In FourFourTwo's latest issue, we donned our virtual tuxedos, posed on an imaginary red carpet and ultimately awarded the FourFourTwo Player of the Year to Robert Lewandowski. Who else?
While the Pole picked up the big award of the issue, however, we thought we'd settle a few more scores online that we couldn't quite squeeze into the mag. Issues like the best performance of the year, the worst and the comeback that needed mentioning online.
We picked on FFT's Ed McCambridge, Chris Flanagan, Mark White, Conor Pope and James Andrew to pick nominations for our five categories before we mud-wrestled to decide the winner. Here's what we came up with.
Masterclass of the Year
This is the award for any player, manager, team or otherwise who has delivered a sheer performance of brilliance. In a year of doom and gloom, this is someone who lifted spirits for 90 minutes - perhaps even less. And the nominees are...
Ed McCambridge's nomination - Erling Haaland's demolition debut
Erling Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund debut back in January was genuinely ridiculous. The teenager entered the pitch in the 56th minute, with BVB trailing 3-1 to Augsburg, before scoring his first goal for the club three minutes later. He then struck twice more - and played a role in a Jadon Sancho strike - as Dortmund went on to win the match 5-3.
The Norwegian was only on the pitch for 34 minutes but turned the game on its head with his speed, movement and ice-cold finishing. The hottest youngster in world football certainly knew how to make an entrance. An awesome display.
Chris Flanagan's nomination: Harry Kane and Son Heung-min's five-goal battering of Southampton
Southampton have barely lost a match since March, which makes the way were absolutely taken apart by Kane and Son even more impressive. Spurs won 5-2 at St Mary's in September thanks to some devastating combination play between their two key men - four times Kane played brilliant through balls for Son, four times the South Korean charged clear and converted emphatically. Kane even scored himself for good measure. They were just unstoppable.
Mark White's nomination: James Rodriguez's picturesque performance against West Brom
There will be better games from better players, no doubt. Players who score more, assist more - Calvert-Lewin got a hat-trick in this game, even. But everything James Rodriguez did against West Brom was sublimely pretty, from the passes to the movement, to the shoulder feints. It was neither the most prolific nor perfect performance of 2020 - but for me, it was the most aesthetically-pleasing. Chop it up, put it on VHS and put it in a time capsule when Everton leave Goodison.
Conor Pope's nomination: Liverpool’s 99-point title triumph
In retrospect, Liverpool’s defeat 3-0 to Watford in late February should have been a sign that 2020 was about to get very weird. By that point, Jurgen Klopp’s side had effectively already won their first title in 30 years; we were already getting our calculators out to work out when it would be official.
With the nature of Liverpool’s wait for that title, and the unusual circumstances of the Premier League’s denouement, it is easy to overlook just how good the Reds were. Their eventual 99-point haul has only been bettered once, and no Premier League team has ever won more than the 32 victories they managed.
Is it cheating a bit not to narrow it down to one performance? Maybe – but with so many to choose from, the whole side deserves a mention.
James Andrew's nomination: Joe Bryan's Championship play-off final for Fulham
Two brilliant - but different - goals from left-back. The first a free-kick from distance that looked to all the world and David Raya that it was going to be a cross - and then opted to shoot and catch the keeper out at the near post.
And then to show the energy to bomb forward at the end of the second half of extra time to score the second and secure promotion back to the Premier League. The player etched his name into Fulham folklore.
And the winner is... Kane and Son taking apart the Saints
Disasterclass of the year, in association with Ali Dia
On the other end of the scale, what was the one dismal day at the office to rule them all? The complete and utter balls-up to beat all others? The performance that even Ali Dia would have blushed at? The nominations are...
Ed's nomination: Brentford's late-season slide
Brentford were heading to the Premier League, it seemed, after rivals West Brom lost a Friday night game to Huddersfield late in August. On an eight-game winning streak and playing the best football in the division, all the Bees had to do was beat lowly Stoke in the penultimate fixture and promotion would be in their hands going into the final day of a long and arduous season.
They lost - and when West Brom, who had an inferior goal difference, drew their final game to give Brentford a second bite at the cherry, they lost to bottom of the league Barnsley on the final day too. Then they lost the Play-Off Final. Defeat from the jaws of victory. Yes, I support Fulham.
🇧🇷 Last time substitute Philippe Coutinho came on for Bayern 👀#UCL pic.twitter.com/XvFXcgqCJ5August 19, 2020
Chris's nomination: Barcelona's 8-2 walloping
Not just disasterclass of the year, but one of the all-time great disasterclasses - Barcelona's legs and brains seemed somehow jammed by nearby 5G signals as they were forced to watch on motionless, while Bayern walked in goal after goal. Lionel Messi was particularly badly affected, rooted to the spot for 45 consecutive minutes.
The Brazil 1-7 Germany vibes were strong from very early in the game - Philippe Coutinho scoring the seventh and eighth goals, against his own club, just about summed it up.
