Choosing an all-encompassing XI is always a hard decision considering the differences in the leagues, formations, bias, individuality, and collectivity related arguments. However, we try to pick our best players using data across the league season and European campaign, ignoring friendlies, cups, the UEFA Nations League, and the UEFA Euros Qualifiers. this is Birdiefootball’s XI of 2020. No French Ligue 1 player appears on this list because of the limited games played in the league. The same applies to the Eredivisie too. We try to bring individual metrics, impact, and performances of the players to the fore even though collective achievements also play a part in our argument. Using a 4-3-3 formation, here is our XI of the year 2020.
The German goalkeeper was magnificent as he led his side to every title available for capture. Neuer pulled off some terrific saves as his side pressed hard and left huge gaps at the back. It is now inconceivable that a few years ago, fans were calling for his head after his shoddy World Cup. Neuer is back to his best after a long-term injury messed up his form. His PSxG+/- stands at +2.5 for last season and +3.3 this season showing that he has saved about 6 shots that should have been goals. Despite his low clean sheet numbers, the former Schalke man is the top player in his position.
4 goals and 13 assists in the 19/20 league season while creating 18 big chances to boot. He assisted 1 goal in the Champions League while creating 3 big chances. Trent’s whipped crosses are a thing of beauty and he is one half of arguably the most creative full-back pairing in history. Add his direct free-kicks to the mix and you see a very potent attacking force. He is just 21-years of age which means there is a lot of time for him to keep developing and improving. Especially the defensive side of his game. Trent has been our right-back of 2020
The Spanish defender keeps getting better and better with age. In the 19/20 season, he played 35 games in the league and he kept 17 clean sheets as Los Blancos showed a record-worthy defensive resilience. Key to this was the spiritual leader of the side, Sergio Ramos. The Real legend also chipped in with 11 (!) goals from the center of defense. His unavailability is largely considered why Real did not do so well in the Champions League last season and why they have produced some unsure ones in the current campaign. At 34, Ramos is still going strong despite injury issues creeping in.
Virgil Van Dijk
The Dutch defender has been the best central defender around for the past 2 years and he takes his place on this list. He solidified the back as the Merseyside team won their first league title in 30 years. Van Dijk played every minute of the 19/20 league season as they kept 15 clean sheets on their way to the title. He was imperious, winning 76% of his aerial duels and 70% of his ground duels. Despite his season-ending injury, his place on this list is assured after a great 2020 for him.
One half of the notorious Liverpool pairing, Robbo is our left-back of 2020 despite the temptation to field Bayern’s Alphonso Davies in his place. In the 2019/2020 season, Robbo put up 2 goals and 12 assists while creating 14 big chances in the English Premier League. This season he has 1 goal and 5 assists and he has created 5 big chances. Incredible numbers from the full-back. His energy is vital for Liverpool’s aggressive style of play. He is irrepressible, tenacious, and possesses fantastic crossing ability. The Scotland captain is our best left-back in 2020.
The German Midfielder is world-class in any position on the pitch. His adaptability, technique, tenacity, and football brain makes him one of the best players in the world. For most of 2020, he played as the holding midfielder with Benjamin Pavard deputizing at right-back. Playing as a holding midfielder did not stop him from scoring and setting up important goals for his side. Bayern Munich’s very high and aggressive style means Kimmich is very close to the edge of the box and he can unleash shots and dangerous crosses. He set up the only goal of the UEFA Champions League final, he also scored a sublime strike against Roman Burki in Der Klassiker (the only goal of the game and it took them 7 points clear off their rivals), and he scored the winner in the DFB Cup in a 3-2 win. What a year for the German!
Kevin De Bruyne
The most creative midfielder in the world. De Bruyne was unplayable in the center, creating chance after chance for Manchester City and scoring a few for himself too. In the 2019/2020 season, De Bruyne scored 13 goals and recorded 20 assists while creating 33 (!) big chances in the Premier League. This season he has scored 3 goals, recorded 8 assists and he has created 13 big chances. In the UEFA Champions League, he scored 2 goals with 2 assists while creating 5 big chances last season. He has 4 assists in the current campaign. His pressing, passing, crossing, and drive make him a sure bet for this list.
It is easy to put Thiago Alcantara ahead of the Portuguese midfielder but the impact, numbers, and consistency of the United man, means he takes the spot. Despite arriving in January, Bruno Fernandes scored 8 goals and recorded 7 assists in the Premier League. He was a major reason why Manchester United secured Champions League football. This season, he has 11 goals and he has assisted another 7 while creating 10 big chances in the EPL. His impact on the United team is immeasurable. Bruno Fernandes might not be the most aesthetically pleasing footballer, but he is effective in the final third and his work-rate is also very good. The midfielder has been unstoppable since he arrived in England.
This spot could have gone to Neymar Jr if the French Ligue 1 was not halted without even reaching halfway due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It could have also gone to Sadio Mane of Liverpool but our pick for the left-wing is CR7. He scored 31 goals in 33 league games in the 2019/2020 season, assisting another 5 while creating 9 big chances. This season, he has already scored 14 with 2 assists to his name while creating 3 big chances.
His goals were essential for Juventus as they picked up another Serie A title as is customary. Ronaldo may be in the twilight of his career but his numbers are still impressive and he should be praised for adapting to another league this late in his career. Mr. UEFA Champions League scored 4 goals in last season’s European campaign and he has already matched that tally in the ongoing season. Fine wine.
Lewan-goalski. The best footballer in 2020, he has the medal to back that statement up. At his current scoring rate, he might even win the award again. The Polish striker won everything in front of him and he was consistent with his goal-scoring throughout the year. In the 19/20 season, he scored 34 goals in 31 Bundesliga games, assisting 4 goals and creating 11 big chances. This season he has 19 goals in 13 league games and he has surpassed his assist tally from last season with 5 while creating 4 big chances. In 10 UCL games last season, he scored 15 goals, assisted 5 while creating 6 big chances. In this campaign, he has scored 4 times. A lethal finisher and a renowned marksman, there is no better striker in the world right now.
The Argentine magician refuses to lay low. Despite criticism for his current campaign, he is still head and shoulders above most of his football colleagues. Last season Messi scored 25 goals, recorded 21 assists, and created 36 big chances in La Liga. Unbelievable numbers. This season, he has scored 7 and he has just 2 assists despite creating 11 big chances for his team. Last season, he scored 3 and assisted 3 (7 big chances created) while he has scored 3 and assisted 2 (3 big chances created) in the current UCL campaign. He may not be as sharp or as fast as he used to be but he is still delivering the goods for a very unbalanced Barcelona team. Still one of the best, forever one of the greats.