2014 saw City clinch their second title in three years, Real Madrid win La Decima, Lionel Messi earn yet another Ballon D’or and, uh, Kim Kallstrom move to Arsenal. But what were the standout moments from this momentous year?
Game of the Year:
Brazil 1-7 Germany
‘Wow,’ ‘Oh My God’ and various swear words are what at least 2 billion people around the world said as they watched a rampant German side sweep away home team Brazil with seven goals, five of them coming in a 25 minute spell in the first half. It’s not as if the warning signs weren’t there for Brazil; the fact that they couldn’t actually defend without the suspended Thiago Silva, and were dependent up front on Fred, a striker whose play was literally as unimaginative as his name, to pick up the slack for wunderkind Neymar, meant that Brazil were hoping for a miracle to make it through. David Luiz was not it.
Still, Brazil gave us one of the best World Cups of all time (unless you’re an England fan), filled with drama, exhilaration, suspense, and Chris Waddle in swimming trunks.
Moment of the Year:
Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea- Pulling a Gerrard
The date is the 27th April, 2014. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side, on the back of 11 straight wins, have catapulted themselves into second place on a wave of dazzling football, with the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling providing countless moments for Liverpool fans to savour, after what looked to be a disappointing season. Following an exhilarating 3-2 win against leaders Manchester City, all that stood in the way between them and glory was a home tie against Chelsea. Despite the best efforts of Liverpool’s attacking force, and Demba Ba on his own in the Liverpool half, it seemed as though half time would arrive on a wave of sheer, goalless disappointment. However, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool’s erstwhile captain, a man who had epitomised the heart and soul of Liverpool Football Club since his debut in 1999, slipped on the unsteady Anfield pitch, allowing Demba Ba to run through and finish calmly under Simone Mignolet, a man that has continued in an admirable role as the Invisible Man ever since. A late second Chelsea goal on the break, as Liverpool came forward for the umpteenth time in the second half, severely derailed their title hopes. Drawing 3-3 against Palace a week later, Liverpool managed to solidify a second place finish, far exceeding the hopes the Anfield faithful had held at the start of the season. However, undoubtedly, they will look back and wonder how close the Premier League was.
Though it is unfair to blame all Liverpool’s woes on Gerrard. Liverpool’s magnanimous defence throughout the season also played its fair share, crumbling like the Walls of Jericho at any sign of serious pressure. Add this to Henderson’s straight red card during their 3-2 win against City, and the detrimental effect of having Victor Moses in your football team, and it paints a clearer picture of Liverpool’s title charge. The biggest question is why was Gerrard made to go so far back in the first place?
Manager of the Year:
Simeone has done wonders at Atletico Madrid, a club which seems perpetually content with selling their star striker every year, and just making a new one. Creating a core group of talented, powerful players, including the excellent Arda Turan, the brilliant Diego Costa, and the obviously fraudulent Felipe Luis, Atleti managed not only to clinch La Liga on the last day of the season, against Barcelona, no less, but come within a few seconds of beating bitter rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. Despite losing Diego Costa in the summer, Simeone managed to rebuild his team around Antoine Griezman and Mario Mandzukic, whilst keeping hold of Gabi and Tiago. An excellent season, for a club that has epitomised humility, and constantly beset by mishaps. The Groucho Marx of football clubs.
Player of the Year:
Who else? Love him or hate him, the fact is, he simply doesn’t care. World class performances, game after game, for Liverpool. In terms of talent, ability, and sheer work rate, there is no other like him. Was as good as two players, brought back Liverpool’s fear factor, was a key component of their title drive, winning the Golden Boot, despite playing six less games as part of his punishment for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Suffered an injury just after the season, but was able to come back for Uruguay’s game against England. Scored two goals, tormented the easily tormentable Phil Jagielka, and virtually knocked England out of the competition. Everything was going brilliantly.
And then he bit someone. Again. He was punished with a four month ban, but a dream move to Barcelona for over £70m, where, despite a lack of goals, he is one of the league leaders in assists. With a front three of him, Neymar and Lionel Messi, this Barcelona team could even beat Pep Guardiola’s.
Team of the Year:
Not a classic German team, not even a great German team. But a highly motivated, efficient German team. Deciding that 2 semi-finals in a row weren’t enough, Joachim Lowe pioneered the revolutionary new tactic of taking Miroslav Klose to the World Cup. And he did what he always does, scoring twice, and overtaking the great Ronaldo in World Cup goals, against Ghana and Brazil, as Germany eased their way to the final. Playing Manuel Neuer in the unorthodox role as attacking goalkeeper, aiming the ball towards the underrated and excellent Thomas Muller, and watching Bastian Schweinsteiger run around a lot, Lowe once again established Germany as World Champions.
Possibly the best example of Germany’s strength in depth in the World Cup final itself. Bit part player Christoph Kramer started for Germany. Andre Schurrle, who was displaced by Willian as right winger for Chelsea, provided the cross that Mario Goetze, himself playing in a rotational role at Bayern Munich, converted. And yet, it never seemed in doubt that Germany would win, despite a miss of Torres-esque proportions by Gonzalo Higuain in the first half.