Goal 50 is an annual award presented by Goal which ranks the 50 best footballers in the world over the previous 12 months. … Editors and correspondents from Goal’s editions across the world cast their votes, making it a truly global ballot.
After a global vote involving 44 editions, Goal.com proudly presents its list of the best 25 male and best 25 female footballers on the planet for 2019-20.
25. Cristiana Girelli
After becoming well-known to the entire nation of Italy for her hat-trick at last summer’s World Cup, Cristiana Girelli kept up her reputation as a serial goalscorer in 2019-20.
Scoring 16 goals in 16 Serie A games, the 30-year-old helped Juventus win yet another league title while finishing top of the goalscoring charts herself.
Girelli also scored the opening goal in Juve’s 2-0 win over Fiorentina in the Italian Super Cup and was in fine form for her country throughout the year, only failing to find the net in one of the seven games she played for Italy.
24. Asisat Oshoala
When it comes to off the ball movement and the ability to be in the right place at the right time, Asisat Oshoala is impeccable.
One of the most exciting things is that the 25-year-old can still improve her finishing and be even more prolific.
“She has pace and power which is tough to find in any player nationally,” Barcelona head coach Lluis Cortes said after the club brought in the Nigeria international on a permanent basis.
With 20 goals in 19 games, the signing proved even better in hindsight, helping Barca win their first title since 2015.
23. Marie-Antoinette Katoto
Corinne Diacre’s decision not to include Marie-Antoinette Katoto in her France squad for last summer’s Women’s World Cup was baffling; after all, the PSG star top-scored in France with 22 goals in 20 games.
Last season, she proved that was no fluke, top-scoring yet again with 16 goals in as many games.
The 22-year-old is proving to be one of the most exciting young forwards in the game, with her sumptuous strike against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals only increasing her profile.
PSG were beaten to every trophy by Lyon once again in 2019-20, but Katoto’s season as an individual was another scintillating one.
22. Jennifer Hermoso
After scoring 24 goals in 28 league games for Atletico Madrid in 2018-19 as they won the title, it was going to take something special for Jennifer Hermoso to top that the following season.
But Hermoso is special.
After making a summer switch to Barcelona, she scored 23 times in just 19 games this time around, finishing as the league’s top scorer for the second year running and helping Barca win their first title for five years.
With four Golden Boots in five years, there is simply not a more natural goalscorer in Spain than the 30-year-old.
21. Eugenie Le Sommer
Eugenie Le Sommer wasn’t at her most effective this past year due to a number of small injuries, but the numbers she produced in spite of those speak volumes of her world-class quality.
The forward totted up five goals and two assists in the league, despite only starting nine games.
In the Champions League, she scored five times and provided three assists in just six appearances, even scoring in the final as Lyon beat Wolfsburg 3-1.
Add the four trophies she won into the equation and, while it wasn’t her best year, it was still a pretty good one for Le Sommer.
20. Abby Dahlkemper
There aren’t many centre-backs in the game more reliable than Abby Dahlkemper.
The 27-year-old was part of the league-best North Carolina Courage defence that secured yet another NWSL Championship title at the end of 2019, helping to keep Sam Kerr quiet in the Championship final as her team won 4-0.
Since that triumph, the Courage’s second in succession, the Covid-19 pandemic has limited how much Dahlkemper has played for club and country. But the defender, described as ‘a natural playmaker from the back’ by former United States head coach Jill Ellis, has continued to ooze class whenever she steps foot on the pitch.
19. Ewa Pajor
Only two players hit double figures for goals and assists in the Bundesliga last season – one of them was Ewa Pajor.
The 23-year-old showed a whole other side to her game, providing 10 assists compared to the two she provided in the campaign prior, while still scoring 16 goals – in just 17 games.
Her contributions were key as Wolfsburg claimed another league title, while the Poland international also netted twice in their crucial victory over Bayern Munich on the way to another cup triumph.
There are few more exciting young talents on the planet right now.
18. Amel Majri
How many players can say they won seven Champions League titles by the age of 27? Only one – Amel Majri.
