Modern football has increasingly become all about goals. Those who score in oodles are almost instantly the cynosure of discussions everywhere, and that explains why strikers normally tend to steal the thunder.
However, behind every goal is an assist by someone who made that happen. These are the players who selflessly put things on the platter for the marksman but never really get the credit they deserve despite all the efforts.
There are a few players this season though, who regardless, made heads turn with not one but three assists in a single game - a feat that's as difficult as scoring thrice in a match, technically.
So let's discuss all the 10 instances when a player made a 'hat-trick of assists' so far this season:
#10 Marcel Sabitzer vs Union Berlin (Bundesliga)
The Austrian international got his and RB Leipzig's season off to a flyer when he scored once and assisted thrice in the resounding 4-0 victory on the opening day. Sabitzer single-handedly served the newly-promoted side a baptism of fire as he produced a performance for the ages.
He first of the evening was sharp-witted and astute, the second was nothing to write home about but nevertheless perfectly-weighted, whereas his third was the best of the bunch as he beautifully headed a long ball from Halstenburg straight towards Christopher Nkuku.
Much to Leipzig's merry, Sabitzer has continued in the same vein ever since and gone on to get involved in another nine goals.
#9 Lorenzo Pellegrini vs Sassuolo (Serie A)
AS Roma's Lorenzo Pellegrini is an emerging force. He has taken the league by storm with his creativity and excellent vision, and he also leads the assist tally in the Serie A behind only Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez with nine. His best outing this season came on matchday three when he laid a hat-trick of assists in the 4-2 dismantling of Sassuolo.
That evening, Pellegrini was at the peak of his powers. He tore the Neroverdi defence to shreds with his quick feet and perfectly-weighted passes as he bagged all three of his assists in a space of 21 barnstorming minutes in the first-half - the quickest on this list. He has since gone on to make six more despite missing a handful of games through injuries.
#8 Islam Slimani vs Brest (Ligue 1)
Leicester City flop Islam Slimani has breathed new life in his career with AS Monaco this season. He's been directly involved in 15 goals from 15 starts in Ligue 1, striking eight of them himself. The other seven assists include a hat-trick against Brest, as he ran the rules over the hapless visitors.
He first helped Wissam Ben Yedder break open the deadlock, before dispatching a penalty himself. He then paved the way for Gelson Martins and Keita Balde to round off a 4-1 thumping, as well as his finest individual performance in a very long time.
#7 Lys Mousset vs Burnley (EPL)
Despite the stellar likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold, David Silva, Roberto Firmino, Son Heung-min etc leading the assist tally in the Premier League, the distinction of making a hat-trick of assists has come from the unlikeliest of sources in Lys Mousset of Sheffield United.
The French youngster played an instrumental role in the 3-0 drubbing of Burnley on matchday 11 as he was the architect of all the three goals. On each of those occasions, the 24-year old was at the right place at the right time as he laid a triumvirate of simple passes for John Lundstram and John Fleck to finish.
#6 Timo Werner vs FSV Mainz 05 (Bundesliga)
Timo Werner is touted to lead the line for Germany in the years to come and has shown exactly why after a stellar campaign so far. With 20 goals, he is fiercely contesting Robert Lewandowski for the Golden Boot, who currently leads the race with 23. And the best part is, there's more to his game than just the goals.
Werner is also about electrifying pace, hawkeye vision, and more importantly, assists. He has six of them so far, but bagged three in the 8-0 shellacking of Mainz alone! The 23-year old completely devoured the hapless visitors in what was arguably the finest performance of the season, as Werner also bagged a hattrick of goals on the night
#5 Radja Nainggolan vs Fiorentina (Serie A)
Cagliari have been constantly flailing between the remarkable to downright ridiculous this season, even though skipper Radja Nainggolan continues to lead his side towards a top-half finish. The 31-year old has five goals and four assists to his name, making him the most productive player from the squad.
However, three of those assists came in the 5-2 demolition of Fiorentina as the former AS Roma star rolled back the years with a vintage performance. And when he was done, got on the scoresheet himself for his side's fifth of the night as Nainggolan served a timely reminder of how deadly he continues to be on his day.
#4 Florian Niederlechner vs Hoffenheim (Bundesliga, December '19)
Neiderlechner has proved to be quite a signing for Augsburg. With 11 goals and eight assists in the league so far, the German has had a hand in a staggering 57% of his side's goals, even though the Bavarian outfit languish 12th in the table.
The 29-year old was in peak form when he assisted three goals in his side's 4-2 win over Hoffenheim, and the only occasion he didn't was a penalty kick - that he won himself! Neiderlechner took Die Kraichgauer to the cleaners with a top-drawer individual show even without ever scoring himself, and has managed to maintain the form till date.
#3 Luis Suarez vs. Alaves (La Liga, December '19)
El Pistolero was having a statistically better season than last time out just when an unfortunate knee injury ruled him out for the next four months. Until then, he'd have scored 14 times in all competitions besides another 11 assists, three of which came in the defeat of Alaves.
He started off by assisting Antoine Griezmann following some expert movement in the area before his hawk-eye vision found Arturo Vidal inside the box. His third and final assist of the night was a simple pass to Messi but iced the cake with a late penalty to get on the scoresheet himself and bury the hapless visitors.
#2 Roberto Firmino vs. Southampton (EPL, February, '20)
Roberto Firmino's role at Liverpool has gradually metamorphosed into that of a playmaker from a striker. The Brazilian is increasingly happy laying it off for the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane rather than taking a stab at the goal himself. And that was evidenced in a recent victory over Southampton.
Firmino took his assist tally for the season to 12 in all competitions when he racked-up three on the night, assisting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and Salah. This was also the first time that the former Hoffenheim target man achieved such a feat in his career.
#1 Lionel Messi vs. Real Betis (La Liga, February '20)
The Barcelona ace has had a rusty last few days on and off the field, but that didn't stop him from making a treble of assists in the weekend's vital victory over Real Betis.
Following a spat with club's director and former teammate Eric Abidal and then a last-gasp defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, Messi must have decided he's had enough, venting out all the agony with a truly stellar performance.
He may not have got on target but laid three impeccable crosses that were deservedly converted as Messi helped engineer another important win on the road.Published 11 Feb 2020, 19:17 IST