Ranking the 10 best players in Serie A

Five-time defending champion Juventus may have a monopoly in Serie A, but it doesn't lay claim to all the best players; the Italian peninsula has attracted some big names despite the relative decline of the top flight.

Weighing both current form and pedigree, here's a list of Serie A's top 10 players this season.

The spine of the Roma midfield runs through Nainggolan, a workhorse of a player who sometimes goes into a challenge with too much vigour. Over the past couple of years, he's developed a penchant for scoring from distance and committing tough challenges. The Belgium international was oddly held out of Roberto Martinez's recent squad, but Roma can't afford to play without his tenacity if it has ambitions of usurping Juventus.

AC Milan finally has a player worthy of a list. After years of navigating the football wilderness, the 18-time Serie A winner has managed to put together a competitive side, and Bonaventura has contributed the most to the team's revival. Under Vincenzo Montella's tutelage, the 27-year-old has carved out a solid role as a left-sided midfielder who can jump into the attack at any moment and provide link-up play.

Several graduates from Palermo's system are now household names in European football. Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore, and Paulo Dybala all earned big moves after stealing the spotlight in Sicily. In the shadows was Belotti, the guttural No. 9 who has all the skills to be a prolific goal scorer. He had to move to Torino before he could get the respect he deserves. Belotti, 22, is the youngest player among the top five leagues who's accounted for eight goals or more this season.

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri tried to turn Pjanic into a player he isn't. Deployed as a deep-lying playmaker, Pjanic couldn't express himself going forward. The experiment failed, and he's since returned to the man that shredded Serie A defences. He's back to scoring free-kicks. He's free of defensive duties. Only Dani Alves (67.1) has averaged a higher total of passes than Pjanic (56.1) on the Juventus squad.

Arriving at Roma last year as an apparent solution to the club's scoring woes, Dzeko was more guilty of missing sitters than fixing anything. But manager Luciano Spalletti stuck with the Bosnia and Herzegovina international, and he's now come good. Dzeko is the joint-top scorer in Serie A with 10 goals, and he could have more. He has the confidence to go for goal: No other player has fired more shots than Dzeko's 66 this term.

Strip away all the controversy - the feud with Inter's ultras, the transfer rumours, the marriage to Maxi Lopez's ex-wife - and we see a truly world-class striker. Icardi simply doesn't waste his chances. Making up more than 50 percent of Inter's league goals and converting 23.3 percent of his shots, Icardi often carries his team to victory. It's no coincidence Inter's lost the majority of the matches in which Icardi failed to score.

There are few defenders who can play from the back as well as Bonucci. The best of Juventus' back three, Bonucci is masterful at delivering a long ball and identifying an outlet pass. He's a kind of defensive director with the play-making ability to jump-start an attacking sequence.

Though he's missed a significant chunk of the season with a thigh injury, Dybala's still among the Serie A elite. He's a goal scorer without being a No. 9, and he's a playmaker without being a No. 10. Dybala is as complete a package as you can expect from a forward. Having a hand in 30 Serie A goals last season, the Argentina international is arguably Juventus' most influential player.

On current form, there may not be a better player in the Italian peninsula. Salah has added goals to his pacy and direct style of football. Attacking defenders is his game, and he's beginning to find better ways to distribute the ball. If his recent hat trick against Bologna wasn't spectacular, it was ruthless in its efficiency. He's made more key passes (35) than any player in the league, and that has everything do with Salah's free role in Spalletti's lineup.

Life at Juventus has started slowly for Higuain, but he's still banged in seven league goals during the so-called slump. The biggest of the lot came against former club Napoli - the winning strike no less. Unafraid to rack up the shots, Higuain is actually more resourceful with the opportunities he's had this season, banging in 20 percent of his attempts at goal. "A loose ball at Gonzalo’s feet is a death sentence for defenders," said Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri. At full confidence, Higuain's one of the best strikers in Europe. He has no peer in Serie A.

Ranking the 10 best players in Serie A
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