David Beckham finally won a title with Real Madrid, regained his place on the England team and jumped to Major League Soccer in 2007.
Sadly for the Los Angeles Galaxy fans who waited six months for his arrival, Beckham got so little playing time because of injuries they must have wondered what all the fuss was about. "I never had so many injuries in a short space of time," said the former England captain, who signed a four-year contact with the Galaxy. "It's been tough (going from) where I used to play every day in Europe to missing half of the season."
After being dropped both by England and Real Madrid, Beckham returned to top form and regained his places in both teams. His arrival in American soccer on a base annual salary of US$5.5 million was announced in January but didn't happen until July, when he hobbled into MLS with an ankle injury.
Beckham made six MLS appearances, including four starts, and scored one goal with a trademark free kick against D.C. United. But his season ended early because the Galaxy failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs.
All Beckham had left were friendly games in Australia and New Zealand.
At least Beckham finished his four years with Madrid a winner. After three seasons without a trophy, Madrid took its record number of Spanish league titles to 30 by taking the championship from 18-time winner FC Barcelona.
With Samuel Eto'o injured and Ronaldinho out of form, Barcelona also lost its Champions League title to AC Milan, which beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final in Athens, Greece, to take its number of triumphs in European soccer's most prestigious club competition to seven.
Barcelona responded by buying Thierry Henry from Arsenal in the year's other big transfer. But the France star, slowed by a lingering back injury, is yet to repeat the form he showed with the Gunners, and Madrid is again dominating the Spanish title race. The new Spanish season began with tragedy on the opening day, however.
Sevilla left back Antonio Puerta died of heart problems at 22 after the game against Getafe. UEFA has ordered players to have heart checks before the European Championship and team doctors to sit alongside coaches on the bench.
Although the richest clubs were again busy in the transfer market, there were even more changes off the field. Chelsea parted ways with Jose Mourinho when it became clear his relations with owner Roman Abramovich were harming the team. After two Premier League titles in a row, the Blues lost the title to Manchester United, giving Alex Ferguson his 20th title in charge of the Red Devils. It should have been 21 but Chelsea beat United 1-0 in the first FA Cup final to be played at rebuilt Wembley Stadium, which finally opened two years late.
That gave Mourinho a sweep of domestic English trophies, but he left in September and was replaced by former Israel coach Avram Grant. In December, Mourinho turned down the opportunity of coaching England's national team, a vacancy created when Steve McClaren was fired for failing to get the team to Euro 2008.
The England job went to Fabio Capello, who guided Madrid to the Spanish title to add to his successes in Italy. Critics were furious that the Football Association appointed a foreigner instead of an English coach.
The man McClaren replaced after the 2006 World Cup, Sven-Goran Eriksson, returned to the game as coach of Manchester City. The Swede was appointed at the same time City was bought by former Thailand premier Thaksin Shinawatra, exiled in London and charged in his homeland with corruption by the regime that ousted him. Liverpool was another big clubs to fall into foreign ownership. George Gillett Jr., owner of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, and Tom Hicks, owner of baseball's Texas Rangers and hockey's Dallas Stars, bought the club in March and are financing a move away from Anfield to a 60,000-capacity stadium to be built by 2009. With foreign investors buying big chunks of clubs, almost half the Premier League is now in the hands of overseas owners, who see the spinoffs from lucrative new TV rights deals.
Italian soccer, by contrast, had another dispiriting year while it was only just recovering from a match-fixing scandal. Despite the national team's World Cup triumph in 2006 and Milan's Champions League success, violence became almost a weekly problem. A policeman was clubbed to death in early February during rioting in Sicily between rival fans of Catania and Palermo. The Italian federation briefly put the season on hold and ordered some clubs to play in empty stadiums.
In November, a police officer accidentally shot and killed a Lazio fan while trying to break up trouble at a freeway service station, an incident that prompted violence at other games. The officer has been charged with murder.
Relegated because of the match-fixing scandal and forced to hand over the 2006 league title to Inter Milan by default, Juventus strolled to the Serie B title and promotion. Inter won the 2007 title on the field by 22 points. AC Milan, also punished over match-fixing, couldn't make up its eight-point deduction and finished fourth.
While former France great Michel Platini became the new UEFA president, beating the long-serving Lennart Johansson in an election, the unopposed Sepp Blatter got another four-year term as FIFA president.
Blatter maintained that South Africa would overcome logistical problems to host a successful 2010 World Cup despite strikes holding up the construction of some of the stadiums.
Brazil won the right to hold the 2014 World Cup after its only opponent, Colombia, withdrew, but now has to convince FIFA that it has the money to refurbish its own rundown stadiums. The five-time World Cup champions also captured their second straight Copa America title by beating Argentina 3-0 in the final in July. Brazil played without forwards Kaka and Ronaldinho, who pulled out of the championship citing fatigue. Kaka went on to win both the FIFA world player of the year award and Europe's Golden Ball. The Brazilian women fell just short, however. Germany retained the women's World Cup, beating Brazil 2-0 in the final in Shanghai, China, in a championship played before near capacity crowds. The United States took third place.