While it is assumed the worse of the COVID-19 times are over, the impact of it is still felt in large in European football in the post-Coronavirus world as it underwent some major reshuffle. This didn't stop the greats of the game from acheiving new heights and Indiatvnews handpicks 10 such moments as we prepare to bid adieu to 2021.
1. Messi ended barren international title run with Copa America
All question marks over Lionel Messi's legacy as arguably the greatest of all time, which largely dependent on his success with his former club FC Barcelona, was given fresh leash of life when Argentina defeated arch-rivals Brazil 1-0 to capture the Copa America title after 28 years. For the winning side, Angel Di Maria scored the only goal of the match on Rodrigo's pass in the 22nd minute of the match. This was Argentina's overall 15th Copa America title, equalling them with Uruguay's record 15th title.
2. Ronaldo continued with record-breaking spree
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo might not have enjoyed a very successfull year in his final season with Italian giants Juventus but such has been his accuracy in front of the goal that it is hard to stop the 36-year-old veteran forward from busting the net. Starring for his national team time and again, Ronaldo became the player with the most international goals. Ronaldo broke Ali Daei's record for most goals with 109 goals as he slot the ball in during an important World Cup qualifier match against Ireland.
At the club level, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Cagliari in the Italian League Serie A, leaving behind Brazilian legend Pele for the most goals scored overall in professional football, surpassing the tally of 767 goals.
Ronaldo, however, wasn't done yet as he also became the player to play the most matches in the history of the Champions League.
3. Simon Kjaer life-saving act after Christian Eriksen's on-field collapse
Football has witness many heart-wrenching moments when a footballer has collapsed on football field and the news followed has been mostly a tragic one. One such heart-in-mouth instance occured at the Euro 2020 (postponed to this year due to COVID-19) when Denmark's star midfielder Christen Eriksen suddenly fell unconscious on the field. The referee immediately stopped the match as the 29-year-old Inter Milan star fell on the ground just before half time. Some precious moment were gone before medical assistance arrived on he field but team captain Simon Kjaer was alert enough to ensure that Eriksen didn't swallow his tongue. He was given CPR on the field. The situation left fans stunned while Eriksen's partner was seen weeping at the sideline of the ground. However, Kjaer's heroics proved to be crucial as Eriksen successfully underwent surgery and was discharged from the hospital.
4. A year of major transfer reshuffle
A long gap caused by COVID-19 pandemic had a telling impact on some of the richest football clubs in the world; forcing them to let go their superstars in Ronaldo, Messi and Sergio Ramos. Ronaldo left Juventus after title-less season and re-signed with Manchester United in what was deemed as his homecoing.
However, it was Messi's transfer that made a bigger noise as he left Barcelona after spending close to two decades and signed a deal with cash-rich Paris Saint Germain. Real Madrid had to lose their 'El Capitan' as well as Sergio Ramos had to head for PSG while Sergio Aguero moved from Manchester City to FC Barcelona on a free transfer.
5. Ronaldo's 'Aqua' moment hit Coca-Cola hard
Football stars are often conscious about every step they take in their life as it often leads to unwanted attention. And Ronaldo got a proper taste of that when the Portuguese footballer removed two cans of Coca Cola kept on his table during an Euro 2020 press conference for sponsorship purposes. While Ronaldo reasoned that he dislikes soft drinks due to their unhealthy nutrition value and wants his son to be away from it but his gesture hit the brand hard. According to reports, the Coca Cola suffered a loss of about $30,000 (Rs 293 billion approx) before Portugal's match against Hungary.
6. Football's rebel Super League dies prematurely after facing backlash
The month of April, the European football landscape was preparing for a big change when 12 big clubs agreed on participating in the European Super League, a brainchild of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. However, as soon as the league came to the fore, it faced backlashes from UEFA Champions League and other indigenous leagues. The fact that the Super League only allowed the 12 big clubs to compete while ignoring the rest of the teams, led to an uproar from fans and footballers alike as they questioned what will the future hold from the smaller clubs.
Soon, 9 out of 12 teams, mostly the EPL clubs, withdrew; leaving organisers Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus alone.
7. Italy lift Euro Cup after a wait of 52 years
Italy has boasted one of the meanest defence in the world and under coach Roberto Mancini, the side played some exiquisite football on the way to Euro Cup glory. The opportune day came on July 11 as Italy won the Euro 2020 by defeating hosts England in a cliffhanger. Italy defeated England 3-2 in a penalty shootout in the final played at the historic Wembley ground in London. In the second minute of the match, Luke Shaw scored a goal to give England a 1-0 lead. Italy's Leonardo Bonucci scored in the 67th minute to level the score at 1-1. The score was tied at 1-1 till full time. After which both the teams could not score even in the extra time of 30 minutes. England's Marcus Rashford, Jaden Sancho and Bukayo Saka failed to score in the penalty shootout. With this victory, Italy's team got a chance to win the Euro Cup after 52 years. Earlier, the team had captured this title in 1968.
8. Messi won record 7th Ballon d'Or
Superstar footballer Messi captured the Ballon d'Or award for a record seventh time; beating title favourite Robert Lewandowski and long-time rival Ronaldo to the golden ball. Messi had previously won the Ballon d'Or award in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019. However, many questions arose on his winning the title this time. Fans and many people in the football world also expressed their displeasure when Lewandowski was not given this award. Levandowski himself also expressed anger over not receiving the award as he shattered many records in the year.
9. Lewandoski just can't stop scoring
Bayern Munich star Lewandowski might have missed on Ballon d'Or but it's going to take something special to stop him from winning the golden boo at the end of the year. In the calendar year, the Polish sniper broke two old records of Gerd Müller, one of the greatest players in German football history. Lewandowski became the Bundesliga's highest goalscorer in a year. He scored a total of 43 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches in 2021 in comparison to Müller's 42 goals in 1972.
Earlier in May this year, Lewandowski scored his 41st goal, breaking Gerd Müller's record for the most goals scored in a Bundesliga season. Lewandowski also equaled Ronaldo's record for most goals in a calendar year by scoring his 69th overall goal this year.
10. UEFA Champions League draw gaffe
UEFA Champions League draw has often come under question as many conspiracy theories suggested that they are often rigged to help the big clubs. However, a Live ceremony of the event has often made it a very transparent event but this month's round of 16 draw led to all kinds of contoversies as the European football body has to recall draw after a technical fault voided the first draw.
During the first draw, Manchester United and Villarreal were drawn against each other despite the fact that they faced each other at the group stages while the rules clearly states that two teams from same group or countries can't be drawn against each other. However, after the controversy, UEFA said that the mistake was due to a technical flaw in the external software and rescheduled a fresh draw.