While football in 2020 has given us plenty to talk about, one of the topics that simply cannot be ignored is the VAR, its influence and its consequences - particularly the awarding of penalties.
Due to inconsistent comprehension of its rules across various leagues, VAR became a rather contentious topic during the year. There certainly were times when it seemed like an absolute blessing, affecting key decisions for the better. However, there were also plenty of times when things went the other way, and VAR was widely criticised.
VAR has significantly altered the outcomes of matches in several ways throughout the year, but none more so than the awarding of penalties.
For context, in July 2020, Serie A witnessed its seasonal penalty record getting broken.
In the 2018-19 season, a total of 122 penalties were conceded in the league. In the next season though, the number moved up to 152 after only 30 rounds of fixtures. A record 140 penalties were awarded during the 1949-50 Serie A season.
Similarly, other leagues also saw an inflated number of penalties awarded during the year.
As penalties provide players with the best chance to score goals, they are hugely significant. Several players stepped up and put away many penalties throughout the year.
On that note, here is a look at ten footballers from Europe's top five leagues who scored the most penalties in during 2020 as per Transfermarkt.
#10 Andrej Kramarić (1899 Hoffenheim/Croatia) - 7 successful penalties
1899 Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric has played only 166 matches in all competitions for his side, but he is already the top goal-scorer in the club's history, with 83 goals to his name.
The 29-year-old is a prolific goal-scorer who has scored 25 goals in his last 36 matches for the club. Of course, some of them have come from the spot.
In 2020, the Croatian scored seven penalties (all for his club), netting five in the Bundesliga and one apiece in the UEFA Europa League and the DFB-Pokal.
#9 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt) - 7 successful penalties
Mohamed Salah continues to be one of Liverpool's most important and consistent performers. The 28-year-old has scored 111 goals in just 177 matches for the club, and is their primary attacking outlet.
2020 was a significant year for Liverpool, as they finally lifted the coveted Premier League, their first league triumph in three decades. Notably, Salah was a crucial cog in the well-oiled Liverpool wheel that marched to the title in style.
The Egypt international has started the ongoing 2020-21 season with aplomb as well, scoring 17 goals in 25 matches, with six of these goals coming from the spot. He scored a penalty in January as well, taking his calendar-year tally of successful spot-kicks to seven.