Mark's nomination: David Luiz's car crash cameo at Man City
As the profile picture of the most humiliating defeat in Brazilian history, David Luiz is no stranger to dropping a clanger - still, by his standards, the first game back from lockdown was something rather special.
Parachuted in after 24 minutes for the injured Pablo Mari, he managed to deflect a ball into his own net, give away his fourth penalty of the season and get sent off, before making a post-match TV appeal for a contract extension. I've never seen my Arsenal-supporting sister that angry with a footballer who doesn't play for Tottenham.
Conor's nomination: Hull forgetting the 2019/20 season continues into 2020
They would only win one more game all season. The worst result in that astonishing run of form was an abysmal 8-0 drubbing by Wigan – the joint-biggest defeat in the history of the Championship – where they trailed 7-0 by half-time.
Wigan’s context was also pretty weird. After 40 games, and on a nine-game unbeaten run, they were comfortably in 14th – but found out the next day that they would receive a 12-point deduction at the end of the season for going into administration.
This, the 44th game, lifted them to 12 points above Hull in 22nd. Hull finished 24th, Wigan finished 23rd.
James's nomination: The EFL
Failure to sort a support package earlier with the government or the Premier League for their members - especially clubs in Leagues One and Two - could, and probably still will, have a disastrous consequence.
If 72 clubs finish the season in May it will be a miracle.
And the winner is... Barcelona kicking starting their own crisis
Best Breakthrough Artist
While the usual suspects have dominated the trophy hauls in 2020, it's been a 12 months in which fresh faces have captured imaginations and made a name for themselves. What's the best new thing of this year? The nominees are...
Ed's nomination: Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham has gone from battling against relegation in the Championship to signing for Borussia Dortmund and representing England - and he’s not even 18 until next summer. In 2020, the Stourbridge-born midfielder became Birmingham’s youngest ever player, their youngest goalscorer, had his shirt retired by his hometown club, become the most expensive 17-year old in history, signed for one of Europe’s elite clubs, become Borussia Dortmund’s youngest scorer, the youngest player in Champions League history and represented his country. And breathe!
Chris's nomination: Dominik Szoboszlai
For about two months at the start of this season, every time I turned on a television, Szoboszlai was scoring a worldie. Pretty much every Red Bull Salzburg match in the Champions League, Szoboszlai scored a worldie. Hungary need a goal in the last minute to qualify for the Euros? Szoboszlai scores a worldie. By about the fourth or fifth goal, I was no longer asking "Jesus! Who is this guy?" Apparently, worldies are just a thing he does.
In the middle of all that, the midfielder turned 20, and now he's joined RB Leipzig, after a particularly tough set of negotiations between Red Bull and Red Bull. Watch out for him - on early indications, he's very, very good.
Mark's nomination: Micah Richards
Micah Richards hasn’t been hyped as a hot new thing since Amy Winehouse was in the charts and Guitar Hero was all the rage. But in the dearth of Manchester City legends to call upon for punditry, an unlikely hero has stepped up to the plate. He knows his stuff, sure, but he's worth the subscription fee just for that infectious laugh. An anti-Souness if ever I saw one. And believe me, we needed one.
Conor's nomination: Hansi Flick
Should we call it a comeback? The 55-year-old’s five-year stint as Hoffenheim boss ended in 2005, and he seemed likely to spend the rest of his coaching career as a no.2, following an eight-year stint as assistant to Joachim Low on the German national team.
But his caretaker spell with Bayern Munich went unexpectedly well, and the man who oversaw a Bundesliga title, a Champions League win, and the best year of Robert Lewandowski’s career probably deserves some credit. No one expected Hansi Flick’s 2020.
James's nomination: Eberechi Eze
Anyone who watched the Championship last season knew how good Eze was for QPR. But moving up to the Premier League is a step into the unknown. But Eze has shown in his first half of a season at Crystal Palace that he is the real deal and likely only to get better.
And the winner is... Hansi Flick winning absolutely everything
Comeback of the Year
There have been plenty of things come back into fashion in 2020. This is the year of the comeback - not least of the 2019/20 season, which looked to be null and void in March. Your nominees are...
Ed's nomination: Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho looked done and dusted in English football when he was sacked by Manchester United in November 2018. After taking charge at Tottenham a year later, he now appears back to his charismatic and competitive best.
The Portuguese oversaw a massive upswing in results at the start of 2020 after replacing Mauricio Pochettino and has transformed the side into proper title contenders this term. Rather than stifling his attacking options, he’s brought career-best form out of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, while shoring up the defence with typical aplomb. The 57-year-old has always looked more at home at up-and-coming teams, as opposed to the established elite, and this could still be his greatest season yet.
