Five footballers with a point to prove in 2022

The year 2021 is now coming to a close, and with it arrives a new chapter in the 2021/22 football season.

With half of the campaign now remaining, teams at the top of their respective tables will now be looking to solidify a serious title challenge. Those at the bottom will be attempting to stay in their divisions.

But it’s also an important time for players as well. Those who have suffered from injury or poor form in the first half of the season will be wanting to re-establish themselves in the first team. Others may have contracts expiring in the summer, so they will be pushing for a new deal either at their current club or elsewhere.

With all that in mind, we’re going to take a look at five footballers who have a point to prove in the year 2022:

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

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Not for the first time in his career, Kylian Mbappe is one of the footballers with a big decision to make in 2022.

Like his much-hyped transfer from Monaco to Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Mbappe has to decide where his future lies. Does he extend his contract in Paris, which runs out this summer, or does he discuss a move to Real Madrid?

All avenues seemingly point towards the latter option. According to L’Equipe, contract talks between Mbappe and PSG are at an impasse.

It is no secret that Real have been chasing the French forward for a long time. Football journalist Duncan Castles claimed that Mbappe rejected the Spanish giants back in 2017, once he realised he would be the replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite it being nearly five years since that moment, Mbappe would again effectively replace Ronaldo if he signs. You imagine he won’t say no this time around.

Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

Eden Hazard five footballers 2022
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It’s not been an easy time for Eden Hazard since his big-money move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.

After 110 goals in 352 appearances for the Blues – and two Premier League titles – this was meant to be a fresh start for the Belgian winger. A chance to spearhead the Real charge in a post-Cristiano Ronaldo era.

But whilst the term ‘new start’ is valid to an extent, it hasn’t exactly been a happy one. Hazard is yet to reach 20 La Liga appearances in a single campaign; his highest seasonal league goal tally is just four.

There are, of course, reasons for that drop in form. The 31-year-old revealed that a series of broken ankles have had a severe impact. It is certainly easy to understand why for a player whose game is built on quick feet, agility, and balance.

But an impressive performance against Athletic Bilbao last Wednesday led Real manager Carlo Ancelotti to make the claim that Hazard is “back“. The Belgian is one of the footballers who will be desperate to prove that he can bring the consistent performances – and injury-free times – back in 2022.

Andre Onana (Ajax)

Andre Onana five footballers 2022
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It’s been a tough 2021 for Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. There is, however, now light at the end of the tunnel.

The 25-year-old was banned for 12 months back in February after testing positive for the banned substance furosemide.

That ban was later cut to nine months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Onana committed the violation without “significant fault“, and also found that he had “ingested medication destined for another person in error”.

The Cameroon international has only featured twice for Ajax since his return to playing in mid-November. Remco Pasveer was first-choice in Onana’s absence and has kept his spot.

The highly-rated goalkeeper is therefore set to leave the club. Fabrizio Romano reported that Onana will become an Inter Milan player in the summer of 2022 when his Ajax contract expires. However, there has been no official confirmation from either party yet.

He will need to displace Inter stalwart Samir Handanovic to get into the starting XI, but with the Slovenian international now at the age of 37, the Onana deal makes long-term sense. However, he’ll be hoping to make a significant impact in 2022.

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Marcus Rashford
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Having scored 11 goals and registered seven assists in the Premier League last season, many saw this campaign as being an important one for Marcus Rashford.

But he had suffered a shoulder injury in November of the aforementioned season and had to use painkilling injections to get through the remainder of the campaign, including Euro 2020.

The Athletic reported that Rashford tore his shoulder muscle, and after playing through the severe discomfort, elected to have surgery in July of this year.

When the Manchester United forward returned in early November, he made an immediate impact. Rashford netted three goals in four games in all competitions.

However, in his last eight appearances in all competitions, the 24-year-old has failed to score and only registered one assist. He has been used in different roles by three managers – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick and Ralf Rangnick. He played in a central striking role under Carrick for United’s 1-1 draw against Chelsea in November to good effect. Rashford has also featured in a left-sided forward position.

The year 2022 is important for one of England’s top footballers as he looks to help United reach the top four.

Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

New Barcelona manager Xavi is looking to undergo an ambitious rebuild at the Nou Camp. Frenkie de Jong could be one of the early casualties.

Read: Barcelona firesale: Which top stars are the club willing to sell?

It wasn’t meant to be this way. Barcelona signed the Dutch international midfielder from Ajax for a fee of €75 million in the summer of 2019. Likened to Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer, de Jong arrived with a reputation of being calm on the ball with an ability to pick out a pass, as well as being able to dribble his way out of tricky situations and charge into attacking positions.

That’s not to say de Jong hasn’t showcased those attributes – he certainly has. The 24-year-old was a vital part of previous manager Ronald Koeman’s system. He performed admirably at centre-back when Barca switched to a three-man defence last season.

This season, however, hasn’t been straightforward. Like many in the Barca side, de Jong hasn’t showcased his best form. Former Netherlands international Ron Vlaar described the midfielder as playing with “50 kilos of potatoes on his back” as per the Daily Mail.

Spanish journalist Gerard Romero claimed that Los Cules have placed five players on the transfer list. De Jong is one of them.

With the likes of Manchester United reportedly showing a keen interest in one of the world’s top footballers, 2022 could be a big year for Frenkie de Jong.

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