Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne believes Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is the best player in the world.

Of the players to have scored eight or more goals across all competitions in Europe's top five leagues this season, Lewandowski ranks top for goals (15), minutes per goal (59.87), shots on target (27), expected goals (13.39) and expected goals on target (13.45).

The Poland captain's fine form is a continuation of his remarkable achievements in recent years, including a treble with Bayern in 2019-20 and breaking Gerd Muller's record for Bundesliga goals in a season last term.

With the Ballon d'Or set to be awarded next month after being cancelled last year, De Bruyne feels Lewandowski's performances over the last two years are deserving of the award. 

"I would have to look at a two year period and I would choose Robert Lewandowski," De Bruyne said. "For what he has done goalscoring-wise and what he has won with Bayern Munich."

De Bruyne also addressed the comments of his City team-mate Raheem Sterling, who voiced his openness to a move abroad due to concerns about his playing time.

"Sometimes it is tough to play one game and then miss then next, but obviously it is the manager who has to make those choices," De Bruyne continued.

"We have a group of 22 or 23 internationals who are unbelievable so when the team plays good, there's not a lot you can say as a player. It can be frustrating, but we are all supportive of each other."

The Belgium midfielder also insisted that, while the team are keen to compete for a Champions League title, they are satisfied with their numerous domestic achievements in recent seasons.

"We always try to maintain a high level at his club and compete for titles," De Bruyne added. "That is what we did last year. Winning two semis and a [Carabao Cup] final. Sometimes you can lose these games [the 1-0 defeat in the Champions League final against Chelsea] and you have to move on.

"We've not won [the Champions League] but we are trying. Hopefully in my period here we can get one. It doesn't define your legacy, maybe for people outside. I'm happy with what we've done as a club for the last six years."

Manchester United suffered a torrid second-half spell to succumb to defeat against Leicester City in Saturday's headline Premier League clash.

Failure at the King Power Stadium places further questions over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure ahead of a daunting schedule but neighbours Manchester City did not experience similar problems as the defending champions cruised to yet another victory over Burnley.

City's fellow title contenders Chelsea made London derby history as they battled past Brentford after Liverpool's fearsome front three had comfortably dispatched Claudio Ranieri's new Watford side.

In the other fixtures, Wolves shocked Aston Villa to overturn a two-goal deficit and Norwich City fought for a goalless draw against Brighton and Hove Albion, while Southampton registered their first win over a depleted Leeds United.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the fixtures from the day.

Watford 0-5 Liverpool: Mane hits century as Salah continues scoring run

Roberto Firmino became the first Brazilian to score more than one hat-trick in the Premier League as Ranieri fell to defeat by the biggest margin of any manager in their first home game with a new club in the competition.

Firmino's first two goals followed Mane's opener as the Senegal international hit his 100th Premier League goal, without scoring a penalty, with only Les Ferdinand (149) and Emile Heskey (110) previously achieving such a feat.

Mohamed Salah played an exquisite pass for Mane's landmark goal but the Egypt forward also found the net as he danced through Watford's defence to become the joint-top scoring African – level with Didier Drogba (104) – in the history of the competition.

His left-footed curler also made him the first Liverpool player since Daniel Sturridge in 2014 to score in eight consecutive games in all competitions as Jurgen Klopp's side became the first top-flight side to ever score three-plus goals in seven consecutive away games across all competitions.

Leicester City 4-2 Manchester United: Foxes end Red Devils record away run

Mason Greenwood edged United ahead with his fifth strike from outside the box in 21 Premier League goals – only David Beckham and Nani have managed a higher share of goals for the club from in such a fashion of those to score 20 times.

However, just 54 seconds split Marcus Rashford's equaliser for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to make it 2-2 and Jamie Vardy putting the hosts 3-2 to the good.

Patson Daka then became the first Zambian scorer in the Premier League, with 105 different nations now having a goalscorer, as Leicester won three consecutive games in all competitions against the Red Devils for the first time since 1901.

Not only did the Foxes, who have conceded in seven straight top-flight games under Brendan Rodgers, make history they also ended the visitors' record run as 30 games without a loss on the road came to an abrupt end.

Brentford 0-1 Chelsea: Blues make history in the capital against unlucky Brentford

Ben Chilwell's third goal in three games – as many as in his last 33 appearances in the league – inspired Chelsea to a record-breaking seventh consecutive away win in London derbies.

