Kicker rankings: Douglas Costa storms into World Class on the wings

Kicker magazine have released part two of their winter 2015-16 rankings. Douglas Costa and Xabi Alonso are crowned, respectively on the wings and in defensive midfield.

Reminder of the ranking criteria: a player’s evaluation is not based on his potential or his career achievement, but on the performances from August to December. He receives a minimum of 9 grades in games played in the Bundesliga, Pokal, Europe or internationals, in his most frequent position.

Offensive wing: Costa speedster on top

World Class

1. Douglas Costa – FC Bayern
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Dortmund

Douglas Costa gathers the votes in the World Class category for his very first appearance in the rankings, ahead of Henrikh Mkhitaryan!

Costa made an impact from the very first minute of FC Bayern’s 5:1 season opener against Hamburg: a goal, an assist and endless crosses to get involved in 19 goals in all competitions before the winter break. Not bad at all for the relatively unknown Brazilian of Donetsk, who seemed expensive at 30 million euros for a possible backup role behind Franck Ribéry.

The winger has demonstrated his versatility by playing on both flanks and cutting inside. He may not dribble defenders like Ribéry and Arjen Robben, but his speed leaves opponents standing still. His only weak point remains his conversion rate, for a tally of five goals.

It was no secret that Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a very gifted player upon arrival in Dortmund last season. New manager Thomas Tuchel unlocked his potential. He was instrumental in the buildup of Dortmund’s attacks, involved in 34 goals, of which 12 were in the Bundesliga and 12 in Europa League. He deservedly ranks in the World Class category.

International Class

3. Arjen Robben – FC Bayern
4. Kingsley Coman – FC Bayern
5. Marco Reus – Dortmund
6. Leroy Sané – Schalke 04

Robben may have scored one more goal than Douglas Costa in the current campaign, but he had to relinquish his World Class credentials due to injuries. New kid on the block Kingsley Coman is another surprise package, impressing with speed and team integration, but he still needs to find more precision.

Marco Reus is the best German player, taking part in 16 goals for his club but struggling with injuries. Leroy Sané has been a rising star with speed, freshness and boldness – no wonder why he draws attention from top European clubs.

Further consideration

7. Fabian Johnson – Borussia Mönchengladbach
8. Marcel Heller – Darmstadt
9. Karim Bellarabi – Bayer Leverkusen
10. Max Meyer – Schalke 04
11. Ibrahima Traoré – Borussia Mönchengladbach
12. Admir Mehmedi – Bayer Leverkusen –
13. Caiuby – Augsburg

Karim Bellarabi has dropped from last summer’s third position, trying to achieve more than he can and sacrificing efficiency. There is no room for Patrick Herrmann due to torn ligaments, nor for Franck Ribéry who recently relapsed. The same applies to André Schürrle, who was inconsistent.

Mentions: Leonardo Bittencourt – 1. FC Köln; Pablo De Blasis – Mainz 05; Jairo – Mainz 05; Nicolai Müller – Hamburg

Defensive midfield: Alonso’s comeback

World Class

None

International Class

1. Xabi Alonso – FC Bayern
2. Kevin Kampl – Bayer Leverkusen
3. Granit Xhaka – Borussia Mönchengladbach
4. Lars Bender – Bayer Leverkusen
5. Vladimir Darida – Hertha BSC

No player made the “World Class” category, just like last summer. Xabi Alonso however climbs back into the rankings, in International Class. He had fallen out last summer after making it to World Class in winter 2014-15.

Alonso tops the rankings at the expense of Gladbach’s Granit Xhaka. The experience of the Spanish veteran inspires his colleagues with calmness, ball control and vision, making up for his slower pace. The Kicker newsroom did not put him in World Class, as he is less involved in offensive buildups than a year ago.

Kevin Kampl’s no.6 role has brought stability to Leverkusen. It their attacking efficiency, contributing with a total of six goals and assists in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Gladbach’s captain Granit Xhaka displayed his leadership on the European stage, improving on his passing skills and winning duels. The three red cards he picked up diminished his performances, costing him the no.1 spot.

Lars Bender came back from injury in October to have his best season so far, with sweeping qualities and convincing displays in Europe.

Vladimir Darida has been Hertha Berlin’s most important player with confidence, strong running and wide action. He was involved in nine Bundesliga and Pokal goals and contributed to the Czech Republic’s qualification to Euro 2016.

Further consideration

6. Mahmoud Dahoud – Borussia Mönchengladbach
7. Julian Weigl – Borussia Dortmund
8. Roger – Ingolstadt
9. Johannes Geis – Schalke 04
10. Luiz Gustavo – Wolfsburg
11. Salif Sané – Hannover
12. Maximilian Arnold – Wolfsburg
13. Leon Goretzka – Schalke 04
14. Per Ciljan Skjelbred – Hertha BSC

Mentions: Lewis Holtby 25 Hamburger SV; Lukas Rupp – VfB Stuttgart; Kevin Vogt – 1. FC Köln

Only an occasional substitute appearances under Lucien Favre, 20-year-old sensation Mahmoud Dahoud has earned a starting position at Gladbach with the arrival of manager Schubert. His name has been linked to the Fohlen’s revival, with two goals and four assists.

Julian Weigl intelligently distributes the ball in Dortmund, finding solutions in tricky situations. Johannes Geis established himself as the midfield chief at Schalke, impressing on dead-ball situations as well as in buildups, the club’s dipping form and a five-game suspension undermined his ranking.

Christoph Kramer drops out as he has not adapted to Leverkusen’s opponent-chasing system.

The third and final part of the rankings follows later this week.

Reference: Kicker Sportmagazin, issue no.2; 4 January 2016