2020 has been a tough year for football with leagues suspended, tournaments delayed, and several iconic names passing away. The year has seen several of the sport’s biggest icons pass, leaving a void that will never be filled in the future. From World Cup winners to figures that conquered continents, there has been a range of top stars that we have lost for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look back now at the highlights of some of the biggest footballers who died in 2020.
Six footballers who died in 2020
Of the footballers who died in 2020, none were a bigger star than the genius Diego Maradona, arguably the greatest player of all time.. The Argentine striker was a forward ahead of his time able to scythe defences down with a mix of pace, skill, and pressure.
His best form came during the late 1980s with Napoli where scored 81 goals in 188 appearances and helped them to win two Serie A titles and the 1988/89 UEFA Cup. Maradona also transcended cult history with perhaps the most memorable World Cup moment in history at the 1986 World Cup. His quarter-final performance against England featured the infamous “Hand of God” goal as well as a mesmerizing solo goal in one of the best individual performances ever seen in a match.
His larger than life persona off the pitch dominated his career afterward with drug and alcohol issues hindering his management career afterward. He passed in December 2020 from a heart attack prompting mourning from millions of fans around the round and Napoli renaming their stadium in his honour.
The older of the famous Charlton brothers, Jack Charlton was a stout defender who was able to mix it with some of the best in the game’s history. Charlton was part of the famous backline that helped England secure the 1966 World Cup alongside other national heroes such as Bobby Moore and George Cohen. Domestically, Charlton only ever played for one club playing over 760 games for Leeds between 1952 and 1973 – a club record that stands to this day. He also enjoyed a stellar managerial career spending nearly a decade as manager of the Irish national side from 1986-1996 as well as lengthy spells at both Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday. Charlton sadly passed from cancer at the age of 85 in July 2020.
It always sad to see players see their careers cut short and veteran Premier League winger Peter Whittingham’s is another such story. The English winger rose to prominence with Aston Villa regularly featuring as a promising youth in their successful sides of the early 2000s. However, Whittingham would leave Villa Park for Cardiff City in 2007 where he became a regular for the Welsh side in their quest for Premier League football. A player known for devastating long shots, Whittingham would go on to score 85 goals in over 400 goals for Cardiff over the following decade. Whittingham tragically died in March 2020 from a fall in a pub sustaining fatal head injuries at the age of 35.
Paolo Rossi was one of Italy’s greatest strikers who had the knack for performing when the pressure was always at the limit. Rossi’s rise at Juventus caught the eye of Vicenza where he would score 60 goals in 94 Serie A appearances between 1976 and 1979 before Juventus would sign him for a then world-record deal in 1981.
It would be though at the 1982 World Cup where Rossi would make his mark scoring 6 goals in the tournament helping Italy win their third world title. It was here where he won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball to be one of just three players in the tournament’s history to perform the clean sweep. With 9 goals at the World Cup, Rossi is still Italy’s all-time leading scorer at the sport’s biggest tournament alongside Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri. Rossi passed away in December 2020 aged 64 from Cancer.
Nobby Stiles was the type of no-nonsense player who would always get things done. The defensive midfielder was always the metronome of the team protecting the back four and threading passes to attackers with ease. He is best known as part of the 1966 England World Cup-winning team where he never missed a minute of action and successfully nullified Eusebio in their World Cup semi-final triumph over Portugal.
On the domestic front, Stiles played predominantly for Manchester United winning two First Division titles as well as the 1967/68 European Cup. Afterwards, he pursued a coaching career that was best remembered as being a youth coach at Old Trafford and helping nurture the Class of 92’ that featured the likes of the Neville brothers, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs. Stiles sadly joined the list of former footballers who died last year in October 2020 at aged 78 due to cancer and dementia.
It was at the start of the early 2000s where Gerard Houllier resurrected Liverpool back into a potentially dominant force in English football. Having enjoyed success with the France youth squads, Houllier moved to Anfield in 1998 charged with bringing trophies back to Merseyside. This he did with regular success developing a squad led by homegrown talents such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard leading the way.
He achieved a remarkable feat in the 2000-2001 season guiding Liverpool to a cup quadruple of the FA Cup, League Cup as well as the UEFA Cup and Super Cup. Houllier’s success followed him to Lyon where he won two Ligue 1 titles in both 2006 and 2007. The Frenchman would go on to become director of Red Bull’s football programme in 2012 leading their club buying spree that helped form sides such as RB Salzburg, RB Leipzig, and New York Red Bulls. However, Houllier suffered several health scares due to heart issues throughout the 2000s and he would sadly pass in December 2020 from a heart attack at the age of 73.