Will this season see a fifth player lift the title and play every minute?

By Pete Reilly Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/8 20:08:40

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire poses for photos after joining from Leicester City on August 4 in Manchester, England. Photo:VCG

The new English Premier League season kicked off on Friday night with last season's runners-up Liverpool taking on newly promoted Norwich City. Jurgen Klopp's side ran champions Manchester City closer than anyone could have imagined last time out and they will want to go one better this campaign and finally put an end to their three-decade wait to be crowned champions of England for a 19th time.

Key to the dreams of the Anfield regulars and the heroes that they cheer on will be the form of last season's PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman was the most expensive defender in history when he joined the Reds from Southampton but the former Celtic center back was not burdened by the price tag, instead he shouldered it and at times made it seem that he would have been a bargain at twice the price - and still cheaper than PSG pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, players that he comfortably dealt with on the way to winning Liverpool's sixth Champions League title.

Most expensive defender

Van Dijk is no longer the most expensive defender in history, instead that honor falls to England center back Harry Maguire who has joined Manchester United from Leicester City for 80 million pounds, 5 million more than Van Dijk cost Liverpool. Maguire has made light of the fee it took to bring him to Old Trafford and the hope at the club is that he can be a key part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's rebuilding project. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who had inquired as to Maguire's availability during this summer's transfer window, thinks he can do even more than that.

The Catalan said that the club pulled out of the deal because of the cost. "We were interested but we could not afford him. United could afford him. He's strong in the air, good with the ball, he can drive with the ball and he's so fast. He has a lot of qualities, so congratulations to United."

"For United, it doesn't matter what has happened in the last four or five years, they always start as contenders. They will go higher with the players they have bought."

Maguire is joined at Old Trafford by another England defender, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who arrived from Crystal Palace. The right back will be first choice at Old Trafford and has impressed in the club's preseason, which finished with six wins from six games. Already his new teammates have spoken about how "The Spider" is so difficult to get past in training and for a position where the club have long labored with converted wingers, a specialist defender in that spot should improve results.

If Pep is right that the new arrivals across town mean that the team who finished sixth last season after being runners-up to his side the season before, albeit with a 19-point margin between the Manchester sides, then either one of them could follow in the footsteps of Gary Pallister.

In the 1992-93 season, the first of the Premier League era and the first title-winning season at Old Trafford for 28 years, Pallister was an ever present for Alex Ferguson's champions. The sometime England defender - he won 22 caps for his country - played every single minute of every league game that season, becoming the first outfield Premier League champion to do so.

Pallister formed a formidable partnership with Steve Bruce at the heart of the United rearguard. He even scored the final goal against Blackburn Rovers, a last-minute free kick, in the game that sealed the title. It was his only goal of the season and in the penultimate match of a 42-game season. His partner Bruce played in all 42 too but did not play every minute.

It would be 22 years before another outfield player would match Pallister's feat.

Chelsea captain John Terry did just that in the 2014-15 season, which saw the Blues lift the title during manager Jose Mourinho's second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Terry's side led the table at the end of every month of the season, conceding oly 32 goals over the course of 38 games. The skipper also scored five goals to finish as the team's fourth top scorer. While Terry echoed Pallister, teammate Branislav Ivanovic echoed Bruce in playing all 38 games but not every minute.

It was another central defender and club captain who became the third outfield player to write their name in history as an ever present title winner. Leicester City skipper Wes Morgan played every minute for Claudio Ranieri's side as they won the Premier League in the 2015-16 season.

Morgan scored twice for the Foxes in that fairytale campaign, with both goals coming at the business end of the season and proving crucial to lifting the title. The skipper headed home the only goal of the game against Southampton and then scored the equalizer at Old Trafford in a game that could have won them the title. The point would prove enough as Chelsea beat Spurs the next day and the trophy was Leicester's.

With Terry departed it fell to another Chelsea player to join the illustrious ever present club when they won the title under Antonio Conte in the 2016-17 season. Versatile Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta became the first non-center back to do so as he played every minute for the Italian, although he did play in the heart of defence for much of the season.

The man the fans call "Dave" scored once and laying on another five for his teammates with his first assist of the season coming in the 2-1 opening day win over West Ham United. He layed on another in the 1-0 win away at Crystal Palace and at home in a 2-1 win over Manchester City, while playing in right midfield, and again in a 1-0 win away at West Brom. His knack for match-winning involvement continued with his only goal of the season in a 4-3 win at home to Watford.

The question now is whether this season will see a fifth player enter the record books.
Newspaper headline: Ever presents

Posted in: SOCCER

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