After scoring 52 goals and registering 17 assists in 56 games during his 2 year spell at LA Galaxy, it’s evident that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was too good for the MLS as he looks set to return to Europe with various Spanish and Italian teams being interested in him. Ibrahimovic’s time in the MLS got us thinking about other players who are too good for their current league, so we’ve looked at 6 players who we believe are too good for the leagues they currently play in.
Beyond that, it’s fair game. It’s not a case of the best players outside those five league’s though, but rather a question of players who are quite obviously head and shoulders above the overall standard of the division they are playing in.
15. Aleksandar Mitrovic - Championship
Starting off we’ve got Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in no. 15. The 25-year-old Serbian is currently the Championship’s top goalscorer with 12 goals in 16 games for Fulham. The striker didn’t show the best form during his time at Newcastle where he scored 17 goals in 72 appearances for the magpies, but a move to Fulham has caused Mitrovic to show the same impressive form that made Newcastle sign him from Anderlecht, as he has scored 35 goals in 75 games for Fulham, as well as 31 goals in 53 appearances for the Serbian national team. Mitrovic has shown that he is capable of capable of returning to the Premier League, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see clubs showing interest in him either in January or at the end of the season.
14. Florinel Coman - Liga 1
Next we have a player that you’ve likely never heard of, we didn’t even know who he was until one of our followers mentioned him to us, so let us introduce you to Florinel Coman. Playing for Steaua București in the Romanian Liga 1, 21-year-old Coman has scored 25 goals and registered 22 assists in 90 games, including 9 goals and 6 assists in 22 games this season. Coman’s main position is left-wing, however he has demonstrated that he is capable of playing down the middle as a centre-forward as well. Steaua București’s poor record in the Europa League is likely a key reason why Coman is still relatively unknown, but if he carries on his brilliant form, it shouldn’t be too long before he attracts the interest of other clubs.
13. Lawrence Shankland - Scottish Championship
Another player who you may be unfamiliar with is Lawrence Shankland who currently plays for Dundee United in the Scottish Championship. The 24-year-old striker has scored 119 goals in 238 games, averaging 0.5 goals every game and has started the 19/20 season on brilliant form, scoring 19 goals in 18 games so far this season. Naturally, Dundee United will be looking to keep Shankland, with head coach Robbie Neilson saying that “I don’t think there will be any bids getting entertained in january, that is for sure.”, however, it’s only a matter of time before other clubs attempt to persuade Shankland to leave Dundee United.
12. Giuliano – Saudi Professional League
Taking us outside of Europe for the first, but by no means the last time in this seven, is our second Brazilian entrant, Giuliano. Also a full Brazilian international, Giuliano has won 14 caps for his country since 2010, but somewhat surprisingly failed to score in any of those appearances.
Formerly of Zenit St Petersburg and Fenerbahce, Giuliano is a former Europa League top scorer, despite the fact that he’s an attacking midfielder. A hard working player and a fine passer of the ball, it is really his predatory instincts that make Giuliano stand out. A master at arriving into the box at just the right time, the 28-year-old possesses an accurate finish with either foot, although he’s next to useless in the air.
The Saudi Pro League isn’t entirely devoid of talent, Bafetimbi Gomis and Karim El-Ahmadi can both be seen strutting their stuff in the Middle Eastern nation, but the overall standard is poor, and Giuliano is the league’s outstanding player. He has six goals and three assists from 16 appearances to his name so far this season.
11. Alfredo Morelos - Scottish Premiership
Starting off, we’ve got Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos. Since arriving at Ibrox from from Finnish club HJK Helsinki, Morelos has displayed brilliant form by scoring 70 goals and registering 26 assists in 117 games for Rangers, including 22 goals and 7 assists in 26 games this season. The Colombian striker has provided Rangers with important goals, such as the equaliser in their 1-1 draw away to Porto and the opener in their 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture, with both goals being huge in Rangers’ hopes to qualify for the next round of the Europa League. One thing that lets Morelos down is his discipline as he has received 36 yellow cards and 5 red cards during his time at Rangers, which could be something that puts other clubs off signing him. If he can work on his discipline and maintain his form for the rest of the season, there will likely be many clubs looking to persuade Morelos to leave Ibrox.
10. Taison – Ukrainian Premier League
The Ukrainian Premier League isn’t the most competitive division in the world, it would be fair to say. Since the 1992-93 season, over a quarter of a century ago, Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk are the only teams to have won the league title, Dynamo having won 15 and Shakhtar having won 11.
Taison plays for, and captains, Shakhtar, who do have a handful of decent players, such as Marlos and Taras Stepanenko. Taison is the standout in our eyes though, combining great speed and skill when deployed on either the left flank or in attacking midfield. Such a dangerous player who loves to run at defenders and cut inside onto his thunderous right foot, Taison has won 8 caps for Brazil since 2016, and he’s scored 40 goals in 222 games since joining Shakhtar in 2012.
Previously linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Inter Milan, Taison is 31 now, so unless Shakhtar are willing to sell him at a cut price, it seems unlikely that he’ll be leaving the Ukrainian Premier League anytime soon.
9. Josef Martinez - MLS
Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez who has been fantastic since he arrived in the MLS from Torino back in 2017. The Venezuelan striker has been crucial in Atlanta’s recent success as his 77 goals in 83 games have helped the MLS side win: the MLS Cup, the Eastern Conference, the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup. Martinez has been named in the MLS Best XI for each season he has been at Atlanta as well as winning the MLS Golden Boot and being named as the MLS most valuable player during the 2018 season.
