10 moments that defined the decade of football
From the changing of the guard at the top of the Premier League to the inflation of transfer fees, football has evolved a lot in the 2010s.
2010: Barcelona 1-0 Inter
Inter lost this Champions League semi-final second leg, but how they celebrated winning the tie 2-1 on aggregate marked the moment that manager Jose Mourinho switched from charming and charismatic to cynical and antagonistic.
Mourinho raced onto the Nou Camp turf to celebrate in front of the Inter fans when the full-time whistle blew, irritating several natives in the process. It would be the start of a spiteful relationship with Barcelona.
The Portuguese joined Real Madrid after Inter won the Champions League title at the end of that season.
While there, he was involved in controversies including, but not limited to, poking Barca coach Tito Vilanova in the eye, allegedly using agent Jorge Mendes to spy on them, and apparently instructing his side not to try and come back from behind in the 2011 Champions League semi-final so that they could blame the referee afterwards.
Mourinho had a twinkle in his eye when he announced himself as the ‘Special One’ upon his first arrival in England in 2004. Upon his return in 2013, the only speck of light was the grey in his deliberately overgrown beard.
Notable mentions: England’s World Cup failure, Chelsea score 100 goals in a Premier League season
2011: Pep Guardiola wins the Champions League… for the last time
The finale to Pep Guardiola’s third season in charge of Barcelona was when the greatest club side of all time peaked.
Two years after first winning the competition against them, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi danced their way around Manchester United at Wembley to leave an exasperated Sir Alex Ferguson ruing “the best team I have ever faced”.
The expectation was that this side, and Guardiola’s future teams, would dominate the competition for years to come.
Remarkably, though, he has not won the title since, despite raching three consecutive semi-finals with Bayern Munich.
Notable mentions: Birmingham beat Arsenal in the League Cup final, Man Utd 1-6 Man City
This story is heaped with so much narrative that were it written in a fictional football book aimed at schoolchildren it would be deemed too unrealistic to go to print.
Manchester United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ City – backed financially to incredible proportions by the Abu Dhabi Group – first posed a credible threat to the Premier League title in the 2011/12 season.
The lead at the top of the table swayed this way and that, including United blowing an eight-point lead with six games to play, until the equation was simple: beat QPR at home on the final day and City could silence the red half of Manchester by winning their first title for 44 years.
They looked set to bottle it, trailing 2-1 when the clock ticked over to 90 minutes. But Edin Dzeko’s equaliser was followed by Sergio Aguero, the only cool customer in the Etihad, smashing in a 94th-minute winner, with United players waiting to celebrate after winning their game at Sunderland.
The most intense title race in Premier League history had gone down to the last minute of the last game, and Martin Tyler’s ‘Agueroooo’ commentary was immortalised.
Notable mentions: Chelsea win the Champions League, Lionel Messi scores 91 goals in a calendar year
2013: Sir Alex Ferguson leaves Manchester United
But until Ferguson left United 12 months later, City’s success could only be considered fleeting.
While the Scot was at Old Trafford, they were destined to rule the Premier League, in control and the team to beat. Thirteen titles in 21 Premier League seasons says as much.
But when he left, encouraging United supporters to treat his successor David Moyes with as much reverence in his speech after his final home game, it meant a changing of the guard.
United have not come close to winning any of the six subsequent Premier League titles, of which City have won three and Chelsea two. The failures of each of the four managers that have followed him prove how unprepared the club were for the post-Ferguson era.
Notable mentions: Wigan win the FA Cup, Luis Suarez bites Branislav Ivanovic
2014: Steven Gerrard slips
When Steven Gerrard was anchoring one of the most sensational attacking line-ups in Premier League history during the 2013/14 season, he probably didn’t expect his efforts to end in lifelong ridicule.
Gerrard, along with Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, had helped Liverpool to a position where a draw with Chelsea would leave them two wins away from the Premier League title.
We know what happened next. Liverpool never recovered after their captain fell and let Demba Ba in to open the scoring.
