ESPN FC Player of the Month: Lionel Messi, Diego Costa or Karim Bellarabi?
The 2014-15 season is only a few weeks old but Europe's top performers for August have been whittled to a three-man shortlist in consultation with stats website WhoScored.com and ESPN FC's writers. Now it's up to you to select which of the three deserves to be named the ESPN FC Player of the Month for August.
NOTE: Only players with two or more appearances were considered.
DIEGO COSTA (Chelsea)
Some players take a little while to adapt when moving from La Liga to the Premier League but Diego Costa has settled in immediately after arriving at Stamford Bridge in a 32 million-pound deal from Atletico Madrid -- his four goals in three matches co-inciding with Jose Mourinho's side taking an early lead in the Premier League standings.
Did this from Chelsea today. Van Nistelrooy-esque finish from Costa, whose poaching deserves more respect http://t.co/EddKvcpDVJ- Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) August 23, 2014
Costa struck on his Chelsea debut at Burnley, netted another goal on his Stamford Bridge bow against Leicester City and then followed that up with an important brace against Everton, to ensure Chelsea maintained their 100 percent winning league start. Costa's impact is all the more impressive given that it took recently-departed Chelsea striker Fernando Torres 39 matches to reach the same four-goal tally for the club.
LIONEL MESSI (Barcelona)
Seven weeks after claiming the Golden Ball awarded to the World Cup's best player, Messi is back in the hunt for honours after starting the Primera Division season in impressive fashion for Barcelona. He scored two trademark solo efforts in the 3-0 win over Elche on the opening day, and then created the game's only goal on Sunday as Barcelona eked out a tough 1-0 win at Villarreal to go into the international break as the only La Liga side with maximum points from their first two games.
"Besides the goals and assist the most noticeable feature of Messi's performances has been what seems a renewed appetite for hard-work," ESPN FC's Spain correspondent Dermot Corrigan notes. "The indifferent player we often saw last season strolling around when Barca lost the ball, has been replaced by someone who is snapping into tackles and chasing back to try and regain possession.
"This looks in line with incoming coach Luis Enrique's insistence on returning to the 'pressing' game which was a feature of Barca's best years under Pep Guardiola, and suggests that Messi is responding to his new boss' demands."
KARIM BELLARABI (Bayer Leverkusen)
A surprise inclusion perhaps alongside two more illustrious names but 24-year-old Bellarabi has hit the ground running at the start of the Bundesliga season. He has been here before, making a real impact when he first arrived at Leverkusen from Braunschweig in 2011 before injuries and a loss of form saw him fall out of favour at the BayArena.
He was not expected to have a first-team role in the new campaign but coach Roger Schmidt handed him a surprise start against Borussia Dortmund. Schmidt's faith was instantly rewarded when Bellarabi scored the fastest ever Bundesliga goal after nine seconds of the season opener at the Westfalenstadion, before setting up Stefan Kiessling for the second of the night. A week later, he created another and scored another as Leverkusen beat Hertha Berlin 4-2.
"Only a few months ago, it appeared Bellarabi had thrown away his career, but he has engineered an incredible comeback," says ESPN FC's Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld. "Now he is knocking on a national team's door -- he has dual citizenship so it could be Morocco but, if he keeps up he might even get a shot at Die Nationalmannschaft."