With 2019 officially in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start looking ahead. Here are five things we expect to see happen in world football in 2020.
Mbappe becomes next €200M player
It feels like there’s a certain inevitability to Kylian Mbappe completing his long-reported move from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid.
Considering Mbappe’s accomplishments and potential, expect the 21-year-old Frenchman to join Neymar (€222 million) as the only players to fetch a transfer fee in excess of €200 million.
Mbappe, who became the second-costliest player of all time when he moved from Monaco for €135 million in 2018, was the subject of interest from Real while playing for the principality club.
Former Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev recently claimed Mbappe admitted to him before his PSG move that Real Madrid would “wait” for him. The young star appears to be stalling on extending his terms in the French capital beyond 2022, and Real usually get their man, even if PSG risk losing the attacking trio of Mbappe, Neymar, and Atletico Madrid-bound Edinson Cavani in the same summer.
Liverpool smash all the records
With 19 matches played on the 38-match Premier League slate, Liverpool boast 18 wins, one draw, and nary the defeat to post an incredible 55-point haul at the halfway point.
Only two English sides have finished a top-flight campaign sans defeat: Preston North End in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04. It’s a standard that Liverpool appear increasingly capable of matching with each passing fixture.
Jurgen Klopp’s charges are on pace to set the record for points in a season, a mark currently held by Manchester City after their 100-point campaign in 2017-18. The most wins in a single season (32) is well within reach for the Reds, too. Currently 13 points ahead of second-place Leicester city with a game in hand, Liverpool should also be considered favorites to beat the record for the biggest title-winning margin (19 points). A selection of the above marks could result in Liverpool challenging City’s 2017-18 campaign as the most dominant in Premier League history.
Inter end Juventus’ Scudetto monopoly
Could this finally be the year? With 17 matches played, Inter and eight-time reigning Scudetto holders Juventus are joint-top on 42 points with matching 13-3-1 records.
Lazio (36 points with a match in hand) and Roma (35) are within sight as well, though Antonio Conte’s Nerazzurri should be considered the out-and-out favorites to end the Old Lady’s Serie A silverware monopoly.
Conte has employed a two-pronged attack to great success, with Romelu Lukaku (10 goals) and Lautaro Martinez (eight) combining well. Inter have scored more goals and conceded fewer than their domestic rivals.
Conte has won the league on eight occasions with Juve (five as a player, three as a manager). If Maurizio Sarri’s side has a slight advantage, it’s the win in Milan in October. The return fixture will take place at the Allianz Stadium, where Juventus have only dropped four points this season. But, the Bianconeri’s obsession will remain the Champions League, while Inter – who can prioritize Serie A over the Europa League – are desperate to end a 10-year wait for the Scudetto.
Guardiola returns to Bayern Munich
Interim Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick is set to see out the remainder of the Bundesliga campaign as football’s best out-of-work managers target summer appointments.
Meanwhile, in England, Pep Guardiola is leading Manchester City to their worst season in the Catalan’s three-year tenure. The Abu Dhabi-owned side is losing Fernandinho and David Silva in the summer, Sergio Aguero is only under contract until 2021, Aymeric Laporte is recovering from a major injury, and John Stones and Benjamin Mendy have struggled.
Sure, City have seemingly endless resources, but Liverpool have created a chasm between the two sides that could scare off short-term service specialist Guardiola. Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel are certain to make the Bavarian shortlist as well, though Guardiola knows the job well, having won three league titles on the spin at Bayern.
New club president Herbert Hainer has publicly praised Guardiola, and with young talents like Joshua Kimmich, Kingsley Coman, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Alphonso Davies, and others paired with the world’s in-form striker, Robert Lewandowski, it’s an immensely desirable gig.
Portugal repeats as European champion
Only once has a nation successfully defended its European Championship crown. Spain did it in 2012, and there’s a good chance Portugal matches that feat next summer.
Fernando Santos’ men limped their way to the 2016 conquest, tying all three Group F matches to narrowly progress with a third-place placing before needing extra-time twice and penalties to earn a first major tournament honor. That team was imbalanced and largely relied on slim margins, luck, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Four years on, and Santos is at the helm of an objectively more talented group. An aged squad low on individual talents and dynamism has been replaced with one that features the likes of Ricardo Pereira, Ruben Semedo, and Bruno Fernandes, in addition to those highlighted above. Ronaldo will still play a part, but while the Selecao were permitted to start the last tournament on the wrong foot, they’ll have no such option in 2020 after being slotted into the proverbial “Group of Death” that features World Cup holder France and perennial contender Germany.