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Mbappe, Messi and the European Team of the Season

12:00 GMT 01/06/2021
Kylian Mbappe Lionel Messi Robert Lewandowski GFX
Despite there being a number of surprise trophy winners around the continent, some familiar faces were still the star performers for their clubs

With the domestic European season having come to an end, Goal has selected our best XI from the top five leagues during the 2020-21 campaign...

  • Jan Oblak Atletico Madrid 2020-21

    GK: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

    Luis Suarez may have grabbed the headlines when it came to Atletico Madrid's La Liga triumph, but in reality few players did more to ensure the title was won than Oblak.

    No goalkeeper made more than his 103 saves in the Spanish top flight in 2020-21, with the Slovenia international keeping out 80 per cent of the shots on target he faced.

    In total he conceded just 25 goals in 38 league appearances, keeping a league-high 18 clean sheets in the process.

    He also saved two penalties, while his stunning stop to deny Lionel Messi when Atleti faced Barcelona in May was arguably the crucial moment in the run in for both sides.

  • Achraf Hakimi Inter 2020-21

    RB: Achraf Hakimi (Inter)

    Eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid accepted just €40 million (£36m/$45m) from Inter for Hakimi's signing in the summer of 2020, and during his first season at San Siro he illustrated exactly why.

    Playing as a wing-back in Antonio Conte's favoured 3-5-2 formation, the ex-Borussia Dortmund loanee was excellent for the Nerazzurri, scoring and providing goals in almost equal measure.

    He ended the Serie A campaign with seven goals, eight assists and having won two penalties as Inter ran away at the top of the league to claim their first Scudetto since 2010.

    The 22-year-old also performed admirably in his defensive duties, winning over 60 per cent of his tackles and in excess of 50 per cent of his duels.

    Unfortunately for Inter fans, it seems like his stay in Milan will only be a short one, with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich reportedly keen to take advantage of the Italian champions' concerning financial situation and prise him away this summer.

  • Ruben Dias Manchester City 2020-21

    CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

    When Manchester City fans look back on the 2020-21 campaign in years to come, they will remember it for the emergence of their new defensive leader.

    Questions were asked when City parted with £62 million ($79m) to sign Dias from Benfica, but the Portugal international has answered them in stunning fashion as his performances earned him the FWA Footballer of the Year prize.

    No defender kept more Premier League clean sheets than the 24-year-old (15), while his leadership qualities helped bring the best out of John Stones alongside him.

    In the Champions League, too, he was a standout, with his performance in defying Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium in City's semi-final victory one of the finest the competition has seen in recent years.

    And so while Virgil van Dijk remains the world's outstanding centre-back, when he returns from injury next season he will find a new rival for that accolade not too far behind him.

  • Sven Botman Lille 2020-21

    CB: Sven Botman (Lille)

    Another summer signing who impressed in 2020-21 was Botman, though he cost a fraction of what Hakimi and Dias were bought for.

    Lille acquired the Dutchman from Ajax for just €8 million (£7m/$10m), and the 21-year-old proved to be a revelation as Christophe Galtier's side pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title.

    No team in Europe's top five leagues conceded fewer than Lille's 23 league goals, with Botman on the field for 20 of their 21 clean sheets - a league high among outfield players.

    He won more than two-thirds of both his tackles and duels across the course of the Ligue 1 campaign, with his performances earning him links to Liverpool among a host of other top-level European clubs.

    Somewhat strangely, he has been left out of the Netherlands' squad for Euro 2020 this summer, but that should not take away from what was one of the best debut campaigns anywhere on the continent this year.

  • Robin Gosens Atalanta 2020-21

    LB: Robin Gosens (Atalanta)

    It is no wonder that Atalanta score so many goals when they have a left-back who is able to chip in with 11 on his own, and that is exactly what Gosens did over the course of 2020-21.

    Given the freedom to maraud forward by Gian Piero Gasperini, the 26-year-old enjoyed a career-best year in Serie A, during which he also provided six assists.

    He also performed admirably from a defensive point of view, winning over 75% of his attempted tackles and more than half of the duels he was involved in.