Thomas Tuchel's men have conceded just three goals this term – the fewest they have conceded at this stage since 2010-11 (two) – as the Blues won their 15th game against new top-flight opposition in 16 attempts.

Meanwhile, Brentford – who were stifled by Edouard Mendy's 20th clean sheet in 38 games – remain winless in seven matches against Chelsea, losing each of their last three by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0.

Manchester City 2-0 Burnley: Guardiola's men maintain dominance over the Clarets 

City cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory at Etihad Stadium, meaning they now boast a 32-1 aggregate scoreline over Burnley in their last nine games across all competitions.

Pep Guardiola's side have now kept clean sheets in six of their eight league games this term – more than any other side – as Kevin de Bruyne netted for consecutive top-flight games for the first time since July 2020.

The Clarets, who are on the longest winless run in England's top four tiers (11), are Bernardo Silva's favourite opponent, the Portugal international directly involved in seven goals in eight games.

Kevin De Bruyne insists it is not realistic for Belgium to compete with heavyweights such as France and Italy after finishing fourth in the Nations League.

The Red Devils let a two-goal lead slip to lose 3-2 to France in last week's semi-final and were beaten 2-1 by Italy in Sunday's third-place play-off.

Despite being on course to end the year as FIFA's top-ranked national side for a fourth time running, De Bruyne has called for some perspective on the back of a difficult week.

"We did well at times against some top teams and had many new faces who did more than a decent job today," he told Belgian publication HLN.

"It's good experience for them to be able to play against opponents of this calibre, but unfortunately we lost twice. 

"With all due respect, playing against Estonia is not the same thing and these challenges are necessary for us to grow, both as individuals and as a team.

"We are 'just' Belgium. It's a new generation and we were missing Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard against Italy, so we have to be realistic about the team we have. 

"Italy, France and Spain have 22 top players to choose from and we do not."

Belgium's 'Golden Generation' of players have yet to win a major trophy, most recently finishing third at the 2018 World Cup, either side of quarter-final exits at Euro 2016 and 2020.

Roberto Martinez's side are top of their World Cup 2022 qualifying group with 16 points from six matches and return to action on November 13 with a home game against Estonia.

Barcelona-linked Martinez has acknowledged that his side have to improve when they take on some of the world's bigger nations.

"We cannot concede five goals in two games and we cannot concede two penalties, even if the decisions were not correct," he said following the loss to Italy.

"But the way we reacted to going behind against Italy, after what had happened in the France game, I thought the team had a real strong personality to keep playing."

Roberto Martinez said it is "difficult for me to talk about rumours" after addressing speculation he could replace Ronald Koeman as Barcelona boss.

Martinez saw his Belgium side defeated 2-1 by Italy in Sunday's Nations League third-place play-off, having lost to the Azzurri by the same scoreline in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

Speaking after Sunday's game, Martinez was asked about links to Barca, with Koeman's position under threat after an indifferent start in LaLiga this season and back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League.

"It's difficult for me to talk about rumours. I've been working with this team for five years and am fully concentrated on this role," Martinez told reporters post-match.

"We came to the Nations League to win it and did not manage that, but now we prepare for World Cup qualifying. I have nothing more to add."

Nicolo Barella's goal and a Domenico Berardi penalty were enough for Italy to defeat Belgium, for whom Charles De Ketelaere's first international goal was not enough to mount a comeback.

It marked the first time Belgium have suffered back-to-back competitive defeats since September 2010 and Martinez, whose team let a two-goal lead slip against France in the semi-final on Thursday, was left frustrated.

"The penalty was a debatable decision and one that frankly I do not agree with. I try to be respectful with the referee, but you need experience at a tournament of this level," he added.

"We are very frustrated by VAR intervening against France, saying referees ought to be given responsibility for their decisions, but why didn't the VAR intervene today when the referee needed help? The frustration grew as the game wore on."

Substitute Kevin de Bruyne, who assisted De Ketelaere's late consolation goal, was also disappointed but felt the experience has been good for some of Belgium's younger squad members.

"We did well at times against some top teams and had many new faces who did more than a decent job today," De Bruyne told Belgian outlet HNL.

"It's a good experience for them to be able to play against opponents of this calibre, but unfortunately we lost twice.

