An XI of high-profile players around Europe who barely played this season
Football can be a strange and cruel game, with players once thought as being the best around struggling to even get on the pitch.
There’s plenty of reasons why it might happen, from horror injuries, slow and steady declines, or simply managers just not liking the cut of their jib. Whatever the circumstances, there’s a whole host of footballers that didn’t get the game time befitting their reputations this season.
Here’s a full XI of high-profile players that barely featured in 2019-20.
GK: Joe Hart
England’s former No.1 was released by Burnley before the season was even fully out, completing a quite remarkable fall from grace.
All three of his appearances for Sean Dyche’s Clarets came in the domestic cups.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne
It’s easy to forget that Nathaniel Clyne, excellent at Southampton and once an England international, is still just 29.
Ravaged by injuries, it looked as though he was on the right track back in 2018-19, making 14 appearances during a half-season loan at Bournemouth.
But he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a pre-season friendly last summer and hasn’t featured a minute in over a year. He’s just been released by Liverpool.
CB: Phil Jones
One of few outfielders to bridge the gap between the Sir Alex Ferguson era and present day, it’s steadily become apparent Phil Jones isn’t quite “the new Duncan Edwards” as was once claimed.
The defender’s cameo appearances these days tend to invite a clenching of the teeth from Manchester United fans, but fortunately for them they’ve been few and far between, just seven in all competitions.
Still, as much as he’s become a bit of a joke figure, it’s not hard to imagine him moving elsewhere and getting his career back on track.
CB: John Stones
Stones featured more than most of the others in this XI, playing more than 1000 minutes for Manchester City in the Premier League, but it’s a lot less than anyone would have expected a few years ago, following his £50million move from Everton in 2016.
He seemed to lose Pep Guardiola’s trust, a feeling that only became stronger as the season developed, starting fewer than a third of City’s Premier League games (12). Not quite the future of their backline, as once thought.
LB: Ryan Sessegnon
First emerging at Fulham at the age of 16 and scoring an unthinkable 20 goals across his first two seasons in the Championship, Sessegnon remained a mainstay during their difficult 2018-19 Premier League season and appeared a decent signing for Tottenham when he joined last summer.
But in the immediacy, Fulham look to have had the better deal with Josh Onomah moving in the opposite direction and playing a starring role as they returned to the top flight. Sessegnon, meanwhile, has had to be patient, making fewer than 10 starts in all competitions.
CM: Tanguy Ndombele
Spurs’ record signing at a reported £54million fee, Ndombele was spoken of as one of the best midfielders in European football at Lyon, but he’s been unable to show it in north London.
Despite scoring on his Premier League debut, he wasn’t quite able to hit the ground running under Mauricio Pochettino and has fallen well out of favour under Jose Mourinho, with the most memorable moment of their time together so far being that training session in the park.
A total of 17 starts in all competition and just 1011 Premier League minutes is a long way off what was expected.
What a strike from Ndombele! 🙌
Heaton makes a superb save to deny Sanchez, but Ndombele steps up and curls a first-time shot into the far corner!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 10, 2019
CM: Mahmoud Dahoud
Spoken of as the future of Borussia Dortmund’s midfield and a regular in Germany’s bright young Under-21 set-up, Mahmoud Dahoud hasn’t quite kicked on as many predicted he might.
Usurped in midfield by new recruits Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel, he may have to move on if he’s to get regular gametime again. He was handed just six starts in the Bundesliga this season, with a further six appearances as a sub.
RW: Xherdan Shaqiri
The Switzerland international has never been one of Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice go-to men at Liverpool, but his debut season provided some memorable moments, including two decisive goals off the bench in a 3-1 win over Manchester United and the cross in for Georginio Wijnaldum’s leveller against Barcelona.
But injuries robbed him of any such contributions in his second year, with two starts and five substitute appearances during their Premier League title-winning campaign tallying fewer than 200 minutes.
CAM: James Rodriguez
A pre-season 7-3 thrashing to Atletico Madrid reportedly resulted in Zidane blocking James moving to their old city rivals. But that resulted in the Colombian getting more or less frozen out completely at the Bernabeu.
He made eight starts in all competitions and only a further four appearances from the bench, totalling just 500 minutes across La Liga and the Champions League.
LW: Gareth Bale
Another awkward season for the Welshman, handed just 14 starts in all competitions, contributing three goals.
In spite of seven years and more than 250 appearances for the club he total, he looked about as comfortable during Los Blancos’ title celebrations as Ashley Cole at Roma.
😅 Don't think Gareth Bale wanted to be involved in the celebrations! pic.twitter.com/D7JS25DXJN
— SPORF (@Sporf) July 16, 2020
CF: Luka Jovic
Twenty-seven goals for Eintracht Frankfurt earned the 22-year-old Serbia international a €60milion move to Real Madrid last summer, but he’s spent his time on the periphery.
Karim Benzema has deservedly kept his place leading the line under Zidane, while a mix of injuries and off-field issues have meant Jovic has had more days in quarantine than league starts (four) at Madrid.