"We are just a pony!" 🐴Jose Mourinho says leaders Tottenham are not in the title race, describing them as a 'pony' in the battle to win the Premier League. 🏁 pic.twitter.com/oKIVR7p9ahNovember 29, 2020
Chris's nomination: Daniel Farke
Things were pretty grim for Norwich after lockdown - they lost all nine league matches, to the point where Farke had pretty much conceded that relegation was inevitable, even before it happened.
Plenty of clubs would have changed their manager at that point (we're looking at you, West Brom and Watford), but Farke was the man who got Norwich promoted in the first place, and he's since impressively guided the club to the top of the Championship once more. A triumph for perseverance.
Mark's nomination: David Moyes
It was head-scratching that David Moyes was re-hired by West Ham United. Surprising, too, that they motored away from relegation, just as Championship bosses were pencilling potential fixtures. That Moyesy has managed to restructure the Irons into a resurgent, Europa League-chasing machine, is precisely the kind of batshit witchcraft that 2020 has been all about. West Ham are good for the first time since Payet left - next United manager, anyone?
Conor's nomination: Sam Allardyce
Okay, he’s not done anything yet, but did anyone really expect a Sam Allardyce return to the Premier League? There’s a very ‘out of retirement for one last job’ feeling to Big Sam’s West Brom appointment, in what could genuinely be His Toughest Job Yet.
In a season where defence seems to have gone out of fashion, you surely can’t rule out Allardyce pulling this one off. Regardless, the fact that he will still be managing in the top-flight 20 years after first taking Bolton up is an achievement in itself.
James's nomination: Danny Ings
A striker who in his late-20s and already played for but not excelled at a big club must have feared his chances of an international call-up were gone. But 25 goals in all competitions last season earned him a place in Gareth Southgate's squad – where he netted his first international goal – and helped Southampton push on again this season.
And the winner is... Danny Ings forcing his way into the England team
Hero of the Year
In the history of the Gregorian calendar, it's hard to think of a bleaker 12 months. So what better way to finish it than to crown a Hero of the Year - a man, woman, child or team who made 2020 just a smidge better? Your nominees are...
Ed's nomination: Harry Kane
Marcus Rashford is an utter legend but, as I think everyone will go for him, I want to show some love for Harry Kane. I felt genuinely moved when the England captain announced he would be helping out struggling League Two club Leyton Orient (where he made his professional debut while on loan in 2011) with a £100,000 shirt sponsorship deal.
Rather than slap his name across the shirts, he used the space to thank you to frontline NHS workers, plus charities Mind and Haven House Children’s Hospice. A portion of the money raised from shirt sales also goes to the charities, and those they help have been invited to O’s games to help lift their spirits during a difficult year. Why do England strikers have to be so damn wonderful?
🗣 "I don't think we really knew how big it would become.."With Harry Kane's help, Leyton Orient have had orders from 31 different countries including Mexico, Russia and New Zealand.June 1, 2020
Chris's nomination: Marcus Rashford
FFT billed Rashford as potentially one of the stars of the 2020s when we sat down with the Manchester United forward for a cover interview at the start of the year, and he's becoming a hero for more than just his performances on the field.
Rashford has used his fame and influence for good, campaigning brilliantly for free school meals - forcing the government into not just one but two U-turns, as they tried to resist his efforts. They underestimated just how serious he is about the cause he continues to champion.
Mark's nomination: Wilfried Zaha
Marcus Rashford is the headliner for all that he’s done this year. He deserves the award but I’d like to touch upon Wilfried Zaha, too. The Crystal Palace man co-owns properties in Notting Hill, Shoreditch and Aldgate and offered free use of them to paramedics and other NHS workers in central London hospitals helping to fight COVID-19. A lot of footballers come from poorer backgrounds - it’s really nice that so many never forget where they came from and give back to society and to community, in the way that Rashford and Zaha have this year.
Conor's nomination: The PSG-Istanbul Basaksehir players walking off
How football deals with racism is going to be a big issue in 2021. Taking a knee before games and having ‘Black Lives Matter’ displayed on shirts has been positive for displaying solidarity on the pitch, but the most powerful symbol may have been PSG and Basaksehir players walking off after an alleged racist comment from a fourth official.
It was a fixture that could have affected PSG’s Champions League campaign, and taking that step was not guaranteed to be assessed in a good light by UEFA, despite everything. Making sure that players know this is an option they can take in future without a blowback could be enormous in helping tackle this blight.
James's nomination: Tottenham fans
When the Carabao Cup tie between Leyton Orient and Spurs was called off and ultimately forfeited by Orient due to a Coronavirus outbreak in the squad, Spurs fans went and bought merchandise from League Two side's club shop to try and compensate for the lack of TV money from the game. Spurs fans spent in excess of £20,000 in the Orient club shop to help the club out. Honourable mention too to Harry Kane who paid to sponsor Orient's kits this season to support three charities.
And the winner is... Marcus Rashford, for absolutely everything
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