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Who are the most creative players in the Premier League and Europe’s top leagues?

Who are the most influential and innovative players in Europe in the 2022-23 season?

Who are the most influential players in Europe in the 2022-23 season?
Marc AtkinsGetty Images

For three hundred years, the world was thought to be governed by natural laws completely separate from those that ruled the sky. First proposed by the Greeks, terrestrial and celestial physics were two worlds: celestial physics was all about beauty, perfection and the perpetual movements of heavenly bodies. Terrestrial physics was ugly: objects on the earth fell downwards, forces ground to a halt and reflected nothing of the beauty of the celestial world. The Greeks thought these two worlds were not compatible, until Galileo Galilei came along.

Galileo had a thought experiment: he took an imaginary rock - a terrestrial body, an ugly thing - and threw it into the air so high that it became celestial body, orbiting the earth in a perfect circle. With one thought experiment he broke 300 years of thinking and shattered the way the world was seen.

Kevin de Bruyne is quite good at thought experiments, too. Only he does not, to my knowledge, ponder the make-up of the universe, instead preferring to use his creativity on a football pitch.

Erling Haaland celebrates with Kevin De Bruyne during the match against Leeds United on December 28, 2022.
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Erling Haaland celebrates with Kevin De Bruyne during the match against Leeds United on December 28, 2022.OLI SCARFFAFP

Kevin De Bruyne’s crazy numbers

The Manchester City midfielder, despite his team’s apparent collapse, leads the way in terms of assists in the Premier League, with 10. He is also well ahead of the pack in terms of big chances created, having been the author of 19 so far in the campaign. Of course, it helps having Erling Haaland up front to create space and make the runs, but, as Isaac Newton said, “if I have seen further than any other man”, and De Bruyne definitely has, “it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

He is also the leader of key passes (a pass that leads to a shot) in the Premier League, with 3.4 per game. The closest players to him are Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard, who both sit on 2.2 per 90 minutes, lightyears behind the Belgian. Ødegaard does tip De Bruyne when it comes to dribbling, as the Norweigian currently has a 67.7% dribble success rate while the Manchester City midfielder has 54.2%. The difference with this statistic, it must be said, has many variables that come into play, such as the position in which the players begin and end the run.

Premier League top creators, top assists
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Premier League top creators, top assistsAS English

And on the continent?

If we pluck De Bruyne out of the Premier League as the top creator, and pop him with the best inventors in Europe’s top 5 leagues (Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England), we can see that the competition is a bit stronger.

First of all, if De Bruyne is Galileo, then Messi is Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking rolled in one, with an average rating from Sofascore of over 8, which is helped by his goal tally. But De Bruyne still tops the European rankings for assists, four ahead of Messi, but Argentinian lands another punch with his huge number of accurate through balls, doubling Kevin De Bruyne’s number.

Top 5 leagues Europe, top assists
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Top 5 leagues Europe, top assistsAS English

Best of the rest

As for the other three players in the top leagues, Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) and Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), they each have their high points. The Spaniard has the same number of successful dribbles as Leo Messi, with 58.3%, while Kolo Muani only has one less assist that the top two, having played less games. As for Milinkovic-Savic, he does not top any chart, coming close with forward passes, pulling off over 17 per game, 4 more than De Bruyne.

We see the thought experiments by all of these players on a weekly basis, and, as ever, it’s normally Kevin De Bruyne or Lionel Messi who force us to rewrite our thinking. One would assume that Galileo would approve.