Salah keeps up and maybe steps up his game even further, the above claim could be something undebatable in the nearest future.
The five-time UCL winner continues to provide the magic dust on which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United are clinging onto at the moment. The man commonly known as ‘Mister Champions League’ has not just scored five goals in four games this season but each one has been worth its weight in Gold.
There was the last-minute winner at home to Villarreal which saw Ronaldo overtake Iker Casillas as the player with the most Champions League appearances. The competition’s record goalscorer – who is also responsible for the most assists – followed it up with another late winner against Atalanta on matchday three.
Indeed, there was an awfully familiar feeling when Ronaldo rescued the Red Devils with a clutch last gasp equalizer in the return leg in Bergamo. The ex-Real Madrid man has so far provided a season’s worth of UCL folklore to the United faithful, and more is yet to come should they progress into the latter rounds of the competition.
Hindsight warns to never underestimate Ronaldo, and he could well be on course to deliver another trademark assault on Europe’s finest.
The Ivorian is taking to Europe’s top competition with bags of goals reminiscent of how Erling Haaland memorably did a couple of seasons ago aged just 19.
After erroneously getting omitted from Ajax’s Europa League squad list in February, Haller has registered seven goals and two assists in the first four UCL games of his career, as he leads an in-form Ajax in their latest European adventure.
Having scored four in the 5-1 win over Sporting on matchday one, he became the first player to do so on his Champions League debut since Marco van Basten in 1992. It represents an incredible turnaround for the man who infamously struggled as West Ham’s record signing. Haller is thriving in the Eredivisie and has brought his form into Europe this season with 14 goals and five assists in 16 games in all competitions.
Borussia Dortmund would surely be sick of the sight of the 27-year-old as he had a hand in four (two goals, two assists) of the seven goals Ajax put past them over two legs. Haller is just the fifth player to net in his first four UCL appearances after Ze Carlos (1993-94), Alessandro del Piero (1995-96), Diego Costa (2013-14) and Haaland (2019-20), and his stock has risen immaculately since moving to Holland.
Under Erik ten Hag’s tutelage, Haller will remain a focal point in front of their talented array of playmakers. Europe must beware of this prolific marksman who has a point to prove.