With the 2020/21 Premier League season coming to an end, The Hard Tackle takes a look at the three best foreign players of the recently-concluded campaign.
It has already been a week since the 2020/21 edition of the Premier League has come to an end. It has been difficult, and a bit hectic season for the clubs, the players and the fans involved, given the schedule and the lack of audience inside the stadium for the most part of the campaign.
Nevertheless, the quality of football has continued to mesmerise the fans, largely thanks to the influx of foreign coaches, tactics and players at a growing rate over the past few years. There was no exception last summer, as many players and coaches arrived in England, either from Bundesliga, Ligue 1 or Serie A.
While not all of them managed to live up to the expectations, it goes without saying that the ceiling of the English top-flight has increased thanks to the presence of so many talents from across the world.
The Hard Tackle has already covered the massive steps English footballers made in this past season, but in this feature, we will take a look at some of the foreign players who have managed to make a mark in this 2020/21 edition of the Premier League.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
This season was an important one for Manchester United, in their bid to rekindle their lost glory following years of dysfunctional performances after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. The Red Devils finished second in the Premier League table, and despite a considerable 12-point gap between them and champions Manchester City, they genuinely looked like the second-best team in England, notably remaining undefeated away from home.
While many players stepped up to the plate for Manchester United this season, Bruno Fernandes was by far the pick of them, emerging as not only a creator-in-chief but a real leader for the Red Devils.
As far as the numbers are concerned, Fernandes ended the campaign with 18 goals and 11 assists in 37 Premier League matches – both highest at the club. He also created numerous scoring opportunities, establishing himself as one of the finest playmakers in the English top-flight.
In addition to creativity, Fernandes offered threat in the final third with his ability to shoot from distance, notably averaging 3.16 shots per 90 as well as his proficiency from set-pieces. The Portuguese international also took over the role of captaincy from Harry Maguire during the backend of the campaign and is expected to remain a vital figure of the club in the years to come.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Despite being rife with injuries, inconsistencies and bad performances, Liverpool finishing the campaign in the third position is nothing short of a miracle. And the protagonist behind their miraculous turnaround was Mohamed Salah. In his fourth year at Anfield, after scoring 19 or more goals in each of the last three campaigns, this looked like the season where Salah’s majestic scoring run was going to dissipate.
While the attacker started the season reasonably well, scoring 12 goals in his first 13 matches, things started to take a downward trajectory for Liverpool midway through the campaign. From late December to 7th March, the Reds registered only three victories in 14 matches, during which Salah found the back of the net only four times, with Liverpool almost destined to finish the season outside of the Top 4.
However, Salah found his form once again after the international break, scoring in the win over Arsenal, and ending the campaign with seven-goal involvements in Liverpool’s last nine league matches – more than any other player at the club.
Jurgen Klopp’s men also remained unbeaten during the period – a run that saw them pip Leicester City and Chelsea in the race for the top three. Salah, ending the season with 22 goals and five assists, did narrowly miss out in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot to Harry Kane, who was one of the best English players in the league.
His contributions in front of goal, nonetheless, were indeed vital in this dysfunctional campaign for Liverpool – often being remarked as the one-man army for the Merseyside giants, as they hope to bounce back to form in the upcoming campaign.
Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
The final inclusion in our list is a central defender who has established himself as a mainstay in one of the strongest teams in European football, despite joining the club last summer.
When Ruben Dias arrived at Etihad for a fee of €68 million, he was thought to be an upgrade over John Stones and a partner for the guaranteed starter in Aymeric Laporte.
But together with Stones, Dias has been a part of one of the best defences in Europe – one that has conceded only 32 goals in 38 matches. Most of these goals were conceded in the early parts of the campaign when Pep Guardiola was still yet to find his perfect combination.
Since installing Dias alongside Stones, though, Manchester City have also appeared invincible, with the Portuguese international emerging as a defensive leader for the club. He has added the aggression that was lacking in the Man City backline following the departure of Vincent Kompany and the results have been phenomenal.
In addition to leadership, Dias has produced incredible performances in big games, while using his tall frame to not only make himself unbeaten in the air but also quite intimidating for the opposition in-ground duels.
The former SL Benfica captain, as a result, could become an invaluable member of the Manchester City squad in the years to come, perhaps even take over Fernandinho as the club captain.
Honourable Mention: Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur)
Son Heung-Min might not be a popular pick, surprisingly among Tottenham fans given how much his form dipped during the final stretch of the campaign. However, the forward’s 17 goals and 10 assists cannot be understated, as it was vital in helping the Lilywhites secure European football next season. Son’s strike partnership with Harry Kane was quite unstoppable during the early phase of the campaign, even making Tottenham a title contender for a short period of time.