The UEFA Champions League group stage is over and teams now start their preparations for the knockout stage. The usual standout players in Robert Lewandowski and Mohamad Salah stepped up in this group stage but it’s the surprise package in Sebastien Haller, who has the most goals in the competition so far.
In this piece, we are looking at such players who didn’t have the spotlight on them at the start of the group stage but certainly impressed with their performances in the current edition of the Champions League.
SEBASTIEN HALLER (AFC Ajax)
Ivory Coast international Sebastien Haller became the first player in Champions League history to score in all six group games in a single campaign. After making his name at Eintracht Frankfurt, Haller signed for West Ham in the summer of 2019. He looked impressive initially but as the team went through a transition post Manuel Pellegrini, the London-based club cut losses on Haller and sold him to Ajax Amsterdam. The striker looks revitalised in the Netherlands and his ten goals in six games helped his club top the group with all six wins. Surely Haller’s name would be talked about with more enthusiasm in the coming few years for his exploits in the group stage.
ADAMA TRAORE (FC Sheriff)
Sheriff may not have qualified for the round of 16 but have been the story of the Champions League so far. Their victory over the mighty Real Madrid especially would be the one to talk about for years to come. One man who has been amazing for them has been their winger Adama Traore. He was influential for them in the qualifying phase and carried his goalscoring form in the actual group stage as well. Adama netted twice in the Champions League group stage and helped his team qualify for the Europa League by finishing third in the group.
CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU (RB Leipzig)
Another player who impressed, though his team failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League is RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku. The 24-year-old French forward has been one of the heavy scorers in the Champions League group stage. He netted seven times for Leipzig in six games and finished as the joint-third highest goalscorer from the group stage.
ANTONY (AFC Ajax)
Ajax is known for its youth development and more often than not they poach young players from different countries and sell them off for a fortune years later. The same could be the case for the 21-year-old Brazilian winger Antony. The youngster scored twice and assisted five times for Ajax in the Champions League and is one of the leading creators of the competition. His solid performances for Ajax this season has also earned him a call up to the national team. Surely one for the future and one who the bigger clubs would be scouting thoroughly.
REINILDO (Lille OSC)
Mozambique international and left-back Reinildo has been influential for the French champions Lille in this year’s Champions League. He is one of the leaders in ball recoveries and helps the team keep things compact. He featured in all six matches for Lille in the group stage of the Champions League and helped his team finish as the group leaders for the first time in the club’s history in the competition.
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