With the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, domestic football in Europe has been put on a halt. While most countries across the continent’s elite divisions like the Bundesliga in Germany and La Liga in Spain enjoy a winter break every year, this is a unique prospect for Premier League football.
Fixtures are set to resume on Boxing Day as is a tradition in England, but even five weeks without competitive action can provide invaluable respite for players to recharge their batteries.
Due to the first-ever winter edition of the World Cup, fixture congestion affected everyone in Europe, with the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League all jam-packed into a nine-week blockbuster group stage. Games were coming thick and fast and it led to plenty of players enjoying standout seasons, in an unpredictable few months for football betting and shock results.
With that in mind, we thought we would take a look at some of the best players from the first half of the season around Europe.
Cody Gakpo – PSV
One of the breakout stars in the Eredivisie, Cody Gakpo’s great goalscoring run at PSV has earnt the silky winger links with Chelsea and Bayern Munich. With 21 goal contributions by early November, the 23-year-old looks destined for a bright future, and his direct running would suit the physicality of the Premier League perfectly.
Having been named the league’s player of the month twice already this season, PSV is still in the title race alongside Feyenoord and Ajax, and it will be interesting to see if they can go to distance.
Erling Haaland – Manchester City
What a debut season it has been for Erling Haaland in England. The Norwegian, who left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester City this summer, is already paying back the £65 million that Pep Guardiola shelled out for the tall striker, having hit double figures already this campaign.
Haaland looks set to break all individual records, with 18 goals before Christmas he isn’t far off Mohamed Salah’s first year at Liverpool, and those at the Etihad will be hoping that will be enough to fire them to a third successive title come May.
Lionel Messi – Paris Saint-Germain
Even in the autumn of his career, Lionel Messi still oozes class. Following a tough debut year at Paris Saint-Germain, the mercurial creator has firmly found his feet now after leaving Barcelona, reinventing himself as a playmaker in the Ligue 1 champions’ deadly attack.
Alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the trio has every chance of winning the Parisians a maiden Champions League title, but face a tough task in the round of 16 against Bayern Munich. Knowing Messi’s influence though, there’s every chance the Argentina international can guide PSG to Istanbul — perhaps even with a World Cup winners medal around his neck.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – Napoli
The star player in Italy since his arrival at Napoli this season, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is taking Serie A by storm. The Georgian playmaker is one of the bargains of the summer, setting Napoli back just £10 million for a creative winger who is as dynamic as he is proficient.
Already a fan-favorite at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, the 22-year-old has affectionally been nicknamed ‘Kvaradona’ by Napoli fans and given their unbeaten start to the league, also finishing top of their Champions League group, its likely some silverware will be heading to Naples come the second half of the season.