The 2020 smarterscout "Best of the Rest" XI

This December we're counting down to the January transfer window by featuring a different player every day on our social media. But they're not the superstars from Europe's top five leagues who usually show up in end-of-the-year rankings. Instead, we're focusing on the other 20 domestic leagues available to our Lite users. Because these leagues are prime recruiting grounds for top clubs, we decided to cover them with a best XI of 2020, too.

As a reminder, here are the 20 leagues we're using:

ARG1 Argentina Superliga/Liga Profesional
AUS1 Australia A-League
AUT1 Austria Bundesliga
BEL1 Belgium First Division A
BRA1 Brazil Serie A
CHN1 China Super League
DEN1 Denmark Superliga
GRE1 Greece Super League
JAP1 Japan J1 League
KOR1 Korea K-League 1
MEX1 Mexico Liga MX
NED1 Netherlands Eredivisie
NOR1 Norway Eliteserien
POR1 Portugal Primeira Liga
RUS1 Russia Premier League
SWE1 Sweden Allsvenskan
SWI1 Switzerland Super League
TUR1 Turkey Super Lig
UKR1 Ukraine Premier League
USA1 United States Major League Soccer


(You can always see the list for Lite membership and all our other plans by clicking on the About tab at the top of this page.)

First we classified players according to the positions where they played the most minutes. Then, at each position, we applied a different pre-determined combination of our model ratings, adjusted to a Champions League standard. We also included finishing skill for forwards and shotstopping skill for GKs. And for attacking midfielders, we decreased the weight on finishing and increased the weight on ball retention depending on how frequently they shot, as judged by our Shooting style rating. If we needed a tiebreaker, we used an average of our duel ratings as an extra measure of talent.

We only considered players aged 25 or under, because we didn't want to include aging stars in the twilights of their careers. We also set a minimum of 1,520' played in total over the 2019-20, 2020, and 2020-21 seasons – the equivalent of 16 full matches – to add some robustness to the stats. And we rejected any played who rated less than 20 in any model rating or in the averaged duel ratings by a Champions League standard. We wanted the best... of the rest!

So without further ado, here's our first XI:

And for a change of formation:

Not all of these players are household names, and that's a big reason why we're offering this XI – or XIII, if you prefer. We recently had a playerfocus on Diatta, whose star is on the rise. And Everton supporters will know Vlasic, who came to Goodison Park from Hajduk Split in 2017 at a cost of roughly £10m and was sold to CSKA Moscow at a 50% profit. Onana is renowned for his exploits in the Champions League. But how many fans will have heard of Iwata, one of a handful of dynamic young Japanese players who are pushing their way into the national team?

It's also notable that two of the players in our XI are from the Red Bull system, and two more are from Bodo/Glimt. The latter are a testament to the dominance of their club, which tallied a total of 100 goals in only 29 league matches this season (conceding just 32) even after Jens Petter Hauge, their prodigy at LW, moved to Milan. Had he stayed, he would have been our starter at LW. (We have a playerfocus on him, too!)

Instead, there's Mawa, another player from the Eliteserien – a product of the immigration that has enriched Norway's footballing culture, just as in France, Germany, and so many other countries. Our league adjustments pegged Hauge's performances pretty well at a Serie A standard, so it sure seems like Norwegian football is on the up. Did we mention that Fonn Witry was Norwegian, too?

We might have seen more players from the traditional hotbeds of young talent in Brazil and Argentina if we had used a lower floor for minutes played, since those leagues have been signficiantly disrupted by the pandemic. The 2020 Brasilerao didn't start until August, and the new Liga Profesional tournament kicked off in October. Of course, two Brazilians made the list anyway in Claudinho and Marcao, but so did two Colombians in Aquino and Diaz!

Here's our second team:

We had to take Jonathan David and Oussama Idrissi out of the squad, since both transferred to the top five leagues. Grimaldo is well known to European football connoisseurs, and some might even know Marcus Edwards, the former Tottenham starlet and the only Englishman featured here.

Two more Brazilians join the list, along with Borre, another Colombian, and finally an Argentine in the person of Moreno. The lone representative from the China Super League isn't one of their expensive imports from Brazil – or anywhere else – but rather 22-year-old Tong, who seems to be on the cusp of cracking the national team there. But look again – Jailson just became his teammate in September! There's another representative from the J1 League, as well as two from MLS, since Tetteh went to New York Red Bulls on loan from his new club, RB Salzburg.

There's a bit of excitment when our system spits out names like this – we couldn't possibly know all of the 50,000+ players in our database, and sometimes we find an exceptional footballer who's gone under the radar. We hope you'll enjoy finding out more about them, too. We'll be writing about some of them on social media, but all you have to do is click on their names!

[Photo: Антон Зайцев]

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