Manchester United defender Phil Jones has been ranked as the best centre-back, aged 23 or under, in Europe this season - above the likes of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos.
New research carried out by International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) found that Jones had outperformed every other central defender this season who was born on or after January 1 1992.
The research assessed centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues, who have played at least 50 per cent of matches this season, and scored them against a series of Key Performance Indicators - and Jones emerged with full marks: 100 out of a possible 100.
Second on the list was Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez, followed by Varane, with the two defenders scoring 89 and 77 respectively.
Marquinhos was joint-fourth on the list with 70 points, while Athletic Bilbao’s highly-rated centre-back Aymeric Laporte failed to even make the top 10, coming in at 11th place with a total score of 50.
CIES also scored players in other positions, with some similarly interesting results.
France international Layvin Kurzawa, who plies his trade for AS Monaco, was named as the best full-back; PSG’s Marco Verratti the best defensive midfielder; Real Madrid’s Isco the best attacking midfielder, and Lazio’s Felipe Anderson the best forward, ahead of Barcelona star Neymar.
Jones must become more consistent - and avoid injuries
While Jones has enjoyed a fairly decent season, it’s a stretch to say he has been the best centre-back - aged 23 or under - in Europe this season.
For starters he has only played 19 Premier League matches for Manchester United this season - the England international has struggled to steer clear of injury - and secondly he has looked a little unconvincing at times.
The 23-year-old, who arrived at Old Trafford from Blackburn Rovers in 2011, is expected to sign a new deal this summer - but he could find himself relegated to the subs’ bench if Manchester United strike a deal for Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels.
Jones, once touted to become the best player in Manchester United’s history by Sir Alex Ferguson, has finally nailed down a position after years of playing in a variety of roles.
But he must become more consistent in order to cement his status as one of Europe’s best central defenders.
Is Phil Jones a better centre-back than Raphael Varane and Marquinhos? Have your say in the comments below!