Van de Beek, Saul, Martial: An XI of players with barely any league minutes in 2021/22

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Manchester United fans gave Donny van de Beek a glorious reception when he came on for a rare Premier League appearance against Manchester City.

It has been well documented that the former Ajax prodigy has been practically exiled by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over the last 18 months, begging the question why United signed him in the first place.

And although a late cameo from the bench in a 2-0 defeat will hardly end all the speculation, Van de Beek must have been relieved to get a few more Premier League minutes in the bank regardless.

Van de Beek's Man Utd

Besides, it's staggering to think that Van de Beek has only ever started four games in England's top-flight and boasts just 15 minutes of action in the competition this season, according to WhoScored.

Pretty alarming statistics, I'm sure you'll agree, but Van de Beek can perhaps find a morsel of solace in the fact that he isn't the only top player to have been given little to no game-time this season.

In fact, inspired by Transfermarkt's very own limited game-time XI, we decided to draw up an entire line-up of the best players to have barely played in Europe's top five leagues in 2021/22.

Players with reduced minutes

It's important to note that the XI won't necessarily be the players who have featured for the fewest minutes, period, because we're trying to hone in on those with talent far exceeding their deployment.

For example, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall might well have played even fewer minutes than Van de Beek, but let's face it, the latter is more confusing in the context of their respective ability right now.

Oh, and we're focusing on players who have been consistently benched or dropped like Van de Beek as opposed to being injured, though knocks have played a role in some of these examples.

Limited game-time XI

So, without further ado, here are GIVEMESPORT's picks for the best XI of players who have amassed barely any game time in Europe's top five leagues across the 2021/22 campaign:

Note: All minutes totals are correct at the time of writing, according to WhoScored stats.

GK: Alex Meret (Napoli) - 180 minutes

A very promising goalkeeper with two caps for Italy to his name, Meret has been forced to settle for just two Serie A starts this season with Luciano Spalletti preferring David Ospina between the sticks.

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RB: Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla) - 160 minutes

No less than seven La Liga games as an unused substitute clearly shows that Julen Lopetegui isn't as blown away by Montiel as some despite his success at River Plate and 13 caps for Argentina.

CB: Joe Gomez (Liverpool) - 13 minutes

It's been a tough road to recovery for Gomez - who has featured more in cup competitions - and he faces a similarly tricky battle to overhaul Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konaté for a first league start in 2021/22.

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CB: Clément Lenglet (Barcelona) - 206 minutes

The player with the most minutes in the XI still feels as though he's free-falling down the Barcelona ranks and playing every second of the 3-3 capitulation at Celta Vigo won't do him any favours.

LB: Alex Telles (Manchester United) - 17 minutes

Considering how inconsistent Luke Shaw has been this season, Telles' constant absences are starting to feel like stubbornness from Solskjaer because there's no denying his technical ability.

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RM: Isco (Real Madrid) - 166 minutes

Back troubles have stunted Isco's progress under Carlo Ancelotti, sure, but three La Liga games as an unused substitute and four cameos amounting to less than 20 minutes suggest that the Italian isn't convinced.

CM: Saul Niguez (Chelsea) - 48 minutes

It's no secret that Saul's Premier League debut was a complete disaster, but that hasn't made it any less surprising that Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have amassed more league minutes than him this season.

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CM: Donny van de Beek (Manchester United) - 15 minutes

A tale as old as time. Only Solskjaer truly knows the reason why such a talented midfielder is so often stapled to the bench despite United enduring a horrendous start to the 2021/22 campaign.

LM: Bryan Gil (Tottenham Hotspur) - 57 minutes

Gil is still only 20 years old, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised, but it is a little eye-opening that such a talented youngster is yet to play more than 28 minutes in a Premier League game yet.

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ST: Luka Jovic (Real Madrid) - 60 minutes

The days of Jovic scoring 27 goals for Eintracht Frankurt and costing Real more than €60 million couldn't feel more distant when Ancelotti has limited him to just an hour's worth of La Liga cameos.

ST: Anthony Martial (Manchester United) - 155 minutes

For a player who topped the goalscoring charts at United just two seasons ago, it's pretty damning that Martial has been reduced to mere 15, 60, 18, 6 and 57-minutes came in the league this year.

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Donny, you're not alone

It's crazy to think that all these incredibly talented footballers have all played less than two and a half games in the league this season despite the campaign already being three months old.

Naturally, there is still time for the likes of Saul, Van de Beek and Gil to make a breakthrough, but it's clear that something is going on behind the scenes that means their managers aren't backing them.

And while Van de Beek clearly isn't alone when it comes to bewildering exclusions and time on the bench this season, it's probably a safe bet to say that his predicament is the most baffling of all.

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