Marek Hamsik (Napoli and Slovakia) 38 games, 11 goals **
For so long regarded as a huge prospect this was a coming of age season for Hamsik. In the past he has been erratic in his play, sometimes superb but often underwhelming, but this year he added the consistency that was previous lacking. Outstanding with the ball at his feet he laid on a host of chances for his teammates, most notably for Edinson Cavani, and was probably the leading creative figure in Serie A this season. He’s now on the verge of becoming a very special player indeed.
Juan Mata (Chelsea and Spain) 35 games, 12 goals **
Deservedly voted as Chelsea’ player of the season, Mata was a class apart this year. 12 assists in the league this season along with 12 goals meant that he was Chelsea’s most influential player and his performances were no less significant in Europe, delivering both assists in the Europa League final to secure yet another trophy was taken back to Stamford Bridge. With Jose Mourinho now returning to West London the Spaniard may well be joined by the reinforcements needed to win his first league title in England.
Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund and Germany) 28 games, 10 goals **
The question so many people were left asking in the aftermath of the Champions League final was, “What difference might Goetze have made?” That imponderable will sadly remain unanswered but it does reflect the esteem in which he is held that the youngster might have been the difference maker for Dortmund if he had been fit. A German record fee move to Bayern Munich should ensure that he will have plenty of opportunities to sample club football’s biggest event many times in the future.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia) 29 games, 25 goals **
Quite simply a phenomenal season for Mkhitaryan in an exceptional Shakhtar team. The title had already been effectively won by Christmas after a start to the season which saw them nearly unstoppable at home and hugely impressive on the international scene. The young Armenian was the stand out figure in the side, taking full advantage of a slightly advanced position to score the sort of goals tally that any striker would be proud of. The tiny country in the South Caucasus has not had a player this good since Khoren Oganesian in the early 1980s.
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal and Spain) 38 games, 12 goals **
A season that started brilliantly was more fitful after Christmas but few could dispute that Cazorla was among the finest newcomers in the league. Full of imagination and guile the Spaniard was the primary creative force in the Gunners’ successful race for the Champions League. Given that his compatriots David Silva and Juan Mata both improved significantly in their second season in the Premier League, Arsenal fans have a lot to look forward to.
Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich and Germany) 24 games, 6 goals **
The absence of Toni Kroos for Bayern Munich in the Champions League didn’t ultimately prove costly but such was the young midfielder’s influence during the season that it might have been a more straightforward match had he been fit. His excellent positioning and passing ability make FC Hollywood a far less predictable team to face than when they play with an out and out winger like Arjen Robben and shift Thomas Muller inside. How Pep Guardiola will accommodate so many exceptional players is unclear but he’d be a fool to sacrifice the talents of Kroos.
Hernanes (Lazio and Brazil) 34 games, 11 goals *
Although his influence declined in the second half of the season it was still a very impressive year for Hernanes. A recall to the Brazilian national team was strong recognition of his fine form and he could well be exactly the kind of player that Felipe Scolari needs next summer given his clever positioning and well judged distribution. Those attributes would also be well suited to a club more likely to challenge for major honours than Lazio.
Marouane Fellaini (Everton and Belgium) 31 games, 11 goals *
After a superb beginning to 2012-3 the performances of Fellaini, like those of Everton as a whole, were rather less impressive as the season wore on. However, at his peak in the early months of the campaign the Belgian midfielder was nigh on unplayable and his relentless physicality saw defenders completely unable to contain him. Given Manchester United’s need for a central midfielder to play alongside Michael Carrick in anchoring the side most people consider it only a matter of time before Fellaini joins former manager David Moyes at Old Trafford.
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) 31 games, 3 goals *
This was a strange season for Iniesta. For the first time in his career he began to deliver the number of assists that one would associate with a player so frequently touted as one of the greats of this era. Yet for a player who carried the soubriquet “the solutions man” he looked in the Champions League sorely lacking in ways of breaking down the best defences. If he is to merit the lofty accolades which he so often receives he needs to be able to be able to deliver against big and small teams alike.
Mesut Oezil (Real Madrid and Germany) 32 games, 9 goals *
The arrival of Luka Modric in Madrid added an extra element of pressure for Oezil this season. Previously the injury troubles of Kaka had meant that the German was almost unchallenged as the team’s preeminent playmaker but the arrival of the Croatian schemer was forced to work for his place. Yet again he was among the most regular providers of chances in Europe with 13 assists in the league alone. Still only 24 the best should be yet to come.
Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille and France) 37 games, 3 goals *
Now ready to commit himself to Marseille in the longer term, Valbuena remains the key creative force at the Stade Velodrome. His 12 assists in Ligue 1 were surpassed only by Dimitri Payet and the hustle and bustle of the Marseille man’s endeavours means opposing defences rarely get a moment of peace. With the World Cup just a year away he has sensibly decided that leaving the familiar surroundings of Marseille would be a mistake at this point in time.
Isco (Malaga and Spain) 37 games, 9 goals *
With Malaga’s financial difficulties it is now certain that Isco will not be playing on the Costa del Sol next season. Which megaclub he will be joining is still unclear but another fantastic year for the youngster means it is inevitable that he will have a host of suitors. Last year he proved he was capable of shining in La Liga, this season he took that form into Europe, lighting up the Champions League on a run that agonizingly ended in the quarter-finals. If he does join Manchester City as is widely tipped they’ll be hoping he can finally get them past the European group stages.
Christian Eriksen (Ajax and Denmark) 33 games, 10 goals *
Given the lofty expectations which surround Eriksen the year that has just gone was not an unqualified success. Yes, he won the title for the third season in a row with Ajax, providing thirteen assists, more than any other player in the team. However, for a player of his calibre there was a hope that he might yet have kicked on further still and truly dominated the league. For him to develop further many feel he should move to one of the continent’s best leagues and could there be a better place to do so than as a potential successor to Mario Goetze at Dortmund?
Juan Arango (Borussia Moenchengladbach and Venezuela)
Pablo Batalla (Bursaspor and Argentina)
Remy Cabella (Montpellier and France)
Gonzalo Castro (Bayer Leverkusen and Germany)
Renaud Cohade (St Etienne and France)
Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen and Belgium)
Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna and Italy)
Diego (Wolfsburg and Brazil)
Filip Djuricic (Heerenveen and Serbia)
Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona and Spain)
Julien Feret (Rennes and France)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and England)
Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow and Japan)
Szabolcs Huszti (Hannover and Hungary)
Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nurnberg and Japan)
Koke (Atletico Madrid and Spain)
Adam Maher (AZ Alkmaar and Netherlands)
Oscar (Chelsea and Brazil)
Oscar (Valladolid and Spain)
Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla and Croatia)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England)
David Silva (Manchester City and Spain)
Marco Van Ginkel (Vitesse and Netherlands)
Joan Verdu (Espanyol and Spain)