Who is the Travis Kelce of soccer? Real Madrid's Benzema, Modric, Kroos among Champions League clutch performers

One of my favorite collections of stats -- what, you don't have favorite collections of stats? -- comes from Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

My colleague Bill Barnwell called Kelce "one of the most valuable players of his generation." The tight-end position requires players big enough to block linebackers and defensive linemen in the run game but also agile enough to get open in the passing game. Unsurprisingly, there are not many human beings that can block 6-foot-4, 285-pound pash-rushers and run past 6-foot, 200-pound defensive backs.

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There are guys who can do one of those things; they become wide receivers or offensive linemen. And most of the guys who can do both? They block worse than the average lineman and they run routes and catch worse than the average receiver; their value comes mostly in the ability to do both, somewhat competently. Not Kelce, though. He blocks well enough that the opposition doesn't just assume the Chiefs are passing when he's on the field, and he's as much of a receiving threat as anyone in the NFL.

So, the stats: Kelce has played 18 playoff games -- one more than a standard regular season. And those games are coming against the best teams in the NFL. He's caught 133 passes for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns. Per game, that's 7.4 catches, 86 yards, and 0.9 touchdowns -- numbers that would've ranked, respectively, third, eighth, and first in the NFL this past regular season.

Is there a soccer equivalent of Kelce's dominance against elite opposition? In one sense, not really -- or, at least, it doesn't matter. The way the domestic season works, goals against Real Valladolid are just as valuable against goals against Real Madrid. But we do have one strand of competition that theoretically includes only the best teams in the world: the Champions League knockout rounds. (No offense to Helsingborgs, Ferecvaros and FC Sheriff, but the group stages do not include only the best teams in the world.)

Ahead of the Champions League quarterfinals, then, let's try to identify the Kelces of European soccer.