"With all due respect, playing against Estonia is not the same thing and these challenges are necessary for us to grow, both as individuals and as a team.

"We are 'just' Belgium. It's a new generation, we were missing Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard today, so we have to be realistic about the team we have.

"Italy, France and Spain have 22 top players to choose from and we do not."

Is there a more reliable way of making sure a football team fails to live up to expectations than to label them the 'Golden Generation'?

Okay, maybe that's a little reductive as 'living up to expectations' is of course entirely dependent on context – the Czech Republic's 'Golden Generation' from 1996-2006 finished second and third at two out of three European Championship appearances. While not successful in the literal sense, most would agree it was a commendable achievement.

But for Belgium's plentiful crop, a lot more was expected than what they've achieved. While perhaps less of a disappointment than England's own 'Golden Generation', third place at a World Cup isn't going to be much of a legacy given some of the talent the Red Devils have had.

Roberto Martinez's side fell at the quarter-final hurdle in Euro 2020, with eventual winners Italy emerging 2-1 victors and Belgium left to watch the latter stages of another tournament pass them by.

At the very least, this week does offer them a chance at a first international trophy. They face France in Turin on Thursday in the second of the 2021 Nations League semi-finals.

But down the line when their best talents have retired, would the Nations League – which probably has a limited shelf-life itself if certain people at FIFA get their way over proposals for biennial World Cups – really suffice as the pinnacle of their achievements?

Red Devils awaiting replenishment

Of course, Belgium do still have time – the next World Cup is only 13 months away.

But how many would realistically consider them among the favourites? Concerns over the age of their squad are valid and, while 13 months isn't necessarily a long time, elite football has a tendency to expose and exacerbate even the slightest weakness, of which age can be an example.

Reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-final was the closest Belgium have come to winning the biggest prize in football, as they got to the last four before ultimately losing to Thursday's opponents France.

 

Martinez's starting XI in that game was the oldest (28 years, 356 days) of all of Belgium's line-ups during the 2018 World Cup. While that may not necessarily be shockingly old in itself, some might suggest that was evidence of them being at the peak of their powers.

Since Russia 2018, Belgium have only got older. Now, you might be inclined to say, "Yeah, that's how aging works, genius", but football is obviously cyclical. Teams don't just age for eternity, they are refreshed and replenished.

It's difficult to say that's happening on a consistent basis with Belgium, though.

Young Lions setting the example

Gareth Southgate's England got just as far as Belgium in Russia and their squad was already rather young (26.0 years), with only Nigeria (25.9) having a younger group of players at the tournament.

The third-place play-off – when fringe players were given opportunities – aside, England's starting XI's average age only dipped below 26 once, and that was their third group game (also against Belgium) having already secured a spot in the next round.

But there were clear signs of further refreshment to Southgate's team after the tournament, with their first XI's average age not reaching 26 again for more than two years (November 2020).

 

Between the start of the last World Cup and the present day, Belgium have named a starting XI with an average age of 29 years or more nine times – seven of those have been in 2021 alone. Their oldest average age in that time, 30 years and 148, was during the 1-0 win over Portugal at Euro 2020.

Of course, it didn't work out too badly on that occasion, and their collective age isn't necessarily a barrier in a given game, but it does suggest Martinez has to be reliant on his older players because the next generation isn't of the same calibre.

The starting XI selected against Portugal at the Euros was the second-oldest named by any team at the tournament after Slovakia.

While key players such as Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Carrasco, Youri Tielemans and Thibaut Courtois haven't reached 30, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Eden Hazard have.

So, what of the next generation?

Belgium's next hopefuls

Belgium's youngest team of 2021 – and fourth-youngest since the start of the last World Cup – was named last month (26 years, 364 days) in the 1-0 win away to Belarus.

Among the 15 players who featured, only three were 24 or younger: Dodi Lukebakio, Tielemans and Alexis Saelemaekers, who at 22 was the youngest. Zinho Vanheusden (also 22), Yari Verschaeren and Charles De Ketelaere (both 20) were unused substitutes.

Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga (21) had been in the squad, while Jeremy Doku impressed with his pace and trickery at Euro 2020 despite only turning 19 in May. These, for the time being, appear to be Belgium's next biggest hopes.

