It has been a year of highs and lows, the good, the bad and the ugly, but what have been football’s best and worst moments of 2017?
Best game: Manchester City 5-3 Monaco
This was a match that had absolutely everything, with City emerging winners in the Champions League round of 16 first leg tie, after twice falling behind, before being eliminated in the second leg. Radamel Falcao’s stunning chipped goal took the plaudits, but it was also the night that Kylian Mbappe announced himself on the big stage.
Best team performance: Barcelona 6-1 PSG
This was supposed to be the night when the end of an era came to Barcelona. Trailing 4-0 from a first-leg hammering in Paris in the Champions League round of 16, Barca had to create history to overturn the deficit. But PSG simply collapsed in the Nou Camp, with Barcelona scoring six to book their place in the quarterfinals with three goals in the final seven minutes.
Best goal: Wayne Rooney — Everton vs. West Ham
There have been some spectacular goals, including Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick for Arsenal against Crystal Palace (which won the FIFA Puskas Award), Andy Carroll’s scissor kick against the same opponents and Emre Can’s volley against Watford, but Wayne Rooney’s hat trick strike against West Ham, a pinpoint effort from inside his own half, was a real “wow” moment and the best of the lot.
Worst miss: John Guidetti — Celta Vigo vs. Manchester United
With Manchester United clinging on in the dying seconds of their Europa League semifinal second-leg against Celta Vigo, the ball dropped to former Manchester City striker John Guidetti, 3 yards from goal. If Guidetti had scored, United would have been out and their hopes of Champions League qualification would have been over. But Guidetti somehow missed the chance with the last kick of the game to let United off the hook.
Best youngster: Kylian Mbappe
The young forward was largely unknown outside of France before he dazzled Manchester City at the Etihad in February. Then just 18, Mbappe went on to inspire Monaco to the French title and a place in the Champions League semifinals before sealing a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain, which will see him join for £166m this summer. Still only a teenager, Mbappe is a player with the world at his feet.
Best signing: Ederson (Manchester City)
Manchester City invested £34.7m in Benfica goalkeeper Ederson during the summer and the Brazilian has been a revelation at the Etihad this season. The 24-year-old has been a reliable shot-stopper and communicator behind Pep Guardiola’s defence, but his distribution from the back has been crucial to City’s form this term and he has made Claudio Bravo seem like nothing more than a bad memory.
Worst signing: Joe Hart (West Ham)
Some signings simply do not work and the likes of Davy Klaassen (Everton), Wilfried Bony (Swansea) and Jairo Riedewald (Crystal Palace) have all struggled badly, but Joe Hart was heralded as a coup for West Ham when he arrived on loan from Manchester City. The England keeper managed just three clean sheets in 14 league games before losing his place to Adrian last month, who kept three in his first four games.
Best quote: David Moyes
“I think I’m capable of doing the job at any club in the world so I’m sure I can do it at West Ham,” said David Moyes, now in his fourth job in four years at West Ham after leaving Everton in 2013 for Manchester United, where he was sacked after 10 months in charge.
Worst decision: Ghost goal for Panama vs. Costa Rica
It wasn’t even close, the ball hit the post and didn’t even threaten to cross the goal line, but Panama’s equaliser against Costa Rica — given to striker Blas Perez — in the final CONCACAF World Cup qualifier gave the hosts a lifeline before Roman Torres scored an 88th minute winner to send them through to the finals for the first time. Had the equaliser been ruled out by Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez Castellanos, Honduras would have qualified automatically, with the United States claiming a playoff spot.
Best individual performance: Cristiano Ronaldo
It had been billed as “Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Antoine Griezmann,” the reigning king against the rising superstar, but by the end of Real Madrid’s Champions League semifinal first-leg against Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo had scored a stunning hat trick to leave Griezmann firmly in the shade. It was just another example of the dangers of writing Ronaldo off.
Best prospect for 2018: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
The Manchester City midfielder has already been nicknamed the “Stockport Iniesta” by fans at the Etihad Stadium and, at 17, the England U17 World Cup winner is showing the signs of becoming a star under Pep Guardiola. Foden was named Player of the Tournament following England’s triumph in October and he is now getting first-team opportunities in City’s star-studded squad.
Biggest surprise: Bristol City 2-1 Manchester United
Jose Mourinho will not forget his trip to Ashton Gate in a hurry, with his Manchester United team humiliated by Lee Johnson’s Championship outfit. Bristol City outran, outplayed and outperformed the Carabao Cup holders on a night when Mourinho condemned the attitude of his United players.
Best manager: Zinedine Zidane
The Real Madrid coach may be going through unusually turbulent times this season, but winning a second successive Champions League title and La Liga in Spain were incredible achievements by the former France captain. And who would bet against Zidane winning a third straight Champions League in 2018?
Biggest complaint: Still no winter break in England
Time will tell whether England’s five Champions League clubs can push on into the latter stages of the competition, perhaps even one of them going on to win it, but the lack of a winter break could scupper the hopes of all of them. While Germany, Spain, France and Italy shut down, the Premier League continues through the wind, snow and rain. But the price of that workload may only become clear at the end of the season.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_