espn.co.uk's crystal ball

Bold predictions for 2010

January 9, 2010
By Ben Blackmore

The New Year is upon us, so it is time for us to dust off the crystal ball, take off the Arsene Wenger blindfold and make some bold predictions for the next 12 months.

GettyImagesDidier Drogba and with Chelsea and Ivory Coast team-mate Salomon Kalou

Will England win the World Cup? Will Roberto Mancini stay in the Manchester City job long enough to develop Craig Bellamy's golf swing? And can Darren Fletcher emulate Lionel Messi as the world's greatest player? Below Espn.co.uk makes its predictions for the football season; make sure you add to our list by sending in your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Owen Hargreaves returns. The forgotten man, Owen Hargreaves, returns to the public eye as a surprise participant on Celebrity Big Brother, sparking howls of derision among Channel 4 viewers who have no idea who the Manchester United midfielder is.

Sam Allardyce changes career path. Big Sam boosts ticket sales at Blackburn by announcing his departure from Ewood Park. At a hastily-called press conference, Allardyce reveals he will take time out from football to stop Phil Taylor's bid for a 16th World Darts title. With Big Sam's monotone vernacular gone, Sky Sports quickly label this the most exciting season in Premier League history.

Aston Villa crowned kings of Wembley. A shock as Villa take the season's first piece of domestic silverware in England, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the Carling Cup final. Gareth Barry is the City villain, passing the ball directly to former team-mate Emile Heskey, who unselfishly holds the ball up five yards from goal to allow Stiliyan Petrov to ram home from distance. The final goes down in history for its record low attendance, said to be caused by a handful of City placards on the outskirts of London declaring: "Welcome to Manchester".

Arsene Wenger cleared of FA charge. Robin van Persie exacts revenge on Giorgio Chiellini in the Champions League quarter-finals, diving in two-footed on the Italian defender. Arsene Wenger risks the wrath of UEFA by claiming he did not see the incident, but his claims are proved to be correct when ITV television evidence cuts out at the vital moment.

Black Cats run out of lives. Sunderland suffer a miserable second half to the 2009-10 season, largely as a result of the misfiring Darren Bent. The England man's goals dry up as the Black Cats plummet into the bottom three, prompting Steve Bruce to line up a summer swap deal involving Harry Redknapp's wife, Sandra.

Rafa Benitez proved right. Tottenham miss out on a top four spot to Liverpool, proving Rafa Benitez right in his guarantee of a top-four finish. The Spaniard uses his telepathic powers to become the first male winner of £250,000 on Deal or No Deal, £50,000 of which is instantly made available by Liverpool's owners. Benitez brings Igor Biscan back to the club, while Spurs arrange a birthday party for Harry Redknapp but decide not to invite him.

Michael Owen wins title for United. Manchester United do things the hard way on the final day of the Premier League season, going 1-0 down to Bolton as 'the best defender in England' Wes Brown heads into his own net. Michael Owen rescues the day for Sir Alex with a timely late brace, but it's not enough to push him ahead of Jermain Defoe in the England pecking order.

Chelsea win the FA Cup. Frank Lampard and company enjoy a summer afternoon stroll as they wallop Wolves 8-0 at Wembley after Mick McCarthy decides to rest his players for the big pre-season friendly against Leyton Orient. Carlo Ancelotti celebrates his first domestic trophy in England by taking his players to an Elton John concert.

Lionel makes a Mess of Madrid. Lionel Messi runs rings around Real Madrid as Pep Guardiola delivers his second Champions League trophy in as many years, prompting the Spanish press to ponder how different things could have been had Florentino Perez signed Darren Fletcher. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo claims it has always been his dream to sign for Barcelona.

Shock England call-up. Lucas Leiva is a surprise name on England's flight to South Africa after it is finally discovered that he is in fact NOT Brazilian. Circumstantial evidence such as the misplaced pass at home to Manchester City makes the case for appeal futile.

France rule the world. Raymond Domenech completes the greatest renaissance in football history by being named the best coach on the planet after his decision to play Thierry Henry in goal sees France win the World Cup. England lose out on penalties to Portugal as Leiva misses the decisive penalty, making Fabio Capello public enemy No. 1 as the national newspapers call for root-and-branch improvements at the grassroots level of the game.

Wayne Rooney joins Madrid. In the biggest transfer story of the decade, Wayne Rooney leaves Manchester United for Real Madrid due to a contractual dispute. Reasons for his departure remain unclear, but Rooney's Aunt Gina tells the Daily Sport that her nephew became fed up with Sir Alex Ferguson's reluctance to pay him overtime after United's home clash with Hull limps into the 106th minute.

Euro 2012 qualification. The year ends with howls of disapproval from England fans after their 1-0 home win over San Marino. New manager Ian Holloway compares the result to pulling an ugly girl at the end of a night. Meanwhile Scotland conquer all before them with new Madrid signing Fletcher pulling the strings in midfield, although he loses out on BBC Sports Personality of the Year to Sam Allardyce.