Lokonga looks set to be an interesting option in midfield. Athletic and a hard worker, his 62.2 per cent duel success was the 15th highest among outfield players in the Belgian Pro League last season, but he's also an assuring presence in possession.

 

Of the Pro League players to attempt at least 30 dribbles last term, Lokonga (41) ranked third in terms of completion percentage (72.1), while no midfielder or winger recorded more ball carries (627) than him. Among the same group, only three – two of whom were wingers – carried the ball further upfield over the course of the campaign than Lokonga (3,356.9 metres).

His former Anderlecht team-mate Verschaeren has been around for a few years now, with this impressively his fourth season in the club's first team. Last term saw him progress as a goal threat, improving from two the season before to six, but early suggestions he could be the 'next Eden Hazard' haven't really been on the money.

While Hazard has always been renowned for his dribbling, Verschaeren is a rather less conventional winger in that sense given he only attempted 1.8 per 90 minutes in 2020-21. Instead, his strength lies in link-up play, with just six players among forwards and midfielders (at least 900 minutes played) bettering his 83.5 per cent pass completion in the attacking half of the pitch.

Although his shot-ending sequence involvement average of 4.1 per 90 minutes was unspectacular, it was above average, whereas his goal-ending sequence involvement of 0.8 each game was bettered only seven.

But where Verschaeren's stock may not have risen as quickly as some expected a couple of years ago, De Ketelaere does appear to be on a good trajectory.

Capable of playing as a striker, winger or No.10, De Ketelaere has often been deemed lightweight despite his height and easily knocked off the ball. His duel success has improved to 54.6 per cent this term from 44.3 – among the worst – last season, a consequence of him bulking up somewhat, and although he continues to lack presence aerially (36.8 per cent aerial success), De Ketelaere can get by because he's a good technician.

He was important as an associative player in attack in 2020-21, as demonstrated by the fact he was involved in shot-ending sequences with a total xG (expected goals) value of 21.8, the seventh-highest in the Pro League, while he's already matched last season's goals output of four.

 

Doku is seemingly the outstanding one of the bunch in terms of flair, at the very least. He attempted (184) and completed (110) the fifth-most dribbles across the top five European leagues last season, encouraging proof of his confidence and technique.

Currently injured, Doku still has plenty to work on in terms of his end product, but the raw minerals are there, and he didn't look out of place at Euro 2020.

Are these youngsters enough to carry the burden of expectation that's been cultivated by Belgium's 'Golden Generation', though? At the moment it's difficult to say the new kids on the block are generally of the same quality on an individual level, because Lukaku, De Bruyne, Hazard et al have just been so good over the years.

While Nations League success may not cut it as a satisfactory legacy for this Belgium team, winning the title in Italy might just give them the nudge their collective mentality needs ahead of what looks likely to be a last realistic tilt at the World Cup for a while.

In the past four seasons, only Manchester City and Liverpool have won the Premier League title. In the past four seasons, only City and Liverpool have even come close.

For all the talk of a 'big four', including European champions Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United, leaving Arsenal and Tottenham behind, these are the two teams to beat. When they meet, it tends to be special. Sunday's 2-2 draw was no different.

James Milner may not wish to watch the game back, though. For the same reasons, Pep Guardiola is unlikely to reflect fondly on a point that leaves City third, a point behind Liverpool and two shy of Chelsea.

The champions trailed twice but will feel they should have ended an 84-year wait for consecutive league victories against Liverpool, having won at Anfield last season for the first time in 18 attempts.

It was little wonder City players were bent double even before the full-time whistle was blown, this game coming at the end of a brutal week that took in trips to Stamford Bridge and Paris Saint-Germain's Parc des Princes before another Anfield epic. On top for much of all three matches, Guardiola's men might have taken nine points from nine across the Premier League and Champions League but instead had to settle for four.

Without a striker signing, the lack of a ruthless touch in the final third was in evidence again on Merseyside, in stark contrast to Liverpool and Mohamed Salah, as the Reds — and Milner, in particular — were somehow allowed to escape a punishing first half unscathed.

A pair of Alisson errors in last season's meeting had teed up City's 4-1 win, but the goalkeeper played a key role in keeping his side in the game this time.

City had briefly hinted at an alternative approach to last week's relentless pressing of Chelsea — which included a season-high 17 pressed sequences — this time allowing 46.5 per cent of the action to play out in their own third in the first five minutes as Liverpool initially took control.

