Ranking World Football's 20 Best Players in September
Following the opening throes of August, the month of September has seen the vast majority of world football get well and truly back into the swing of things.
European leagues have begun to pick up the pace following the first international break of the campaign, while others, such as Brazil's Serie A and MLS, have started on the highway toward the season's end.
In Europe, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and AS Roma have all begun their respective seasons with perfect records, while Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Napoli and Porto have all made excellent starts. Brazil has seen Cruzeiro take a firm grip on top spot, and the New York Red Bulls have found form in MLS to surge to the top of the Eastern Conference.
On the international front, more key World Cup qualifiers saw the likes of Argentina, Netherlands, Italy and Colombia secure their places at next year's finals, while Belgium, Spain and Germany have all but secured their spots.
Nonetheless, here we are looking toward the individuals, pinpointing the 20 players who have had outstanding Septembers, in terms of both themselves on a personal level, as well as in terms of what they've done for their respective sides.
Of course, it's a subject that is more than open to debate, so if you feel anyone in particular deserved a place, be sure to mention them in the comments below.
The following represents Bleacher Report's 20 best players during the month of September:
20. Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan)
The experienced Argentine defender arrived at the San Siro from Napoli in the summer and hasn't wasted any time in becoming a key component at his new club.
Playing once more under Walter Mazzarri, his knowledge of his manager's three-man defence from their time together in Naples has helped Campagnaro become an on-field leader for the Nerazzurri, with his excellent positioning and no-nonsense approach helping to protect goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
Subsequently, Inter conceded just two goals in the four games this month where Campagnaro appeared, with three wins as well as a draw against champions Juventus. The 33-year-old did miss the 1-1 draw with Cagliari on September's final weekend, however, with his presence and ball-playing ability from the back both sorely missed as Rolando deputised.
Again, I can't believe we got a beast called Campagnaro, for FREE.— Grande Inter (@1nternazionale) September 26, 2013
His early days at Inter have been extremely promising and he has an 8.17 average rating on WhoScored from his five appearances thus far this season—no defender in any league rates higher at present.
In a defence that last season showed a distinct lack of know how and conceded goals far too cheaply, Campagnaro has already proven himself an astute bargain signing.
19. Nilton (Cruzeiro)
As Cruzeiro have surged to take an 11-point lead at the top of the Brazilian championship, 26-year-old midfield destroyer Nilton has been a major reason for A Raposa's dominant run
Having missed the 5-3 win over Vasco De Gama on September 1, Nilton has returned to play his part in five wins—including a 3-0 win over title rivals Botafogo—and one draw with some tenacious displays at the heart of his side's midfield in a busy September.
Additionally, he has also scored three goals, one a sensational volley in the win over Botafogo, to take his total for the season to seven in the process.
Nilton's power and intelligent reading of the game have helped shut down opponents, as has his aerial ability, all of which has played its part in seeing his side concede just twice following his return post-Vasco.
18. Alexandru Maxim (VFB Stuttgart)
September has been a particularly positive month in the Bundesliga for VFB Stuttgart, with an unbeaten month encompassing three wins and a draw from their four league matches to push them to sixth in the table.
And at the heart of all that has been good about Die Schwaben has been the 23-year-old attacking midfielder Alexandru Maxim. The Romanian arrived from his homeland in January, and having made a modest impression during what remained of 2012-13, he has exploded this September.
A magnificent display on September 1 saw Maxim claim two goals and two assists as Stuttgart trounced Hoffenheim 6-2. That performance, full of hard-running and clever passes, earned him a 9.86 rating from WhoScored.
After taking part in both Romania's World Cup qualifiers, Maxim was quickly back where he left off with his club, making a telling contribution with the assist in a 1-0 win away against Hertha Berlin. In the month's final match, he scored once and made another assist as Stuttgart won 4-0 at Braunschweig, leaving Maxim with a tremendous three goals and four assists in his four Bundesliga matches during September.
17. Danny (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Having been beaten to the Russian title for the first time in three seasons by CSKA Moscow in 2012-13, Luciano Spalletti's Zenit St. Petersburg have set off in thrilling style as they look to reclaim their crown in 2013-14 with Portuguese attacker Danny seemingly back to his very best.
The Venezuelan-born Portuguese international has suffered cruelly from injuries in recent time and has taken time to fully recover from a second cruciate ligament injury in 2012.
However, eight goals and six assists have been his haul from his league campaign so far, and September saw the Zenit No. 10 at his most sublime.
