Heading into 2016 it is impossible not to reflect on the year just gone. Here, we pick out the 10 biggest stories of the past 12 months.
The rise and rise of Leicester City
The best story to come out of English football in many a year. Leicester City would have made the list just for their remarkable escape from relegation at the end of last season. And yet to follow that up by storming the Premier League – completing a turnaround from being 20th on Christmas day last year to being first on December 25 this year – is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. The record-breaking exploits of Jamie Vardy and wing wizardry of Riyad Mahrez have only emphasised the fact that 2015 has been the year of the Foxes.
A year for Rooney to remember – and Manchester United fans to forget
When he retires, Wayne Rooney is likely to look back on 2015 as a great year. Not only did he skipper England to a 100% record in Euro 2016 qualification, but he also surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton to become his country’s leading goalscorer. However, for Manchester United fans, 2015 will be the year they lost faith in their talisman – who has scored only six Premier League goals this year and has visibly lost his spark.
Add into the mix all the criticism of Louis van Gaal – coupled with his press conference walk-out – and it’s safe to say 2015 has been a year to forget for United fans in general.
Barcelona’s treble of trophies and superstars
On January 4, a Barcelona team with Lionel Messi and Neymar on the bench was beaten 1-0 by David Moyes’ Real Sociedad, leaving manager Luis Enrique hanging onto his job by a thread. The following week, a forward line of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all scored in a 3-1 win over reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. The rest, as they say, is history. Barcelona went on to win an historic treble – recently adding the Club World Cup to the haul – while that star trio scored a mammoth 134 goals between them.
Gerrard bids farewell to Liverpool
Anfield has been the home of numerous narratives over the past 12 months, and the year started off with Steven Gerrard’s announcement that he would leave Liverpool at the end of the season. At the time it seemed like the correct decision, although his leadership and experience appears to have been sorely missed. To make matters worse, the legend’s final match in a red shirt was an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at Stoke City. However, he will always be remembered for inspiring arguably the greatest night in the club’s history – the Champions League final victory over AC Milan in 2005.
Brits abroad: Nevilles take charge of Valencia
Not content with becoming the most insightful and entertaining pundit around, Gary Neville shocked everybody when became Valencia manager earlier this month. Neville is still searching for his maiden victory in La Liga and it is fair to say the pressure is on, as he is considered one of the great hopes of English football management. Since Christmas is all about family, making the story even more heart-warming is the fact he has his brother Phil right by his side in the dugout.
Sterling’s sour exit
Speaking of great hopes of English football, Raheem Sterling found himself regularly in the headlines this year, although often for all the wrong reasons. The 21-year-old had an underwhelming season as Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League, before his acrimonious departure from Anfield. Sterling has fitted in well at Manchester City following his £49million transfer, but his past 12 months have been sullied by numerous comments from his classless agent Aidy Ward.
What will hopefully be looked back upon as a watershed moment for world football, in May seven FIFA executives were arrested at a hotel in Zurich following a dramatic raid conducted at the behest of the US authorities. Since then light has been finally shed on the “rampant, systematic and deep-rooted corruption” within FIFA. To top everything off, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have now been banned from all football-related activities for eight years. When those bans end, world football needs to be in a better place.
Klopp arrives at Anfield
The final big story to come out of Merseyside this year. In October, the Liverpool hierarchy finally decided to put Brendan Rodgers – the man who came a Steven Gerrard slip away from bringing the title back to Anfield – out of his misery. The fans had lost confidence in the Northern Irishman, who had spent an awful lot of money and ultimately delivered nothing. And in his place arrived one of the most exciting managers in the world, Jurgen Klopp – all charisma, big hugs and swearing in press conferences. The honeymoon period is now over, but a 3-1 win at Chelsea, a 4-1 win at Manchester City and a 6-1 win at Southampton show that the good times may be about to return to Liverpool.
De Gea to Real Madrid, will he or wont he?
If the summer of 1967 will be remembered as the summer of love, then the summer of 2015 will be remembered as the summer of long-running transfer sagas (probably). The aforementioned Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, as well as John Stones to Chelsea, Saido Berahino to Tottenham and Sergio Ramos to Manchester United were all reported for what felt like a lifetime. However, Real Madrid’s pursuit of David de Gea really took the biscuit. Their interest was well known for the whole of last season, the goalkeeper seemed to want the move, and yet it was left until late on deadline day to try and broker a deal, which failed. Expect it all to be repeated again in 2016.
Where else to finish? 2015 should have been a year for Chelsea to look back on with pride. The Blues won the Premier League at a canter, Eden Hazard won Player of the Year, Didier Drogba was literally carried from the field in appreciation of his efforts for the club. And yet almost as soon as all that was over it became apparent Jose Mourinho wasn’t happy. From that moment on, everything turned sour. Eva Carneiro was despicably ridiculed, results were disastrous, and the likes of Hazard were woefully out of form. The reigning champions found themselves one point above the relegation zone. Mourinho paid for a crisis of his own making with his job.
What was your highlight of 2015? Have your say below.