But the visitors, with one notable exception, soon found their feet and exposed Liverpool's obvious flaw: Milner.

Phil Foden had started through the centre at Chelsea but moved to the left, trading with Jack Grealish, and thoroughly enjoyed himself up against makeshift right-back Milner, whose woeful start was only matched by fellow stalwart Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool captain completed only 50 per cent of his first-half passes and gave up possession with 46.7 per cent of his touches.

Henderson epitomised Liverpool's first 45 minutes, but Milner was the real victim of his inability to keep the ball.

When Bernardo Silva pounced on a slack touch in the middle of the pitch, beat Henderson twice, did the same to Andy Robertson and then squeezed between Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, leaving the latter in a tangle, he spotted Foden racing in behind Milner. Out came Alisson for a vital save.

Again and again, Foden ran at Milner. An apparent foul on the border of the box went unpunished, then the England man swung over a deep cross to find a team-mate unmarked in front of goal. Unfortunately for City, it was Kevin De Bruyne, the one man uncharacteristically matching Henderson's mishaps stride for stride. De Bruyne stooped and headed over, one of four attempts before the break, none of which hit the target.

Next, Foden was successful in drawing a foul from Milner and a yellow card. The veteran midfielder did not learn and was caught out by an outrageous Ederson pass that required Alisson to advance again, reading Foden's intentions as he attempted to round the goalkeeper.

Jurgen Klopp rushed down the tunnel at half-time but did not rush to make changes. Out came the same team again, Milner up against Foden again.

Crucially, however, Liverpool were able to keep the ball away from the versatile forward for a time and instead focused their attention on moving in the opposite direction down the same flank. Joao Cancelo may be a more natural full-back, but he also looked uncomfortable against Salah.

So it proved just before the hour, when Salah skipped past his opponent and suddenly had City on the back foot for the first time. They had faced only two shots to that point, but Salah's pass found Sadio Mane with space beyond Ruben Dias and able to steer in a scarcely deserved opener.

That should have given Liverpool the belief to go after Guardiola's men again, and City certainly wobbled for a time, but the introduction of Raheem Sterling for Grealish — at odds with Klopp's unerring faith in his first XI — gave the Reds something new to think about and distracted from Foden, who subsequently found space again and rifled in a superb leveller with Milner unable to recover.

Milner did not last much longer, but he should have been sent off before he was subbed off. It was at this point that Guardiola's frustration boiled over. With his side in the ascendancy, Silva's dancing feet beat Milner and he was brought down. The former City man inexplicably evaded a second card and, with Guardiola fuming on the touchline, gesturing towards fourth official Mike Dean, slumping in his chair and then hopping up to remove his jacket, Klopp quickly made plans to replace his ailing man.

Inevitably, Joe Gomez was still waiting to come on when Milner won a throw-in deep in City territory and Liverpool built another attack. Curtis Jones fed Salah, who turned away from Cancelo, left Silva on his backside and danced past Aymeric Laporte to lash in from a tight angle. The predictable response from those of a City persuasion prompted bookings for both Guardiola and Silva.

Yet Foden had stolen the show in this fixture last term and was not about to be undone. Unperturbed by Gomez's presence in place of Milner, he created space for a cutback that rolled away from Kyle Walker but not De Bruyne, this time a little more accurate but still benefiting from a deflection en route to the net.

There was still time for a remarkable Rodri block as Salah's cross gave Fabinho an open goal, but the apparent promise of another twist faded as legs became heavy. The international break would do these players the world of good if not for their national team commitments.

Sloppy in the first half, sublime in the second, Liverpool and City showed both why they are the best around and how they can be beaten. Whether anyone else in the league can stay with them long enough to get a good look at those weaknesses is another matter.

While Liverpool floundered last year and City the season before, this rivalry remains on a knife-edge. The return fixture could yet prove pivotal.

Manchester City twice rallied to secure a 2-2 draw against Liverpool after a pulsating encounter between the previous two Premier League champions at Anfield.

Kevin De Bruyne's left-footed shot pegged back the Reds for a second time after a sensational solo Mohamed Salah effort had put Liverpool ahead again, the Egyptian holding off Joao Cancelo before moving beyond Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte to rifle in a right-footed drive from a tight angle.

