Football is a precarious business, as my recent video looking at seven of the biggest player declines during the 2010s showed. Even in a much shorter period of time though, it’s possible to go from Ballon d’Or candidate one season to an overrated flop the next. Football fans are fickle, and the sport can be ruthless.
I don’t intend to be quite so hasty in writing players off in this video as many supporters are these days, and I point that out primarily because a number of the players in this seven are quite young. I am not saying anyone in this seven isn’t talented or won’t go on to have a wonderful career, just that they have been underwhelming this season, before anyone crucifies me in the comments.
I’d be delighted if everyone in this seven had a barnstorming second half of the season, this seven is just based on the first half of the season. Kwande Mfayela requested this video, and it was a popular suggestion, so here are seven players who have flopped this season:
7. Hirving Lozano
There are a handful of players who seem to pop up on this channel time after time, and Hirving Lozano is one of them. A superstar in Mexico, I first talked about the man that Mexicans call ‘Chucky’ when he had just joined PSV from Pachuca. Lozano proved to be an inspired signing for the Dutch side, setting them back a little over £11 million and taking the Eredivisie by storm. He scored 40 goals in 78 games in two seasons in Eindhoven, making the 2017-18 Eredivisie Team of the Year and winning the 2018 CONCACAF Men’s Player of the Year award.
Quick and feisty, I always thought Lozano’s style of play was well-suited for life in the Premier League, and he reportedly was a target for both Chelsea and Manchester United. However, in the summer, Lozano’s agent Mino Raiola struck up a deal between PSV and Napoli reportedly worth a little under £35 million. That made and still makes Lozano Napoli’s all time record signing, and with big money comes big expectations.
In fairness to the 24-year-old, most of the Napoli squad have underperformed this season. Following consecutive second place finishes in Serie A, the club have fallen all the way down to 10th in the league standings right now. Lozano has been particularly disappointing though, and not just because of his large fee, contributing just two goals and one assist in half a season of football. I am a fan of his, and there’s still every chance he could come good, but there can be no denying that he has been enormously underwhelming almost six months into the season.
6. Matthijs de Ligt
Last season, aged only 19, Matthjis de Ligt captained Ajax to a domestic double, the semi-finals of the Champions League, and he was an ever-present for the Netherlands. Those are not modest achievements for a teenager, and on a personal level, having won the Golden Boy award in 2018, he made both the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFPro World XI for 2019. De Ligt’s career trajectory seemed to be heading in only one direction.
Following Frenkie de Jong’s confirmed departure mid-season at Ajax though, it looked a near certainty that de Ligt would follow in his footsteps. Interest in him was high, everyone from Manchester United and Liverpool to Real Madrid and Barcelona were linked, but in the end it was Juventus who swooped in to sign the Dutchman. Like Lozano, de Ligt’s agent is Mino Raiola, and he told the press de Ligt chose Juve as he viewed the Italian giants as a Harvard for defenders.
His reasons for feeling that way are understandable, but if de Ligt was right, he is very much still an undergraduate, and he has some way to go before he gets his degree. Aged 20, clearly there is plenty of time for de Ligt to settle in to a new league, language and culture in Italy, but his start has been a surprisingly tricky one even given those obstacles. Ajax reportedly enquired about a cheeky loan move for de Ligt last month, but it looks as though Juventus are still convinced that all he needs is time.
5. Callum Wilson
From a player who could potentially cost Juventus as much as £72 million to one who only cost Bournemouth £3 million, one could argue the expectations of Callum Wilson ought to be a little more measured than those placed on the shoulders of Matthijs de Ligt. Wilson has been a magnificent servant to Bournemouth, scoring the goals which fired them to promotion in his debut campaign, before successfully recovering from an ACL injury to become a key man for them in the Premier League and a full England international. Last season, Wilson scored 14 goals in 30 league games, putting him ninth in the Premier League scoring charts. It was only 12 months ago that Chelsea were willing to pay £50 million for the frontman, but Bournemouth stood firm over their £75 million valuation.
I’m not sure how much Wilson would have fetched this January, but I’m damn sure it would have been a long way shy of either of those figures. Wilson had gone 15 games without a goal prior to Bournemouth’s 3-1 win against Brighton, with his lack of goals coinciding with a dreadful run of form for Eddie Howe’s side. That’s an appalling record for such a capable goal scorer, and Wilson has only scored five goals in all competitions this season. As with Lozano, he is a player I like a lot and I have made no secret of that fact on this channel, and that is one of the reasons why his poor form has come as such a shock. Strikers thrive on confidence though, and if the 27-year-old can just bag a couple of goals, there’s no reason why he can’t salvage his season and even make England’s Euro 2020 squad.