    It should come as no shock, then, that both Barcelona and Manchester City are being linked with the former Vitesse youth product, who will form part of Germany's squad at this summer's European Championship.

  • Joshua Kimmich Bayern Munich 2020-21

    CM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

    It was telling that when Kimmich missed five Bundesliga games between November and December, Bayern won just two of them, such is his importance to the team nowadays.

    Having now fully established himself in central midfield following his time as a right-back, the Germany international is well on his way to becoming one of the world's outstanding operators in two different positions.

    In 2020-21, he laid on 10 assists and scored four goals in the Bundesliga as Bayern won their ninth successive league title, while defensively he won 70% of his attempted tackles.

    In the Champions League, meanwhile, for the second season running there wasn't a player who created more chances than Kimmich (25), despite him only playing seven matches in the competition.

  • N'Golo Kante Chelsea 2020-21

    CM: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)

    Kante only started five games in the Champions League knockout stages; that he was named Man of the Match on four occasions shows just how much he stepped up to the plate for Thomas Tuchel's side.

    Three of those prizes came from the semi-finals onwards, with his dominant performance in the final proof that he deserves to be remembered as one of the modern game's great midfielders when his career eventually ends.

    The France international won 80% of his tackles in European competition, while in 13 European appearances he was dribbled past on just five occasions.

    The 30-year-old now heads to Euro 2020 among the favourites to win the Ballon d'Or, and few would bet against him continuing to excel this summer.

  • Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21

    RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

    It might have been a season to forget for Barcelona, but even if this was his final campaign at Camp Nou, Messi did not let his standards slip.

    Despite a quiet opening few weeks, he finished the season with 38 goals in all competitions, with his 30 in La Liga enough to see him named as top scorer for the eighth time in his career.

    He also provided nine Liga assists from the league-high 77 chances he created, leaving no doubt that he remains the outstanding footballer in Spain, even if those around him can no longer provide a suitable supporting cast.

    In the Champions League, meanwhile, he scored five goals in six games, with his stunning strike against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 one of the goals of the competition.

    Whatever comes next for Messi, he can head into the 2021-22 campaign knowing he can still dominate at the highest level.

  • Kylian Mbappe Paris Saint-Germain PSG 2020-21

    LW: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

    Named Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the second time, Mbappe could not quite inspire PSG to the title despite another stellar individual season from the World Cup winner.

    In scoring 27 goals he finished seven clear of his nearest challenger in the race to be the French top flight's top scorer, while seven assists meant he was also the player directly involved in the most goals in the competition.

    Over 25% of the shots Mbappe took during the domestic campaign ended up in the back of the net, and at times during the Champions League it seemed like he could not miss.

    His six goals in three games against Barcelona and Bayern Munich lit up the Europe during the knockout stages, only for his competition to end in sadness as he watched on from the bench as Man City eliminated Mauricio Pochettino's side at the semi-final stage.

    It seems only a matter of time before the 22-year-old moves on from Parc des Princes, and after a season in which he netted 42 goals in 47 games across all competitions, his stock is soaring.

  • Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich 2020-21

    ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

    The consensus around the footballing world is that if the Ballon d'Or had not been cancelled in 2020, then Lewandowski would have been the run-away winner.

    The disappointment of not claiming football's ultimate individual honour did not deter the Poland international, however, and instead he tore up the record books in another blistering campaign.

    His record of 41 goals in just 29 Bundesliga games saw him surpass Gerd Muller for the most scored in a single German top-flight campaign, with his shot conversion rate for the season coming in at narrowly under 30%.

    Lewandowski also provided seven assists in the league and five goals in the Champions League during a campaign that will yet again see the 2020 Goal 50 winner challenge for the Ballon d'Or.

    Whether he wins, however, may well come down to how far he goes at Euro 2020 this summer.

  • Romelu Lukaku Inter 2020-21

    ST: Romelu Lukaku (Inter)

    Cristiano Ronaldo may have finished as Serie A's top scorer in 2020-21, but there is no doubt who the Italian top flight's Player of the Season was after a superb campaign from Lukaku.

    The Belgium international scored 24 league goals for the newly-crowned champions, as well as providing 11 assists as he finished well clear in terms of direct goal involvements for the season.