Uncharacteristically passive in the first 45 minutes despite playing towards the Kop, Liverpool went ahead when Sadio Mane slotted home Salah's throughball, only for Phil Foden to respond for City.

Fabinho appeared set to put the Reds ahead once again only for a brilliant Rodri block to prevent him from slotting into an unguarded net, meaning a point apiece for both teams.

All the drama after the break was in stark contrast to a first half that saw City dominant. Foden was twice denied by Alisson and also felt he should have been awarded a penalty when clipped by James Milner, who was then fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for a foul after the break.

The closest Liverpool went to scoring in the first 45 minutes came when a Ruben Dias back pass nearly caught out Ederson, but Jurgen Klopp's half-time words worked a treat as the hosts came alive after the interval.

Diogo Jota finally tested Ederson before Salah's run and throughball allowed Mane to slot home his 99th Premier League goal.

Foden’s response was emphatic, his left-footed strike flashing beyond Alisson, yet Salah appeared to have landed a knockout blow in the heavyweight battle with a glorious run and finish.

City, however, climbed off the canvas to make sure they avoided a knockout defeat, the scorecard finishing level thanks to De Bruyne, whose first-time attempt from the centre of the penalty area clipped Joel Matip on the way in.

Pep Guardiola thanked Manchester City's academy after handing debuts to five youngsters in Tuesday's EFL Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers.

City, who have won the EFL Cup in each of the last four seasons, stormed to a 6-1 victory over their third-tier opposition at the Etihad Stadium.

Wycombe did take a shock lead through Brandon Hanlan, but Kevin De Bruyne's strike swiftly restored parity before Riyad Mahrez and the excellent Phil Foden put City in control.

Ferran Torres, Mahrez and substitute Cole Palmer – another academy graduate – got in on the act after the break.

All four of City's defenders were debutants, with each player born after the turn of the century, while holding midfielder Romeo Lavia was also making his senior bow.

Guardiola had said ahead of the tie he had no alternative but to call on City's youngsters, and he was not let down by what he saw.

"I am just going to say thank you very much to all the academy," he said.

"They have many good players, not just one or two. All of them are incredibly well-educated people. Thanks to their families. We have talented players. We can count on them absolutely."

With so much inexperience in the side, Foden – playing in midfield – was seen as an older head, despite being aged just 21.

Having had a delayed start to his campaign after sustaining an injury during Euro 2020, Foden clicked fully into gear with a hugely impressive display.

His goal was a venomous strike from long range that was too good for Wycombe goalkeeper David Stockdale, with the playmaker then providing the assist for Torres' goal having earlier teed up De Bruyne's leveller.

Foden had four attempts, while only Mahrez created as many chances (seven).

"Of course, definitely [impressed]," Guardiola said of Foden's display.

"Phil was injured for two months after the national team. Phil doesn't need many games to get his rhythm because he lives for football 24 hours a day. He is sharp."

De Bruyne also played the full 90 minutes, with Guardiola saying: "Kevin needs time for a proper pre-season. He was injured in the Champions League final and for the national team.

"He needs his rhythm to be fit. That's why it was so good for him to play 90 minutes today. Knowing he is not in the right condition. Now is the moment for Kevin to start to be ready.

"He has not been running back like he runs forward. Today he did it for the first time. He will be back because he is an incredible player."

Lionel Messi will be the highest-rated player on FIFA 22 after EA Sports revealed the upcoming game's top 22.

The latest edition of the long-running title will be released at the start of October and will see Messi representing a team other than Barcelona for the first time.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August and will give gamers the chance to line up with him, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all in the same front three.

With a rating of 93, Messi will be the game's best player, excluding icons and special Ultimate Team cards.

 

The ratings of Neymar and Mbappe were also among those revealed on Monday, with the pair among five players on 91 – the other three are Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak and Kevin De Bruyne.

Of course, the game will give Manchester United fans the chance to include Ronaldo in their Red Devils side after he completed his return to the club following a 12-year absence.

Messi aside, the only other player to be rated higher than Ronaldo is Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

He broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season in 2020-21 as he netted 41 times en route to the title.

 

But it was not enough to topple Messi.

Even in a season that was largely underwhelming for Barcelona, Messi still managed to score 30 LaLiga goals and he set up another nine – only four players had more assists.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the six-time Ballon d'Or winner just pips Lewandowski to top-billing despite the latter's historic campaign.

