10. Biggest Sport in the World
2009 saw football maintain it’s spot as the world’s most popular sport and in dominating fashion. The Champion’s League final between Barcelona and Manchester United alone was reported to have 500 million viewers worldwide. The beautiful game is also the most popular game.
9. Setanta Goes Belly Up
It is indicative of the state of football that one of the giants of football media went bankrupt this year overbidding for broadcast rights. Setanta Sports GB, the Setanta subsidiary operating in England and Scotland, announced on June 23 that it was entering adminstration and that rights to the broadcast of the Premier League in the region would be sold. Setanta had positioned itself to challenge Sky’s dominance of the football market, but grossly overestimated the value and paid for it. Their mistake opened up an opportunity for ESPN to step in and potentially redefine the international football broadcast market for years to come.
8. The End of An Experiment
David Beckham’s brand has been tarnished for what may be the first time in his career. Tensions over his move to the MLS finally bubbled over this year as he extended his stay with Italian giants AC Milan rather than play with his club. While Beckham’s arrival in the US has had positives for soccer in the states, it is apparent that his transfer has not had the revolutionary effect envisioned at first. It isn’t hard to imagine that we might see Beckham looking for another challenge and even his departure in the very near future.
7. The Implosion of Newcastle
The plight of Newcastle in only so many words. Mike Ashley. Extreme Mismanagement. Keegan out. Kinnear in. Kinnear out. Shearer in. Relegation. Michael Owen. Promotion?
6. Hand of God Lite
Thierry Henry clearly had a hand on the ball and Ireland are not going to the World Cup in 2010. Millions were watching as Ireland went out of the competition under dubious circumstances and the shortcomings of the refereeing system were exposed. The uproar in the weeks to come would put FIFA under fire and hear calls for new technology, replays, and 33 teams in the world cup. As of yet it has not been decided what measures, if any, will be in place to prevent a similar incident at the World Cup next year.
5. Sacking of Mark Hughes
Following Manchester City’s 2009 summer spending totaling more than £100m, expectations for Mark Hughes’ undoubtedly went through the roof. Unfortunately it seems that his performance did not catch up “with the targets that were agreed and set”, according to the official announcement from the club. While his sacking was certainly the club’s prerogative, it certainly did not make much sense, nor was it in the least bit classy. Hughes’ team is still in the running to challenge for a Top 4 spot and has delivered wins against two out of the top four (Arsenal and Chelsea). Then there was the way in which he was dismissed, notified only by a cryptic statement by the club during the match with Sunderland of an impending press release later in the day and a final wave to the crowd. Mark Hughes should be a warning to all managers in the modern mega-money era of football, time to develop a team and class are a rare thing indeed these days.
4. The Most Expensive Player in History
£80 million pounds, it doesn’t quite eclipse the GDP of a small island nation, but it’s pretty close. Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid smashed the record for a player transfer fee in spectacular fashion, paying 15% more than the previous record of £69.8m for Zidane. It is actually worth noting that three other players found their way into the transfer record books in 2009; all on their way to play Spanish football. At least someone has money.
3. The Passing of Sir Bobby Robson
The world lost a talented manager and true gentleman of sport with the passing of Sir Bobby Robson. He came from the humblest of circumstances and took himself to the heights of international management. Sir Bobby was the perfect example of the great possibility of football and will always be remembered for the class he brought to the game.
2. US Soccer’s Fantastic Final
The US Men’s team was in dire straits in their Confederations Cup group and needed to beat Egypt by three goals to progress, in addition Brazil had to beat Italy by three goals. Asked to put money on the result, it seems doubtful that anyone but the most fanatical US Soccer fan would have. No one thought it likely, and rightly so, but it happened and the US was through. The semi-final saw the US matched with the impressive Spain, and no one would have been surprised to see the US exit the tournament after an already admirable performance. Another amazing performance saw them close out Spain with two goals and into the final against Brazil. Two goals up at the half and the world held its breath as Brazil was on the verge of defeat, only to see Brazil reassert themselves. But there are definitely surprises to come for US Soccer.
1. Barcelona does the Treble
Josep Guardiola stepped into Barcelona with no small ambitions, he sold heavyweights Ronaldinho, Deco and attempted to drop Sammy Eto’o as well. Many thought him crazy and he suffered defeat in his first game to Numancia. But then he was proven right over a 20 game unbeaten streak on their way to the Spanish league title. Barca also managed to win the Copa Del Rey and defeat a small team named Manchester United in the Champions League final to secure the first treble in La Liga history. Not bad for a first year in charge and being 38 years old.