The past 12 months have been like no other in the history of football.
The 2019/20 season was extended to late August as leagues crammed in postponed fixtures following a near global shutdown in March to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Football deserves a pat on the back for finishing that season, and the new one is almost a quarter of the way through as leagues attempt to finish on a regular schedule, with the postponed Euro 2020 finals now slated for the summer of 2021 to factor in.
There were some pretty memorable moments over the past 12 months, with perhaps the two most shocking incidences coming in the past few weeks.
Here are 20 memorable moments in football over the past 12 months.
1. Diego Maradona's death
The beautiful game lost one of its greatest exponents on November 25 after Argentina legend Diego Maradona died at age 60. The 1986 World Cup-winning captain died of a heart attack at home in Tigre, Argentina, where he was recovering following recent brain surgery. His death led to an avalanche of tributes from the great and good of the football world, including his arch rival Pele, who said "one day we'll kick a ball together in the sky above". Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez declared three days of national mourning while thousands lined the route of his funeral procession in Buenos Aires as supporters clashed with police. Napoli, where Maradona enjoyed God-like status after guiding the club to a first ever Serie A title as a player, renamed their San Paolo home the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in honour of their greatest player.
2. PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir players walk off
The Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir on December 8 was postponed for 24 hours after players walked off the field alleging that the fourth official used a racist term when identifying a black assistant coach. Players from the Turkish team were furious after assistant coach Pierre Webo was given a red card by referee Ovidiu Hategan, saying Sebastian Coltescu, a Romanian, had used a racial term to describe Webo, who is from Cameroon. The score was 0-0 when the incident took place about 14 minutes into the match at Parc des Princes. The match resumed the following day with new officials, with PSG going on to win 5-1 to top Group H. The result, though, was insignificant compared to the stand both sets of players took in a stand against racism. Given the walk-off was down to alleged racist abuse from a match official rather from fans in the stands has prompted a much-needed investigation from governing body Uefa.
3. Lionel Messi's shock transfer request
An aftershock measuring 10 on the richter scale shook the football world at the end of September when Lionel Messi informed Barcelona he intended to leave the club. The Argentine said he had become disillusioned with the club's transfer policy and felt he had been made a scapegoat for the club's failures in both La Liga and the Champions League as well as a well-publicised row over wages during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak. To say the natives were restless would be an understatement. Fans took to protesting outside Camp Nou despite restrictions in place to combat the coronavirus. Messi would eventually rescind his request, saying he had agreed to remain at Barcelona to avoid taking on the Spanish giants in court.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo scores 100th Portugal goal
Cristiano Ronaldo became only the second men's player to score 100 international goals when he fired home the opening goal for Portugal in September's Uefa Nations League match against Sweden. Ronaldo entered the match with 164 caps and 99 goals, scoring his 100th with a brilliant free kick before making it 101 Portugal goals later in the match. The Juventus striker is now just eight goals shy of Iran's Ali Daei's record of 109 goals.
5. Players take a knee
A return to European football over the summer also saw the introduction of a near universal gesture with players taking a knee before kick off. The gesture to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement has been adopted by a host of sports in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white policeman in Minneapolis in May. The sights of players from all backgrounds sees football speak with one voice in its rejection of all forms of racism.
6. Liverpool win Premier League title
Not even a pandemic could stop Liverpool's march to a first English league title in 30 years. Jurgen Klopp's side sent records tumbling on their way to winning the Premier League, finishing 18 points clear of deposed champions Manchester City. The fact that Jordan Henderson and the rest of the Liverpool squad had their trophy presentation with no fans at Anfield in July wasn't the ideal backdrop but returning Liverpool to the top of English football means Klopp will go down as one of the Merseyside club's greatest managers.
7. Barcelona 2, Bayern Munich 8
It was the sort of scoreline that would have been scarcely believable had it been played on a PlayStation. Barcelona 2, Bayern Munich 8. Bayern were 4-1 up inside the opening half-hour at courtesy of two Thomas Muller goals and strikes from Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry. Bayern banged in another four in the second half through Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and a double from Philippe Coutinho, who was on loan from Barca. It was Barca's heaviest loss in 69 years, and the first time they had conceded more than five goals in a Uefa Champions League game. Quique Setien was given his marching orders three days later while Bayern went on to secure a sixth European Cup, beaten PSG in the final.
8. No fans at the stadiums
The coronavirus pandemic forced a global shutdown of almost all sport, with the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga pulling down the shutters in March before resuming the season three months later. The sight of players used to playing to packed stands playing in front of empty stadiums jarred. It still does. There has never been a season like 2019/20 and the financial impact has yet to be truly felt. Supporters have only been allowed to return to certain grounds over the past week, although with massively restricted numbers.
9. Zlat's back
'Same Zlatan, different devil'. 'I never left'. 'God iZ back'. Just some of the memorable soundbites we were treated to after Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan at the start of the year. But as he always does, he backed up his talk with performances, helping revitalise the Rossoneri's fortunes to such an extent they qualified for the Europa League. The Swede boldly claimed if he had been at Milan for the entire season they would have been champions. The 39-year-old shows no signs of slowing down and has already netted 10 goals this season to lift Stefano Pioli's side to the top of Serie A. Reuters
Opening weekend in the Premier League seems a lifetime ago now. Back then (September 12) fans and TV analysts were full of praise for the refined version of VAR, the one that was supposed to eliminate any doubt in the game's interpretations of its own laws. That lasted all of 24 hours and the men at Stockley Park have been metaphorically pelted with eggs since. The most contentious issue seems to be what constitutes a player's arm and shoulder, with the men in black seemingly happy to ignore all biological norms. Players have complained they no longer understand what the rules are, which can never be a good sign of the game's health. The video assistant referee still needs fine tuning if it is to bring fans and players on board.
