ESPN FC's 2017: Chats with Ronaldo, Pogba, World Cup, FC 100 and more
It has been another action-packed year. ESPN FC brings you our favourite stories, features and projects from 2017 as we head into the New Year.
New season, new kits
To kick off the 2017-18 season, we brought you a swish graphic detailing each side's new Premier League kit. Click on each one and slide your mouse over to reveal the respective home and away shirts.
...And a new class
Alvaro Morata joined a raft of players looking to impress in the Premier League this season. Iain Macintosh went through those set for a big year, including Gabriel Jesus at Manchester City.
Exclusive interviews with the game's big names
We were granted an amazing array of exclusive interviews with the biggest players in the game today. From Romelu Lukaku's first interview as a Manchester United player, to a chat with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, as well as Paul Pogba, Paris Saint-Germain's big signing Neymar and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, you can find the full list of names here.
It was undoubtedly the story of the summer and we were right across it, as Neymar signed for Paris Saint-Germain in an incredible €222 million deal. Gab gave his reaction, we charted the evolution in transfer fees and discussed why Neymar's made sense, while Graham Hunter and Simon Kuper had their say too.
Who is the next King of Cool?
With Andrea Pirlo retiring this year, the hunt is on for football's next King of Cool. From Neymar to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there's some pretty worthy contenders. James Horncastle goes through them, complete with some fantastic illustrations for each.
Guardians of the Galaxy
To celebrate Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, ESPN FC selected the top guardians of the football galaxy -- the goalkeepers, of course.
Of course, our big project was the FC 100 ranking the best male players and managers in the game today. It was an extensive process featuring over 60 ESPN judges across multiple continents. We won't spoil who came first, so take a look for yourself:
Goalkeepers: David De Gea is widely regarded as the world's best, but did he make No.1 in our keepers list?
Right-backs: At one point, right-backs were considered the least skilled players on the pitch but the next generation brings a boldness and unpredictability to the flank.
Centre-backs: Being a great central defender isn't just about size and strength anymore. While those attributes matter, it's also about being as cultured on the ball as it is forceful in the tackle.
Left-backs: Players with a good left foot aren't that common, but those blessed with pace and precision on the ball are a precious resource.
Central-midfielders: Tempo, tempo, tempo. The key to playing central midfield is a good sense of rhythm: knowing when to speed up the transition from defence to attack and when to slow an opponent down.
Attacking midfielders: The best attacking midfielders have a sense of mischief, capable of cracking a robust defensive set with a bit of improvisation or magic.
Wide-forwards: Wingers and wide-forwards still have a role to play in the modern era, especially as more teams play a 3-5-2, 3-4-3, or 4-3-3 in which width is a virtue.
Forwards: They're a potent mix of attacking midfield, winger and centre-forward, but also have the intelligence and quick thinking to know where to be when their teams need them most.
Strikers: Around the penalty area, the striker is king. The "classic" No. 9 will score against anyone, at any time, from anywhere.
Managers: Football can look a lot like chaos but top managers are able to see the bigger picture at all times and, above all, they won't panic when Plan A doesn't work.
Gab Marcotti gave his reaction to the FC 100, we dug into the data to look at the age and value of those included, looked at the overvalued and undervalued players and also spoke to Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin as part of our project.
World Fame 100
Who are the most famous athletes on the planet? Ben Alamar, ESPN's director of analytics, devised a formula that combines endorsements with social media following and internet search popularity to create the ESPN World Fame 100 rankings.
The Next Generation
Drawing inspiration from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," we used the Force to select the best young players primed to rule the sport in a few years' time, if not sooner. We give you: the ESPN FC / Star Wars under-21 starting XI.
... And the stars saying farewell
Over the course of 2017 the football world has said goodbye to a number of legends who have hung up their boots for the final time and retired from the professional game. Here's our XI.
The World Cup
We were across one of the biggest events of the year: the 2018 World Cup draw. With group-by-group reaction, a full daily schedule, Marcotti's musings on the draw and Nick Ames' big picture from Russia, there's plenty of stuff to get your teeth into as we count down to kickoff.
... But no USMNT
Taylor Twellman's reaction to United States' World Cup qualifying nightmare is a must see:
And no Italy
As we did in 2015 with our inaugural list, ESPN FC ranked the top 50 movers and shakers in the game, from FIFA president Gianni Infantino to Cristiano Ronaldo to the mystery person (or people) behind Football Leaks. And it got bigger: we also expanded our approach this time around by ranking the Top 10 influencers in the key regions of planet football (Europe, South America, North America, Africa and Asia) with the help of our experts in each region.
Messi at 30
It wasn't any old birthday for Lionel Messi, so we thought we'd celebrate his milestone with a big piece on one of the greatest players to have played the game.
Ronaldo at 32
Messi's old pal Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated turning 32 -- so we listed 32 reasons why fans love/hate the Real Madrid man. Whose side are you on?
Ronaldo isn't the only player fans either love or hate. There's a few more polarising players and we looked at some.
The perfect player
This is likely to cause just as much debate as those polarising players. Back in March we tried to build the perfect player. Would he have Mesut Ozil's vision?
From watches to computer games, glass to fleece blankets, James Tyler took a look at the weird and wonderful world of Ronaldo and his incredible array of endorsements.
The season so far
ESPN FC's club correspondents looked at the 2017-18 campaign so far and graded their team from A to F, as well as picking a star man, flop, key question and prediction for the rest of the season.
The Premier League: Box Office
Before everything kicked off, Neil Jamieson created these lovely movie-style posters to look ahead to some of the big storylines ahead of the campaign.
And that's not all!
Thanks for all your support this year and here's to an even better 2018!
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