September saw a staggered return to consciousness for European football after a brief slumber and it was a month filled with epic drama.
Key protagonists came to the stage, and in some leagues were even greeted by the welcome return of a live audience.
Although some competitions are slightly ahead of others in their respective schedules, we’ve seen enough to pick out 10 of the best players from Europe’s Big Five leagues.
Two from each division have been selected and you can vote through our Instagram Stories for the player most deserving of September’s Player of the Month award.
To help with the decision process, here’s a closer look at the contenders.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) | P3 W3 L0 D0
Back in March Carlo Ancelotti confidently claimed that Calvert-Lewin could become one of Europe’s best strikers and he was met by a sea of faces raising their eyebrows. The striker struggled during ‘Project Restart’ and the furrowed brows became more intense. But at the start of this season, eyebrows have dropped and so have jaws. With a stellar midfield cast headlined by James Rodriguez, DCL has focused his efforts inside the box and it’s paid off handsomely with five goals in three games. His bullet header pierced Spurs while a first career hat-trick arrived against West Brom before he tapped home in a win over Crystal Palace.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) | P3 W3 L0 D0
Calvert-Lewin was an obvious pick, but there were several players in consideration for the second Premier League slot. Salah just edges out the likes of Heung-min Son and Jamie Vardy who out-produced him in front of goal because quite simply, the eye exam supersedes the maths. The Egyptian has returned charged up by the slight of being left out of last season’s Premier League Team of the Year and the suggestions in the media, ahem SkySports, that he should be moved on as he nears 30. His response was immediate with a hat-trick against Leeds which included an absolute rocket, while in clashes with Chelsea and Arsenal, he was the outstanding attacker despite not scoring. His workrate defensively and trickery plus passing incision in attack has hallmarked Liverpool so far this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) | P2 W1 L0 D1
How many more months and how many more years will Cristiano Ronaldo be in contention for awards like this? Among the avalanche of numbers which have marked the Portuguese’s career, the age at which records continue to tumble is most impressive. The 35-year-old became the first player ever to breach the 450-goal mark across Europe’s Big Five leagues thanks to a treble in his opening two Serie A contests. In truth, Ronaldo should have scored more than three times with ample opportunities in Juve’s convincing 3-0 over Sampdoria. But he ensured Andrea Pirlo’s unbeaten start to his management career remained intact, planting a trademark header home to rescue a 2-2 draw against Roma with 10 men having scored the other from the penalty spot.
Dries Mertens (Napoli) | P2 W2 L0 D0
Napoli played two, won two, scored eight and conceded none in September. Mertens played two, scored two and assisted two. Any one of Napoli’s front four could have featured as Victor Osimhen, Lorenzo Insigne and Hirving Lozano have also shone, but Napoli’s all-time leading scorer deserves most of the love. Mertens has become a trequartista this season as Gennaro Gattuso has deployed an aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation with the Belgian very effective in behind the fluid Osimhen. The diminutive Mertens has been the reference point for the fearsome foursome, exchanging neat interchanges through his one-touch silk. Napoli battered Genoa 6-0 last time out and Mertens stood out having also scored in the 2-0 opening-day win over Parma.
Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim) | P2 W2 L0 D0
Kramaric is on an absolute tear in the Bundesliga. In his last three league games he’s battered nine goals home, four against Borussia Dortmund on the final day of last season, a hat-trick in the opening day win over Koln this campaign, before the pierre de resistance of a double against unbeatable Bayern Munich. Hoffenheim inflicted a first defeat in any competition for Bayern this year with a 4-1 demolition, Kramaric delicately half-volleying into the bottom left corner for their third before he smashed a penalty for the fourth. He twice nutmegged Koln keeper Timo Horn en route to his hat-trick in that game, with another cool penalty sandwiched between. Now Bayern reportedly wanted to sign him…
Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) | P2 W1 L1 D0
It might seem a little odd to see Kimmich nominated considering the humbling at Hoffenheim, however, he was Bayern’s best player in that game and he was exemplary in the 8-0 embarrassment of Schalke before that. Indeed, Kimmich is demonstrating exactly why Bayern have no plans to invest in their midfield despite losing one of the best passers in the game to Liverpool. Kimmich has slipped into Thiago’s No6 shirt and planted himself among the top-six midfielders in the world. He produced two assists against Schalke, one of which was a glorious piece of theatre as he directed Leroy Sane to run before pinging a gorgeous Hollywood ball through to the forward. Against Hoffenheim, he gave Bayern hope by getting the score back to 2-1 with a sumptuous curled effort into the top corner. More than his attacking efforts, though, he tackled, intercepted and passed majestically in both games.
Teji Savanier (Montpellier) | P4 W3 L0 D1
Montpellier isn’t exactly a club renowned for their goalscoring traits – Laurent Blanc remains the club’s all-time leading scorer after all – but they’ve emerged this term as one of the outstanding attacking teams in Ligue 1. No team scored more goals in France’s top flight with 12 strikes through five games as they moved up to third in September. They owe much of their newfound flair to the re-energised playmaker Teji Savanier. Forget about PSG, Savanier is one of the best creators in France and having had injury curtail his first season back with Montpellier in 2019/20, he’s now returned sassier than ever. He scored three times in September with both goals in the 2-1 win over Lyon, which included an audacious panenka penalty. He’s been pure art in between the lines thanks to his palette of visionary passing and quaint control. A France call-up surely beckons for the late-blooming 28-year-old.
Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes) | P3 W3 L0 D0
Camavinga is an absurd talent. He can tackle, dribble, create, score, pass, dictate and he does it all with serene composure. Oh, and he’s still only 17. Wearing the No10 shirt this season, Camavinga has, as the number suggests, been pushed further up the field from the DM slot he dominated in last season. He’s showing already this campaign why just about every elite side is salivating over him and in September the teenager was totemic. Against St. Etienne for example, no player made more tackles (six), completed more take-ons (three) or created more chances (two). In other words, the boy can play. Rennes went top of Ligue 1 and if Camavinga remains in this form throughout the season, they will be in contention to remain there.
Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo) | P3 W1 L0 D2
Jorge Valdano calls Aspas ‘The Lionel Messi of the Middle Class’. That is easily the best description of the Spanish striker, because he has always been outstanding for Celta Vigo. Liverpool and Sevilla fans must watch with bewilderment as he continues to score goals with relative ease for a side who would not be in La Liga without him. The 33-year-old struck 14 league goals last season and has already brought up three in September, earning his side four points. He scored both goals in Vigo’s 2-1 win over Valencia, the winner was a spectacular free-kick. In the 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid, he displayed incredible balance to score Vigo’s only goal, withstanding great pressure as he rounded the keeper, before stabbing home from a quite frankly ridiculous angle. No one else scored for Vigo in September and it’s fair to surmise that only Messi at Barcelona can rival his individual significance.
Jose Luis Morales (Levante) | P2 W1 L1 D0
Forget all the hype around Ansu Fati and Spanish football’s younger generation, it’s the golden oldies who are shining brightest in the early goings. Levante striker Morales only played twice in September, but he’s impossible to ignore after scoring three times and laying on an assist. And we’re not talking about all tap-ins here. He twice put Levante in front against Valencia, skipping through several challenges in the box before sliding into the bottom corner for his first. Then he rinsed Mouctar Diakhaby for his second, dropping his shoulder to shift the ball onto his right foot before smashing into the top corner from outside the box for 2-1. The goals were ultimately in a losing 4-2 effort, but against Osasuna he crossed for their equaliser, won a penalty that was then saved before securing the three points by slotting home their third in a 3-1 victory.
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