Ronaldo record, unbeaten Italy and monkey behind Messi’s back – football in 2021 by the numbers


As football ends for 2021, you’d be forgiven for wondering if last year even happened.

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, the climate crisis continues unabated, Donald Trump is screaming election fraud and everyone is talking about cryptocurrency without really knowing why. If Bill Murray appeared on TV to tell you we’re stuck in a 2020 time loop, you’d barely blink.

Well, 2021 has really happened, and we have the data to prove it. Here, Stats Perform presents a selection of the biggest footballing moments of the year, and the numbers that help make them unforgettable – even if you can’t remember what day it is …

Tuchel your fancy

Expectations are pretty high for Chelsea’s coaches, but winning the Champions League before he’s been in office for six months – having replaced club legend Frank Lampard, no less – isn’t a bad way to go. impress the owner! No but seriously, Thomas Tuchel is awesome.

Les Bleus beat Atletico Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Manchester City in the round of 16 as they became Kings of Europe for the second time. They have only conceded twice in these matches; in fact, Edouard Mendy became the first goalkeeper to keep up to nine clean sheets in his debut season in the competition.

From Tuchel’s first game in charge until the end of 2020-21, no Premier League team has lost fewer games (five), conceded fewer goals (16) or kept more clean sheets (19) in all competitions than Chelsea. It’s worth remembering, Thomas, if you really think your title hopes are over mid-season already.

Live and leave Daei

The biggest football debate of all time is likely to last until humanity is long gone, with nothing more of civilization except decaying ruins and NFTs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, quite possibly dressed as goats, stored on a giant blockchain server in the center of the Earth (no, we don’t understand everything either).

We can at least agree on a non-fungible record for Ronaldo: since 2021 he has been the top international scorer in the history of men’s football.

A brace against the Republic of Ireland on September 1 brought it to 111 for Portugal, two more than former Iranian record holder Ali Daei. Ronaldo will start the World Cup year with 115 goals in 184 international matches – but without the Ballon d’Or on his chimney …

Lord Gerd, another record

With practically the last kick of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, Robert Lewandowski jumped on a loose ball to score his 41st league goal and break Gerd Muller’s previous record of 40 in a single season, which had stood maintained since 1972.

Not satisfied with the biggest goal-scoring effort in Germany’s top flight in almost half a century, Lewandowski finished 2021 with 43 goals for the calendar year (in just 34 games), again surpassing the best total set by Muller. During that streak, he became the first player in the competition to score in 13 straight home games, beating the 12-game streaks of Jupp Heynckes and, yes, Muller. Grand Bayern’s scoring record in 16 straight Bundesliga games still stands as Lewandowski was prevented from equaling him by the crossbar in a 3-1 win at Greuther Furth in September.

This year, the Bayern Munich forward has also reached 120 away goals in the Bundesliga, which is, you guessed it, another record. At least this one was previously owned by a different name: Klaus Fischer, out of 117. Muller is third out of 115, for what it’s worth.

Let’s talk about six, baby

Liverpool started the year with the second longest undefeated home run in English Premier League history: they had gone 68 games unbeaten after losing 2-1 to Crystal Palace in April 2017, a streak that got better and better. by Chelsea (86 games ending in October 2008).

Then they lost 1-0 to Burnley at Anfield. Then, 1-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield. After that, Manchester City were beaten 4-1, an almost unthinkable 2-0 loss to Everton, and then another pair of 1-0 losses, this time to Chelsea and Fulham … and all at Anfield.

Six straight home defeats: something no Liverpool team had ever endured before, nor any defending top English champion.

Spiced up with discs

City were top of the Premier League on Christmas Day for the third time in their history. They’ve won the league the previous two times (in 2011 and 2017), so the omens are positive for 2021-22 – not that they need a lot of divine intervention right now.

The defending champions, with a 10-game winning streak, broke the record for most wins in a calendar year in the English top flight with their 34th of 2021 against Newcastle United this month. The best precedent was 33 set by Bob Paisley’s Liverpool in 1982.