The Lyon star was instrumental again this year as they ran riot across the board, winning the league, the French cup, the Champions League and the inaugural French Super Cup.
Majri’s returns over the year were superb too, with five goals and six assists in 14 league games, as well as a further seven goals in other competitions.
With Sakina Karchaoui having arrived to play left-back, Majri’s long-term future at Lyon looks set to stay further up the pitch, which is terrible news for their rivals.
17. Ji So-yun
Ji So-yun’s level of performance is so consistently high that it almost makes her underappreciated, as it’s something that the Women’s Super League has just got used to ever since she arrived back in 2014.
The South Korean’s technical ability is simply spectacular, with intricate passes her speciality.
She also has a real eye for goal, scoring six times in 13 league games on her way to her third WSL title.
One of the most enjoyable players to watch in the game, she has now won everything there is to win in England too, having got her hands on the Continental Cup for the first time this year.
16. Alexia Putellas
Alexia Putellas is a midfielder moulded in the vision of Spanish football and, in particular, how Barcelona want to play the game.
The 26-year-old is technically superb and her ability to be neat and tidy, but also creative and decisive, on the ball fits perfectly for the ethos of her club and country.
Putellas was integral as Barcelona won the league for the first time in five years in 2020, showing her ability to find the back of the net too with 10 goals in 20 games.
She also scored another three in Europe as Barca reached the semi-finals.
15. Beth England
Few players got people up on their feet in the Women’s Super League last season quite like Beth England.
After a difficult few years trying to establish herself in the division, the 26-year-old started the campaign with a bang – finding the top corner from 30 yards at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea beat Tottenham 1-0.
From there, she showed her ability to score all types of goals. Another screamer in the title-clinching 3-3 draw at Manchester City was a highlight, while a scrappy brace in the Continental Cup final secured another title for Chelsea.
She’s certainly earned the right to be described as a big-game player.
14. Guro Reiten
When Guro Reiten joined Chelsea last summer, she wasn’t exactly a household name, yet Emma Hayes declared her new signing as “one of the most talented creative players in the world”.
When the Women’s Super League got underway, it was clear why. Reiten was arguably the best player in the division as Chelsea collected the WSL title, racking up a league-high eight assists and scoring five times in 15 games.
The nimble Norwegian also helped the Blues win their first ever Continental Cup, with her eye for a pass, tricky feet and ability to produce the spectacular making her a key player for Hayes’ relentless winning machine.
13. Julie Ertz
The United States are the best national team in the world – and Julie Ertz is their most important player.
A holding midfielder for her country, Ertz is the glue that holds the back-to-back world champions together defensively, and she’s also the starting point for when they go forward.
At club level, the 28-year-old plays more as a centre-back, but it hardly diminishes her importance.
A strong, ball-playing defender who reads the game perfectly, she helped the Chicago Red Stars reach the NWSL Championship final at the end of last year and made the Challenge Cup Best XI this summer.
12. Griedge Mbock Bathy
It speaks wonders of Griedge Mbock Bathy’s talent that when she plays alongside Wendie Renard for Lyon and France, she can out-shine her centre-back partner.
Calm in possession, strong off the ball, technically superb and an aerial threat, the 25-year-old already has five Champions League titles to her name – and she has many more years at the very top level ahead of her yet.
She missed Lyon’s crowning moments in the Champions League and French cup due to an ACL injury sustained in June, but that shouldn’t take away from just how important Mbock Bathy has been.
11. Sam Kerr
The only frustrating thing about Sam Kerr’s move to Chelsea is that its timing cost us two months of watching her terrorise defenders.
After helping the Chicago Red Stars to the NWSL Championship final and winning a third successive Golden Boot in the States, Kerr came off the never-ending NWSL and W-League cycle and moved to the Women’s Super League – a competition she would win in her first season, along with the Continental Cup.
The 27-year-old has adopted a different role in England, combining with team-mates more than ever before. Though a feared goalscorer, she is wildly underappreciated for how her movement creates space and chances for others.
