1. Ronaldo’s Challenge to Lionel Messi as the Best Player in the World
It’s lonely at the top, but Lionel Messi seemed quite happy all on his own as The Best Footballer in the World, if not All Human History, too. Then Cristiano Ronaldo had what could only be described as a breakout year for a player many thought could simply not get any better (which would still always be second). In 2013, Ronaldo bested his 2012 record of 63 goals in all competitions, scoring an incredible 68 goals in 59 appearances. For comparison, the injured Messi has scored 45 in 46 appearances. He was instrumental in helping Portugal to the World Cup. He now holds the Champions League record for the most group stage goals with 9. He became the joint top scorer for Portugal with Pauleta this year. He became one of only three players to score goals in six consecutive Champions League matches. The records will continue to fall, and Ronaldo is in serious contention for a Ballon D’Or award that only last season seemed permanently off limits to all comers. Variety is fun, y’all!
2. Zlatan’s Insane Strike Against Anderlecht in the Champions League Group Stage
From hell’s heart, Zlatan stabs at thee, Anderlecht. Keep in mind he scored four goals total in that game.
3. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Retirement as Manager of Manchester United after 27 Years in the Job
Now, this implies of course that Sir Alex was somehow bad for football and his departure makes football better. Far from it. Despite the secret agreement with referees to slow down the space-time continuum in injury time in the second half, Ferguson was without a doubt the greatest British manager who ever lived, and perhaps one of the best football managers the game has ever witnessed. The Premier League was practically made in his image. And now he’s gone, and the rest of us are left to carry on the idea of football as a game that sometimes transcends money and short-term thinking.
The Premier League is once again an open book. Anything could happen! Southampton could win the damn thing while we sleep! Nothing is written.
4. Juergen Klopp’s Angry Face
We had never seen it before from the usually pleasant and likable Borussia Dortmund head coach. Pray that we never see it again.
5. The Rise of Soccer Analytics
Yes! Despite all the doubters who believed football is too complex to analyze via statistics, several brilliant analysts worked hard to prove them them wrong over the last year, using statistics to reveal yet another beautiful aspect of the Beautiful Game. It even has a fairly mainstream book dedicated to the subject! Chris Anderson’s and David Sally’s The Numbers Game drew some attention to the burgeoning field in several mainstream publications, and the number of interesting writers and analysts continued to grow throughout the year. While it’s been languishing behind most other professional sports for a while in the analytics field, the statistical analysis in football thrived in 2013.
6. Mascots Thumbing Their Noses at People
First we got this kid at an Everton match:
And then this girl likely got Villas-Boas sacked by spurring on Suarez to score five hundred goals against Tottenham:
7. The NBC Deal for Premier League Rights in the USA
— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) April 16, 2013
While the deal was struck back in 2012, we saw the fruits of NBC’s labour in 2013, with live games on the main network one year before the World Cup in Brazil in which the USA will be playing a potentially major role should they navigate out of a difficult group. Ratings have been a success since coverage started in August:
Ratings are steadily growing as the season develops, with Everton’s home match against Chelsea in September, broadcast across the whole NBC network, pulling in an average audience of 917,000. Highlights are shown and matches previewed on Sundays during live coverage of the NFL, something Miller describes as unprecedented, and 12 million people have tuned in – a significant increase on the 5.5m managed by ESPN and Fox Soccer this time last year. “We expected it to do well – it’s lived up to our expectations and, in a lot of cases, exceeded them,” says Miller. “What is surprising is how many people have jumped on this bandwagon so quickly and have fallen in love with it.
Now it seems NBC is planning to bid for UEFA Champions League rights as well. We may look back to 2013 as the year soccer finally landed in America…whether MLS takes advantage or hemorrhages fans remains to be seen.
8. Camilo Sanvezzo’s goal for Vancouver against Portland
This won goal of the year in MLS, because there was no way it couldn’t.
9. The Rise of German Football
Borussia Dortmund defeating Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. Bayern destroying Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in their semi. A thrilling all-German Champions League final. The more-than-successful transfer of power from Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes to Pep Guardiola in the Bundesliga. A German national team with the best record in UEFA World Cup qualifying, with 9 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses and thirty six goals scored. Bayer Leverkusen achieving to take Dortmund’s place in second in the league. Four German sides progressing to the Champions League round of 16 for the 2013-14 season. Sehr gut, Deutschland.
10. This Goal
Take a bow Kasami. Not like Fulham are going to do much else this season.