The top five European football leagues consist of the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, and the French Ligue 1. These leagues have most of the best players in the world playing in them which makes the championships so popular.
However, other European leagues such as the Dutch Eredivisie, the Portuguese Primeira Liga and the Turkish Super Lig also boast of exciting teams and talented players who regularly make their mark on world football.
In this article, we will be making the best XI of footballers from outside Europe’s top five leagues. The formation used is 4-2-4. Also, the players have been picked based on their recent form and not more than one footballer is present from any particular club.
Goalkeeper: Marco Bizot (AZ Alkmaar and Netherlands)
Marco Bizot was signed on a free transfer by AZ Alkmaar from KRC Genk in summer of 2017, with the Dutch shot-stopper being in good form for his side for the last two seasons. However, Bizot raised his game to a whole different level in 2019-20 by making breathtaking saves and commanding his area better than before.
In 24 Eredivisie appearances this season, the goalkeeper kept 18 clean sheets and conceded just 11 goals. AZ, who were level on points with Ajax at the top of the table, had the best defensive record in the league, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right-back: Denzel Dumfries (PSV Eindhoven and Netherlands)
Denzel Dumfries is a strong and powerful right-back who is solid defensively but is even more impressive going forward. With pace, excellent dribbling ability and strength, the 24-year-old is formidable when charging down the wing.
In 25 appearances in the cancelled Eredivisie season, the PSV Eindhoven ace has scored seven goals and provided two assists, in addition to helping his team keep seven clean sheets. Dumfries’ distribution is his only weakness and if he can overcome that, the Dutchman can definitely be one of the best right-backs in the world.
Centre-back: Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic and Norway)
Kristoffer Ajer is the only entry from the Scottish Premiership, with the Norwegian being one of the best young central defenders in the world at present. In terms of attributes, the Celtic man is one of those modern-day defenders who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and can start attacks from the back. Defensively, he is a fantastic reader of the game and makes several interceptions and tackles in every game. Ajer is strong in the air, making him a favourite to win aerial duels and also be a threat in set-piece situations.
In 28 appearances in the cancelled Scottish Premiership season, the Celtic defender helped the Hoops keep 13 clean sheets. He also scored three goals and provided one assist as Celtic were declared champions.
Centre-back: Domagoj Vida (Besiktas and Croatia)
Domagoj Vida was signed by Besiktas on a free transfer from Dynamo Kyiv in 2018. The Croatian centre-back is renowned for his tenacity and tough-tackling in the defensive third. The 31-year-old’s ability on the ball is also impressive – he has averaged an impressive 54 passes per game in the Turkish Super Lig this season, with a completion rate of 90.6%.
In 25 league appearances in the present campaign, the 2018 World Cup finalist has scored four goals and helped Besiktas to keep eight clean sheets.
Left-back: Alex Telles (Porto and Brazil)
Alex Telles is one of the best left-backs in the world at the moment. The Porto ace, who has performed consistently well over the last few years, finally earned his first cap for Brazil last year. Telles is an attacking full-back, known for his speed and play-making abilities.
In 23 Portuguese Primeira Liga matches so far this season, the 27-year-old has helped Porto keep 12 clean sheets. Besides scoring eight goals and setting up five more, Telles averages 2.4 key passes per game. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the likes of Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are after him.
Defensive midfielder: Mario Lemina (Galatasaray and Gabon)
Mario Lemina is a strong, hard-working and dynamic right-footed midfielder with good technical skills. He is a box-to-box player who is usually deployed in the centre due to his ability to start attacks after winning back possession. He possesses solid distribution skills which help his side going forward.
In 17 Turkish Super Lig appearances this season, Lemina, who joined Galatasaray on loan from Premier League outfit Southampton last summer, has done the dirty job in the middle of the park for his new employers with great effect. With 2.2 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game, the Gabon international is key to Galatasaray’s defensive side of the game.
Central midfielder: Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow and Croatia)
Nikola Vlasic, often seen as an Everton flop, joined CSKA Moscow on loan in 2018 before the Russian outfit made his move permanent last summer. The attacking midfielder has kept his critics quiet through his impressive displays in the Russian Premier League.
Still only 22, the Croatian has thrived under young manager Viktor Goncharenko. Vlasic possesses a lot of quality in terms of dribbling, long shots and finding his teammates with key passes. In 22 league appearances this season, he has scored seven goals and provided four assists – his best-ever campaign till date.
Right-wing: Pizzi (Benfica and Portugal)
Pizzi is one of the best examples of a late bloomer. The 30-year-old was branded a nomad by football pundits, with the Portuguese playing for as many as seven different clubs before signing for Benfica in 2013. Pizzi, who was sent out on loan to Espanyol immediately after joining Benfica, has now become a mainstay at the Estadio da Luz.
The former Atletico Madrid man is good with hold-up play and can put in terrific crosses from the right flank. Pizzi has been the standout player in the Primeira Liga this season, scoring 14 goals and providing eight assists in 23 matches.
Left-winger: Quincy Promes (Ajax and Netherlands)
Quincy Promes, who made a name for himself in Russia with Spartak Moscow, couldn’t replicate the same form with Sevilla and decided to return to the Netherlands with Ajax last summer. Not only does the Dutchman possesses the ability to dribble past opponents with ease and hold on to the ball, but he also has the flair to create goalscoring opportunities.
The Ajax winger made 20 Eredivisie appearances this season before the league was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 28-year-old managed to score 12 goals and provide four assists as the Dutch giants were top of the table.
Striker: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit Saint Petersburg and Russia)
The Russian striker, who is 6ft 5in tall, is having a great season in front of goal. Artem Dzyuba has been performing consistently well for both his club and country since the 2018 World Cup.
The 31-year-old is a classic number 9 who uses his physicality to good effect during hold-up plays. In 21 Russian Premier League games this season, Dzyuba has scored 13 goals and set up nine more.
Striker: Junior Moraes (Shakhtar Donetsk and Ukraine)
Junior Moraes has been a decent striker all along in his career but since joining Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018, the Ukrainian international has been scoring goals for fun. Although the 33-year-old is not a typical number 9 for his club, Moraes’ dribbling ability, aerial prowess and pace make him more than a handful for any defender.
Moraes has been unstoppable this season, scoring 18 goals in 21 league games, while also contributing with eight assists.
Here’s how our team comprising of footballers from outside Europe’s top five leagues would line-up.