For some players it hasn’t just been a chance to get back to doing the thing they love. It’s been an opportunity to break through and become stars of the game.
We’ve picked up-and-coming five players from a quintet of positions. Get used to their names, because at the end of 2020/21 they’ll be all over the sports pages.
It’s been quite a journey for this man. From being released by Ipswich Town when he was 16 to becoming a Premier League starter who’s now threatening to keep net for England at the Euros.
He’s Nick Pope, the goalkeeper who should be best-placed for a breakthrough 2020/21.
Pope is a supremely reliable player who excels at the most important part of goalkeeping (keeping the ball out of the net) but who can also pass the ball well enough to launch attacks. He has both the feet and hands you need to be a success in the modern game.
And he keeps a lot of clean sheets, managing 15 in 2019/20 and finishing just one behind Ederson in the race for the Golden Gloves.
In the best case scenario, Pope’s breakthrough 2020/21 leads him to take the first team spot of Jordan Pickford in the England side and gets him a move to a bigger club.
And it’s not just us who thinks Pope could be England’s goalkeeper at Euro 2021.
The best betting sites are predicting he’ll be in the squad. When picking a sports site to check his odds of being selected for England, you’ll note that they are pretty close to those given to Jordan Pickford.
There’s still plenty of football left to be played in this season and we’re predicting Pope will get more opportunities to dislodge Pickford in the England team. When those chances arrive, we expect him to show he’s the man for the present and the future.
A concrete and candy central defender who has the sturdiness of Nemanja Vidic and class of Rio Ferdinand – he’s a striker’s Frankenstein’s monster of the EPLs greatest defensive partnership in one body.
Kimpembe has long been tipped for stardom and he’s now showing his class at PSG.
This has come at the best possible time for the centre back. There’s a dearth of top-class centre-backs (particularly left sided ones) and PSG have just begun to show that they could win the Champions League.
The obvious next step for Kimpembe is to establish himself as France’s dominant central defender. He has all the technical skills a modern CB needs, along with the leadership required to become the main man at the back for his country.
2020/21 is the time for Kimpembe to show he’s the top CB at club and international level.
France go into the Euros as favourites and PSG look set for a deep run in the Champions League. If Kimpembe can win both those titles as a starting defender then he’ll make a strong case for being the best player on the planet in his position.
He’s a player that can dominate either flank for the next decade and challenge England’s playmaker from the back, Trent Alexander-Arnold, for the status of football’s premier attacking defender – period.
Two seasons at Dortmund gave Hakimi the chance to enhance his outlandish attacking gifts and develop his defensive instincts – he’s now the complete player, one who supports his team at both ends of the pitch.
Zinedine Zidane disagreed and sold him to Inter Milan for around £36mn.
Zidane had Dani Carvajal on Hakimi’s preferred right side of the defence, with the left flank occupied by the legendary Marcelo and supported by the £47 million Ferland Mendy.
But Hakimi’s attacking threat outstrips all of those players and Real Madrid prides itself on playing fantasy football. It’s why Zidane should have seen that selling Hakimi to Inter would be a bad move and the stats have shown it to be the case.
Hakimi has six goals and five assists in Serie A this season (more than Real’s three fullbacks have between them) and has taken Inter to the top of the table, while Real are having a terrible season.
If Hakimi continues his sensational form until the end of the season then he could become a Serie A winner and be recognised as the best right back on the planet.
Inter Milan have been guilty of some criminal decisions when it comes to selling players – Roberto Carlos and Andrea Pirlo are just two of the players who have left the club and become icons of the game.
Nicolò Zaniolo is the latest failure of Inter’s transfer policy.
Sold to Roma in 2018 for buttons, Zaniolo has since established himself as Italy’s next great attacking hope – Roma fans going so far as to anoint him the successor to Francesco Totti.
Zaniolo is a player of flair, creativity, and thrust – his supreme dribbling skills allow him to cut in from the right flank or drive forwards from central midfield, allowing him to use his formidable shooting ability to threaten opposing keepers.
Here is when I have to pause for a moment.
Why? Because Zaniolo is currently recovering from a ruptured cruciate ligament.
This puts a blocker on his game time but actually makes it more likely that 2020/21 will be a breakthrough season for him.
The reason for this is that absence is making the hearts of Italian fans grow even fonder for Zaniolo – they remember the fantasy of his play and promise of his youth, seeing only clear blue skies on his return.
Erling Braut Håland is Europe’s next great striker, a dominating presence who scores prolifically and earned a big move off the back of his exploits.
But Håland already has competition for the role of the finest number 9 on the continent for a generation and it doesn’t only come from the extraordinary Kylian Mbappé.
Youssoufa Moukoko is quite literally breathing down the Norwegian’s, as not only his striking rival but his younger clubmate at Borussia Dortmund.
Moukoko’s gifts have been an open secret for some time.
He turned 16 on 20 November 2020 and an article was published the next day highlighting his astonishing youth goal scoring statistics — 141 goals in 88 matches.
Germany’s sports rulings meant Moukoko wasn’t able to play for Dortmund until he turned 16 but he’s now being integrated into the Dortmund team and has already scored his first goals for the team.
Unlike other breakout stars, we’re not predicting a huge contribution from Moukoko. It’s his very presence on the pitch that makes him a breakthrough in 2020/21. Why? Because it’s about what this means for the future.
With Messi and Ronaldo in the twilight of their careers, excitement around Moukoko is both palpable and extreme. He’s believed to be the greatest wonderkid in the history of Football Manager. If the game’s simulations of his talents are anything to go by then he might rival Messi and Ronaldo in the history books.
Henderson, Kimpembe, Hakimi, Zaniolo, and Moukoko are all very different players, but they have one thing in common – they’re on the way up and 2020/21 is the season where they become five of football’s star players.
So, if you’re playing Football Manager during Coronavirus, I recommend you start a new game and do everything you can to sign these footballers!
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