Using data from Wyscout’s Ranking indexes, we take a look at the combined XIs of the top performing players and U23 talents in each of Europe’s top 5 leagues

From Bayer Leverkusen’s historic unbeaten Bundesliga campaign to Real Madrid’s league and cup double, the 2023/24 season was packed with exhilarating storylines all over Europe.

While there were repeat titles for Manchester City in England, Inter Milan in Italy and PSG in France, there were also plenty of surprise packages across the continent. The likes of Brest, Bologna, Girona, Stuttgart and Aston Villa all upset their respective apple carts to qualify for next year’s new-look Champions League.

With all the leagues wrapped up for another season, we take a closer look at Europe’s Top 5 leagues - based on UEFA’s club coefficients - to analyze some of the star performers using Wyscout data.

Using Wyscout’s Rankings indexes, which sorts and rates players in a competition for each position based on their stats, we are able to see who has made the combined best XIs from each of Europe’s Top 5 leagues.

For each position there is a set of parameters used to calculate a final ranking, purely based on Wyscout data. For example, a forward’s ranking will be determined by key metrics such as goals, chances created, shots on target, link-up play, and a variety of other positionally-relevant statistics.

If you want to learn more about which specific metrics are relevant to each position, click here:

Wyscout Glossary

Given the increasing importance of young talent for clubs’ recruitment strategies, we also run the rule over the standout U23 talents from each of Europe’s Top 5 leagues by adjusting the age range on Wyscout’s Ranking indexes.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the combined XIs…

Bundesliga: Invincible Leverkusen Topple Bayern

By far and away the biggest achievement in Europe this season was Bayer Leverkusen, who completed an unbeaten league and cup double. Xabi Alonso’s men stormed the Bundesliga to shake off their ‘Neverkusen’ tag and secure a first domestic league title in their history, ending Bayern Munich’s run of 11 consecutive wins. 

Unsurprisingly Leverkusen dominate the combined XI, with six players included. Their incredible record of just 24 goals conceded in 34 games ensures that the entire defensive line and goalkeeper are made up of Leverkusen players.

However, flying full backs Álex Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong were as important offensively as they were defensively. Grimaldo contributed 21 direct goal involvements (10 goals and 11 assists) and made the second most crosses (136) in the league, while Frimpong chipped in the 9 goals and 5 assists and ranked second for touches in the penalty area (158).

Comparing Leverkusen's full backs with Wyscout Player Lists

The wait for a title for Harry Kane goes on but, on an individual level, the Englishman flourished in his first season abroad. Kane finished as top scorer with 33 goals and was the player across all of Europe’s Top 5 leagues with most direct league goal involvements with a whopping 39.

Joining him up front is Loïs Openda, who also made the transition to the Bundesliga look easy after his move from Lens. The Belgian scored 24 league goals and laid on 7 assists, a record only bettered across Europe by Kane and Kylian Mbappé.

Despite being embroiled in a relegation battle and only just surviving, Bochum’s Kevin Stöger stands out. The Austrian midfielder was a threat from range, boasting a league high 51 shots from outside the area, and charted top for through balls with 2.61 per 90. Stoger also placed in the top three for smart passes (36), progressive passes (377) and balls to the final third (359).

Bundesliga U23: Wirtz and Simons Shine

Where else to start but Florian Wirtz! One of four players to make it into both XIs, Wirtz was in sparkling form for Leverkusen and deservedly walked away with Bundesliga Player of the Season. 

His combined goals and assists of 18 - including a hat-trick against Werder Bremen to seal the title with 5 games to spare - propelled Leverkusen forward but his creative influence could be felt across the board. No player made more smart passes (66) or deep completions (108) than Wirtz and he also ranked in the top five for through balls (57), key passes (29), dribbles (173) and touches in the penalty box (145). Not bad for a player who only recently turned 21!

Florian Wirtz's final third dribbles and recoveries on Wyscout Player Reports

Wirtz is joined by teammates Frimpong, Hincapié and winner of Rookie of the Season, Victor Boniface. The Nigerian striker was unlucky to miss out on AFCON due to injury but finished the season with 14 goals and 7 assists. When he was on the pitch, Boniface was very effective, as demonstrated by the fact he had the most shots per 90 (4.05), as well as the highest xG (0.79) and combined xG+xA (0.97) per 90.

