Whatever happens from here on in, the 2019/2020 football season will forever be remembered due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s an outbreak which has caused sobering devastation from a humanitarian perspective and organized chaos from a sporting standpoint. But let’s be clear: sport is secondary.
The Phantom Season
From a footballing viewpoint, leading bodies discuss how best to deal with this unique situation. There is a need to navigate their way through these choppy waters of sheer uncertainty. Major tournaments have been postponed such as Euro 2020, moved to 2021, and the Copa America, slated also for the same year.
It seems highly unlikely our beloved ball will roll anytime soon – if it will at all this season. If the campaign does return, it will almost certainly be played out behind closed doors. Predictions are extremely difficult at this time due to the ever-changing landscape this pandemic is causing. A sober reality.
Some league associations have already rolled the dice and waved the white flag to finish the season, much in part to their respective governments forcing their hand. This being the case in Belgium, The Netherlands and France.
Each have taken a different approach to their respective final league tables due to their own sporting merit system. The fallout from this will roll on indefinitely.
Critical decisions have been made in terms of awarding titles, European places and sorting out relegation and promotion places. Financial implications will weigh heavily too.
For the rest of the footballing world, if those results are frozen or eradicated altogether, then other league associations will have to take notice. Yet, there is lots at stake in more financially important leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga. Therefore, all will be done to finish the football season to be played to a finish by any means necessary.
But what if the football season was null and voided? If we zoom out and put ourselves in that scenario of a ‘phantom’ season, it is a shame. There is the solace of some amazing highlights to look back on. Although officially it would not be on record, those moments would be cherished by supporters of those respective teams.
Liverpool have dominated the league, with an outstanding record of 27 wins from their 29 matches. They were seemingly easing to the title with a huge 25-point advantage to nearest rivals Manchester City. The fine form of Sadio Mané, Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk would sadly not enter the history books.
La Liga has been the most open seasons in years with shocks aplenty for the duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Both giants are in a titanic tug-of-war tussle at the top of the table with just two points separating the sides.
The form of 19-year-old Norwegian starlet Erling Braut Håland has been particularly impressive – has nine goals in eight appearances since his winter move from Red Bull Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund. This goal-scoring form included scoring a hat trick on his debut, as a second-half substitute no less. He became the first player in Bundesliga history to score five goals in his first two games. His performance against Paris Saint-Germain was especially good, scoring both goals in a 2-1 first-leg victory. That meant he has scored ten Champions League goals in seven games in the competition.
The spectacular form of Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus, after a bedding-in period last season, has taken the Calcio by storm. The Portuguese beat the club record of scoring in nine consecutive matches, a record previously held by Juventus great David Trezeguet. This ended with him scoring in a record-equalling 11 consecutive matches, which was also his 1000th professional appearance. Ronaldo has scored 700 career goals this season. Records continuing to tumble for the gifted number seven.
With the season ended, there would be no official trace of the show that has been PSG. Lead by Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria – the entertainers with tricks, flicks and goals aplenty. The form, especially of Neymar, has galvanized the club through more solidarity towards his teammates. The displays too of Mbappe, the league’s joint-top scorer, have illuminated Ligue 1 as his star continues to rise.
In general, the record books wouldn’t recognise goals like Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz’s bicycle kick to beat Barcelona in injury time. Or Hakim Ziyech’s long-range effort for Ajax against Valencia in the Champions League. Nor Jamie Vardy’s chip for Leicester City over Bournemouth. The list goes on and on and you will no doubt have your personal highlights.
Nor would it count for anything those Champions League classics such as Chelsea drawing 4-4 with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund’s 3-2 victory over Inter Milan or Liverpool drawing 5-5 against Arsenal in the League Cup.
Football’s Harsh Reality
It would be a huge shame not to see these feats gain the recognition they deserve. However, we would remember in our hearts those achievements, come what may.
The waiting game continues for the outcome of this delicate situation. Football fans around the world missing their footy fix. Will we see a ball, not kicked in anger, but in joy? Or will this 2019/2020 league campaign forever belong to the cutting room and named the phantom football season?