2016 has a been a whirlwind year for football and it’s fair to say, there have been a number of surprises.
If you have been following the football news over the season you will already know there has been joys and there’s been sorrows, with heroes and villains alike grabbing attention on the world stage.
The biggest surprise of 2016, and unarguably one of the biggest of all time is Leicester City. At odds of 5,000/1 the Foxes won the Premier League and did so by a huge ten-point margin.
Claudio Ranieri was saw as an underwhelming appointment by many in the footballing world and particularly those associated to Leicester with Gary Lineker openly questioning the appointment on Twitter. The Italian went onto to prove everybody wrong leaving football fans everywhere stunned, and of course he couldn’t have done it without a little help from Jamie Vardy.
Vardy is undoubtedly one of the footballing heroes of 2016. At the age of 23, he was still playing non-league football but since, he has helped Leicester gain promotion from the Championship and guided them to the biggest prize in football, the likes Boreham Wood is somewhat of a distant memory for Vardy now and instead, the likes of Hollywood are on the horizon.
Wales were another team that displayed heroics in 2016 and one who were dubbed to do ‘a Leicester’ at Euro 2016. Whilst the Dragons lost to England, ultimately Chris Coleman’s side showed the lackluster how to perform on the international stage.
It was their European Championship debut and having finished top of Group B, Wales remarkably went on to beat Northern Ireland in the last 16 to reach the quarter-finals where they would meet Belgium. And it was a Belgium side packed with young talent, certainly no easy feat for Wales but after going a goal down early in the game, Ashely Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes grabbed a goal each to sail to victory. Unfortunately for Coleman and his side, it wasn’t meant to be as they lost 2-0 to eventual winners Portugal. But it was a remarkable campaign for Wales and one they can be very proud of.
Cristiano Ronaldo, love or hate him, there’s no denying that his sheer footballing ability is mesmerizing. The Portuguese star deservedly took the accolade for the Ballon d’Or and what better way to top off what has been an amazing year.
The Real Madrid forward helped his club win the Champions League and his country to win Euro 2016. Scoring 16 goals on the road to the Champions League final, it is a journey that was only made possible by the footballer of the year and who else would score the winning penalty in the final than Ronaldo? As calm, cool and collected as usual, Ronaldo slotted the final spot-kick of the shootout away with ease to confirm his side’s victory. The 31-year-old managed the same in Portugal’s quarter-final shootout with Poland before scoring in the semi-final to see help see off Wales.
However, despite multiple attempts to play on, Ronaldo’s fairytale was cut short as he sustained an injury following a tackle from West Ham’s Dmitri Payet. That did not deter Ronaldo of course as the forward stood on touch line for the duration of extra time and quite literally roared his team to their first major tournament title.
So that’s just a select few of the footballing heroes of 2016 but what about villains?
Roy Hodgson led England to another embarrassing campaign as the three lions were sent packing in the last 16 after losing 2-1 to Iceland.
Hodgson seemed bereft of ideas, failed to take a full-strength squad, again picking players because of their name and not their form and looked a man lost. Whilst every England fan, whether they were in France watching in the stands or at home watching on tele, could see that Harry Kane on set-pieces was a tactic that was repeatedly failing, Hodgson was seemingly happy to let the Spurs striker waste corner after corner. And to further add to the misery of England fans, upon his departure, he thanked the players for their commitment and giving everything that was asked of them.
Hodgson’s successor, if you can call him that also makes the list of our footballing villains of 2016.
Sam Allardyce broke red and white hearts when he announced he’d be leaving Sunderland to become the new England manager. Allardyce didn’t owe Sunderland much and Black Cats fans were grateful to him keeping them in the league so with a heavy heart they waved goodbye so not to begrudge a man of his dream job. And with a with a 2-1 last gasp win over Slovakia, Allardyce got off to a good start.
England fans were excited again, there was a newfound optimism, albeit slightly naïve, nonetheless it was there. But then came the revelations from the Telegraph’s investigation where Allardyce was found trading FA secrets and revealing how to get around excess fees in transfers. A stupid move from a man who claimed in his recently released autobiography that he’d never taken a bung in his life because he didn’t need the money. So it seems that he waited until he landed his dream job, one which he’d work towards for 25 years, to take a bung.
RB Leipzig are winning plaudits far and wide for their efforts this season, admittedly, the German side are having a great season, they’re joint second in the Bundesliga and have just lost one game. They were founded six years ago and have since made their way to the top, however, it’s a far cry from the Leicester City fairytale.
The club was founded in 2009 by Red Bull who bought the playing right of the fifth division side SSV Markranstädt.
The club are arguably the most hated in Germany and not because of envy but because they’re the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern football, they’re a betrayal of everything German football is about, tradition, identity and a good fan relationship. Whilst the club may have success, their soul is questionable.