In the following article, you’ll see my list of 5 players who had a horrible 2020. It has been a terrible year, we all know that by now, which almost makes me feel a bit guilty writing this list. Yet, football resumed in some (normal??) capacity. All big competitions of the year concluded aside from the Euros and the Olympics that will take place next summer. So, I can feel pretty justified when writing these words. The players on the list did not necessarily had the worst performances on pitch this year. However, they are all included into this list based on one main criterium; standards.
This shortlist includes great or potentially great players who fell off the curve in 2020 and didn’t live up to the expectations. Whether these expectations are based on price tag, reputation or a combo of both the result is the same: these 5 gentlemen had a terrible 2020 by their own standards. In one particular case, it might be excused for off-pitch factors, but still, a bad year is a bad year.
Without further due, let’s dive into the business and check out the 5 players who had a horrible 2020.
Before everything, this is my first column so hopefully I can get some attention. Follow me on twitter @SidePsp and on Instagram @pitchsidepod. Now, let’s get into it…
5 – Christian Eriksen
Poor Christian Eriksen! The media linked him at a certain point in 2019 with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. A year later, however, he finds himself benchwarming for Gagliardini at Inter. The Dane was linked to a move to Arsenal which is just horrendous. The Danish international was already out of favor with Mourinho in his last few months with Tottenham. Jose made it clear that he won’t suit his style of play so he left to Conte’s Inter.
That move proved even worse than being on the bench under Mourinho, as he struggled to get any significant game time. Eriksen received limited playing time and his impact became quite limited. As it stands, he is very low at the pecking order in the club and probably will regret leaving Spurs. Tottenham could have done with some extra creative power alongside Kane and Son at the moment. It does not get worse for a player of his caliber than being a 86th minute substitute in a crucial Champions League home fixture where Inter needed the win to qualify.
Eriksen basically switched from an outfit that where he can not fit ANYMORE to a side where just does not fit from the start. Conte’s extra defensive approach, coupled with a focus on quick transition based on Lukaku upfront always meant that someone like Eriksen won’t be having too much input. It is because that kind of tactics does not suit his “rythm settler” profile on the pitch. Hopefully for him, he can show us some of the magic that made him a very demanded player 12 months ago in 2021. It’s a real shame to see him waste his career-peak years under Conte.
4 – Kepa Arrizabalaga
Imagine this; you work at a company that hired you for an outlandish price tag with massive expectations. You don’t perform well so they hire another employee with 1/3 of your salary who outperforms you and sends you working as an archive man for said company. Well, that’s basically the story of Kepa Arrizabalaga, who came with the ridiculous price tag of 75 million Euros at 23 years of age to be the “Next Peter Cech”.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that well for him. Despite starting consistently for the most part of 2020, his performances were not exactly setting the world on fire. Numerous mistakes, a lack of commanding nature and other factors made him gradually fall behind Caballero from all goalkeepers to the point where the latter started ahead of Kepa against Wolves in the last game of the season. All of this was with Chelsea’s Champions League spot in big jeopardy.
By the start of the new season, and after another calamitous performance against Liverpool, Chelsea realized that they probably spent too much money on the wrong target. So, they went in to Rennes (from which they bought Peter Cech way back in 2004) and got the Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy for roughly 25 million Euros. It was both an instant upgrade on Kepa’s unsecure goalkeeping, and a steal of a transfer considering. Mendy’s performances with Lampard’s side so far – keeping 10 clean sheets in all competitions since he joined. It’s a matter of time before Kepa leaves Stamford Bridge, it seems. However, few are the teams that will be racing to sign a GK with such a bad reputation even for quarter of his original fee.
3 – Paul Pogba
There is no football list with the word “worst” that should involve a world cup winner. Unfortunately, this list has two, and there is a big chance you guessed the second by now. This is an entry under the banner “price tag/reputation combo”. The French midfielder is some sort of schizophrenic player. While he sometimes barely makes the cut into the starting XI, and it is constantly debated whether he should start or not, he is a no-brainer for Didier Deschamps’ France and churns out great performances for “Les Bleus” consistently.