10. Crystal Dunn
When the top-rated female footballers in FIFA 21 were released, there was mass uproar that Crystal Dunn was missing.
Megan Rapinoe, dismissing her own game-high rating, took to Twitter to declare that she’d fight anyone who didn’t believe her USWNT team-mate was the best left-back in the world.
Incredibly, that isn’t even Dunn’s best position.
Naturally a more creative and advanced player who thrives in a No.10 role in particular, the 28-year-old is an absolute joy to watch, helping the North Carolina Courage win another NWSL Championship in 2019.
There aren’t many players who are world class in more than one position, but Dunn certainly is.
Big players turn up for the biggest games – and that is exactly what Debinha does.
When the North Carolina Courage claimed their second successive NWSL Championship back in November, the 29-year-old was named MVP of the Championship game, opening the scoring against the Chicago Red Stars.
Since then, the NWSL has struggled to get going as it would like due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Debinha has shone at every opportunity available, named in the Best XI for this summer’s Challenge Cup.
Combining that famous Brazilian flair with an ability to score the spectacular, she’s currently the best player in the United States – and that’s no mean feat.
8. Amandine Henry
That Amandine Henry missed the Champions League final through injury was a huge shame as, after the majority of women’s football was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it robbed fans of the chance to see the most complete midfielder around on the biggest stage once again.
The 31-year-old’s box-to-box ability is absolutely world class; a huge presence both when going forward and when Lyon are on the back foot – not that they are very often.
The French giants won four trophies this season and, though the statistics don’t always show it, Henry’s influence in another successful season cannot be exaggerated.
7. Saki Kumagai
Saki Kumagai is one of those players who would never go underappreciated by her team-mates, but in a star-studded team like Lyon, she is often over-looked.
This year, the 29-year-old got some well-deserved time in the limelight after powering home the second goal in Lyon’s 3-1 win over Wolfsburg in the Champions League final, collecting her fifth winners’ medal.
However, goals are not what she is best known for. The defensive midfielder, who can also play at centre-back, is a tidy passer and a fantastic tackler who, in a team loaded with attacking talent, has been crucial in Lyon’s dominance of Europe over the last five years.
6. Caroline Graham Hansen
Caroline Graham Hansen is an impressive player for many reasons. She’s an assist machine, topping those charts in the Champions League last season. She’s also very impressive in front of goal, scoring 18 times in 32 games for Barcelona as they won the league, the Spanish Super Cup and reached the last four in Europe.
The 25-year-old is so entertaining to watch with her eye for a pass, mazy runs and superb skillset, but most impressive of all is her constant desire to improve.
By moving to Spain from Germany, the Norwegian is adding a whole other dimension to her game and it’s been incredibly evident over another superb 12 months.
5. Wendie Renard
When Wendie Renard decides to hang up her boots, her legacy at Lyon will be immense – potentially even unbeatable.
The 30-year-old’s mentality was summed up perfectly before the Champions League final. Facing the press ahead of a chance to win a record seventh European title, she said: “I just want to win, win, win, that’s the only thought in my head.”
When Lyon were struggling to break down a resolute PSG team in the semi-finals, it was Renard’s towering presence that popped up to head them in front, scoring what would be the only goal of the game.
It was her who then skippered the team to that record victory, and a fourth trophy of the season.
A calm presence at the back, a defender who reads the game perfectly, but also an aerial threat who scored 12 goals in all competitions last term, Renard has it all – and she’s nowhere near done yet.
4. Dzsenifer Marozsan
There is no footballer on the planet more technically talented than Dzsenifer Marozsan. The Lyon playmaker is simply capable of everything, be it classy through balls, perfect free kicks, show-stopping strikes or an exquisite first touch.
She was, once again, an integral part of Lyon’s winning machine this season, as they clinched a quartet of trophies by winning the league, cup, Champions League and French Super Cup.
In the league, the 28-year-old was the only player to hit double figures for goals and assists, scoring 10 times and providing 12 more for her team-mates – the latter a league high.
After a devastating summer with Germany at the World Cup last year, where a broken toe prevented her from helping her country to her full capabilities, it was the perfect way for one of the most entertaining footballers in the world to bounce back.
