We're down to just eight teams in Champions League now, with countless players sent home from European competition, left to watch the rest battle it out to lift the trophy with the big ears. Throughout this competition though, a number of new faces have stepped up and made a name for themselves. Some weren't backed up by their teams, and will watch the rest of the tournament from home, while some are still alive to make even more of a name for themselves.
These are this year's Champions League breakout stars:
Kasper Schmeichel - Leicester City
Leicester City wouldn't be here without Kasper Schmeichel. The goalkeeper has rescued the Foxes over and over again in Europe, and he put in a hero performance against Sevilla to get them into the quarterfinals. You thought it would take Schmeichel's best to win the Premier League, but he was even better in Europe this season. His father famously won the Champions League in 1999 with Manchester United, and the younger Schmeichel's done the family name proud in his first ever year of Champions League play.
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Steven Nzonzi - Sevilla
Steven Nzonzi's Sevilla may have gone out of the tournament, but his performances will leave a lasting impression. The 28-year-old ran Sevilla's midfield, and he was one of the biggest reasons the Rojiblancos made it to the round of 16 in the first place. His domineering presence in the middle of the park, assured passing, and calm directing of the game has caught the eye of teams all around Europe as well, and he could be on his way out of Sevilla this summer.
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Dries Mertens - Napoli
Arkadiusz Milik was supposed to be Napoli's replacement for Gonzalo Higuain, but a torn ACL meant someone had to step up at striker. That someone was tiny Dries Mertens, and he stepped up in the biggest way. Mertens scored five goals in Champions League, adding two assists, but the numbers dont tell it all for the mercurial Belgian. His ability on the ball, eye for goal, and incredible off the ball movement encapsulate Napoli's effervescent style, and it was a shame to see him and his teammates go out at the hands of Real Madrid after playing some of Europe's most beautiful football.
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Leroy Sane - Manchester City
Leroy Sane was one of the few Manchester City players to come out of the Monaco loss with a positive reputation. Sane's started slowly this year for City, but he's since become one of their best players. He scored two goals over the two legs against Monaco for Manchester City, and he did everything in his power to keep them from going out. It wasn't quite good enough in the end, but his play was fantastic.
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Samuel Umtiti - Barcelona
Samuel Umtiti stepped into Barcelona's defense this year and made it look like he's been there for a decade. His reading of the game, athleticism and ability on the ball have seen him slot right into Barcelona's system, and he's made himself invaluable to the Blaugrana with his versatility this season. He, like the rest of his team, was poor in the first leg against PSG, but he was fantastic in the second. His first year in Champions League with Barcelona has been a resounding success so far.
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Thiago Alcantara - Bayern Munich
Thiago Alcantara's no stranger to Champions League football, but he's stepped up in a big way this year for Bayern Munich. He's finally injury free and enjoying a regular run for Bayern, and with him on the pitch week in week out, Bayern are humming. He's the perfect third piece of Bayern's midfield alongside Arturo Vidal and Xabi Alonso, and he's Bayern's creative key.
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Benjamin Mendy - Monaco
One of Europe's best left backs this season, Benjamin Mendy is just one of the multiple Monaco players who are enjoying a breakout year. Pacy, a strong tackler, and with the quality on the ball to make him equally comfortable in the attacking third, Mendy's been a solid all season long and doesn't look like slowing down yet.
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Fabinho - Monaco
Fabinho is one of the rare players who's equally good in two positions. Although he's played as a center midfielder this season, he's just as capable at right back. He's been one of Europe's best players in midfield this year though, and he's a huge part of the reason Monaco's been so successful. An imposing force in the middle of the field, with typical Brazilian ability on the ball, he's attracted attention from around Europe with his consistent and impressive performances.
Bernardo Silva - Monaco
Another one of those Monaco boys, little Bernardo Silva's the creative genius of Leonardo Jardim's ultra-attacking side. Impossible to take the ball off, and capable of inspiration at any minute, Silva can operate from the right or through the center. He's been a menace all season, and this might be the last year we see him in a Monaco shirt.
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Kylian Mbappe - Monaco
Kylian Mbappe is Europe's brightest jewel right now. The 18-year-old French starlet has 19 goals this season, but the number of Thierry Henry comparisons is already through the roof. He's pacy, he's skillful, and he's done it on the biggest stage already. Champions League has already been his playground, and the world is watching to see if he can keep it going against Dortmund.
Oh, and another Monaco man. They have something special down there.
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Christian Pulisic - Borussia Dortmund
As fantastic as Monaco's crew of young players have been, Borussia Dortmund have their own pair of young gunners. There's not much new we can tell you about Christian Pulisic at this point, and that's a testament to just how quickly his star has risen this season. He truly announced his presence on the world stage by netting an assist against current Champions League holders Real Madrid, and since then, he's only gone on to continue impressing. Not a bad start for the 18-year-old.
Ousmane Dembele - Borussia Dortmund
On one side, Christian Pulisic, on the other, Ousmane Dembele. One of world soccer's sauciest players, the Dortmund attacker is nearly untouchable on the dribble. He's not just a stepover merchant though, and Dembele's eye for a pass, direct running and finishing have seen him be directly involved in six Champions League goals already, 21 on the season. He's completely two-footed, lightning quick, and mature beyond his unbelievable 19 years of life. The kid has all the makings of a future Ballon d'Or winner.