The role of defenders in a football team is as vital as that of the strikers; the defensive department makes sure that the team is shielded and made immune to attacks and threats from the opponents while the striking role is responsible solely for putting the ball into the back of the net.
But sadly, the strikers get more praise and fame in every team while the efforts of the defenders are partly underappreciated. However, at a time like this where there’s an apparent paucity of solid defenders, its pertinent that the crop of defenders gracing the football scene at this point is given some commendations.
Using the numbers of clean sheets recorded so far this season as the benchmark, Cheapgoals in this feature piece takes a critical look at some outstanding defensive clubs performances all across Europe this season.
Getafe (Spain) – 15 Clean sheets
The Spanish side currently sits on the 4th position in Laliga and is also a major contender in the Europa League. Across all competition, this season, a total of 34 matches has been played and they’ve accumulated 15 clean sheets; conceding an average of 1.73 goals in the 34 matches with the help of their two goalkeepers and defenders.
Real Madrid (Spain) – 15 Clean sheets
Real Madrid recently humbled Barcelona at the Bernabeau by not conceding; that took their number of clean sheets to 12 in Laliga and 15 in all competitions. Averaging a total of 1.98 goals conceded.
All thanks to Thibaut Courtois’ heroics in the first couple of games in the Laliga this season.
Sevilla (Spain) – 16 Clean sheets
Interestingly, another Spanish side makes the cut with 16 clean sheets and 35 goals conceded in all competitions – No doubt, Julen Lopetegui seems to be making this side a threat for the giants in Laliga and Europe to some extent. Also, their scoring statistics are one to cheer and commend them about.
Atletico Madrid (Spain) – 16 Clean sheets
The Rojiblancos making this list is no surprise as they apparently are an ultra-defensive side. Atletico has conceded 19 (making them the team with lowest goals conceded in Laliga) times in 26 matches this season and 28 goals in 37 fixtures across all competition.
The secret behind Atletico’s massive record of not conceding many goals over the years has been their resolute defense, so more so that after the exodus of experienced defenders like Diego Godin, Juanfran and Felipe Luis, they have remained one of the top best defensive clubs in Europe this season. Also, kudos must be given to Jan Oblak whose career clean sheet is far more than his appearance.
Liverpool (England) – 16 Clean sheets
One of many secrets of Liverpool this season is the number of clean sheets they’ve recorded at some point in the EPL this season; Alisson Becker sometimes this season in the EPL played for 1000+ minutes without conceding a goal (a record of Pepe Reina that was broken by the Brazilian).
In every competition this season, they’ve amassed 16 clean sheets altogether and there’s every possibility that it will get increased before the end of the season – Little wonder they’re top of the EPL table.
Manchester United (England) – 18 Clean sheets
Surprisingly, Manchester United in one way or the other has gotten a mention in this list. This definitely is a pointer to the fact that the presence of England international (Harry Maguire) has made The Red Devils more resolute defensively.
Also, United’s defense in the EPL has faced a whopping number of 111 shots on target with David De Gea making 79 saves in those shots conceded. Sergio Romero who happens to be the second choice also has made 20 saves out of 23 shots faced. It’s absolutely an element of surprise the Manchester side has had over its fans.
Paris St-Germain (France) – 23 Clean sheets
Here come the best teams defensively in Europe this season. 29 clean sheets from 49 matches is absolutely a laudable feat for the French giants.
The collective efforts of Keylor Navas, Alphonso Areola, and Sergio Rico have given the Les Parisians their best season with an outstanding defensive record. Also, it must be stated that they didn’t give room for attacks from their opponents or their quality has been unmatchable for every opponent they’ve faced.
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.