3. Lucy Bronze
During this year’s Champions League final, a certain clip of Lucy Bronze went viral, one that encapsulated everything she is about.
In the biggest game in club football, she was spinning the ball around on her finger, waiting to take a throw-in.
Pressure doesn’t exist to Bronze, not in a negative way anyway. The England full-back loves the big games and, moreover, she loves to win them.
Bronze lifted four trophies in her final season with Lyon, completing another treble while also claiming the inaugural French Super Cup.
Her lung-busting runs from defence to join in the attack, and then back again to defend, have been crucial to the French giants over the last few years, but now her challenge lies in helping Manchester City reach similar heights.
If anyone can help the Citizens thrive and succeed under pressure, it’s Bronze, a born winner.
2. Vivianne Miedema
Sometimes things don’t go right even for the best players. There was little else that Vivianne Miedema could’ve done for Arsenal last season, but injuries hit Joe Montemurro’s squad hard as they finished third in the league, runners-up in the Continental Cup and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
In spite of their struggles, Miedema still shone. The 24-year-old, whose unique style of play blurs the lines between a No.10 and a No.9, top-scored in the WSL with 16 goals, provided a league-high eight assists and also collected the Golden Boot in Europe with 10 goals.
She continued to set ridiculous records in the process too, scoring six goals and providing four assists in a single game back in December.
With an incredible ability to score a wide array of goals, there is arguably not a more complete footballer in the world.
1. Pernille Harder
Last season, everything Pernille Harder touched turned to gold. The Dane scored 27 goals in 21 league games for Wolfsburg, nine goals in seven Champions League outings and added another two to her season’s tally in the German cup.
By the end of the campaign, she collected winners’ medals in two of those competitions, doing the league and cup double in Germany for the fourth season running, while finishing as a runner-up in Europe.
But Harder isn’t just about finding the back of the net. Eight assists in the league put the 27-year-old joint-fourth in that category, with her role in creating chances and building up play just as important for her team as her goals are.
After the Champions League final, Harder joined Chelsea for a fee that made her the most expensive women’s footballer of all time. As the best player in the world right now, it’s a record she deserves to hold.
Thats all for the Female Category. Now to the Male Category:
25. Paulo Dybala
In the summer of 2019, Paulo Dybala was so close to leaving Juventus that he had already recorded a goodbye video for the Bianconeri supporters that love him so dearly.
Now, he is set to sign a new contract with the Italian champions, having reminded everyone in Turin of his importance to the Old Lady with a string of sensational performances that helped secure the club’s ninth consecutive Scudetto.
Indeed, Dybala, who hit 17 goals in all competitions, was named Serie A’s Player of the Season, while Juve’s Champions League elimination to Lyon was partly due to the injury which limited his involvement in the second leg.
24. Jadon Sancho
Borussia Dortmund and Portugal star Raphael Guerreiro says Jadon Sancho has the ability “to be just as good as Cristiano Ronaldo, maybe even better someday.””
It is easy to understand why Sancho is held in such high esteem.
At just 20 years of age, the winger is already an England regular, having run riot in the Bundesliga since joining Dortmund from Manchester City in 2017.
Last season alone, Sancho scored 20 goals, and created a further 19, as he established himself as one of the most coveted young players in world football.
23. Jordan Henderson
Back in January, Jurgen Klopp said, “If someone doesn’t see the quality of Jordan Henderson, I can’t help them.” Happily, the Liverpool captain is now getting the universal praise he has long deserved.
After inspiring the Reds to a first Club World Cup title last December, Jorge Jesus labelled Henderson “the best player in the world in his position”.
The midfielder was then voted the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year for his role in Liverpool’s historic title triumph.
In typically humble fashion, he paid tribute to his team-mates, but there is no longer any doubt over Henderson’s incredible qualities as a player, and a leader.
22. Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic freely admits that he did not expect Bruno Fernandes to adapt so quickly to the Premier League.
The Portugal international had arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting CP for €55 million (£49m/$65m), so the pressure was very much on the attacking midfielder to perform. It never showed, though.
