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The best and worst third kits of 2020/21

The creativity in third kit design can go massively right, or catastrophically wrong. We’re here to show you the best and worst of 2020/21.

RB Leipzig third kit in blue and Pogba in Manchester United third kit in black and white with best and worst third kits 2020/21 title

It’s fair to say, the brains behind any new kit design appear to get a little overstimulated when they hear the words: “we need a new third kit”. To an extent, the vast majority of clubs have a fairly rigid colour palette for their home and away strips. It would appear, there’s little wiggle room when you have to avoid offending die-hard fans who bleed their club’s colours. Enter stage right: the third kit.

The third kit is a no-holds barred, free-for-all empty canvas for designers. And, with all that creative freedom there often comes some splattered madness for good measure. As the old adage goes, there’s a fine line between madness and genius; you’re about to see both Jekyll and Hyde right here.

The worst third kits of 2020/21

We thought it would be best to break the bad news first. We’re starting you off with sour tastes, so that we can follow up after with a delicious, sweet course. For the following foul creations, it’s a blessing in disguise that most clubs choose to keep their third strip in the kitman’s bag for the majority of the season. Brace yourself, there are some absolute shockers ahead...

Chelsea 2020/21 Third

Image from Chelsea FC.

We’re all Chelsea aren’t we? Turns out, no we’re not. We’re Crystal Palace. Chelsea have had a nightmare with this, mainly because they broke one of the simple rules of kit design: don’t look exactly like one of your local rivals. Red and blue is tough, peach and blue? Impossible.

At launch, the shirt was taken apart by football fans across Twitter as the club announced the slogan ‘It’s a Chelsea thing’, to which Palace’s account simply responded, ‘#ItsNotThoughIsIt’. Burn.  

Juventus 2020/21 Third

Image from Juventus FC.

They went for a weird ‘tire track’ thing with the home shirt, then barely anything of note on the away kit. What’s left to do? Go absolutely insane with the third kit, of course! Juventus tried orange with a repulsive third kit back in 2006/07. They should have left it there.

The garish patterning doesn’t sit well with such a bold colour, orange can be a cruel mistress and this is the result when things don’t go to plan. Points for braveness, lots of minus points for results. Can Ronaldo perform his greatest feat yet by making this shirt look good? We think not.

Manchester City 2020/21 Third

Image from Manchester City FC.

We’re convinced that Liam Gallagher was closely consulted on this one. We can almost hear it now, “yeah, be mint to just stick a load of paisley on it and that, r kid” [expletives removed]. It turns out what works for Pretty Green, doesn’t particularly work for Man City shirts.

The pattern alone could make your eyes bleed, but coupled with blues and pinks? Nah. It firmly nods to the world-famous Manchester fashion and music scenes, which granted, for fans is a nice touch. It’s more a solo Morrissey melancholic dud than a thumping Oasis number one for us though.

KRC Genk 2020/21 Third

krc genk 2020-21 third kit in torquoise and yellow
Image from KRC Genk.

Holy hell. You only have to look at the pain in that guy’s eyes, to know how bad this kit is. It contains the most abrasive contrasts we’ve ever seen, the ghastly form of turquoise and luminous yellow. If you say “Genk” three times in the mirror, this shirt appears on you. It’s a horror.

This Genk shirt has more sponsors than Times Square but when they all see their name on this kit, they’ll be glad that the Belgian league’s viewing figures don’t match the Premier League’s.     

Manchester United 2020/21 Third

Image from Manchester United FC.

It’s the endless zebra-related meme generator kit. So bad, they had to rope Becks into posting an exclusive photo to his 60m+ Instagram followers as a kickstarter. Man Utd are ‘never ignored’, which is true and this is a classic marketing ploy carried out to perfection.

The release of matching shorts and socks almost broke the internet, only for the club to reveal shortly afterwards that the pyjama style set wouldn’t be worn on the pitch. Arguably, Man Utd could release a kit with a poo emoji on it and they would probably sell millions worldwide. This shirt is a poo emoji incarnate.    

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The best third kits of 2020/21

Have you had enough? You can breathe now. We’re more than ready to wash away the sour taste that those awful kits have left in your mouth, which is why we’ve pulled together five beautiful creations to restore the status quo. From heritage rebirth to clean and sharp, our favourites will hopefully see some match time during 2020/21...    

Inter Milan 2020/21 Third

Image from Inter Milan FC.

Remind you a little of something? Nostalgia senses tingling, this shirt has a serious sprinkling of 1997-98 Inter vibes. The Nerazzurri were an absolute European powerhouse at the time, with R9 Ronaldo, Javier Zanetti and Alvaro Recoba all bursting through their ranks.

There’s plenty of 2004-05 Inter thrown into this too, the golden days of Cambiasso, Vieri, Adriano et al. The yellow and blue contrasts incredibly well with the duller grey and black striping, finished off with a central badge and the iconic Pirelli sponsor. Go on, get one with Zanetti on the back, you know it’s right. 

Real Madrid 2020/21 Third

Image from Real Madrid FC.

Contrast pink against black is a combination we love to see, and Real Madrid have nailed it this season. The cut is simple but the detailing is exquisite, ripping an Azulejo baroque tiling pattern directly from the streets of the capital and glazing the black template with it.

Sticking to two simple colours has helped it to effortlessly stand out (note to the kits above: don’t try too hard). We reckon that Gareth Bale is going to look the part strolling around the exclusive Ciudad Grupo Santander Golf Club with this on.

RB Leipzig 2020/21 Third

Image from RB Leipzig FC.

Like many Nike third kits in 2020/21, this lively number pays homage to a legendary Nike Air Max sneaker model. Namely, the Air Max ‘98. The shoe itself is a lot older than RB Leipzig, but Nike are always ready to celebrate innovation in the game and in fashion.

The swirling mix of blues is mesmerising without becoming too garish, whilst the bright yellow trim and detailing sets off the combination. Rarely seen, the pattern continues to wrap the shirt around the back. Frankly, we’re just surprised they didn’t try to add a set of wings.  

Celtic 2020/21 Third Kit

Image from Celtic FC.

Another shirt that shows simple can still be powerful. Celtic, green. Clovers, green. Rumour has it that Scott Brown’s blood is green. Celtic have taken a plain adidas template and made it pop with minty detailing across its components. The clover badge is truly a thing of beauty.

We’re hoping their horrible mint green away kit clashes with plenty of clubs this season, so this one can come out to play more often. As usual, it’ll be Rangers v Celtic for the title, but in our books Celtic have the upper hand already.   

Angers SCO 2020/21 Third

angers sco 2020-21 third kit in torquoise
Image from Angers SCO.

A little known French side has deservedly sneaked into our ranking. Their turquoise Kappa creation is an absolute cracker, much better than the frozen ‘cuisine’ their sponsors are kicking out. The jacquard print pattern adds much appreciated depth. Ooh la la.

A low-profile collar completes a classy look when added together with matching, fresh white badge and sponsors. We couldn’t name you a single Angers SCO player but by damn, whoever they are, they’re going to look a million dollars this season.

Kevan Thorpe

Quintessential grassroots journeyman. I've had more "you look like Gareth Barry" comments than I have career goals.