Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic is currently the most in-form player in European football.
The 32-year-old delivered one of the greatest performances in the history of the Champions League last night away at Valencia to seal passage to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Ilicic followed up his goal in the 4-1 first-leg victory with FOUR more in his side’s 4-3 win behind-closed-doors at the Mestalla.
The Slovenian forward has now scored 14 goals in 2020, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. Yes, even more than Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland!
It’s safe to say that right now, Ilicic is the most underrated player in world football and the form he is in – including 15 goals in just 21 Serie A games in 2019/20 – is Ballon d’Or nomination worthy.
Last night against Valencia, Ilicic was simply unplayable. The tall, elegant forward scored four times, completed four ball recoveries, completed two take-ons and won two tackles.
Imagine delivering a performance like that in the world’s most competitive continental tournament!
Ilicic’s first two goals of the evening came from the penalty spot to put Atalanta in a commanding position.
The Slovenian then struck from open play in the second-half, firing the ball home from the edge of the box in the 71st-minute after some fancy footwork to complete his hat-trick.
His fourth of the evening was also a beauty. The ball fell to Ilicic in the box and the seasoned striker nonchalantly caressed it into the top corner past the helpless Jasper Cillessen.
How does he make a finish like that look so easy?
He’s also the first player to notch a quartet of goals in the knockout stages of the competition in a game away from home.
Lionel Messi, Mario Gomez and Robert Lewandowski all had home advantage on their side.
What a player Ilicic is and Atalanta are going to be a serious threat in the last eight of the Champions League!
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