Fernandes made an instant impact at United, adding a whole new dimension to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who ended up securing a return to the Champions League and reaching the Europa League semi-finals thanks in no small part to his 12 goals and eight assists in just 22 games in all competitions.
21. Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer helped redefine the role of a goalkeeper, but he has had plenty of doubters over the past couple of years.
His status as Germany’s first-choice shot-stopper has come under intense pressure from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Bayern Munich signed Alexander Nubel in January to challenge for the No.1 jersey at the Allianz Arena.
Neuer, though, responded in stunning fashion by helping his club win a treble, with Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel praising the 34-year-old for taking “the goalkeeping game to a new level” with his heroics in the Champions League final.
20. Alphonso Davies
Joshua Kimmich admitted to being “almost ashamed” to scoring from Alphonso Davies’ outrageous assist in Bayern Munich’s demolition of Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.
It really was Davies’ goal, with the Canadian sending social media into raptures with the way in which he showcased his fancy footwork and blistering pace by utterly bamboozling Nelson Semedo.
It will not be the last time that the winger-turned-defender embarrasses an opponent either as Davies is only 20 and already well on the way to establishing himself as the best rampaging left-back the world has seen since Roberto Carlos.
19. Ciro Immobile
Cristiano Ronaldo netted in a record-equalling 11 consecutive Serie A games on his way to scoring 31 goals last season. And yet he still didn’t finish as the league’s top scorer.
Why? Because Ciro Immobile equalled an even more significant record, with the Lazio striker becoming only the second man in history to bag 36 goals across a single Serie A campaign.
The Italy international’s heroics weren’t enough to sustain the Biancocelesti’s surprise Scudetto challenge but he could at least content himself with a place in the record books – and a European Golden Shoe!
18. Mohamed Salah
Some people were arguing last season that Mohamed Salah’s strike-rate was slowing down and yet, in July, he became the second-fastest player in Premier League history to reach 100 goal involvements.
At this stage, it seems like the Egyptian’s contribution is almost taken for granted – but not by his Liverpool team-mates.
“People may be critical of Mo but look at his performances and his goals,” captain Jordan Henderson told the Liverpool Echo. “He is incredible.”
Indeed, last season alone, Salah scored 19 times and registered 10 assists as Liverpool romped to their first ever Premier League title.
17. Erling Haaland
Believe the hype! Erling Haaland is, as Paul Scholes says, “the real deal”.
The striking sensation only turned 20 during the summer but, by then, he had already announced himself as the game’s next superstar, after netting 10 goals in his debut Champions League campaign – in just eight appearances, for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund.
We have long wondered who would fill the void Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave behind when they finally retire. Haaland, who scored 44 goals in 40 outings in all competitions in 2019-20, should be at the head of the queue.
16. Serge Gnabry
It is just under five years since Tony Pulis claimed that Serge Gnabry was not at “the required level to play games” for West Brom.
Now, the German is being touted as ‘the new Arjen Robben’ after matching the legendary Dutchman’s best-ever haul for Bayern Munich by netting 23 times in 46 appearances during a tremendous treble triumph.
Former Arsenal man Gnabry was particularly decisive in the Champions League, scoring five of his nine tournament goals in the knockout stage, including a double in the semi-final win over Lyon.
15. Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku was understandably bemused by his reduced rating in FIFA 21.
After all, 2020 was the year in which the Belgian got back to his brilliant best, after a demoralising stint at Manchester United in which he was accused of being unprofessional and overweight.
After joining Inter last summer, Lukaku became the first player to score 34 goals in a debut season for the Nerazzurri since Ronaldo.
The 27-year-old suffered heartbreak in the Europa League final but Inter would not have got that far without Lukaku, who has now netted in a record-breaking 10 consecutive games in the competition.
14. Trent Alexander-Arnold
The incredible thing about Trent Alexander-Arnold is that he is still only 22, meaning the Liverpool ace is only going to get better.