Zenit beat Spartak in the derby 4-2. Danny scored yet again.— George White (@GIsaacWhite) September 28, 2013
Mixing flair, technique and wonderful vision, Danny made five assists and netted three times himself in September from his station wide on the left of a 4-2-3-1 formation. He played a key role as the Zenitchiki won all five of their league matches during the month—including a 4-2 win over title rivals Spartak Moscow—scoring 16 goals in the process.
16. Miranda (Atletico Madrid)
Los Rojiblancos have enjoyed an unbelievable start to the season and September showed no sign of that coming to an end. In the 29-year-old Miranda, they have arguably the best centre-back in Spanish football at present.
Strong, quick, decisive and with the happy knack of always being in the right place at the right time to sweep up any danger—he's averaging over six clearances per game, according to WhoScored—the Parana native has formed a formidable partnership with Uruguayan Diego Godin at the heart of the Atleti defence.
As such, Miranda had an excellent September, playing his part in five league wins, including a second successive win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, and also scoring in the 3-1 win over Zenit in their Champions League opener.
Miranda's the first defender in the history of Atletico Madrid to score in the CL. Great to see him shining, especially after the CdR final.— Nora Guardiola (@NoraVilanova_) September 19, 2013
15. Michy Batshuayi (Standard Liege)
Michy Batshuayi enjoyed something of a breakthrough season in Belgian football with Standard Liege last season, scoring 12 goals in 34 Pro League matches, but his start to the present season has seen the 19-year-old become one of the hottest properties in Belgian football.
Les Rouches have rattled off nine straight league wins in the new campaign and Batshuayi has raced to the top of the scoring charts, in part thanks to an outstanding September that saw him net six goals in five games, including a hat-trick against KV Oostende.
Mixing pace and rugged strength with clever movement that can see him occupy an entire opposing defensive line and wonderful dribbling, the youngster is yet another promising Belgian prospect.
Additionally, with Christian Benteke injured, October could see the Under-21 international make his first steps with the senior national squad.
14. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Even though Manchester United went through an up-and-down September, Wayne Rooney was largely excellent following his return from the head gash that made him miss the trip to Liverpool and England's World Cup qualifiers.
Unquestionably, Rooney was the English champions' standout player as a disjointed United have struggled to acclimatise to the David Moyes regime.
Dreadful defeats against both Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion have marred the club's start to the campaign, leaving them 12th in the Premier League standings; Rooney was perhaps the only United player to come out of either of those matches with any credit, scoring in both.
On the plus side for the club, the England forward was outstanding in the 4-2 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen, as well as having very good matches in both the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace and the 1-0 League Cup success over Liverpool.
In all, the 27-year-old struck five times and made two assists during September, and he is now very much back in favour at Old Trafford and seemingly playing somewhere near his best once again.
13. Francesco Totti (AS Roma)
AS Roma have made their best start to a Serie A season, registering six wins from six under new manager Rudi Garcia, and central to all that has been great in the Eternal City this season has been the iconic Francesco Totti.
The 37-year-old continues to perform with the same level of ingenuity and craft that have been his stock trade throughout the 20 years during which he has graced the Stadio Olimpico.
Even if you are the most fervent Francesco Totti detractor/hater, if you can't appreciate his skills you don't know football. He's timeless.— Steve Amoia (@worldfootballcm) September 22, 2013
Playing as an auxiliary centre-forward in what is perhaps best described as a 4-3-3 formation under former Lille boss Garcia, Totti has been performing beautifully. His vision and technique have been at the heart of the Giallorossi's rise, as has his ability to drop between the lines before playing pinpoint passes for midfield runners.
Five matches in September saw Roma rack up five wins, including the derby success over bitter rivals Lazio, and saw Totti claim five assists—he has six for the season, a league high.
Additionally, Totti also scored during Roma's 3-1 win away against Parma as he continues his pursuit of the all-time goalscoring record for Serie A.
12. Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Antonio Conte has sought to rotate his Juventus midfield during September in a bid to keep everyone fresh throughout the season; however one constant during the month has been the young precocious French talent Paul Pogba.
And the 20-year-old, with his raw physicality, intelligent passing and positional awareness at the heart of the Bianconeri midfield, has been imperious during the month, leading Juve to three Serie A wins and away draws at Inter and Copenhagen. He scored the winner in the Turin derby at the end of the month.
All in, Pogba's outstanding showings in September with the Old Lady have played their part in his excellent WhoScored rating for the season so far, which currently stands at 8.01.