The other standout young star in the league was Xavi Simons. On loan at Leipzig from PSG, the 21-year-old dazzled with 15 direct goal contributions and ranked in the top three for progressive runs (144), deep completions (73), smart passes (43) and fouls suffered (66) across all age ranges.

Top scorer among all U23 players in the Bundesliga, Maximilian Beier’s 16 goals helped Hoffenheim to an impressive 7th place finish. His performances earned him a surprise call up to Germany’s Euros squad despite being uncapped at senior level.

Premier League: Man City Make it Four in a Row

Manchester City may have won the league but only one of their players makes the Premier League combined XI. Voted Player of the Season, Phil Foden had a coming-of-age campaign with 19 goals and 5 assists from midfield, proving particularly potent with shots from the edge of the area.

Foden features in a midfield entirely comprised of young English talent - all of whom are U23 and make both line ups - but it is perhaps an ex-City player who made the biggest breakthrough this season. Cole Palmer almost single-handedly dragged Chelsea up the table with his 33 direct goal involvements (22 goals and 11 assists) and proved to be cool and composed from the penalty spot.

Ollie Watkins' shot map on Wyscout Player Reports

Up front, Ollie Watkins leads the line after a sensational campaign. His 19 goals and 13 assists spearheaded Aston Villa to a fourth place finish and a return to the top tier of European competition for the first time in over 40 years. A tireless runner and consistent danger, Watkins has improved massively under Unai Emery, both with his variety of finishing and his ability to create for others, making him an all-round threat.

At first glance, André Onana might seem a surprise inclusion given that Manchester United endured their worst-ever Premier League finish. But, with a defence leakier than the Old Trafford roof, things might have been even worse if it wasn’t for Onana. United had the fourth highest shots faced (606) - more than relegated Burnley - but Onana made the second most saves (154) in the league and ranked second for prevented goals (10.87) too.

Premier League U23: Haaland, Saliba and More Future Stars

Despite finishing as the Premier League scorer for the second year running, Erling Haaland has to make do with only a spot in the U23 XI. The Norwegian powerhouse scored 27 league goals as City won the title, as well as another 11 in other competitions, taking his tally up to 90 goals in 97 games since moving to Manchester.

Haaland is joined up front by Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson, who had a good second half to the season and finished with 14 games in his maiden campaign. Although he underperformed his xG by 2.84, the signs are there that he is adapting to the league and has room for improvement.

Comparison on Wyscout Player Lists of England's young midfield

At the other end of the pitch, the imperious William Saliba earns his place in the heart of the defence. Even though Arsenal missed out on the title on the final day of the season, the availability of Saliba - who played 3860 minutes, the most of any U23 player - was crucial in maintaining the best defence in the league (29 conceded in 38 games).

The combined XI has an eclectic mix of players in defence with Wolves, Brighton, Liverpool and even Sheffield United represented. Despite finishing rock bottom of the league and conceding over 100 goals, Blades right back Jayden Bogle emerged as a silver lining on a fairly gloomy season. Bogle had the second highest number of defensive duels of any U23 player (294), a stat that placed him 10th out of the entire league.

La Liga: Bellingham Leads Real Madrid Back to the Top

Real Madrid returned to the top with a 36th league title and three Los Blancos players make the combined XI. Jude Bellingham is arguably one of the first names on the team sheets after a brilliant debut season in Spain. The 20-year-old was involved in 25 direct goal contributions from midfield, scored late winners in both of the Clásicos against Barcelona and generally stamped his authority as a leader on the pitch despite his young age.

As well as being potent going forward, Madrid also boasted the best defence in the league, conceding just 26 times in 38 games. As such Antonio Rüdiger and makeshift centre back Aurélien Tchouameni form the pairing in the heart of defence. Madrid’s rearguard record is all the more impressive when considering the long term injuries to first choice players like Thibault Courtois, David Alaba and Eder Militão.

