As we near the end of 2021, nothing seems to have changed from the last time around. While a majority of the year was spent COVID-free in the entire world, we are back to square one as the threat of a new variant, Omicron, looms large on humanity. A big part of humanity is the footballing fraternity which has held its ground and kept going despite the setbacks due to the deadly disease. 2021 was a year of resilience.
Every year end, the usual football fan thinks about how this current year cannot be topped at all and then voila! Just a quarter into the New Year, there are new records being set, new deals being struck and beautiful goals being scored. What was different with 2020 though was that with almost the entire year getting wiped out due to the worldwide lockdown, football supporters were anxious about what could hit them in 2021. And let’s get this straight, this year did not disappoint.
Be it the homecoming and a departure of two legends of the game, or the unbelievable comeback to the world stage of a footballing nation. Be it the breathtaking collapse of a loved star on the pitch, or the Ballon d’Or snub of a deserving candidate. 2021 had it all. Before the year ends in what is less than a day, we take a look at the top moments of the footballing calendar from 2021. Enjoy the ride, one last time in 2021.
From Shambles to Glory, La Azzurri
When Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it seemed that not only will the competition miss one of its biggest contenders, but the sport could miss out on seeing some of the best players of the generation hang their gloves without a proper bow out on the field.
But as destiny had it and of course, with the fitness mechanisms miraculously adopted by the Italian veterans, The Azzurri finally kept their patience for three years, reaping the rewards in 2021.
The arrival of Roberto Mancini had not only improved the Italian national team, it has somewhat made them unplayable on their best days. As the folklore had it, before winning the Euro 2020 (played in 2021), Italy had not conceded a goal in the last two years of playing time. That’s some dedication and revenge of the World Cup snub from 2018.
Beating England in their own backyard, albeit on penalties, Italy lifted not only the fans off their seat, but also a nation’s spirit which, at one point of time, had lost its battle to COVID due to the high number of casualties.
Tears of Two Kinds — Cristiano and Messi
Possibly the biggest and most sensational two news pieces of 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi created seismic waves but this time not due to their presence on the field.
Fans were left stunned as they saw their beloved club, FC Barcelona, become the hunting ground of greed and poor finances in 2021. But nobody would have ever thought that this could lead to the greatest player to ever grace the Camp Nou leave with tears in his eyes.
Lionel Messi’s apparent failure to agree a contract with Barcelona due to financial restraints was public news in a quick while. But faithful fans still waited for the official confirmation of both the parties, as they crossed their fingers for avoiding the unthinkable. Alas, it was destiny.
As Lionel Messi cried his way through the farewell letter in the Barcelona hall-room, the world knew that this was end of an era, end of the childhood for some fans who had grown watching Messi in the Blaugranes. Barcelona’s loss was surely Paris’ gain as the lavish French capital prepared for the arrival of the undisputed King.
But in some mercantile part of England, there were other plans of shadowing the Argentine’s move to Paris Saint-Germain. The boy who had left was coming back as the man. The English conqueror was coming back as the most decorated player of the sport. Cristiano Ronaldo was coming back home.
Legend has it that Manchester United are still earning fairly enough from the Instagram post announcing Cristiano’s homecoming. The announcement broke a million records and a billion minds as it was truly unbelievable to see the Portuguese legend come back to the very Old Trafford where he rose to the grand stage.
As 2021 comes to a close, let’s cherish seeing Lionel Messi playing in different colours and Cristiano Ronaldo in familiar ones. Their retirement is soon and coming, but 2021 still ends with the duo being the biggest stars of the game.
The Ballon d’Or debate seems over… Oh wait!
As Lionel Messi was crowned as the best player on the planet by French Footballing Association, it seemed as if his tally of seven Ballon d’Ors put the Ronaldo versus Messi debate to bed. But awards are funny, they are truly never satisfactory to at least one part of the audience. The same was the case this year, but it was a third wheel alongside Messi and Ronaldo this time around.