In the process, Pep Guardiola’s men also set a new high-level record of 18 away wins in a single year, beating the previous best of 17 set by Bill Nicholson’s famous Tottenham side in 1960-61. . Oh, and their 112 goals scored in 2021 are the best comeback of the calendar year of the Premier League era.

Argentinian tango – and divorce from Messi

Lionel Messi ends 2021 with 23 goals and eight assists in La Liga, the most direct goals of any player except Karim Benzema (41). And he hasn’t played in the competition since May.

The tearful departure of Barcelona’s Messi, who decided they just couldn’t afford to keep the player they previously couldn’t afford to lose, marked the end of an era in Spanish football . It didn’t go particularly well for both sides either: Barca, who sacked Ronald Koeman in November, sit seventh in La Liga, while Messi has scored one goal in 11 Ligue 1 games for the Paris Saint Germain.

Club football may have been more of a nightmare than a dream for Messi this year, but the same cannot be said of his international exploits. He was the joint top scorer and best player in the tournament as Argentina finally ended their long wait for the silverware, beating Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final. It was enough to secure Messi a record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or, even though he seemed to think Lewandowski really deserved to win (and, let’s be honest, a lot of us did).

It’s a bit funny in Lille …

Last season, Paris Saint-Germain replaced Tuchel with Mauricio Pochettino apparently so they could win the Champions League. Instead, as Tuchel took Chelsea to European glory in just five months, Pochettino’s PSG couldn’t even retain their Ligue 1 crown.

Lille have won the French top flight for the fourth time in their history, becoming the fourth team to have won it at least twice since the turn of the century (the others being PSG, of course, Monaco and Lyon). Their triumph was inspired by the late-career rebirth of Burak Yilmaz: his 16 league goals were the most scored by the over-35s in Europe’s top five leagues last season, with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo ( 29).

While the defense of their title is not going very well – Lille are eighth in the table after 19 games, 18 points behind leaders PSG – they managed to win their Champions League group for the first time in seven attempts. They also own the top scorer in Ligue 1 this season: Jonathan David, who was 11 and played for the Ottawa Gloucester Hornets when Lille won their third league title in 2011, has already scored 12 times.

Get the Inter spirit

This year, Inter ended their ten-year wait for the Scudetto and ended Juventus’ recent stranglehold on Serie A.

Inspired by Antonio Conte – who started Juve’s nine-consecutive title streak in 2012 – and league MVP Romelu Lukaku, the Nerazzurri finished 12 points clear at the top as their coach became the man with the best points per game ratio (2.26) in the modern history of the Italian top flight.

Despite a tight season of upheaval in which Conte walked, Lukaku returned to Chelsea and Achraf Hakimi went to PSG, Inter enter next year with a four-point advantage at the top and just one loss in 19 matches. Championship, having scored more than 100 league goals in a calendar year for the first time in their history.

Mancini’s miracle

Italy’s second European Championship trophy, secured by a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley, was the pinnacle of a series of quite remarkable results under Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri went on to set a new world record in men’s international football of 37 games unbeaten, in which they won 30, scored 93 goals and conceded just 12. The race ended when they lost 2- 1 against Spain in the League of Nations. semi-finals in Milan, marking their first competitive loss at home since 1999.

In the first 33 of those matches, starting with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in October 2018, they were only 44 minutes behind. At Euro 2020 they had five players who scored at least twice, they finished the tournament with a joint record of 13 goals and only conceded four. And yet, in 2022, they must face the play-offs – and potentially a meeting with Portugal – if they are to avoid missing out on World Cup qualification for a second consecutive time.

Palmeiras snatches the incredible-Abel

The Copa Libertadores final isn’t something Andreas Pereira will want to remember: it was the mistake of the loaned Manchester United player that helped substitute Deyverson win for Palmeiras in extra time.

It was, however, a historic result. Not only were Palmeiras the first team since Boca Juniors 20 years ago to win two consecutive Libertadores trophies, but Abel Ferreira has become the only European coach to win the competition twice.

Ahead of his time in Brazil, Abel’s finest achievement in his post-playing career arguably helped PAOK reach 51 league games unbeaten – although he was actually only responsible for 17. of those matches, including the 4-2 loss to Aris which brought the streak. to an end.


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