It remains the last resort option but with the coronavirus pandemic refusing to relinquish its grip on the world, the spectre of a ‘null and void’ season looms large over football.
The chances of the 2019-20 Premier League season being erased from the history books are increasing with a growing number of clubs pushing for the 92 remaining games to be played by June 30.
With the United Kingdom braced for at least three more weeks of lockdown, this seems incredibly unlikely and so solutions urgently need to be found.
There could be bad news in store for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool if the season doesn’t finish
Liverpool sit 25 points clear at the top of the table but all that would count for nothing
And among UEFA’s member nations there’s a growing acceptance that all domestic competitions – as well as the Champions League and Europa League – may have to follow the example of Belgium and be totally wiped out.
A ‘null and void’ season would mean all records would be expunged from the history books and 2019-20 would be one giant asterisk – a campaign that happened but didn’t.
The implications of this would of course be profound and some clubs and players will be impacted more severely than others.
We take a look at some of the records, achievements and landmarks from 2019-20 that could well be consigned to history’s scrapheap.
Liverpool so near to glory and yet so far
Liverpool were on the brink of sealing their first league championship in 30 years – and their first in the Premier League era – when football was suspended by Covid-19.
Not only that but it had been a truly spectacular season by Jurgen Klopp’s men, who’d given the record books a pretty comprehensive revision.
A ‘null and void’ campaign would be incredibly painful for all involved at Liverpool with not only the much-craved Premier League trophy denied them but a string of records expunged.
Not only have Liverpool set a ferocious pace at the top but the records have tumbled too
For example, they had equalled Manchester City’s record 18-game winning streak in the Premier League and eclipsed City’s mark of 20 consecutive home wins, reaching 22.
Both of those records would return to City outright with Liverpool forced to be equally unbeatable next season to achieve them again.
Liverpool also established a new record for the biggest lead at any point in a Premier League season – the 25 points they currently lead City by – and also the biggest lead ever when all teams have played the same number of fixtures (22 points).
Again, these records would be wiped out.
There’s a personal one for Klopp, too, who has won a record five Manager of the Month awards this season, trumping the four won in one campaign by Pep Guardiola.
One guesses the German won’t have to hand them back.
Liverpool boss Klopp has won the Manager of the Month award a record five times this season
Agony for Aguero
By scoring a hat-trick in Manchester City’s 6-1 demolition of Aston Villa back in January, Sergio Aguero reached two landmarks.
The Argentine moved to 177 Premier League goals as a result, taking him level with and then past Arsenal legend Thierry Henry as the league’s highest overseas goalscorer.
Aguero subsequently extended that tally to 180 and had also moved past Frank Lampard into fourth on the list of Premier League all-time scorers.
That treble at Villa Park also established Aguero as the player with the most Premier League hat-tricks (12), overtaking Alan Shearer.
Sergio Aguero carries home the matchball after his record-setting hat-trick at Aston Villa
And with 16 goals to his credit in the league already, you’d have wagered Aguero was on course to score 20 or more in six consecutive Premier League seasons, beating another Henry benchmark.
If the season is declared null and void, Aguero slides back beneath Lampard and Henry in the all-time charts and has to do it all over again.
And given the feeling that his time at City will soon be coming to a close, he may not be able to get those records back.
Does Erling Braut Haaland even exist?
It’s like the riddle about the tree falling in an empty forest. If the Austrian Bundesliga, German Bundesliga and Champions League are all declared null and void, did Haaland ever exist?
Jokes aside, it’s been such a sensational breakthrough season for the Norwegian striker that to have it all stricken from the record would be a real blow.
28 goals in 22 matches for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga, Austrian Cup and Champions League before Christmas earned a move to Borussia Dortmund.
Erling Braut Haaland has enjoyed an incredible season – but will it all count for nothing?
And once there, he added 12 in 11 in the German Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League, scoring twice against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16.
The 19-year-old emulated Marco van Basten, Faustino Asprilla and Wayne Rooney by scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut against Genk in September.
He also became the first teenager to score in five consecutive Champions League games and had been the fastest to 10 goals in the competition.
Sadly all of this could be erased but Haaland is thankfully very much real and will have the opportunity to smash more records with Dortmund next season.
Haaland scored a stunning hat-trick on his Champions League debut with Red Bull Salzburg
Leicester’s lost rout
It will become one of those matches shrouded in mystery and spoken about in hushed tones.
Leicester City’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton at St Mary’s back in October was the largest away league win ever seen in England’s top-flight.