Last season the right-back with a winger’s skillset and a midfielder’s range of passing broke his own Premier League assists record for a defender by setting up 13 goals during his club’s dominant title-winning campaign.
The sky really is the limit for Alexander-Arnold, who former Reds centre-back Jamie Carragher believes is “the most creative player in the best team in Europe!”
13. Sergio Ramos
When it comes to Sergio Ramos, one has to accept the rough with the smooth. This, after all, is a man who once broke his own brother’s nose in a youth-team game.
But while there is always plenty of ill-discipline with Ramos, there is even more inspiration.
Last season he was once again suspended as Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the second consecutive year, but he responded in sensational fashion, with the centre-back scoring six goals during a 10-game, post-lockdown winning streak that propelled Zinedine Zidane’s side to Liga glory.
12. Thiago Alcantara
Wayne Rooney was desperate to see Thiago Alcantara play in the Premier League. But the former Manchester United and Everton forward was terrified by the prospect of the Bayern Munich ace joining English champions Liverpool.
It is easy to understand why. As he proved during Bayern’s treble triumph, Thiago is one of those rare talents who combines industry with innovation.
That makes him a joy to watch but a nightmare to play against. As Mason Mount admitted after Thiago ran rings around Chelsea in the Champions League, “I couldn’t get near him!”
11. Joshua Kimmich
Is there anything Joshua Kimmich cannot do?
The Germany international did not just play as a defensive midfielder during Bayern Munich’s treble-winning campaign, he was also occasionally deployed at centre-back and right-back.
Even still, he contributed seven goals and 15 assists to the Bavarians’ cause, and created more chances than any other player in the 2019-20 Champions League.
It’s no wonder, then, that Jose Mourinho recently told DAZN: “I see Kimmich as a top right-back, left-back, centre-back, No.6, No.8, No.10… He has the qualities to be anything he wants to be!”
10. Sadio Mane
After Liverpool sealed their first league title in 30 years, the Premier League picked out five crucial wins during the Reds’ record-breaking season.
Sadio Mane netted in four of those games (Leicester, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace away, and Manchester City at home) and registered an assist in the other (the return fixture with the Foxes), as he solidified his status as one of the most decisive forwards in the game today.
Indeed, the Senegalese isn’t just revered at Anfield for his incredible mix of industry and incision – team-mate Fabinho says Mane is the “complete player” – he’s universally popular, as underlined by the fact that the 28-year-old won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year award for 2019-20.
9. Thomas Muller
Joachim Low effectively concluded that Thomas Muller’s time at the highest level was over two years ago, when he ditched the attacking midfielder after a dismal World Cup campaign.
Luckily for Bayern Munich, that was not a view shared by Low’s former right-hand man, Hansi Flick, who found a key role in his starting line-up for the famed ‘Space Investigator’ after succeeding Nico Kovac as the Bavarians’ coach last year.
Muller responded with 12 goals and a whopping 25 assists during the second treble triumph of his trophy-laden career and is now being hailed as “the most extraordinary player in German football history” by Jupp Heynckes.
8. Karim Benzema
During his Real Madrid tenure, Jose Mourinho infamously mused that while he wanted to go hunting with a dog, all he had was a cat – Karim Benzema.
Well, as the front page of AS roared last season, “The cat is a lion!”
With star summer signings Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic contributing next-to-nothing to the Real cause, it fell upon Benzema to carry the attack – and he did so spectacularly, firing Zinedine Zidane’s side to a surprise title win with 21 goals in La Liga.
After more than a decade of selfless service, Benzema has belatedly become Madrid’s main man – and has now been rewarded with his best-ever Goal 50 ranking.
7. Virgil van Dijk
How important is Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool?
It is difficult to fully explain in a few words, but the fact that he played every single minute of last season’s Premier League title-winning campaign is telling.
The record-breaking Reds simply are not the same side without their Dutch colossus at the heart of their defence.
Liverpool’s failure to reach the last eight of the Champions League undermined Van Dijk’s hopes of retaining his Goal 50 crown but, after another near-flawless campaign, it is only right that the centre-back is the highest-ranked defender on this year’s list.
