2020: Year of the Three Playmakers

2020 might be best remembered for the first year of a worldwide pandemic, online classes, and city-wide lockdowns. Football fans will remember a delayed schedule and empty stadiums, as well as some ‘streets won’t forget’ performances. However, if we look at the stat book, one thing stands out from 2020: three playmakers made the record for the most assists per season in their respective leagues. Here is a small step back to that moment.

Lionel Messi

A name heard by most of the world, Lionel Messi is best known as…well…being the greatest footballer of all time. He has won a trophy everywhere he has gone to: Spain, France, and the United States, as well as international trophies for his beloved Argentina. Look up any Encyclopedia of Football; you will find his name under most statistics.

However, while Messi might be known for his mercurial finishing, it is his creativity that puts him far above the rest. Messi has the highest number of recorded assists in the history of the game: 361 to be exact. That number is far beyond what players or even some teams can muster.

In 2020, Messi helped Barcelona fight Real Madrid to the final matchdays of La Liga. He contributed to 46 out of the 86 goals Barcelona scored, topping both the scoring (25) and assists (21) charts; the latter remains the highest number achieved by one player in one season.

Thomas Mueller

Messi’s 2020 was perhaps more remarkable than others, but not in the right way; he witnessed his team’s helpless defeat to Mueller’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League. 8-2 was the scoreline, Bayern Munich scored 8 times past Barcelona, and Thomas Mueller was there to soak it in.

In fact, Mueller had always been and is still there to soak in Bayern’s finest moments. He was there on the field in that 8-2 victory, he would be there to celebrate his second Champions League trophy, and he is still here to compete for his record-extending 13th league title, equaling him with the legendary Ryan Giggs of Manchester United. Will he do it this year? Bet now on 188bet.

In the Bundesliga, Bayern dominated as they had been; they won the league by 13 points over their bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund. Robert Lewandowski topped the goalscorer’s list with 34 goals, and Thomas Mueller broke the Bundesliga record with 21 assists in one season, previously held by a certain Belgian who once managed 20 with Wolfsburg.

Kevin De Bruyne

And that Belgian was him. De Bruyne has always had a penchant for providing assists; after all, he is the statistical second-best of all time after Messi with a little over 280 assists. His vision was complemented by his wonderful technique, allowing him to find passes no other will even dream of.

In 2020, Manchester City had an ‘off’ season by their standards; they finished a whopping 18 points behind the 99-pointer Liverpool. Despite that, they scored a sky-high 102 goals in 38 games, and De Bruyne played a pivotal role; the Belgian scored 13 times himself and provided a goal to others on 20 more occasions, a record no one had or has come close. That year, he was awarded the league’s and City’s Player of the Year, FIFA and UEFA Team of the Year, as well as becoming the first Manchester City player to win the PFA Player of the Year award.

While his time with the national team might not be as prosperous as the other two on this list, the fact that he took the Belgian national team to three successive World Cups, three successive European Championships, and the nation’s first medal from the World Cup is an amazing achievement in itself.


The 2019-20 season was one of the most bizarre years in association football’s long history. COVID-19 turned the Champions League knockouts into a one-off tournament, and the world saw three record-setting feats from three of the best players in their domestic leagues. Certainly, something like that will never happen in the way it did ever again.