Barcelona's relatively routine 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo back in November won't have shocked anyone, but there was one surprising outcome from the match. Lionel Messi neither scored or assisted a goal in the game and completed only 1 dribble to ensure that he picked up a WhoScored rating of just 6.81.
Not in a single game before or since that day has the Argentine registered a rating below a 7 this season and in this piece we take a look at Europe’s most consistent performers based on our unique rating system.
We've compiled a leaderboard of players to receive more than fifteen WhoScored ratings above a 7 thus far and sorted them based on the percentage of their overall appearances in which they have done so.
In the case of a tie in said figures the player with the higher number of appearances comes out on top and if two players have the same number of appearances but one has made more from the bench he will be favoured having had less of an opportunity to reach a high rating in those games. If the players' have the exact same number of appearances the better average rating over the season is the deciding factor.
First we'll run down from 5 to 2, with the aforementioned Messi leading the way, before compiling a most consistent XI over the top 5 leagues based on their number of match ratings above a 7 over total appearances.
5. Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)
Although some believe that the Belgian is yet to show his best form in a Spurs shirt, summer signing Mousa Dembele has been unerringly consistent at the start of his spell with the club. With a total of 17 WhoScored ratings over 7 this season, including in both of his displays for Fulham prior to his cross-captial switch, the powerhouse midfielder has only failed to achieve a rating of 7 on three occasions.
The fact that one of those occurrences came as a 79th minute substitute against West Ham should be noted, though recent below par performances against Sunderland and Norwich have both come since Christmas. Indeed, the fact that Dembele's best rating this season (9.04) came in a Fulham shirt, as he bossed proceedings at Old Trafford back in August, may suggest that he has plenty more to offer yet.
4. Matteo Darmian (Torino)
Torino full-back Matteo Darmian has been the picture of consistency this season having been promoted with the side in the summer. The 23-year old was on the books of AC Milan for 10 years, coming up through the academy, before Palermo agreed a co-ownership deal with the club. It was last summer that Milan decided to part company with the right-back, selling the other half of his contract to the newly promoted outfit outright, and their loss has definitely been Torino's gain.
Darmian has started 18 games this season and picked up 16 ratings above a 7, with the last time the defender failed to pick up a rating over a 7 coming back in late October. The fact that the young full-back's average rating is fairly modest, at 7.18, suggests that he performs at a very capable level week-in week-out without ever really putting in an outstanding performance to boost his average. Indeed Darmian has received no man of the match awards from WhoScored this season, but goes about his work at an extremely solid level.
3. Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
The second of three Serie A players here, Andrea Pirlo has continued the form that led Juve to the Scudetto last season this time around. Consistently brilliant, Pirlo, like Darmian, has only failed to pick up a rating above a 7 on two occasions this season having made 19 appearances in total. His 5 goals have all come from direct free-kicks thus far and he still leads the league in passes (81.9) and key passes (3.4) per game.
His two ratings below a 7 came in matches at Fiorentina and, more recently, in defeat to Sampdoria, though he has registered at least an 8 on ten occasions, including a perfect 10 vs Atalanta at the end of last year. At 33, the fact that Andrea Pirlo's form shows no clear signs of abating will serve both Juventus and Italy extremely well for some time yet, with many suggesting that his performances last year should have seen the metronome midfielder rival Messi for the Ballon d'Or.
2. Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik has been a key player for the Partonepei for some years now, though many would argue that the sale of Ezequiel Lavezzi this summer has made the Slovakian's importance far stronger. The 25-year old has more than stood up to the task of ensuring the side continue to find the net despite the Argentine's departure, actually scoring more goals per game (1.96 to 1.73) than they did last season.
Hamsik's tallies of 9 goals and 11 assists, with the latter only bettered by Andres Iniesta across Europe, have certainly helped, and his all-round performances have been superb. His tally of 21 ratings above a 7 from WhoScored this season matches that of Messi and van Persie as the most in Europe and have come from 23 appearances. His two ratings below that standard came in defeats at Juventus and Inter, while his best rating (8.98) came having scored and assisted a goal in a 4-2 win at Genoa back in November.
Europe's Most Consistent XI
Below is the best XI in terms of players to have produced the highest proportion of WhoScored ratings over a 7 this season in a 4-3-3 formation.
In goal it is no surprise to see Bayern's Manuel Neuer clock up the joint most 7+ ratings of goalkeepers across Europe's top 5 leagues this season, with 13. That tally can be matched by both Mark Schwarzer (Fulham) and Simon Mignolet (Sunderland), though the German's figure have come from fewer overall appearances (20), so he gets the nod.
Joining Darmian in our backline is a Serie defensive partnership of Andrea Ranocchia (Inter) and veteran Nicola Legrottaglie (Catania), who have both registered seventeen 7+ ratings from 20 appearances apiece. Completing the defence is another summer arrival at White Hart Lane, with Jan Vertonghen acclimatising to the Premier League with consummate ease despite playing out of position at left-back for a large chunk of the season. Only six players have picked up more than the Belgian's 18 match ratings of 7 or more.
Our midfield trio have all been analysed here, with the combination of Pirlo, Hamsik and Dembele somewhat mouth-watering, while Messi is joined by two Leverkusen forward's in attack. The form of top scorer Stefan Kießling and young winger Andre Schürrle has been key to a superb season from Sami Hyppia's side thus far. Both have picked up 17 ratings of 7+ from 20 appearances apiece.
It wouldn’t be right to avoid ending where we started, and the reason why Messi is the world’s greatest isn’t just because he is consistently incredible, but also incredibly consistent.