Typically in the world of soccer, when a player has one or two poor seasons, they move on. Philippe Coutinho struggled in two seasons for Barcelona and was loaned out to Bayern Munich. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had one poor season for Barcelona before he was sold to AC Milan. Alvaro Morata spent just one season with Chelsea after being bought for over $70 million. This pattern likely will not continue this year. Due to the stoppage in play because of coronavirus, funds for teams all across the globe are down, so teams will be more reliant on those that they were prepared to cast out. Here are just a few players who you can expect to have more successful seasons than they did last season.
Antoine Griezmann, FC Barcelona
Antoine Griezmann probably would’ve followed Coutinho out the exit had the season continued normally.
Griezmann was bought from Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid last summer for an incredible $132 million. Griezmann had long been linked with Barcelona, and following a World Cup win in 2018, Barcelona set their eyes on the Frenchman. However, after making a TV show called “The Decision” to decide his next team, Griezmann decided to stay with Atletico Madrid. One season later, he changed his mind and signed for Barcelona. The result? Griezmann played 48 games in all competitions, scoring just 15 goals combined with four assists. He received criticism for his terrible attitude and performances and was widely disliked at Camp Nou. Griezmann also reportedly clashed several times with star Lionel Messi, and an exit seemed certain. Then the impossible happened.
Lionel Messi has demanded an exit from Barcelona following yet another embarrassing Champions League exit, this time an 8-2 loss at the hands of Bayern Munich. This, combined with Luis Suarez’ expected exit, means that Griezmann is about to have a far more important role in Barcelona’s attack next season. Griezmann needs to step up next season, because with Barcelona tipped for a full-scale rebuild, they won’t be playing for the La Liga title. They’ll be playing for a Champions League spot.
João Felix, Atletico Madrid
So after Atletico Madrid sold Antoine Griezmann, they needed another big name striker to compliment Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa. Enter João Felix, a teenage sensation who starred for Portuguese giants Benfica. Atletico paid almost $140 million for Felix, making him the fifth most expensive transfer of all time. He hasn’t worked out too well, either.
In 36 games for Atletico this season, Felix has scored only nine goals with three assists. To be fair, injuries got the best of Felix, as he missed 13 games due to various ailments. He also did prove to be clutch at times in the Champions League, assisting Marcos Llorente’s first goal to tie the Liverpool game at 2-2 on aggregate, before Atletico stormed back to win. He also appeared to have saved Atletico in the quarter-finals, earning and then scoring the penalty to tie Leipzig 1-1. Unfortunately, Leipzig scored in the 88th minute to eliminate Atletico.
Still, Felix has shown potential throughout the season. Atletico have realized this too, and are prepared to sell Diego Costa and possibly Alvaro Morata as well. If Felix can stay healthy, he can fire Atletico to their first La Liga title in six years.
Sebastien Haller, West Ham
Sebastian Haller was one of many Eintracht Frankfurt players who took advantage of a successful season and cashed out, and it’s fair to say it hasn’t worked out for quite a few of them. Luka Jovic made a high-profile move to Real Madrid and has scored just two goals with one assist in 27 games, has done several controversial things including breaking quarantine as many times as he scored last season. Ante Rebic’s loan move to AC Milan has been somewhat successful, with 12 goals and four assists in 30 games, but still not quite the expected numbers. Rebic could have a decent season as he will rejoin AC Milan, but don’t expect anything from Luka Jovic. However, the former Eintracht player who should have the biggest improvement next season is West Ham striker Sebastien Haller.
Haller was bought by the London club last season for $55 million. He scored seven goals with two assists last season after starting the season off strongly, scoring three goals in his first three games. West Ham battled relegation all season, but after Manuel Pellegrini was fired, David Moyes saved the day, with West Ham staying in the Premier League.
Haller only scored two goals under David Moyes, but the scenario on the wings has improved significantly for the Hammers. Jared Bowen arrived in winter and played well, and should play a major role this season, whilst Grady Diangana returns from his loan at West Brom. In a preseason match against Ipswich, Diangana assisted two of Haller’s three goals. If that partnership can continue, Haller has the ability to rediscover his Eintracht form, and West Ham won’t be in a relegation battle.
Do you agree with my predictions for these strikers, and who do you think will have an improved season? Please let me know!
Image courtesy of Анна Нэсси / CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL.
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