Jude Bellingham's shot map on Wyscout Player Reports

With only one player representing Barcelona and Atletico Madrid each, the La Liga combined XI has a diverse mix of other clubs. Iñaki Williams makes the cut after helping Athletic Club to a 5th place finish and a first Copa del Rey win in 40 years. Williams was a constant threat cutting in from the right flank, scoring 12 goals, placing second for touches in the box (161) and fourth for shots (82).

Elsewhere, Alexander Sørloth gets the nod up front for his 23 goals and 6 assists for Villarreal, while a rejuvenated Isco features in midfield after he inspired Real Betis to a 7th place finish. Without a club for six months, Isco rolled back the years to score 8 goals, lay on 4 assists and win countless Man of the Match awards, in what was one of the feel-good stories of the year.

La Liga U23: Girona Make Their Mark

The best performance of the year came in the form of Girona’s surprise title charge. The Blanquivermells couldn’t last the distance but finished in third place and secured Champions League football for the first time in their history. 

Unsurprisingly, three of their players make the U23 XI. Eric García ranked second in the league for ball progression (5.85 per minute) and was the U23 player with most passes to the final third (10.76 per 90). Both full backs make it for their cut and thrust going forward, with Miguel Gutiérrez and Yan Couto providing 7 assists each for their team.

Comparison of Girona's full backs on Wyscout Player Lists

Real Madrid also provide three players and Bellingham is joined by his teammates, Brazilian duo Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo. Vinicius once again topped the league for dribbles per 90 (11.51) and made 19 direct goal contributions, while Rodrygo ranked first for touches in the penalty box (173) and in the top three for shots (86) and progressive runs (151).

Giorgi Mamardashvili continued his promising development with another stellar campaign. The Georgian stopper kept 13 clean sheets and became the Valencia goalkeeper with most consecutive starts in La Liga, underlying his significance to the team.

Perhaps a surprise inclusion is Sergio Arribas, given that he was part of a relegated Almeria side that didn’t get their first win until the middle of March. Nevertheless, Arribas was one of the silver linings, scoring 9 goals and making 4 assists, and will surely find himself back in La Liga next season.

Serie A: Lautaro Martínez Tops the Charts

Inter Milan waltzed home to regain their Serie A title and there was no doubt about who the main man was. Striker Lautaro Martínez led the scoring charts with 24 league goals, outperforming his xG by 6.13. Part of an excellent strike partnership with Marcos Thuram, the Argentinian was a constant threat and charted in the top three for shots (98) and touches in the penalty area (167).

Inter’s success was built on solid foundations, conceding just 22 times in 38 games. As such, goalkeeper Yann Sommer makes the cut, having registered 5.95 prevented goals. Teammate Hakan Çalhanoğlu is also included as he continues to excel in his new defensive midfield role, while also contributing 13 goals, 10 of which coming from the penalty spot.

Kvaratskhelia's dribbles and recoveries in Wyscout's Player Reports

Napoli may have had a disastrous defence of their title, finishing 10th overall, but still contribute two players who maintained their individual levels. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia managed 11 goals and 5 assists, while topping numerous metrics like shots (126), dribbles (328), fouls suffered (78) and progressive runs (180). 

Right back Giovanni Di Lorenzo was also a threat going forward with the most progressive passes in the league (468) and second most crosses (156) and deep completions (80).

Bologna are rewarded for their fantastic season with a place for young defender Riccardo Calafiori. Part of the third-best defence in the league, Calafiori also used the ball well, as shown by his ball progression of 4.55 per minute, helping propel I Rossoblù into the Champions League.

Serie A U23: Atalanta Dominate the Rankings

Atalanta dominate the U23 XI with three players after a brilliant end to the season that saw them finish 4th and become the only team to beat Bayer Leverkusen this season to win the Europa League - the first major trophy of Gian Piero Gasperini’s career

Belgian Charles De Ketelaere came good on his promise with 10 goals and 8 assists, wing back Matteo Ruggeri contributed 4 assists and 4 second assists, and 20-year-old centre back Giorgio Scalvini was in the top five among U23 players for defensive duels (244), aerial duels (135 with 66.35% success rate) and shots blocked (19).