FIFA 22's top 22 players:

Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain – 93

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich – 92

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – 91

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – 91

Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 91

Harry Kane, Tottenham – 90

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea – 90

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich – 90

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona – 90

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 89

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain – 89

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 89

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool – 89

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich – 89

Son Heung-min, Tottenham – 89

Alisson, Liverpool – 89

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid – 89

Casemiro, Real Madrid – 89

Ederson, Manchester City – 89

Sadio Mane, Liverpool – 89

Manchester City top FIFA's list of the biggest spenders on internationals transfers in the past decade.

The world governing body on Monday revealed $48.5billion worth of player trading was done between 2011 and 2020.

Premier League champions City have spent big on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ruben Dias during that period, so it is no surprise they top the list.

Chelsea and Barcelona are second and third respectively on the list - which does not state how much each club spent in total.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid make up the top five, while 12 of the top 30 clubs, who alone have spent €19.3billion in the time period, are from England.

Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG was for a world record fee of €222m, while Madrid brought in Eden Hazard from Chelsea for a deal that could reportedly climb to €175m (£150m).

Barcelona have the next two largest transfers, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele joining from Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Argentina forward Angel Di Maria also holds two slots in the top 10 of the highest individual transfers, his deal to join Manchester United from Madrid in 10th with his subsequent move to PSG a place higher.

Players of 204 different nationalities have been transferred since 2010-11, Brazil way out in front with 15,128 moves.

Agents have played a hugely increasing role in international transfers, with their involvement growing 69.1 per cent from 2011 to 2020.

From €131.1m worth of commissions in 2011 to €640.5m in 2019, a total of €3.5bn was paid for agents' commissions in international transfers over the course of the decade. 

Jorginho has been crowned UEFA Men's Player of the Year for the 2020-21 campaign following a stellar year for club and country.

The 29-year-old helped Chelsea to Champions League success in May and followed that up by winning Euro 2020 with Italy six weeks later.

He started every game for Italy and missed just one match for the Blues in their run to continental glory as he became the 10th player to win both competitions in the same year.

Former Napoli midfielder Jorginho edged out Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne for the award at Thursday's ceremony in Istanbul.

It is the first time in the award's 11-year history that the top three was comprised exclusively of midfielders.

Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland were notable absentees from the three-man shortlist.

The award, which is based on performances at club and international level over the course of a season, was last year won by Lewandowski.

Jorginho's memorable campaign

The role Jorginho played in Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 campaign likely cemented the award, the deep-lying playmaker leading the way in a number of areas.

Jorginho topped the list for interceptions (25), recoveries (48) and fouls won (19), rightly earning himself a spot in the official Team of the Tournament.

He was just as important to Chelsea's second ever Champions League triumph, with no midfielder intercepting the ball more times (26), while only four players in his position completed more than his 662 passes.

Despite an underwhelming Premier League campaign on the whole for the Blues last time out, Jorginho topped the scoring charts with seven goals in total, each of those coming from the penalty spot.

Edouard Mendy, Ruben Dias, N'Golo Kante and Erling Haaland won the positional awards for the 2020-21 Champions League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy kept nine clean sheets in last season's competition as the Blues won the trophy for the second time, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final.

City defender Dias was named the best defender, while Chelsea's Kante – UEFA's man of the match in each leg of the semi-final and the final – won the prize for midfielders.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland was chosen as the best forward in 2020-21.

The players were chosen from a shortlist of 12, who had each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Five of the 12 nominees were from Chelsea: Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho.

City had three representatives – Ederson, Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provided one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, were the other nominees.

Jorginho and Roberto Mancini could cap a golden year for Italy by landing UEFA honours after both were shortlisted for top awards on Thursday, though Manchester City duo Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola could spoil the Azzurri's party.

Azzurri midfielder Jorginho won the Champions League with Chelsea and followed that by helping his country to Euro 2020 glory, under the leadership of coach Mancini.

Jorginho, 29, is joined on the three-man shortlist for UEFA Men's Player of the Year by Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante, a standout in the Champions League final, and by City playmaker De Bruyne.

Kante played for France at Euro 2020 and De Bruyne featured for Belgium, but neither side made the progress many anticipated, with Les Bleus eliminated in the last 16 and the Red Devils bowing out to Italy in the quarter-finals.

