5 most improved players from Europe's top leagues in 2017/18
With the 2017/18 campaign now all but over across Europe's top leagues, only a few cup finals remain between now and next month's World Cup in Russia. Naturally, everyone's attention is fixed towards the international tournament - which only comes around once every four years, after all.
However, following another enthralling season across all fronts, it's time to take a look at five players who have improved the most and thus, contributed significantly for their respective teams.
Before doing that though, it's important to spare a thought for a few players who were close in contention but just missed out on making this list.
Here are the honourable mentions:
Goncalo Guedes (Valencia)
The future appeared bleak for Guedes, after a hasty - but no less lucrative - switch to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain in January 2017. He only made a handful of appearances before being deemed ill-prepared to handle the rigours of playing for a side with such high expectation, so a season-long loan elsewhere in Europe was his best opportunity at redemption after showing promise at Benfica.
Valencia were the beneficiaries of this deal, where they acquired a highly-motivated Portuguese young forward who played with something to prove, critics to silence and more importantly, a World Cup squad to get himself into. With five goals and nine assists in La Liga this past season, he certainly did that and helped Los Che to a commendable fourth-placed finish.
James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Featuring alongside Ben Mee as Sean Dyche's first-choice centre-back pairing, the pair combined well and were consistent performers throughout the campaign too, irrespective of their opposition on a given matchday.
He won 70% of his aerial duels (138 successful), completed 46 tackles, made an impressive 50 interceptions and 43 blocks too. It can often prove tough for defenders to make the step-up in quality from Championship to England's top-flight, but Tarkowski has settled quickly and made a name for himself while doing so. Not bad going from the former Oldham youngster.
Philipp Max (Augsburg)
Max is another example of a talented player who has excelled with regards to significant contributions to his side. Over the past two seasons, Max made 32 (15/16) and 26 (16/17) appearances across all competitions - predominantly in the Bundesliga.
This season, he started and played the full 90 in all but one Bundesliga fixture - Augsburg's final one - as he was suspended after five yellow cards accumulated over the course of the season. Alternating between left-back and the left side of midfield, Max's production in the final third sky-rocketed.
He created 75 chances and from these goalscoring opportunities, earned an impressive 12 assists - only Thomas Muller's 14 was higher across the league than the 24-year-old.
Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle)
Shelvey's omission from Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad for England was generally met with displeasure from supporters and critics alike. Rightly so. Questions are now being asked about the quality of Southgate's midfield options, which speaks volumes with regards to the former Liverpool man's ability.
His fantastic passing range and ability to create chances for team-mates with seeming ease has overshadowed previous disciplinary issues, which threatened to ruin Jonjo's potential. He has continued to mature and develop under Rafa Benitez's guidance, embracing his role as Newcastle's creator-in-chief - so long may it continue.
Leon Bailey (Leverkusen)
Bailey is another example of someone unfortunate to not get into the top five here, but there were simply too many options to choose from.
With 12 goals and six assists in 34 appearances this term, the Jamaican winger was one of Leverkusen's most dangerous attackers and caused havoc among opposition defences with refreshing ease.
Perhaps the most scary thing about him is the fact that he's still only 20-years-old. Only centre-forward Kevin Volland (14) netted more and Leon will naturally be looking towards a close friend for inspiration.