A fortnight earlier, Gerrard had demanded that his side ‘do not let this slip’ after beating City at Anfield, so this unfortunate incident was obviously ripe for ridicule.
Chelsea fans still sing about when ‘Steve Gerrard slipped on his f*cking arse’, while the image of the skipper’s tumble will form the basis of a meme for years to come.
Notable mentions: Arsenal win a trophy, Brazil 1-7 Germany
2015: Jurgen Klopp joins Liverpool
Klopp’s appointment did not make much of an impact in 2015, but has changed the landscape at the top of English football in the longer-term.
If you think Manchester United have had it bad after domination through the ‘90s and noughties, Liverpool had it worse.
After winning 10 of the 15 first division titles between 1976-1990, the Reds sunk so low that they finished outside the top four in six out of seven seasons between 2010-2016, including in Klopp’s first campaign.
But since then, the clear direction and style implemented by Klopp – aided, admittedly, by a large transfer kitty – has seen them reach two consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them, and post 97 points in a league campaign.
They will surely win their first league title in 30 years in the first year of the new decade.
Notable mentions: Mourinho’s Chelsea collapse, Wayne Rooney breaks the England goals record
2016: Leicester win the Premier League
In the modern era of the super club, this should have been impossible.
OK, Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool all had shocking seasons – Arsenal and Spurs are still kicking themselves – but still, Leicester brilliantly took advantage of those freakish circumstances.
As well as the fact that they were 5,000/1 to do it, it says something for how unfancied the Foxes were that it took going five points clear with a win at Man City in February for anyone to truly believe this was on.
N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and co. inspired all Premier League clubs to believe that improving on settling for mid-table was possible with the right mindset, and copious quantities of snus.
Notable mentions: England lose to Iceland, Pep Guardiola joins Man City
2017: PSG sign Neymar
When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba for a world record £89m in 2016, he was one of four players in history to have cost over £70m.
Since PSG spunked £198m on the vanity project that was signing Neymar from Barcelona a year later, nine other players have added themselves to that list.
The Parisians not only doubled the record transfer fee, but caused every other club to re-evalute what they were prepared to accept for their players.
Nicolas Pepe, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Maguire and Joao Felix – all either young or unproven – have since cost £70m+, while the French side had to spend £116m on Kylian Mbappe from Monaco.
The transfer market will never be the same again, and Neymar hasn’t even been anywhere near worth it.
Notable mentions: Cristiano Ronaldo wins his fifth Ballon d’Or, Arsene Wenger stays on at Arsenal
2018: England reach the World Cup semi-final
Just a bit of hope. That’s what England fans have wanted ever since they were let down by the golden generation throughout the noughties, and that’s what they got during the glorious summer heatwave of 2018.
Gareth Southgate’s team didn’t play good football or beat any illustrious opponents, but that didn’t matter much. They were likeable lads who held their nerve enough to at least beat teams that they should, even if they required some luck along the way.
The scenes on the streets of England during and after the victories were the start of a fresh relationship between the public and its football team, of which the romance is still palpable.
Here’s hoping we are still feeling the love when reflecting on 2020 in 12 months’ time.
Notable mentions: Real Madrid win their fourth Champions League in five years, Man City hit 100 Premier League points
2019: Man City win the domestic treble
Guardiola silenced anybody who professed that he was incompatible with English football when his City side racked up 100 Premier League Points in the 2017/18 season, but he humiliated them with his dominance of the domestic game a year later.
City, even without Kevin de Bruyne for much of the season, only dropped two more league points than they had done the year before, sensationally winning their last 14 matches to hold off Liverpool and defend the Premier League title.
They combined that with a League Cup final penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea, and beating Premier League sides Burnley, Brighton and Watford on their way to winning the FA Cup.
Even if City’s 2019/20 drop-off continues and Guardiola leaves the club in the summer, he can do so in the knowledge that not only was he in tune with the English game, he raised the bar to an unprecedented level.
Notable mentions: Bury are expelled from the EFL, Liverpool and Spurs' Champions League semi-final comebacks
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