It also equalled the record margin of victory in the Premier League, matching Manchester United’s 9-0 drubbing of Ipswich Town in 1994.
Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring Leicester’s ninth goal on a dream night at Southampton
Sadly, Leicester’s unforgettable night, which saw both Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez both score hat-tricks, would be expunged from history.
And you’d say with some certainty it would be some time before Leicester could repeat the feat.
Back to square one for Chelsea’s kids
The success of Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea team has been one of the stories of the season.
The Blues were looking pretty good for Champions League qualification when the season was paused but a ‘null and void’ campaign would come as a blow for some of the players.
For all Mount’s brilliance for Chelsea, he could soon be back to zero Premier League games
Mason Mount, for example, only made his Premier League debut on the opening day of the season and so his 29 appearances since will be rewound back to zero.
Likewise their right-back Reece James, who’d reached 17 Premier League appearances, and midfielder Billy Gilmour, who’d just made a name for himself.
No worries though for these players. Time is very much on their side to make another impact.
City’s five-goal flurry
Back in September, Manchester City smashed Watford 8-0 at the Etihad Stadium and, incredibly, scored five times in the opening 18 minutes – a record.
It broke the previous ‘fastest out the traps’ record in the division of 24 minutes, set by Blackburn Rovers in a 7-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday during the 1997-98 season.
Watford were shambolic as Man City racked up five goals in 18 minutes back in September
There were five different scorers, too, with David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Nicolas Otamendi all taking advantage of a powderpuff Watford defence.
So Blackburn would get that particular niche record back though nobody would bet against City doing something similar in future.
Pain for Pep
Manchester City had been braced to relinquish their Premier League crown but their manager Pep Guardiola had stormed his way to a personal landmark.
He became the fastest manager in Premier League history to notch 100 wins when City beat Sheffield United 2-0 on December 29.
Pep Guardiola reached 100 Premier League wins in record time against Sheffield United back in December – though he potentially didn’t appreciate it at the time
What’s more, in doing so in 134 games, Guardiola had smashed the previous best of 142 set by a certain Jose Mourinho during his first spell at Chelsea.
It was also better than Klopp’s 159 and the 162 of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The good news for Guardiola is that he will get these games back if the season is expunged.
So was VAR just a bad dream?
Remember those simpler times when a dotted line on a television monitor in Stockley Park was the most of our worries?
The Premier League’s first season using the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will never have happened if we go down the ‘null and void’ route.
VAR has become a familiar gripe for Premier League fans – and all the agony over contentious decisions this season may not count for anything in the end
All those controversies over armpits, boot laces, marginal handballs and the purpose of the pitchside screen will all be consigned to history.
Many frustrated fans will say it’s the ideal opportunity for the Premier League to pretend all of this never happened and quietly ditch the video technology.
More likely we will see the same debates flare up once the 2020-21 season finally gets underway.
It is of course inevitable that Lionel Messi has set records this season but if the LaLiga campaign is also expunged he will stand to lose them.
In December, he overtook Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for the most LaLiga hat-tricks (34) by scoring three against Real Mallorca and has since raised his total to 36.
Take the two hat-tricks and one four-goal haul Messi has scored in the Spanish league this season away and he drops back below Ronaldo.
Lionel Messi with the matchball after scoring a record-setting hat-trick against Real Mallorca
The 24 goals Messi has scored for Barcelona this season, taking him to 627 for the club, means he is within striking distance now of Pele’s all-time record of goals for one club (643 for Santos).
Like a footballing game of snakes and ladders, wiping out the season would see Messi drop back to 603 with 41 needed to beat the Brazilian legend.
There’s another fascinating neck-and-neck race going on with Ronaldo that could be impacted.
Messi overtook his Portuguese rival in terms of total club goals earlier in the season and his 627 overall is one more than Ronaldo’s tally of 626 for Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.
Take away the 25 goals Ronaldo has scored for Juventus this season and he would be on 602, just one shy of Messi.
Messi will at least get to keep his Ballon d’Or trophy for his achievements of last year
Talking of Ronaldo, this season has seen the Portuguese play his 1,000th senior match, a 2-1 away win for Juventus at SPAL on February 22.
Now the 35-year-old will have to play catch up again if the 32 club appearances he has made this season are subtracted.
Harder to achieve will be his shared record, set in that same match, of scoring in 11 consecutive Serie A appearances. Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Quagliarella have also achieved this and Ronaldo will have to go some to achieve it again.
Fortunately for Ronaldo, his international goals from this season will continue to be recognised and so he needs just one more to reach 100 for Portugal.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores on a night of personal achievement against SPAL in February