Unlike Eriksen, for example, he can produce magic for Manchester United. We all saw glimpses of what a baller he is, yet he doesn’t seem to act that way. Now, with the inclusion of the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Donny Van De Beek, he is even more of an afterthought. That (again) should not be said for a 100 million Euros World Cup winner. However, that’s the reality of things at the moment. When you become a substitute for Fred who was originally brought as a sub for Paul Pogba you know things are not smooth.
Nor he, neither his agent have helped the case as well. Mino Raiola stated numerous times that Pogba is not in a good relation with Solskjaer. The agent also stated that Pogba’s days at Old Trafford are numbered. The player himself said in October that his biggest dream is to play under Zidane for Real Madrid. That (understandably) didn’t sit well with the club’s board, manager, and certainly with some of his peers. Recently, reports suggested that a swap deal is in place involving either Pogba/Ronaldo or Pogba/Dybala (another player who probably could have been on this list) swapping sides depending on the sports outlet/website you read. One thing is sure though, life is toxic for Pogba at United and he probably needs some fresh air
2 – Antoine Griezmann
One of the 5 players who had a horrible 2020, and another World Cup winner on this list, Griezmann actually is extending his contract for another year in terms of having another bad 12 months. Realistically though, he has shown more signs of life than the previous entry which is welcome. Yet, as another entry falling under the category of “price tag/reputation combo”, there are no excuses for the 29-year old player to not be more important for Barcelona than he is currently.
Arguments ranging from coaches misusing him to a lack of harmony with Lionel Messi all the way to a lack of self-confidence, which are not good things each on its own. However, most of the debates around Griezmann involve all these reasons and stress on both of them. He is not getting any younger too, which means the window for him to show his real potential and step up his level at the (deteriorating) Catalan giant is shrinking by the hour.
Barcelona fans are starting to be more impatient when it comes to the former Atletico Madrid STAR. He has not come even close to being as clinical as he was in his 6 seasons stint under Simeone. Unlike Pogba though, his club performances are reflected in his outings with France. Those have been inconsistent since that World Cup win. Life might be hard at the moment for Griezmann, but he is not on his own when it comes to Barcelona’s hellacious mess. Speaking of that…
1 – Lionel Messi
I conclude the 5 Players who had a horrible 2020 list with one of the best players in history. Let’s be clear, the guy still has a great year statistically (22 goals, 20 assists) in Laliga in 2019/2020. But, again, it’s about standards and Messi’s standards are astronomically high. The fact that in his worst year at the club is still nominated for FIFA’s “The best” award is a testament to his legendary status. However, the devil hides in the details.
Behind the numbers and the statistics lies a lost soul. A player who almost lost his passion and drive throughout the last 12 months. The supporting cast around him is drowning him alongside them and the whole club. Still, that does not exempt him from shouldering responsibility. When Barcelona wins it is all about Messi being the savior, but when they lose it’s all down to the supporting cast. That has been some fans’ logic and it’s simply wrong. As much as he has near superhuman skills, he is indeed a person made of flesh and blood. Even Messi can have bad days at the office.
Usually, whenever Barcelona are lagging behind Messi would step up and create the solution. In 2020 though, even Messi does not have the solution sometimes. The 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich is a prime example of that. Messi completely gave up on trying even as the game grew grimmer for his club.
Add to that the whole saga of him nearly quitting the club in the summer that caused all sorts of turmoil in the halls of the club, and you would certainly not debate his positioning on this list. It feels imminent that he is leaving the club soon. It will be a big shame that the last few years of him at the top level were tarnished by playing for an ineffective side to the point where he himself became a hindering factor more than actually supportive one. He is one of the greats though, that is a fact!