    Exactly 25% of Lukaku's shots found the net in Serie A, with his powerful running from deep proving a handful for defences throughout the campaign.

    Like Hakimi, he too could be sold this summer, but the 28-year-old should fetch a hefty fee after what was, by some distance, the best season of his career.

  • Edouard Mendy Juan Cuadrado GFX

    Honourable Mentions (goalkeeper & defence)

    Picking just 11 players from around the continent at the end of the season is always a tough ask, and there are a whole host of individuals who also deserve recognition for their achievements.

    Among goalkeepers, Edouard Mendy brought a solidity to Chelsea that had been absent previously, with the Senegal international keeping more Champions League clean sheets any other shot-stopper as the Blues won the trophy for the second time in their history.

    His opposite number in the final, Ederson, claimed the Premier League Golden Glove after keeping 19 domestic clean sheets for Man City, while no keeper kept more clean sheets in Europe's top five leagues than Lille's Mike Maignan (21), whose performances have earned him a move to AC Milan.

    Moving into defence, and a number of Chelsea's defenders were re-born under Thomas Tuchel following his arrival in January, but none more so than Antonio Rudiger, with the Germany international proving an imperious presence both at home and on the continent.

    Lille captain Jose Fonte proved an able partner for Botman at the back for the new French champions, while at the opposite end of the age scale Alessandro Bastoni emerged as Italy's brightest defensive talent in years at Inter.

    Staying in Serie A, Juan Cuadrado's switch to right-back has proven a masterstroke, with the Colombia star having laid on 19 assists across all competitions over the course of 2020-21.

    He was not the only full-back to impress, either, with Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Luke Shaw (Manchester United) and Jordi Alba (Barcelona) all enjoying stellar campaigns.

  • Thomas Muller Bruno Fernandes GFX

    Honourable Mentions (midfield)

    After providing a league-high 18 assists in the Bundesliga, as well as scoring 11 goals, Thomas Muller can probably feel a little hard done by to miss out on a place in the team, while his international team-mate Ilkay Gundogan also came close after finishing as City's top scorer in their double-winning campaign.

    Across Manchester, Bruno Fernandes' tally of 45 direct goal involvements in all competitions was not enough to earn the Red Devils a trophy.

    Over in Spain, Marcos Llorente enjoyed a breakout campaign for Atletico, scoring 11 goals and laying on 12 assists in La Liga after being deployed further forward under Diego Simeone.

    In Serie A, meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the only player other than Lukaku to finish the season with double figures for goals and assists, while in England there is a debate to be had over which of homegrown duo Phil Foden (Man City) and Mason Mount (Chelsea) enjoyed a more impressive campaign.

  • Erling Haaland Harry Kane GFX

    Honourable Mentions (attack)

    In terms of wide attackers, Mohamed Salah recorded another season of over 30 goals at Liverpool while Son Heung-min finished inside the top four for both goals ans assists in the Premier League, despite his impact dwindling in the second half of the campaign.

    Jadon Sancho's season went the opposite way, with the Dortmund winger recovering to reach double figures for both goals and assists yet again, while Federico Chiesa also reached that milestone after proving himself to be the big-game player Juventus have been crying out for when Ronaldo is not on form.

    Ronaldo, for his partstill finished the season with 36 goals in all competitions, though that paled in comparison to Erling Haaland, who netted 41 in as many games for Dortmund while finishing as the top scorer in the Champions League.

    Other number nines to shine included Harry Kane, who finished the Premier League season with both the most goals and most assists despite playing in a team which finished seventh, Karim Benzema, who yet again was Real Madrid's leading light with 30 goals in all competitions, and Gerard Moreno, who fired Villarreal to Europa League glory and will now likely lead the line for Spain at Euro 2020.

    Finally in France, Wissam Ben Yedder secured Champions League football for Monaco with his goals while Lyon narrowly missed out despite Memphis Depay providing 32 direct goal contributions in Ligue 1.

    Veteran Burak Yilmaz hit 18 Ligue 1 goals for Lille - including seven in seven games down the home stretch - to help his side to the title.