11. Marcus Rashford's activism
Marcus Rashford may be that rare breed of Manchester United player that is actually welcomed at places like Elland Road and Anfield. The young Englishman's campaign to feed hungry children in the UK has forced the British government to twice back down and extend free school meals to vulnerable children. Rashford's petition to end child food poverty topped a million signatures in October as thousands of cafes, restaurants and local businesses stepped in to support struggling families without access to free school meals over the half-term holiday. The 22-year-old striker knows from personal experience what it is like to grow up wondering where the next meal is coming from and made use of his campaigning skills and deft use of social media to gather support. For his efforts, he was recognised as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2020.
12. Erling Haaland's goals
2020 proved a record-breaking year for Erling Braut Haaland. The Norwegian's impressive form for RB Salzburg earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund in January and he hasn't looked back since. His records this year include becoming the fastest player to score 15 Champions League goals, doing so in only 12 matches; scoring four against Hertha Berlin, which saw the 20-year-old break a 60-year-old Bundesliga record for the most goals (23) scored after 22 appearances in the league. Haaland became the first Bundesliga player to score five goals in his opening two matches, as well as the fastest player to reach that tally (56 minutes). He was named Bundesliga player of the month for January, despite playing less than an hour of football.
13. Scotland clinch place at Euro 2020
Scotland ended their 22-year wait to reach a major tournament with a penalty shoot-out win over Serbia in Belgrade to secure their place at delayed Euro 2020. Scotland had gone through 10 failed qualifying campaigns since their last major tournament, the 1998 World Cup, and nearly threw away their play-off final against Serbia. Steve Clarke's team led courtesy of Ryan Christie's strike early in the second half in the rain in Belgrade, but Luka Jovic headed in to make it 1-1 in the 90th minute, forcing extra time. There were no more goals, and Scotland triumphed 5-4 on penalties as goalkeeper David Marshall saved Aleksandar Mitrovic's last spot kick, sparking joyous scenes of celebration in an empty stadium.
14. Harry Kane reaches 200 goals
Harry Kane scored his 200th Tottenham Hotspur goal in just his 300th game for the club in their 3-1 Europa League win over Ludogorets on November 4. The England captain, who scored his first goal for the club back in 2011 against Shamrock Rovers, had to wait nine years to complete his double century. It seemed as though it would not be the 27-year-old's night in Bulgaria as he missed a sitter and then hit the post. However, he eventually found the net and headed home from a corner. Kane became the third Spurs player to reach the landmark and is behind only Bobby Smith and Jimmy Greaves in the club's record scorers list.
15. Reno Gattuso's heartwarming win
There was personal tragedy for Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso this summer when his sister tragically passed away after contracting Covid-19, shortly before his side’s Coppa Italia final meeting with Juventus. It was hard for any neutral not to root for him that night in June at the Stadio Olimpico and while the first trophy of his coaching career will have been no real comfort, it was nonetheless a heartwarming moment for one of Italy’s most charismatic figures.
16. Olivier Giroud's four-goal salvo
At 34 years and 63 days, Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick when he bagged all four goals in the Blues' Champions League win away to Sevilla on December 3. The Frenchman, described by his manager Frank Lampard as "the ultimate professional", was handed a rare start in Spain, but he sure made it count. His treble saw him become the oldest to do so in the European Cup since Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas in September 1965 for Real Madrid against Feyenoord. Giroud also became the first Chelsea player to score four goals in a game since his manager Lampard achieved the feat against Aston Villa in March 2010.
17. UAE managerial merry-go-round
The UAE Football Association are well known for changing their managers, but going through two head coaches in less than 12 months with neither having taken charge of a competitive match has to be some sort of record. Serb Ivan Jovanovic replaced Bert van Marwijk in December 2019 with the aim of guiding the Emirates through their World Cup qualifying journey but had his contract terminated in April. Jorge Luis Pinto, his replacement, arrived in June amid much fanfare after his exploits guiding Costa Rica to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. The Colombian lasted a month longer than his predecessor before having his contract terminated having lost two and won one of three friendlies. To complete the managerial merry-go-round, Van Marwijk has agreed to return to the UAE dugout, almost exactly 12 months after leaving. Courtesy UAE FA
18. Ronaldinho arrested for forged passport in Paraguay
One of the more bizarre stories of an already unusual year involved the arrest of former Barcelona and Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho in Paraguay in March for holding a forged passport. The 2002 World Cup winner and his brother spent one month behind bars and another four detained in a luxury hotel in the capital Asuncion on bail. Both were released in August, and were ordered to pay $200,000 in damages. Ronaldinho had a glittering football career before his retirement in 2015. He helped Brazil to their fifth World Cup victory in 2002 and won the Champions League and two La Liga titles with Spanish club Barcelona, as well as playing for Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.
19. Manchester City three-peat
Manchester City beat Aston Vila 2-1 to win a third straight League Cup at Wembley on March 1. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri put City in control before Mbwana Samatta reduced the deficit. It was the eighth piece of silverware of manager Pep Guardiola's reign.
20. Lee Dong-gook calls time on illustrious career
Veteran Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker Lee Dong-gook announced in October he was finally bringing the curtain down on an illustrious 23-year professional career after securing an eighth K-League title. The South Korean, 41, netted a record 228 goals in a career that began in 1998 with Pohang Steelers and is also the AFC Champions League’s record goalscorer with 37. Lee made his debut for South Korea in 1998 and he was a member of the country’s squad at the World Cup finals in France but was overlooked by Guus Hiddink when the country co-hosted the tournament four years later and reached the semi-finals, although he did feature again eight years later in South Africa. Lee appeared in more than 840 matches, at both club and international level, scoring 344 goals, both Korean records.