Genuinely top-quality creative players are difficult to come by in the modern era, but the art of threading a defence-splitting pass certainly isn’t dead when it comes to this lot.
Looking through the data on WhoScored, we’ve sorted out who makes the most key passes per game in Europe’s top five leagues, filtering out any players that have played fewer than 400 minutes so far this season. A key pass is defined as the final pass before a team-mate takes a shot.
Unsurprisingly, La Liga still reigns supreme when it comes to the playmaker, with four of the top ten, while the Premier League only has two. Among a couple of the more predictable names are some surprises that have been unfairly written off.
Nuri Sahin – 4.2
A Bundesliga title-winner under Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, Sahin’s career tailed off a little after leaving for Real Madrid in 2011, making no great shakes in the Spanish capital, in a short spell at Liverpool, or on his return to Dortmund.
But he’s enjoying something of a career resurgence at Werder Bremen, playing more key passes per game than any player in Europe’s major leagues. The Turkey international has played a little less than some of the others on this list, just 448 minutes, and he’d do very well to maintain that average.
Kevin De Bruyne – 4.1
The Belgian suffered a frustrating 2018-19 and was largely sidelined as Manchester City retained the title, with the likes of Bernardo Silva stepping up in his absence.
But he’s looked back to his very best since returning, playing a number of sensational, barely-believable balls into the box. He also leads the way in terms of assists – his tally of eight so far is twice as many as anybody else in Europe.
This pass isn’t normal, De Bruyne is a different player pic.twitter.com/uZvUkvgXdp
— π (@Leroyology) July 20, 2019
Jose Callejon – 3.7
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Napoli, but Callejon can hold his head up high knowing he’s enjoying a strong individual campaign.
The Real Madrid academy product has always looked at home with Napoli, and he’s gone strength to strength under Carlo Ancelotti, not slowing down at the age of 32.
Martin Ødegaard – 3.3
It seems ludicrous that the Norwegian wonderkid was written off in some quarters, given he’s still just 20 years old.
He’s been central to Real Sociedad being one of the surprise packages of La Liga this season and has arguably been the best player in the league so far this season. A future at his parent club Real Madrid doesn’t seem so unlikely after all.
Toni Kroos – 3.3
Zinedine Zidane wanted to reinvent the Real Madrid midfield this summer and was reportedly keen on bringing in Paul Pogba.
But it’s ended up being the same old midfield that helped him win three Champions Leagues in three years in his previous stint as manager.
European results show things aren’t all rosy at the Spanish giants, but Toni Kroos is steadily refinding his best form after a poor last season as Madrid sit top of La Liga after seven games.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 3.3
The only full-back to feature on this list, it perhaps should be no surprise that one of Liverpool’s assist kings makes it.
He’ll no doubt delight in getting in ahead of Andy Robertson, too.
Lorenzo Pellegrini 3.3
The 23-year-old looks to be the future of the midfield in Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad, as well as Paulo Fonseca’s new-look Roma.
Only three players in European football average more key passes so far this season. He’s a special talent.
12′: Lorenzo Pellegrini assist
22′: Lorenzo Pellegrini assist
33′: Lorenzo Pellegrini assist
A hat-trick of assists for the Italian in the space of 21 minutes. pic.twitter.com/FMyLqPbLND
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 15, 2019
Dimitri Payet – 3.2
The mercurial former Hammer is consistently good value in creating shooting opportunities for his team-mates.
He featured prominently on this list when we put it together last season and is the only player to retain his place so far.
José Campaña – 3.1
A product of Sevilla’s academy, the midfielder won back-to-back UEFA European Under-19 Championships with Spain alongside the likes of Suso, Jese and Gerard Deulofeu.
A senior cap never followed, but he’s established himself as a solid La Liga playmaker at Levante and is one of their key players as they fight against the drop. For all of the key passes he’s played this season, only one has actually been finished off, with just one assist registered.
Santi Cazorla – 3.0
Villarreal have hit the jackpot with getting Santi Cazorla back close to his best. Anyone that watched Santi Cazorla at Arsenal won’t be surprised to see him feature here.
One of the feelgood stories of European football, it’s been a wonderful renaissance with the Yellow Submarine, something not many would have thought possible after a horror injury ruined his final years with the Gunners.