Even the greatest players in the world have detractors. In today’s world, where every single performance is microanalyzed and broken down by fans and pundits alike, it’s not hard to find reasons to criticize players.
Footballers have to keep their ears away from social media and all the misguided hate and focus on their game. It’s not the easiest thing to do these days, but the brouhaha has to be kept at the doorstep or it could consume an individual whole.
The 2021-22 season was a testing campaign for some of the world’s best players for various reasons. Some of them struggled with injuries while others just couldn’t really hit their stride. But as we all know, form is temporary and class is permanent.
We expect them to bounce back this season and wind up their critics like we have so often seen them do in the past. Without further ado, let’s take a look at five players who will prove their haters wrong this season.
5. Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Paul Pogba got off to a flying start in the 2021-22 season, providing as many as four assists in Manchester United’s Premier League opener against Leeds United. He followed that up by bagging a brace of assists against Newcastle United in his second outing.
But it was all pretty downhill from there. Pogba was often called out for his appalling workrate and decision-making. He picked up a straight red card in the 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool at Old Trafford.
The Frenchman also limped off the pitch in the reverse fixture at Anfield on ten minutes after Luis Diaz had opened the scoring for the Merseysiders. Pogba’s loyalty to the badge was consistently questioned at Manchester United.
He is now back at Juventus, a club where he has previously enjoyed a great deal of success. Pogba is one of the most technically gifted footballers on the planet and he should feel at home in Turin.
He’ll also be raring to prove his critics wrong and is likely to show them that he is still one of the best central midfielders in the game this season.
4. Neymar Jr. (Paris Saint-Germain)
In the 2021-22 season, Neymar Jr. was booed on the back of Paris Saint-Germain’s exit from the Champions League Round of 16. His constant injury issues have become a source of frustration for the club and its fans.
Neymar did sign off on the 2021-22 campaign on a high though. He was in pretty good form in the closing stages of last season but will know that he’ll have to do more than that to win back the PSG fans.
Neymar will be a man on a mission this season. He has already revealed that the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be his last World Cup and he will want to make this campaign a memorable one for both club and country.
3. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Marcus Rashford played through pain in the 2020-21 season. He finally got a surgery done on his shoulder at the start of last season but had a very torrid time getting reintegrated into the side. Rashford looked off pace and it was natural that he was not at his adventurous best as he recovered from the layoff.
He scored just five goals and provided two assists in 31 appearances across all competitions for Manchester United last term. These are appalling numbers coming from one of the most talented forwards of his generation.
But Rashford has been working his socks off during pre-season and looks fitter than ever right now. He has also looked sharp in both Manchester United’s pre-season friendlies so far.
Rashford is a quality player who can run rings around opponents all day.
His striking is excellent and he is also one of the fastest attackers in the game. New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has a history of bringing out the best in players of Rashford’s profile. This should be a great season for the Englishman.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
The jury is out on whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo disrupted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fluid attacking department last season.
His positional rigidity may have definitely hampered the flow of things but his arrival was a huge blessing for Manchester United in one of their worst campaigns in recent history.
Under Ten Hag, Manchester United will have a new philosophy and a new identity. Ronaldo can silence his haters by proving that he can fit into the new manager’s system like a charm and not stick out like a sore thumb.
The legendary forward has made a career out of silencing his critics and proving his haters wrong. This one should be no biggie for Ronaldo and he should be able to have another great campaign for Manchester United.
1. Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
The consensus is that Lionel Messi’s debut season at Paris Saint-Germain was quite underwhelming by his own lofty standards. Messi’s playmaking was extraordinary at times but he was nowhere near his goalscoring best.
The 35-year-old scored just 11 goals and provided 15 assists in 34 appearances across all competitions for PSG last term. The fact that he didn’t hit the ground running in Paris is understandable as Messi had only played for Barcelona in his career prior to last season.
Now that the initial rustiness is off and Messi feels more at home in Paris, we expect him to return to his best this season. That means the PSG faithful are in for a treat in the upcoming campaign.