While football accomplishments and failures are usually measured season to season, the end of an year gives an opportunity to view a team’s (or a player’s) performance from a different perspective.
Here’s a look at the teams and people who deserve to be nominated as the best performers in 2007, even by their own high standards.
Ending Chelsea’s two-season hegemony in the Premiership and bringing Jose Mourinho crashing down to earth were two things that football’s purists, neutrals and non-Chelsea fans most wanted when the year began.
Manchester United produced a brilliant season and were arguably the best club side this year. They steered well clear of Chelsea and it wasn’t one of their trademark Jan-to-May comebacks that won them the title. It was all-round brilliance in the team, built around the genius and instincts of Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo almost single-handedly brought United glory in England and even Europe. If it wasn’t for Milan’s magical home performance(which is a rarity nowadays), we might well have seen him named as World Player of the Year.
KUDOS RATING: Well done, United. The glory days are back for sure. With the arrival of some more attacking talent to the ranks, they can press for only their second Champions League title.
The Italian taskmaster was cruelly sacked by Real Madrid, just days after delivering their first trophy in four seasons and ending Barcelona’s then-deserved dominance in Spain.
But he was a winner nonetheless, rescuing Los Merengues from their dormant phase and injecting the kind of optimism that may have actually helped Bernd Schuster launch the campaign for their 31st league title. Capello did have the last laugh when he secured the England job, which probably should see him lead a very comfortable post-retirement life.
Oh, I am talking money. Life may not be all sweet and sundry once Capello comes face-to-face with the monstrous English media and the expectations of the fans.
KUDOS RATING: Good work Mr. Capello, whether Madrid appreciate it or not. But brace up for what is set to be the most challenging period of your managerial life.
The Champions League still eludes Roberto Mancini’s side, but they have done enough to be named as one of the teams of the year. After the controversial scudetto “win” in the 2005-06 season, Inter went all guns blazing to conquer Italy for the second straight time.
Mancini might well lose ambition at Inter if they finish champions of Europe this season. But he has done the hard work, setting up a side that just can’t stop winning matches and, to the bitter disgust of their arch-rivals, the Milan derbies. The Nerazzuri have expressed interest in Barcelona’s wonderkid-turned-superman Lionel Messi, but do they even need him? The depth in the current squad suggests that Inter don’t even need to splash out anymore.
KUDOS RATING: Fans of Milan, Juventus and Roma could argue that Inter were the largest beneficiaries of the Calciopoli scandal, but Mancini deserves credit for creating a tough-to-beat side.
The emergence of Cesc Fabregas as Arsenal’s new star turn couldn’t have been better timed. Fabregas showed promise when Patrick Vieira departed the Gunners and has now stepped up to be the next icon in the wake of Thierry Henry’s exit.
Fabregas is no longer about potential and fans have embraced him with open arms. He is one of the most complete midfielders plying the role today, and that at a meagre 20 years old! He has within him all the qualities that traditional cantera from Barcelona’s famous production line had and even more. He added goalscoring to his repertoire this season and results for Arsenal have evidently been influenced by this “latest attraction” in his vastly-talented inventory.
All that remains is for Fabregas to be seen with a winners’ medal. Because Arsenal haven’t won anything since his meteoric rise.
KUDOS RATING: Arguably, the best player in the world today. If he starts winning trophies for Arsenal, then rumoured interest from Real Madrid could turn into record-breaking transfer bids.
Iraqi Football Team
Not a winner that triggered debates within football pundits or resulted in Arsene Wenger scouting for young Iraqi talent and not even a world-altering winner as such, but the Iraqi national team’s emotional 2007 Asian Cup triumph deserves our sentiments and applause in overflowing quantities.
The war-torn nation produced a remarkable campaign to inspire their fans back home and elevate them from crisis, at least spiritually. The win in the final over heavily-favoured Asian giants Saudi Arabia was one of their all-time greatest victories and sparked widespread celebrations and finally some fireworks that didn’t cause bloodshed.
KUDOS RATING: They say football can influence life in ways that nothing else can. The Iraqi win is, so far, the best exponent of that and we can only stand up and salute them for the triumph that may have given hope and pride to the thousands of people ravaged in battle.
World Player of the Year Kaka would have been top of the list if it weren’t for his team’s poor performances in Serie A. Liverpool enjoyed a good, decent year. Roma captain Francesco Totti was the year’s comeback king. A special thanks to Lionel Messi of course, who is giving me and many others out there hope that we haven’t missed out on the brilliance of Diego Armando Maradona completely.
Happy New Year, and let us know your picks as winners for the year 2007.