7 of the Best Players Excelling Outside Europe’s ‘Top 5’ Leagues

?European football has returned, and with it the platform for players from the lesser-known sides of the continent to impress and potentially set themselves up for a lucrative future move.

While teams from the so-called ‘top five’ leagues have monopolised the world’s best players, there are still a number of talents plying their trade in the likes of the Netherlands, Portugal and even Croatia.

Here, 90min will run you through seven of the best players currently demonstrating their talents in the continent’s more obscure leagues – all of whom have returned to the European stage in the ?Champions League and Europa League…

Ruben Dias

Ruben Dias

Benfica have a new homegrown hero at the heart of their defence, and he’s called Ruben Dias. Aged just 23, the Lisbon-born star has been a stalwart for the Eagles since earning a first team spot two years ago, earning high praise for his consistent performances.

90min has learned that Manchester City are currently weighing up a January move for the centre-back following the serious injury to Aymeric Laporte – evidence of just how good he has been.

Although the side from the Portuguese capital slipped to defeat against RB Leipzig in their opening Champions League group match, Dias has played every minute for Benfica this season – helping the club keep four clean sheets in six Primeira Liga games.

Dominik Szoboszlai

FC Salzburg vs KRC Genk  - Champions League Group E

As seems to be the case with every technically gifted, diminutive attacking midfielder in world football, the 18-year-old Hungarian international has already been linked with a move to Arsenal.

However, unlike in so many other cases, they would have good reason to go after Szoboszlai. 

A typical modern day flair player, the youngster has an eye for a pass, has excellent shooting technique and is adept from set pieces – as he demonstrated against Slovakia in Euro 2020 qualifying for Hungary.

Considering his tender age, his potential is quite frankly frightening – Jadon Sancho levels of frightening. Capable of operating out wide or centrally, his three assists and two goals in seven games suggest he will be terrorising defences for years to come

Dani Olmo


It is remarkable that this 21-year-old remained in the Croatian capital beyond the summer, given his dazzling dribbling ability and eye for goal.

Olmo has improved year on year at Dinamo, and he followed 12 goals and nine assists last season with a stellar display at the Under-21 European Championships during the summer as part of the winning Spain squad.

The ?Barcelona youth product had seemed destined for a move following that tournament, with Barça, ?Manchester United and ?Tottenham reportedly interested. However, Dinamo blocked any move and Olmo has endured something of a strange season as a result. 

Although he has picked up four goals and as many assists in all competitions, he has only played once in the league having rejected a new contract. His other games have all come in the Champions League, suggesting Zagreb may be putting him in the shop window.

Fyodor Chalov

Fyodor Chalov,Vedran Corluka

It sometimes feels as though it is simply localism that means the Russian Premier League is not considered one of Europe’s elite divisions, given the number of teams capable of challenging.

CSKA Moscow are one of the sides that would argue their case, and their front man Fyodor Chalov takes his place on this list. The centre forward scored 17 times last season – including a pearler against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu – and has started the new campaign in the same vein.

However, while the Moscovite has maintained his high standards, his team’s have dropped – CSKA losing 5-1 to Ludogorets in the Europa League last time out. With an impressive touch, pace and finishing ability, Chalov may soon see his hometown club as being below his station.

Lovro Majer

While Dani Olmo has been taking the headlines, Lovro Majer will be the next homegrown talent to depart Dinamo Zagreb for one of Europe’s top five leagues.

The attacking midfielder didn’t feature in the Champions League romp against Atalanta, but he has already racked up four assists in eight games this season – including three in five in the league.

He possesses a wand of a left foot and his smooth playing style is similar to that of Marco Reus – just in a deeper role. Just 21, his future is bright.

Edson Alvarez


A summer arrival from Club América in Mexico, Alvarez has already broken into the starting lineup in Amsterdam and scored twice. Although he was expected to fill the gaping void left by Matthijs de Ligt, the 21-year-old has instead stepped into the deep-lying midfield slot vacated by Frenkie de Jong, who departed for Barcelona in the summer.

Erik ten Hag has recognised his passing and dribbling ability and opted to deploy him in that more advanced role, but his pace and tackling mean he is a more than capable defender.

Den Hag’s resurgent young side are unbeaten at the top of the Eredivisie, and should they retain the league title AND go on a good run in Europe once again, Alvarez may become their latest hot property.

Erling Braut Haaland

FC Salzburg vs KRC Genk  - Champions League Group E

The world revolved around Haaland following his devastating Champions League debut, in which he netted his fourth hat-trick of what is already a ridiculous goalscoring campaign.

The towering Leeds-born forward combines height, pace and finishing ability to devastating effect. His *17* goals so far this term (yes, 17) suggest the 19-year-old is perhaps already too good for the Austrian Bundesliga.

He only arrived from Norway’s Molde in January, but there is a feeling this could be his one and only season in the Alpine city. With Robert Lewandowski ageing and no obvious successor at this time, he would fit the profile that Bayern Munich will be looking for to take the place of the prolific Pole.


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