Another standout player was Matías Soulé, whose performances were even more impressive given they came for a relegated Frosinone. The Juventus loanee had a breakthrough season with 11 goals and 3 assists and was a constant menace on the right wing. The Argentinian was second only to Kvaratskhelia for dribbles (290) and topped the league for key passes (34), smart passes (56) and deep completions (82).

Soulé's passing in Wyscout Rankings for Serie A this season

The recurring theme of the Serie U23 combined XI is the broad mix of clubs, with Bologna, Genoa, Udinese, Lecce and Empoli all involved. 

No player made more defensive duels (357) than Morten Frendrup in the centre of midfield and the Dane laid on 4 assists as Genoa finished a respectable 11th. Partnering him is Lazar Samardžić, who ranked second for U23 through balls (26) and had an expected assists of 5.03.

Empoli pulled off a great escape under the relegation specialist Davide Nicola to survive on the final day and young goalkeeper Elia Caprile played a big part. Caprile had big gloves to fill, replacing Guglielmo Vicario, but did so with aplomb, finishing the season with 6.71 prevented goals - the third highest in the league. Dominant in the air, no keeper left their line more than Caprile (2.33 per 90) and he averaged the most saves (3.24 per 90) of all U23 players too.

Ligue 1: Brest Gatecrash the Party

PSG secured their 12th title - and 10th since 2012/13 - and it’s no surprise to see top scorer Kylian Mbappé leading the line once again. The France striker’s 33 combined goals and assists were 10 clear of the nearest rival, Marseille’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and he won the Golden Boot for a record sixth time. If Mbappé departs as expected this summer, replacing his offensive abilities will be a top priority for PSG.

The revelation of the season were Brest, who finished third and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history. Their success was built on solid foundations and centre back Brendan Chardonnet ranked third for aerial duels (166) and joint first for shots blocked (31).

Del Castillo's crosses from Wyscout Player Reports

Going forward Romain del Castillo provided the spark for Brest. The 28-year-old was second for assists (7) and crosses (132), as well as charting in the top five for dribbles (199) and key passes (28).

Nice are the team who contribute most players to the combined XI with three inclusions. Goalkeeper Bułka and experienced defender Dante both make it, largely thanks to their involvement in Nice conceding just 29 goals in 34 games. Dante, still going strong at 40 years old, was also important in the build up, ranking top for passes (2695) and second for progressive passes (360).

Ligue 1 U23: Breakout Young Performers of the Season

Lille’s commitment to youth development is reflected in our combined XI with four players featuring. Angel Gomes topped the league with 8 assists, tricky full back Tiago Santos ranked in the top 10 for dribbles (172) and suffered the most fouls (85), while goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier conceded just 0.89 per 90 and registered 4.5 prevented goals.

Arguably the most exciting of all of Lille’s young prospects is teenage centre back Leny Yoro. The youngest player in the combined XI, Yoro established himself as an integral part of a Lille defence that conceded just 34 goals. The 18-year-old also showed his class on the ball, ranking top for U23 passes (1806) with a 93.4% accuracy. 

Alongside Yoro in the centre of defence is Wilfried Singo. A regular for Monaco, who finished as runners up to PSG, and part of the Ivory Coast side that won AFCON, Singo ranked highly among U23 players for aerial duels (126), interceptions (159) and shots blocked (18).

Désiré Doué's ball progression and dribbles in Wyscout Player Reports

Rennes were the side with the youngest average age in Ligue 1 (23.3) and one of their breakthrough stars was Désiré Doué. A versatile attacker with great close control and pace, Doué averages 8.87 dribbles per 90, equally adept at using his long strides to burst away or take on opponents in tight spaces. Still only 18, the future looks very bright indeed.

Up front, Thijs Dallinga leads the way for U23 goals and assists with 14 goals, one ahead of strike partner Georges Mikautadze. Dallinga also topped shots (82) and proved to be a constant aerial threat, while Mikautadze also turned provider with 4 assists - an impressive tally of goals and assists for a side that was ultimately relegated via the play-offs.  

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