Additionally, Pogba made a winning return to the French national side—having missed the 0-0 draw with Georgia through suspension—playing a key part in a hard-fought 4-2 win against Belarus and scoring the fourth goal that secured the result.
11. Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina)
After an injury-plagued couple of years at Villarreal with career-threatening injuries, Giuseppe Rossi returned to Italy with Fiorentina in January. Having spent the remainder of 2012-13 on the sidelines, he has returned to action this term, showing signs that the man who scored 32 goals for Villarreal in 2010-11 could be set to break out with the Viola and return to something approaching his best.
During September, Rossi more than showed signs that his old sharpness and touch is returning, with the 26-year-old Italian international netting five goals and making one assist in six Serie A matches.
Giuseppe Rossi scores again. Five goals in six games for Fiorentina so far this season. Not a bad way to return from nearly two years out.— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) September 22, 2013
At his best, Rossi is a clinical finisher whose bursts of acceleration, touch and movement made him a threat to even the stingiest of defences. Now as he fights his way through the remaining post-injury mental battles, Rossi is showing hints that he could be set for a return to the injury-free days of his past.
Under the stewardship of Vincenzo Montella, himself a former Italian international, and playing in a wonderfully progressive side, Rossi is likely to get more chances to score more goals. Hopefully he can stay free of injury and can continue from a more-than-solid September.
10. Mehdi Benatia (AS Roma)
The 26-year-old Moroccan international has long been one of Serie A's strongest defenders and his arrival has ensured that the Giallorossi have not only replaced summer sale Marquinhos, they may have even upgraded.
Calm and cerebral, Benatia's intelligence and tackling ability have swiftly endeared him to his new supporters. During an outstanding September he was rock solid alongside Leandro Castan as Roma conceded just once in five matches.
Moreover, Benatia's aerial prowess has also come to the fore in both penalty boxes. Aside from his defensive duties he's also helped himself to two goals in his final two matches in September; interestingly, he was WhoScored's highest-rated player in both of those games against Sampdoria and Bologna.
Another win for Roma tonight with Mehdi Benatia on the scoresheet. Best pound-for-pound signing this summer? Possibly.— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) September 25, 2013
9. Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan)
The left-footed attacking midfielder has been at Inter Milan for the best part of two years now but has only recently started to show his best, with a mixture of injury troubles and the Nerazzurri managerial merry-go round playing their part in his struggles.
Montella told Sky Sport he wanted to bring Ricky Alvarez to Fiorentina over the summer, but Mazzarri vetoed the move— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) September 26, 2013
However, under the tutelage of new boss Walter Mazzarri and having been offered the full faith of his new manager, Ricky Alvarez has found the form that persuaded Inter to pay £8.3 million to secure his services from Velez Sarsfield and has been a key part in their unbeaten start to the new Serie A campaign.
During September, the 25-year-old has been devastatingly good as Inter won three and drew two of their five league matches. Mixing unpredictable dribbling, clever passing and an appreciation for keeping possession even in the final third, Alvarez scored twice and made three goals during the month.
Yet more than that, Alvarez's performances were at such a level that WhoScored made the Argentine the highest-rated player in four of Inter's five matches—including a perfect 10 in the 7-0 destruction of Sassuolo where he completed eight dribbles from his role behind lone striker Rodrigo Palacio in a 3-5-1-1 formation.
In short, Alvarez has stepped up as the chief creative spark in Mazzarri's new-look Inter. And at present, he appears to be thriving.
8. Miralem Pjanic (AS Roma)
During the summer Pjanic was linked with a move away from the Stadio Olimpico. While Rudi Garcia was happy for the likes of Erik Lamela, Marquinhos and Pablo Osvaldo to make big-money moves, he refused to sanction any deal for the 23-year-old, according to the player's agent, Michele Gerbino (speaking to calciomercato.it, as reported by asroma.co.uk).
And Pjanic has more than justified his new manager's faith with a string of excellent showings at the heart of midfield, his ability to take and keep possession in tight areas and excellent vertical passing playing a key role in Roma's winning start.
His relationship with fellow central midfielders Daniele De Rossi, Michael Bradley and Kevin Strootman has been a key reason as to why Roma are averaging 60.4 percent possession this season, according to WhoScored, with Pjanic averaging over 69 passes per game.
Throughout September Pjanic has been generally excellent for his club, offering one goal (a magnificently impudent chip against Verona) and three assists across five wonderful performances; he currently holds a 7.97 overall rating on WhoScored.
