Blue is the colour, a new king takes the throne and an end of eras - football in 2018
Mario Mandzukic knicked the ball off Hugo Lloris and scored in the 69th minute, but it was all to no avail as the match was all but over with France having a commanding lead against a valiant Croatia. That was the last meaningful action of a tournament that had lived up to its billing and proved to be the best in living memory. Some of the goals, action and moments will live long in the memory and were a perfect advertisement for the “Beautiful Game”.
Les Blues for their part were deserved winners as they went through the extravaganza unbeaten and looked formidable from start to finish. The young team unearthed stars that will be talked about for years to come. Kylian Mbappe was, of course, the shining light as he tortured defenses and was a constant thorn in opposition’s flesh and to the surprise of absolutely nobody went on to win the young player of the tournament. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez were some of the shining lights for France, while Antoine Griezmann was the undoubted talisman.
Blue was perhaps a good omen for many a side in 2018 as Manchester City steamrolled through the Premier League to win their third domestic title in the last six years, accumulating 100 points in the process. On their way to the title, the City side broke numerous records during the 2017-18 season. The Cityzens were the first team to score 100 points in a Premier League season and finished 19 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United. City also scored 106 league goals and won the title with five games to spare.
Blue was also the lucky charm for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain as both the Spanish and French giants regained domestic titles. What’s more, Barca won the Cope Del Rey while PSG once again won the Coupe de la Ligue and the Coup de France.
Closer to home it was blue all the way as all three titles, two leagues and the inaugural Super Cup were won by teams that donned blue. It was a dream season for Minerva Punjab who won the I-League title for the first time in their history leaving the likes of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan behind.
In the Indian Super League (ISL) Chennaiyin were once again the champions after ATK had won the title in 2017.
In the Inaugural Super Cup blue once again reigned supreme as Bengaluru FC thrashed East Bengal 4-1 in the final. The trophy was perhaps a consolation to the side from Southern India after they were unlucky to lose in the final of ISL in their own backyard.
When it wasn’t blue, it was the usual self as Juventus, Bayern Munich and Celtic all once again went on to win their domestic titles.
Another thing becoming quite usual is Real Madrid winning the Champions League; no one had won it back to back until Real Madrid did it 2016 & 2017 and Los Blancos made it three in a row with another win against Liverpool in Kiev.
Real Madrid’s third consecutive continental triumph came after they dominated the midfield and that was all down to the mastery of Luka Modric who was his brilliant self throughout the year. The control that he provided in midfield not only help Real Madrid win the Champions League but was a major contributing factor as Croatia made it to the final of the 2018 World Cup for the very first time in their history.
Modric’s brilliant performances for both club and country didn’t go unnoticed as he brought the 10-year duopoly of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to an end by winning the Ballon d’Or.
It was a watershed year for Real Madrid as the summer of 2018 brought about a couple of high profile departures. First to depart was the manager Zinedine Zidane who shocked the Los Merengues just five days after winning the Champions League final. Zidane won nine trophies in his spell in charge and rejuvenated the club after the departure of Rafael Benitez.
Another move, one that perhaps still resonates in the Spanish capital, was that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who decided that time for a move was right. Ronaldo joined real in 2009 and in his nine years had won all that there was to win many times over and left as the all-time leading scorer of perhaps the biggest club on the planet. He was an inspiration to everyone at the club and when the going for the club got tough not only did he got going, he got everyone around himself going. Real Madrid’s loss was Juventus’ gain as the Old lady shelled out 100 million Euros for the services of the Portuguese.
Elsewhere a 22-year-old association came to an end as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger announced that he would be moving on at the end of the season. Arsene joined Arsenal in 1996 and managed the Gunners for more than 1200 games, winning over 700 of them. Since coming into the Premier League more than two decades earlier from Japanese football Wenger totally changed how the game was to be played in England. He brought in eating and training habits that were alien to a lot of players plying their trade in England and that paid rich dividends as the north-London side went to win titles in 1998, 2002 and 2004. Wenger was the manager as Arsenal achieved the feat of going through the whole season unbeaten in 2003-2004, something which we are unlikely to see ever again. And there wasn’t a dry eye at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal played their last home match under Wenger against Burnley; fittingly they won 5-0.
One of the best managers of all time nearly left us as former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson went into emergency surgery for brain hemorrhage in May, fortunately for the football world he made a full recovery and was seen in stands watching his beloved side.
Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once said that football is not a matter of life and death, it’s much more important than that. On 27th October it didn’t feel that way as Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha tragically died in a helicopter crash. In a year that gave us memories to last for a lifetime, this left a bitter taste.