Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) 19 games, 28 goals ***
The transcendent ability of Lionel Messi continues to thrill and excite. Yet somehow, given the sheer unending nature of his brilliance, it is almost possible to not fully appreciate the magnitude of his greatness. Whether it was desire for a change or other motives there were those who didn't consider the Argentine to be the best player of 2012. The question is now how many years will it take for someone to overthrow his dominance.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal) 18 games, 16 goals ***
By his own incredible standards 2012-13 has so far been slightly underwhelming for Cristiano Ronaldo. That he is currently the top scorer in the Champions League and is averaging roughly a goal a game in La Liga shows just how high our expectations are. Yet with Los Merengues well off the pace in the league and facing a tough European encounter with Manchester United he and his teammates will need to improve if they are to end the season with any silverware.
Luis Suarez (Liverpool and Uruguay) 21 games, 15 goals ***
The start of Brendan Rodgers' tenure at Liverpool has not been plain sailing. Had it not been for he influence of Luis Suarez it would have been disastrous. The Uruguayan has been in exceptional form so far this year, carrying the team a times and displaying quite why he is so popular at Anfield. The obvious worry for supporters is quite how long will he be willing to stay at a club who are unable (on present evidence) to challenge for major honours.
Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich and Germany) 16 games, 9 goals **
After the phenomenal form that Muller showed in the 2009-10 season and the 2010 World Cup the last two years were something of a disappointment. This campaign he has been back to his absolute best with a series of exceptional performances for Bayern justifying quite why everyone was previously so excited about the young German international. Decision makers at FC Hollywood clearly felt the same by extending Muller’s contract until 2017.
Francesco Totti (Roma and Italy) 18 games, 6 goals **
At the age of 36 Totti is still excelling in Serie A. There may be more youthful alternatives but nobody possesses the imagination or creativity to make some of the passes that the Roma skipper pulls off. Admittedly some of those passes come at a price with Totti misplacing a fair proportion, but with six assists already in the league it is a worthwhile trade off.
Michu (Swansea and Spain) 21 games, 13 goals **
Arguably the signing of the season in the whole of Europe. The great question was why nobody challenged Swansea to sign an attacking midfielder who had scored15 goals for Rayo Vallecano the previous year. Regardless of his price he has proven an inspired acquisition for Michael Laudrup and has now been linked with a move to Atletico. Unsurprisingly Swansea would be looking for a lot more than £2m.
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 17 games, 6 goals *
Dortmund's path to the top has largely been based on judicious scouting of underrated youngsters and the motivational techniques of Jurgen Klopp. When signing Marco Reus last January the club were returning to some of the big money acquisitions which had been their habit ten years ago. With Shinji Kagawa gone much of Dortmund's offensive expectations have come to rest with Reus and while he has perhaps yet to hit his Gladbach form he has still proven an excellent signing.
Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus and Italy) 18 games, 6 goals *
If there is a criticism of Juventus it is a lack of class in the final third of the pitch. The club dominate games but are sometimes undone by their inability to kill teams off. Potentially the player who is most hindered by the absence of a first-rate front man is Giovinco, who creates a multitude of chances that really should be capitalised on. As it is he has been as impressive this year as he was last and may be evolving into Italy's latest fantasista.
Erik Lamela (Roma and Argentina) 16 games, 10 goals *
The arrival of Zdenek Zeman appears to have brought the best out of Coco Lamela. The youngster has been in scintillating form on the right of Roma's attack where he is able to put his exceptional dribbling ability to good effect. The Argentine moved to Europe within enormous expectations given his age and ability and now seems well set to deliver on that talent. Certainly if he can maintain his goalscoring record Roma could yet find themselves in the top three at the end of the season.
Dusan Tadic (Twente and Serbia) 18 games, 8 goals *
The title challenge of Steve McClaren's Twente has been led by young Serb Tadic. Having joined for £6m in the summer from Gronigen, a sizeable fee by Dutch standards, there was good reason to expect Tadic to deliver but he has improved significantly at Twente. Already a Serbian international the Erediviie may not be able to keep hold of his gifts for much longer.
Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina and Montenegro) 15 games, 8 goals *
The rise and rise of Stevan Jovetic continues apace. The Fiorentina forward was among the leading talents of last season in Serie A and this term he has more than justified Fiorentina's decision to ward off potential suitors. With the Viola now seemingly active in looking to attract attackers it raises the question of whether they are supposed to support the Montenegrin or replace him.
Alex Meier (Eintracht Frankfurt and Germany) 17 games, 11 goals *
Many of Frankfurt's leading lights this season have been youngsters who have not previously had a chance to prove themselves. Meier by contrast is something of a veteran who has been at the club for eight years without ever standing out at the highest level. This season he has certainly grabbed the attention of spectators with his ability in front of goal, providing the cutting edge that the team's enterprising approach work has otherwise been lacking.