4. Krzysztof Piątek
Between the summer of 2017 and the summer of 2019, everything Krzysztof Piątek touched seemed to turn to gold. He scored 21 goals in 38 games for Cracovia, prompting Genoa to take a €4 million gamble on him. He subsequently bagged 19 goals in 21 games for the club, and after just seven months, Genoa sold Piatek for a €31 million profit to AC Milan. Piatek scored 11 in 21 in his first half-season at the San Siro, ending the season as the third highest scorer in Serie A, one place ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Only Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku were shorter odds than Piatek to be the Serie A top scorer this season, with the Polish marksman priced at odds of 6/1. The division’s current top scorer, Ciro Immobile, who has scored 23 Serie A goals so far this season, was priced at odds of 17/1. Immobile has scored 19 league goals more than Piatek this season, with the 24-year-old having flopped so far this season, having bagged 4 in 18 in the league and 5 in 20 in all competitions.
It’s a poor record for a striker who gives you little else other than goals, and it has led to rumours of a move away from Milan. Piatek has been linked with the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea, and you will know by the time this video comes out whether either of those rumours came to fruition as the transfer window will have slammed shut.
3. Joao Felix
Joao Felix was an absolute revelation during the 2018-19 season. In his first year as a first team player at Benfica, Felix scored 20 goals in 43 games, picking up the 2019 Golden Boy award. Good on the ball, really intelligent in his movement and clearly capable of scoring plenty of goals, Benfica couldn’t keep hold of their starlet beyond a single season. A £113 million move to Atletico Madrid made Felix the third most expensive footballer of all time, trailing only the fees PSG paid for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
As talented as the 19-year-old looked, that is quite a frightening amount of money. Felix turned 20 in November, and since inheriting Antoine Griezmann’s number seven shirt in the Spanish capital, Felix is yet to really hit the heights of the Frenchman in an Atletico shirt. Felix has only managed 2 goals in 16 La Liga games so far this season, and 4 goals in 23 games in all competitions. What’s more, he has only managed one assist all season, and those figures are a reflection of the difficulties he has had settling into life in Spain.
Clearly it is far too early to write off the 20-year-old, but when you sign a footballer for over £100 million, expectations are understandably high. Atletico has historically been a breeding ground for world class centre-forwards, and others have needed a season to get into the swing of things. Both player and club will hope that is the case with Joao Felix, but for the time being, he has to make this seven.
Newcastle United fans will feel that it is just their luck that they spent years bemoaning the fact their club doesn’t spend enough money, and when they finally do fork out an eye-watering £40 million, it’s for Joelinton. Joelinton combined pace, power and good technique to become a regular fixture under Julian Nagelsman in a Hoffenheim side that finished 9th in the Bundesliga last season, but he was never the most prolific.
He scored just 7 goals in the Bundesliga and 11 in all competitions last season, meaning Newcastle shouldn’t really have expected Alan Shearer mark 2 at St James’ Park. Unfortunately, they’re yet to even get Shola Ameobi mark 2, with the Brazilian having found the back of the net just once in 22 league outings for the Magpies. Even if you had low expectations for the Bundesliga import, he has been pretty spectacularly terrible.
Five Newcastle defenders have outscored him this season, including Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejeune, and it’s quite astonishing that Newcastle aren’t in a far more dire position given the lack of goals in their team. Joelinton, like a lot of these seven, is still young, aged 23, but the Premier League is brutal, and if he doesn’t show Steve Bruce signs that there’s a player in there between now and May, the Magpies might even look to cut their losses. To put things in perspective, Joelinton cost Newcastle more than twice what Southampton paid for Danny Ings, about £10 million more than Wolves paid for Raul Jimenez, and roughly the same as the amount Liverpool paid for Mohamed Salah.
1. Luka Jovic
The obvious choice in first place as far as I’m concerned, unlike Joelinton, Luka Jovic was prolific in the Bundesliga last season, scoring 17 in 32 in the league and 27 in 48 in all competitions. Also unlike Joelinton, he can rely on Luka Modric and Toni Kroos for service, rather than Isaac Hayden and Christian Atsu. Nevertheless, Jovic has scored the same number of league goals this season as the Newcastle striker… one. What’s more, he’s actually scored fewer than Joelinton in all competitions, with a tally of one goal from 21 outings. That’s a pretty shoddy return for a man who cost Los Blancos a whopping €60 million from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer.
Signed as a backup to and long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, a little like Krzysztof Piątek, Jovic is a bit of a throwback in terms of centre-forwards. He doesn’t give you the industriousness or technical prowess of Benzema, but Real hoped he would provide an injection of goals. That hasn’t been the case so far, and without finding the back of the net, Jovic has at times been a passenger. Zidane recently reaffirmed his faith in the Serbian striker, claiming he needs time to adapt and just needs the confidence that will come with scoring a couple of goals. That may well be the case, but for now, sorry Luka, you have to top this seven.