Moreover, his performances haven't only been saved for his club. Pjanic has played a vital role as Bosnia won in Slovakia—just days after a surprise defeat to the same opponents—as they look to close in on a spot at next summer's World Cup finals.
7. Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco)
Eyebrows were raised when Radamel Falcao traded Atletico Madrid for the project being undertaken with AS Monaco this summer, but the Colombian has quickly settled to life in the principality, doing what he does best: scoring goals.
Under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri—not to mention the lavish spending—the newly promoted side have shot to the top of Ligue 1.
September saw the chemistry between Ranieri's new-look side only improve as they went through the month unbeaten with three wins and two draws from their five games.
The 27-year-old Colombian more than played his part, leading the line with sharp movement and intelligent linkup play, while more than showing his predatory instincts with five goals in as many games, including the winner in the month's opening game against rivals Marseille and the equaliser against Paris Saint-Germain—both away from home.
Indeed his partnership with Emmanuel Riviere is already thriving, with the duo having scored 13 of their side's 14 goals so far. As such, Falcao is already proving crucial to his new club's aspirations.
100 - Falcao has netted 100 goals in 126 league games since arriving in Europe. Milestone.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 29, 2013
6. Koke (Atletico Madrid)
The all-action 21-year-old midfielder Koke has had a truly remarkable rise in the past 12 months, not only carving out a place in the Atletico Madrid starting XI, but also forcing his way into national team contention. If he continues the sparkling form he has shown thus far, then he'll be a shoo-in for the Spanish squad next summer.
Koke's high-energy, hard-running style have both endeared him to supporters of Los Rojiblancos but have also made him integral to Diego Simeone's first-choice side.
Playing nominally from the flanks, his driving runs, excellent final delivery, eye for a killer pass, tactical maturity and responsible defending are turning him into one of La Liga's most adept standout midfielders.
September saw Koke in the best and most decisive form of his young career, with two goals and five assists in six matches (including the 3-1 Champions League win over Zenit). One of those assists came in the Madrid derby, as Atleti beat Real Madrid, a result that saw them move five points clear of their bitter rivals and a game in which Koke was WhoScored's highest-rated performer.
Brilliant feet by Koke. He's incredible. You must learn and watch him. He will be special.— The Football Front (@ReviewFootball) September 28, 2013
At present, Koke is the La Liga player with the most assists this season (six), and his ability and determination are likely to prove vital if Atleti are to continue their current form.
5. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Arsene Wenger's Arsenal continued their excellent early-season form with a stunning showing of five wins from five matches in September, and at the heart of everything good about the Gunners was the all-action midfield showings of Welsh star Aaron Ramsey.
Having occupied a number of positions in recent times at the Emirates Stadium, the 22-year-old has made a central midfield spot his own this season and has repaid his manager's confidence with performances full of both quality and authority.
A run of five goals and one assist in five matches during September have added to Ramsey's excellent start to the new campaign. He has eight goals in nine matches altogether—including a double in the 3-1 win at Sunderland—as the Gunners have climbed to the top of the Premier League table and made a strong start to their Champions League campaign.
However, more than just his new-found eye for goal, Ramsey has displayed a visible determined streak, averaging 5.4 tackles per game according to WhoScored, as well as averaging over 77 passes per game as he dictates the course of matches from deep.
Nothing can cool off Aaron Ramsey at the moment. He's now scored in each of his past four games, 5 goals in all. #ManOnFire— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 28, 2013
Quite simply, the Welsh international is in the form of his life and has arguably made himself the first pick on Arsene Wenger's teamsheet.
4. Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The French winger enjoyed a magnificent 2012-13, leading Bayern Munich to their treble success, and he has continued in a similar vein in 2013-14, enjoying a fabulous September for his club and making a vital contribution for his country.
Five games this month have seen Bayern claim five victories, scoring 14 goals in the process across three competitions, with Ribery scoring three times. Additionally, the 30-year-old added the all-important assist in the 1-0 league win over Wolfsburg, while being WhoScored's man of the match in two of Bayern's matches.
His mesmeric dribbling, work rate and willingness to take responsibility for directing Die Roten's attacking forays have long since made him a darling of the Bayern supporters, their "working class folk hero," and such responsibility hasn't been solely dedicated to his advances with Bayern either during September.
Having been held to a 0-0 draw in Georgia, France needed a win in Belarus to stand any chance of keeping close to Spain at the top of their World Cup qualification group. However, they fell behind twice in Minsk, only for the excellent Ribery to score two equalisers before playing a key role in securing a 4-2 win.
