Most surprising events of the 2020/2021 season

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 18.7.2021.

Most surprising events of the 2020/2021 season

The 2020/2021 football season was a memorable one not just because of the peculiar times we’re living in and the return of fans on the stands. It provided for some moments that won’t be soon forgotten in the collective football hive mind. So check out the surprising events of the 2020/2021 season and tell us which made you rub your eyes out of bewilderment the most? Or maybe you’ve predicted some?

10. That Thomas Muller miss!

The only inclusion on this list that is actually closest to a moment. Yet it is fully deserving as no one would’ve expected Thomas Muller to miss what he did in the first stage of the elimination rounds of the 2021 Euros! England had the lead in a match against their tormentors, ones they haven’t won against in 55 years in knockout ties. Then a striker’s dream - Muller was alone in front of the goalkeeper with just the right amount of time and space to get a spring and power going.

Having one of his best seasons behind him and returning to the national team after being ostracized from Joachim Low in 2018, everyone expected to see the cold-blooded German bury it. Yet the shot went past Jordan Pickford and England doubled their lead soon after, eliminating the favoured side.

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Swedish national team

About to turn 40 this year, it’s surprising that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still a relevant name for the things he does on the pitch, not just for his wit and sharp tongue. But his decision to return to the national team after four years has been extremely surprising and impressive.

Zlatan retired from the NT in 2016 and later had spats with the current manager of the squad, insinuating that he might be blocking some non-ancestral Swedish players like Dejan Kulusevski. Yet Janne Andersson and Ibra buried their hatchets and Zlatan was to grace the Euros with his presence, playing two games for the squad in the spring. Becoming the oldest player to ever feature for the country. Yet, due to injury this story didn't get the legs it deserved and Ibra sat out the tournament.

8. Chelsea winning the Champions League

It’s hard calling a team that invested more than a quarter of a billion euros in transfers one summer ago a surprise winner but due to the course of Chelsea’s season, they were the unexpected victors. Not only because they were going against much more solidified teams in PSG, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City, but because they also had the managerial change mid-season.

Frank Lampard was replaced by Thomas Tuchel after the latter was sacked by the Parisians, and after Roberto di Matteo brought the Blues their first Champions League trophy, another instant victor became a legend at Stamford Bridge.

7. Porto eliminating Juventus in the Champions League

The team that had the most of the most bitter losses in the Champions League finals didn’t even come close to it despite being so ambitious and fielding the competition’s best player ever. Cristiano Ronaldo and his comrades have been stopped in the elite continental tournament by an underdog for the third year straight. While there were excuses against Ajax’s golden generation, and the referee helped Lyon last campaign, to lose against Porto who wasn’t even bossing its own league was unacceptable.

Somehow, Andrea Pirlo survived the disappointment until the end of the season but eventually the Bianconeri brass came to its senses and realized inexperienced managers aren’t the blueprint for turning their record in Europe. The CL exit particularly hurt Juventus when their president was the leading man in the next fiasco on this list.

6. Attempt at creating a European Super League

The football world was uncharacteristically united against the common enemy this spring when 12 rich clubs decided to spit on the foundations of European sport by attempting to break away in a closed-system league. One that would be the demise of the footballing pyramid and the sport as it is known and loved.

While speculated about for several years, the project seemed like a fairy tale because of how ludicrous it sounded and proved to be. Until one day it erupted the greed below the stadiums of some European clubs. AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Tottenham Hotspur are the teams that will wear the badge of dishonour forever. With El Clasico rivals and Juve being the main antagonists of this debacle.

5. Aston Villa trashing reigning champions Liverpool 7:2

Breaking the 30-year-old drought and getting to a Premier League title, Liverpool fans were on seventh heaven coming into the new season. The ones in which they were defending champions after three decades. To bring them back to Earth along came a beautifully crafted Birmingham side which reinforced heavily and cleverly during the summer.

The game happened on October fourth, long before Liverpool had the excuse of having a decimated backline. With Virgil van Dijk in the team, and only the goalkeeper Alisson missing. As the recent Championship players Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish played with the champs, scoring three and assisting four respectively. LFC became the first reigning champions in England to concede seven goals in a single match since Arsenal in 1953!

4. Karim Benzema returning to the French national team

If Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return was surprising, Karim Benzema’s recall to the French national team was truly shocking. Real Madrid’s striker hasn’t played for France since 2015 because of a myriad of reasons. Mostly, because he accused Didier Deschamps that he was catering the team towards the 'north and racist part of France.' Something that Deschamps said he will never forget, not too far removed from the Euros. Then he stepped all over his words and called up the trouble-maker.

Not only did Benzema did that, but he was also ostracized by the French FA in the past because of his involvement in the blackmailing case of teammate Mathieu Valbuena. During his hiatus, he also said that his striking competitor Olivier Giroud was a go-kart while he was a Formula One car. Yet Deschamps thought it was a good idea to have them share the dressing room and despite France's success at the previous big tournament.

While Benzema did score four in six games played since his return to the NT, many question did his return deteriorate the atmosphere in the side and negatively impact the tactical familiarity of the squad.

3. Tottenham get eliminated by Dinamo Zagreb in Europa League

While many were surprised by Jose Mourinho’s sacking by Tottenham Hotspur, the main cause of the sack was far more unexpected. Spurs were eliminated in the in the round of 16 of Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb despite having a 2:0 advantage from the first match. In Croatia, the home side first battled to a 2:0 win in the regular time, before the same player, Mislav Orsic, concluded his hat-trick and Spurs' Euro adventure in extra time.

Not only were Spurs heavily favoured, they were also banking on the EL as the eventual victors got a so vital Champions League spot. Which Spurs didn't get in the league as well. Mourinho endured for another month at the Spurs bench before he was sacked, also surprisingly, a week before the League Cup final he led the team too.

2. Schalke being the worst team in the top five leagues

Schalke fans will say that the writing was on the wall but the truth is that no great side in the top five leagues - and the Miners are certainly that - haven’t fallen lower than them this season. Just on that value alone they deserve to be listed as one of the most surprising happenings of the season.

Five-time German champions and one of the sides with the biggest and most loyal following in the Bundesliga was relegated despite being in the Champions League mere two seasons ago. Finishing second in the 2017/2018 campaign. The Miners were dead last, with only 16 points and three wins in the whole campaign. No team in Europe’s top five leagues had a worst season than the Gelsenkirchen side.

1. Lille winn... PSG not winning Ligue 1!

The biggest surprise of the 2020/2021 season by far. There is a mountain between the feat Lille accomplished and the rest of the included sides. In our article regarding the favourites for the top five leagues before the start of the season, we wrote that all teams can win Ligue 1 theoretically. But that actually, only one team can lose it - Paris Saint-Germain.

The fact that Lille won the league powered by veterans and under-the-radar rejects, battling the richest team in the world boasting two alleged superstars, is not appreciated enough. Probably because of the diminishing attitude most fans have towards Ligue 1. Yet it is so mostly because it is viewed, understandably, as a one-team league. Yet that makes Lille’s triumph all that more impressive and surprising.



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