Robert Lewandowski is at a point in his career where he could score even in his sleep. Breaking Gerd Muller’s records and age-old Bundesliga tallies day by day, the Polish striker was hands down the best player in 2020 by a mile. But it seems that the French Football Journalists fail to agree.
The Ballon d’Or awards have been given out on different parameters in the past, making it difficult to judge who the winner will be. But one thing which has remained constant in the decision-making is the involvement of International trophies. To Lewandowski’s misery, 2021 decided to turn his tide totally with a certain result in South America.
Lionel Messi was crowned as a Copa America winner for the first time in his career, handing him his first ever International accolade. It was enough for the Argentine to get the best player prize, it seems.
The decision was so weird and out-of-order that the Ballon d’Or committee had to introduce another award, “The Best Striker” prize to recognize Lewandowski’s achievements in European football over the past couple of years. 2021 might be remembered for many things, but it would never beat the huge snub of Robert Lewandowski in the Ballon d’Or ceremony.
European Super League or European Super Greed
One cannot describe the European Super League better than Gary Neville as the Manchester United legend touted it as “Pure Greed” by the larger European clubs. To give a background for the uninformed, European Super League was an attempt by the top clubs of Europe’s top six footballing nations to form a different competition of their own, with an autonomy on the broadcasting and revenue distribution.
As soon as this ridiculous idea hit Social Media, fans went into a frenzy calling out all the top club officials to either take back their participation or face the wrath.
It was Chelsea Football Club supporters who led the charge as they took to the streets and tried to boycott a game, leading to Sporting Director Petr Cech (former legend) coming onto the streets to pacify the situation. As the Blues became the first club to withdraw from the Super League, the other giants of the game followed shockingly leading to a few top-level executive exits too.
While the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus still remain tight-lipped about their non-involvement in the Super League, it comes as a surprise to many that the two gargantuan clubs have not yet officially communicated their displeasure about the situation or even taken a step back in-writing.
It was proved in 2021 that Football is of the fans, for the fans and by the fans, while reinstating the fact that smaller clubs deserve their place as much as the bigger ones do.
When the world held its breath alongside Christian Eriksen
We tend to forget that footballers are humans, just like us. Yes, of course, they are overpaid for playing the game that they love, but the professionals even go to enormous heights to keep them in a shape to compete at the highest level. One of the flaws of this overall expectation system was Christian Eriksen’s apparent collapse on field during the Euros.
During the Danes’ game against Finland in the group stages, the Inter Milan forward collapsed on the left byline leading to a medical emergency being called out immediately. As Eriksen passed out with no pulse for a brief period of time, his Danish teammates formed a circle around him to give the medical staff the much needed privacy to operate on the player.
This scene literally shook up each and every player as well as fan for quite a few days as it brought out the cruel, business side of the beautiful game.
As the coming year, 2022, promises a World Cup in mid-season, it’s not long before we start seeing long-term injuries to players who strive to keep up with domestic as well as International expectations and end up exhausting themselves. Many players like Toni Kroos and Cesar Azpilicueta have come out vocal against the number of games that a professional is bound to play in a calendar year, but no voice has hit the ears of those governing this sport.
Are we waiting for another Eriksen to collapse on field?
What to look forward to, in 2022?
Well, as we looked at some shocking, mesmerizing as well as memorable moments from 2021, it’s high time we start striking out dates from 2022 for some key events in the footballing world.
The World Cup’s already being talked about, the European top-six leagues seem to be shaping up pretty well and add a lucrative winter transfer window to it — we seem all set for 2022. What will be different this year in the January transfer window is the objective of the clubs’ plans in the transfer market.
Usually the winter window is seen as an opportunity for clubs to sign some big names which could turn them into title favourites, but this year, it’s going to be important for survival. The COVID cases amongst squads, injuries due to overloads have all led to clubs facing early drop out of the title races or even relegation fights. The incomings are going to matter a lot.
As we bid a happy goodbye to 2021, we at MightyTips invite you to join us in celebrating the sports betting industry one last time this year as our experts dish out some of the best tips for ending the year on a great note.
Happy New Year!