As Bukayo Saka stepped up to the spot, Jordon Ibe might have been forgiven a wistful glance towards the TV. Five years ago, Ibe was the tricky winger who seemed set to make his mark with England. It could have been him staring at Gianluigi Donnarumma, a nation’s hopes resting on his shoulders.
Unfortunately, the pressure piled on Saka’s penalty pales in comparison to the challenges Ibe has faced since 2016. In January, following a succession of injuries, a 16-month driving ban for crashing his car into a South London coffee shop and a spell in rehab, the former Bournemouth and Liverpool midfielder admitted to suffering from depression.
Ibe issued a statement in which he talked about finding himself ‘in a dark place’ where ‘things are hard truly’. The message is a hard-hitting reminder that footballers are people, often working under extreme pressure, regardless of the remuneration received by a fraction of professional players.