The three players received the most votes from a panel consisting of the 24 head coaches at Euro 2020, the 80 coaches from the Champions League and Europa League group stages, and journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations.

The Men's Coach of the Year shortlist consists of the two coaches from the Champions League final, Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel and City's Guardiola, plus Italy boss Mancini.

It means there is no place for Gareth Southgate, who guided England to their first major men's final since the 1966 World Cup. He finished seventh in voting, UEFA announced, behind Villarreal's Europa League winning boss Unai Emery, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and former Inter coach Antonio Conte.

Like Guardiola, both Simeone and Conte led their club sides to domestic league title success.

The winner of each award will be announced at UEFA's Champions League group stage draw on August 26 in Istanbul.

Barcelona had a clean sweep of the players shortlisted for the Women's Player of the Year prize, following their Spanish league and cup and Champions League treble.

The Spanish duo of Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas were joined on the list by Dutch club-mate Lieke Martens.

UEFA's women's awards stem from votes from each of the coaches in the Champions League last 16 and the leading 12 coaches according to UEFA's national team rankings, plus a pool of 20 journalists.

Former Barcelona boss Lluis Cortes is joined on that list by Chelsea's Emma Hayes and Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

Is it time to ring the changes after a poor start or stick with the players who got you off to a flying start?

If you picked Bruno Fernandes for the opening round of Premier League fixtures, the Manchester United midfielder delivered with interest as he scored a stunning hat-trick against Leeds United.

Whether your team is sitting pretty or languishing in the lower reaches of the league, you have no doubt spent this week pondering potential selections.

Using Opta data, here are Stats Perform's Fantasy Picks that can rack up the points.

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Edouard Mendy started the campaign with a clean sheet as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

The European champions face another London derby at Arsenal on Sunday and Mendy can ensure the Gunners fire a blank.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other top-flight goalkeeper with 10. His clean sheet record of 53 per cent from 32 matches is the best in Premier League history for those who have played at least 10 games.

 

KIERAN TIERNEY (Arsenal v Chelsea)

Arsenal were beaten 2-0 by newly promoted Brentford in the first game of the campaign.

Mikel Arteta could have no complaints over Kieran Tierney's performance, with the marauding full-back creating six chances.

That was more than any other player in the opening round of fixtures and he can pose questions of the Chelsea defence in the London derby.

 

AARON CRESSWELL (West Ham v Leicester City)

West Ham defender Aaron Cresswell made a great start to the campaign and scored in a 4-2 victory at Newcastle United.

Cresswell has played a big part in the Hammers' success under David Moyes and is definitely one to consider picking for their home clash with Leicester City.

Since the start of last season, Cresswell has provided more assists (eight) than any other defender in the competition. No player has been involved in more goals than his tally of nine.

 

JOE WILLOCK (Aston Villa v Newcastle United)

Newcastle fans were delighted when Joe Willock returned to the club from Arsenal on a permanent deal following a successful loan spell last season.

Willock was not involved in a home loss to the Hammers, but can hit the ground running at Aston Villa.

The midfielder could become only the fourth player to score in eight consecutive Premier League games after ending last season in sensational form.

 

KEVIN DE BRUYNE (Manchester City v Norwich City)

Midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne was restricted to a late substitute appearance as champions Manchester City were beaten at Tottenham last weekend.

Norwich City will be hoping the Belgium playmaker plays a limited role again, as he can cause all sorts of trouble if Pep Guardiola unleashes him from the start.

De Bruyne has been involved in five goals in four games against the Canaries, scoring three and setting up two. He has scored four and assisted seven in his past eight appearances versus newly promoted teams.

KELECHI IHEANACHO (West Ham v Leicester City)

Striker Kelechi Iheanacho was another player who started the Premier League as a substitute but he can make a big impact at West Ham.

He has been involved in four goals in his past four appearances against the Hammers, netting three times and providing an assist.

Iheanacho has enjoyed capital gains, scoring in his last three appearances in London.

 

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Liverpool v Burnley)

Brazil striker Roberto Firmino was on target in Liverpool's comfortable opening-day win at Norwich.

He has fond memories of coming up against Burnley, scoring five times and setting up a goal in his past six appearances versus the Clarets.

Firmino opened the scoring in a 3-0 victory at Turf Moor when the two sides last met in May and can strike again at Anfield.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

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