6. Kylian Mbappe
“You don’t talk to me about pain,” Kylian Mbappe tweeted after PSG’s Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta.
The France forward’s chances of playing in Lisbon had been written off due to an ankle injury, but he demonstrated his fighting spirit and remarkable powers of recovery by coming off the bench to inspire his side to a dramatic late victory.
Mbappe, of course, had already proven his immense worth to PSG by helping them claim four domestic trophies with 25 goals in just 27 games, with his 18 strikes in Ligue 1 earning him the top-scorer award.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo
Maurizio Sarri jokingly told his Juventus players after their Serie A title triumph, “You must be good to have even won the title with me!”
Of course, there had never been any doubt over Cristiano Ronaldo’s quality, but it was nonetheless impressive that the Portuguese continued to score at a remarkable rate during what was a turbulent season in Turin.
At one point, the 35-year-old netted in a record-equalling 11 consecutive Serie A games.
Of course, Juve’s campaign ended in bitter disappointment, and Sarri getting the sack, after a shock Champions League last-16 elimination by Lyon.
Ronaldo, though, did what he could to drag the Bianconeri into the last eight, scoring a brace in an agonising away-goals defeat, meaning he is responsible for all of the club’s knockout stage goals since arriving in Italy two years ago.
In a time of great change, Ronaldo scoring goals remains one of life’s few constants.
Not even Neymar’s harshest critics would deny that the Brazilian played a pivotal role in Paris Saint-Germain reaching a first-ever Champions League final.
Having been restricted to just 15 appearances in Ligue 1 due to injury (he still managed 13 goals in another title-winning campaign), the forward returned to full fitness – and his dazzling best – in the Champions League knockout stage.
Neymar netted in both legs as PSG came from behind to beat Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 and then illuminated Lisbon with his wonderful array of tricks and flicks, inspiring Thomas Tuchel’s side to victories over Atalanta and RB Leipzig to set up a tournament-decider against Bayern Munich.
PSG may have come up short, but 2020 was the year in which Neymar restored his reputation as one of the finest players on the planet.
3. Lionel Messi
It has been a traumatic year for Lionel Messi, who revealed in a world exclusive interview with Goal how deeply he and his family were affected by his issues with former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
However, despite his longstanding anger over how the Catalan club is being run, Messi still managed to perform miracles on a weekly basis last season.
Indeed, had it not been for the captain, Barca would not have even challenged for the Liga title or made it to the last eight of the Champions League.
No player in Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues made more assists in all competitions last season than Messi (25), who also racked up 31 goals.
He scored 25 times in La Liga alone, thus earning himself a record-breaking seventh Pichichi award – and a remarkable fourth in a row.
Imagine what he could do this year if order is restored at Camp Nou.
2. Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne was left bitterly disappointed by Manchester City’s now annual elimination at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League.
“Different year, same stuff,” the Belgian sighed after a shock 3-1 loss to Lyon.
De Bruyne’s frustration was understandable, as nobody could have done more than the silky-skilled attacking midfielder, either in Lisbon or over the course of the 2019-20 campaign, to take City where they want to go.
Liverpool may have been crowned champions of England, but De Bruyne was the best player in the Premier League last season, with the 29-year-old not only scoring 13 goals but also racking up a record-equalling 20 assists.
City may have missed out on Messi during the summer break, but as long as De Bruyne remains fit, Pep Guardiola’s side can continue to dream of finally ending their quest for European glory this term.
1. Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski says he can continue playing until he is 40 – and who would really argue otherwise?
At the age of 32, the prolific Pole has reached his optimal level.
The striker scored a staggering 55 goals in 47 games during Bayern Munich’s treble-winning campaign, finishing as top scorer in the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League.
Nobody else even came close to matching those numbers in 2020 – not even Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi – making Lewandowski a most worthy recipient of his first Goal 50 award.
Indeed, given it has been such a tough year for everyone across the world, Lewandowski’s belated and surprise ascent to the summit of world football feels very timely.
“Never stop dreaming,” as the man himself said after becoming a European Cup winner for the first time. “And never give up.”