It was a performance full of grit, determination and quality; in short, it was vintage Ribery and those kind of performances were the norm throughout September.
Is Ribery best French player today? Fra fans: 37% Yes. German fans: 80% Yes. Does Ribery deserve Ballon D’Or? Fra: 33% Yes. Germ: 70%— Ben Lyttleton (@benlyt) September 25, 2013
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The 28-year-old Real Madrid forward is already nothing less than a phenomenon—his goal record for Los Blancos quite simply astounding.
And while September may have ended on a disappointing note for Ronaldo and pals with a 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico, on a personal level the Portuguese star's contribution for both club and country was utterly staggering.
For Real, Ronaldo helped himself to nine goals in six appearances, including a Champions League hat-trick in the annihilation of Galatasaray in Turkey where he achieved a perfect 10 rating via WhoScored.
Additionally, in La Liga, he struck twice against Getafe, once against both Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao and twice—including a 95th-minute penalty—in the 2-1 win over Elche. His mixture of devastating finishing, pace, power and technical prowess proving decisive more often than not for Carlo Ancelotti's evolving side.
Ronaldo is the definition of world class— Joey Carvelli (@CarVelli7) September 25, 2013
On the international scene, the Portuguese skipper led by example as his side struggled against Northern Ireland. Down 2-1 and with only 10 men, Ronaldo took the game by the scruff of the neck and netted a 15-minute treble to secure a 4-2 win for Paulo Bento's men to keep them just one point behind their Russian counterparts.
All in, 12 goals in seven matches during September. Typical of the man.
2. Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Formerly the bad man of Spanish football, Diego Costa grew into a vital part of Diego Simeone's side last season, acting as a foil for Radamel Falcao. This year, he's taken over the mantle of his former strike partner at Atletico Madrid and is leading the line quite brilliantly.
The powerhouse 24-year-old striker has developed into the main man at the Vicente Calderon—the club's most important player, perhaps even before Falcao had departed—and after a breakthrough season with the club in which he scored 10 La Liga goals last season (31 matches), Costa has stepped up a gear in front of goal in 2013-14.
September saw Costa take his tally to eight for the season, as he netted five times in as many matches, including his coolly taken winner against Real Madrid and both goals in a 2-1 win over Osasuna.
However, more than merely his goals, Costa has been taking deserved plaudits for his all-round performances with his WhoScored rating presently stands at 8.01.
Comprising tremendous strength, intelligent and varied movement, dogged determination and no shortage of technical quality, Costa has been utterly fantastic this season, keeping his fiery temper under control. His performance in Atleti's derby win was perhaps the archetypal centre-forward display and the main reason why he arrives above Cristiano Ronaldo in these rankings.
I find Diego Costa immensely irritating but that was a magnificent performance— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) September 28, 2013
Simeone's men have made a tremendous start to 2013-14 and Diego Costa has been a major part of their early-season success. If he continues to improve and keeps up his current form, the Brazilian could well lead them to further trophies following last year's Copa del Rey success and 2012's Europa League win, and maybe—whisper it quietly—even a title challenge ahead of their more grandiose rivals.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Was it really a surprise?
At his most clinical and deadly, Lionel Messi was magnificent during September, whether playing at the point of Barcelona's attack or directing operations from a No. 10 position for Argentina.
He started by scoring goals and simply carried on doing that throughout the month as the 26-year-old continued to show why some reckon him to be perhaps the greatest player ever to grace a pitch.
The first day of September saw Messi claim a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Valencia—a match that resulted in a perfect 10 rating from WhoScored—before he set off on international duty, where he led Argentina to next summer's World Cup finals with two goals and a virtuoso showing in a 5-2 win against Paraguay in Asuncion.
Back at Camp Nou he netted another goal in a 3-2 win over Sevilla, before striking another treble in Los Cules' 4-0 Champions League win over Ajax, a performance that would claim him another perfect 10 rating.
His final three games of the month saw Messi claim another two goals and two assists, as September continued to show precisely how decisive he can be in the final third.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi has scored more league goals (8) than 40 teams in Europe's top 5 leagues this season, including Spurs & Chelsea.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 1, 2013
All in, 11 goals in seven matches were Messi's figures for the month, as he both led his country to qualification and ensured his club won every game they played, while keeping them top of La Liga ahead of the continually winning Atletico Madrid.
Thus, due to his achievements both personally and with regards his team, Lionel Messi claims the No. 1 spot for September.
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