The best moments of 2013
It has been a truly eventful 2013 in football terms; I consider it a privilege to have seen these events to the end. It is hard to pick out my stand out moments but I am going to try and pick out some.
Team of the Year : Bayern Munich. What do you get a team who has everything? You get them a manager who just loves winning (Pep Guardiola) and two of the best young players around (Thiago Alcantra and Mario Goetze)! Under Juup Hynckes, Bayern were absolutely awesome to watch.
Their back to back destruction of Juventus and Barcelona en route the CL Final will probably not be matched again.
They swept aside two teams who were running away with their domestic leagues with such arrogance it was frightening to see. At home they grabbed the Bundesliga title back from Dortmund with a huge 25 point margin and just for good measure took the German cup too.
The new season and they have continued in the same vein. It will represent a major surprise if Bayern do not become the first club to retain the UEFA Champions League
Outstanding Individual Performance: Robert Lewandowski's four goal destruction of Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg in Dortmund was something special. The third goal where he showed incredible silky first touch in a crowded box to kill the ball, the strength of an ox to hold off a defender and then unleash a cracker into the top corner summed up the player. Apparently he is joining Bayern next year. God help the rest.
Shock Result of the Year: in the pre match press conference before the FA Cup final between Man City and Wigan then City manager had actually counted this FA Cup as one of the trophies he had won as the heat was on him for a dismal league and Champions League campaign. Later he apologised. However, that showed the kind of odds were against a Wigan win.
On match day I must confess I did not even bother to start watching, joining the match in second half. I saw a listless City performance and a Wigan carrying the game to their richer opponents with Calum McManaman most dangerous. Ben Watson's fabulous header won the match and the cup for Wigan in the biggest final shock since 1988. Capped a miserable season for Mancini and Man City.
Sir Alex Ferguson's Retirement: No single event has affected the Barclays Premier League or the Premier League since its inception in 1992 like this. The current season has seen one where no team has been able to pull away and perennial Champions, his beloved Manchester United at the time of writing are stuck in 6th place. Some people have described the man as almost super human to have had such an effect on a league.
For many that have supported Man United, it was a pretty tough time to accept his retirement. Many shed tears. On a personal level, I choked up a lot that morning when the news broke but fortunately I had started following the team before his appointment in Nov '86 and deep down I had been expecting his retirement. I believed that had his team won the 2011 CL he would have quit that summer but the manner of the chastening from Barcelona made him stay longer. He is being missed.
Man of the Year: Has to be the Nigerian Super Eagles head coach Stephen Keshi. At the start of the year, this man took a bunch of young and inexperienced players to the 2013 AFCON and believed in the players. He stopped bis ears to the clatter and chatter around him about the "experienced players left at home", ignored meddling Federation officials and then went on to win the tournament without losing a match nor conceding first.
He followed this up with a decent outing at the Confederation Cup in Brazil where better finishing from his young charges they would have made the semi-finals ahead of Uruguay. He has also now qualified the team for the world cup in Brazil at the first time of asking. In 18 months, Stephen Keshi has achieved what took Clemens Westerhof nearly four years. Take a bow the man they call The Big Boss in Nigeria.
Best Moment: The final whistle at the magnificent Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg that proclaimed Nigeria African Champions. It crowned a wonderful three weeks in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting - South Africa. The explosion of joy from Nigerians in the stadium and in the press box has to be experienced to be believed or understood. A team no one gave a chance triumphed playing the game with the belief they were good enough.
Player of the Year: The Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi argument is tedious now. Two phenomenal players at a time that the game suits them and their playing styles and at football clubs where tactics have been shaped to bring out the best in them. Separating them has become too emotional for many so am not even going there.
My top three would be Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and Arjen Robben. These three players excite, they are brave, they perform consistently and have xfactory abilities to stand out in games. So it is hard to choose one. However, a choice I will have to make. For pure football ability and an incredible desire to win I will choose Luiz Suarez of Liverpool and Uruguay as my Player of 2013.
I want to thank all of you who log on to our website all through 2013 and especially those who take time out to read our blogs and even comment. Your comments are much appreciated and criticisms taken on board. So I use this to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous 2014! Above all, a healthy year.
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