8. Claudio Marchisio – Russian Premier League
The Russian Premier League is actually ranked as the sixth strongest division in Europe by UEFA coefficients, so there are some very good footballers based in Russia. The likes of Igor Akinfeev and Mario Fernandes gave us pause for thought before including one of the division’s players, but we still think Claudio Marchisio is a cut above.
The experienced Italian international with 55 caps and seven Serie A titles to his name joined Zenit St Petersburg over the summer, where he has since made 13 appearances. Marchisio’s move to Zenit brought to an end a 25-year association with Juventus, the club he joined as a six-year old.
In fairness, Marchisio hasn’t actually played his best football for Zenit, failing to really stand out for the Russian Premier League leaders. However, the classy midfield operator is still only 32, so one suspects it should only be a matter of time. Marchisio is a really hard working and intelligent central or defensive midfielder who loves to spread the play, but he has unfortunately become increasingly injury prone over the last few years.
7. Kieran Tierney – Scottish Premiership
The finances of the division make it really tricky for clubs to compete with those south of the border, but in the forms of Tom Rogic at Celtic, Allan McGregor at Rangers and young Scott McKenna at Aberdeen, just as three examples, there is some talent in the division. We still feel one player stands out quite a distance ahead of the rest though, and that man is Kieran Tierney.
Currently out injured, the 21-year-old has already made 161 appearances for Celtic, as well as winning 12 caps for Scotland. He has been named as Scotland’s Young Player of the Year a record three times, and the youngster plays with a real passion, bringing pace, ambition and a strong tackle to the left-back position. Tierney has been linked with a move to Manchester United, after Everton seemingly failed in their bid to sign him over the summer, but no-one can question his loyalty to his boyhood club.
6. Bruno Fernandes - Primeira Liga
Considering the countless rumours linking Bruno Fernades with a move away from Sporting Lisbon, with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham all being interested in the attacking midfielder, it's a surprise to see that he is still at Sporting Lisbon. After scoring 32 goals and assisting 18 goals in 53 games last season, Fernandes attracted a huge amount of attention and it looked almost certain that he would be leaving Portugal, but to the surprise of many, he remained at Sporting Lisbon. Fernandes has proved that last season wasn’t a fluke as he has started this season with 9 goals and 6 assists in 17 games for Sporting this season. There’s speculation that Manchester United will make a second attempt to sign Fernandes in January as they desperately require an attacking midfielder to give their squad more attacking and creative options. If that doesn’t happen, you’d imagine that more clubs will be interested in Fernandes at the end of the season, especially if he keeps up his good form.
5. Oscar - Chinese Super League
For the last few years, many talented players have made big money moves to the Chinese Super League despite it being a terrible move for their careers. The biggest example of a career being ruined by a move to China is former Chelsea player Oscar who currently plays for Shanghai SIPG. You don’t need us to tell you about the talent and potential that Oscar showed during his time at Chelsea, as he scored 38 goals and registered 37 in 203 games. Despite saying in an interview that he only planned to be in China for 1 season, Oscar is set to start his fourth season in the Chinese Super League, and considering that he is only 28, it’s a shame to see that he is still playing in China when he has the talent to return to Europe.
4. Carlos Vela - MLS
Staying with the MLS, we’ve got Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela who has been at the club since it’s first season back in 2018 and is the clubs all-time top goalscorer with 48 goals in 60 appearances. Despite failing to impress during his time at Arsenal and Real Sociedad, Vela has shown his skill and attacking talent while playing in the MLS and you’d imagine that many clubs will be interested in the player ahead of the January transfer window.
3. Hakim Ziyech - Eredivisie
After their fantastic 18/19 season where they won the domestic double and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, some of Ajax’s most talented players left the club, with the likes of Frenkie De Jong joining Barcelona and Matthijs de Ligt joining Juventus. To the surprise of many, however, despite only having a buyout clause of £25m in the summer, Hakim Ziyech has remained at Ajax for the 19/20 season. The Moroccan midfielder who can play down the middle and on either wing has scored 46 and assisted 76 goals in 151 appearances for Ajax possesses fantastic technique and finesse and is capable of delivering almost impossible passes and create chances out of nothing.
2. Erling Braut Haaland - Austrian Football Bundesliga
Finally, we’ve got RB Salzburg’s young Norwegian wonderkid Erling Braut Haaland who has made a big name for himself this season with his fantastic form in the Austrian Football Bundesliga and the Champions League. Despite an impressive time at Norwegian club Molde under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Haaland announced himself to the world with a first half hat-trick against Genk in the Champions League this season where he became the fourth teenager to score a hat-trick in the Champions League. Haaland didn’t stop there as he has scored 26 goals in 18 appearances for RB Salzburg this season. And with the recent transfer saga with which he moved to BVB with a controversial snub by his agent Mino Riaola on Manchester United. I still don't think its the right choice for him to move there and improve his career.
1. Kylian Mbappe - Ligue 1
By far the most high profile player on this list is PSG’s Kylian Mbappe who needs no introduction. Mbappe’s talent is self explanatory as his 69 goals and 36 assists in 98 PSG games has made him one of the most highly sought after players in world football, and considering that he will only be 21 in December, it’s frightening to think how he still has plenty of time to improve (if that’s possible). Despite being one of Europe’s top 5 League, Ligue 1 isn’t the most competitive and difficult league in the world, and given the performances he has made so far, it would be a shame to see Mbappe remain in France for the rest of his career. We can’t be the only ones curious to see how Mbappe would do in the Premier League or La Liga, and with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City being linked with the attacker, it might not be too long before it happens.
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