Top 10 news stories of 2013
As the year which saw records broken, legends retire and arms bitten draws to a close, ESPN FC's news editor Tony Mabert takes a look back at the 10 biggest stories of 2013.
At the start of the year Chelsea, Manchester United and AC Milan were seen as the main candidates to end Guardiola's post-Barcelona sabbatical. But it was Bayern Munich who pulled off the surprising coup, announcing their highly successful boss Jupp Heynckes would be replaced at the end of the season by the most sought-after coach in football. Guardiola has since pulled off a big shock of his own by somehow managing to make last season's Treble-winners even better this term.
Suarez's penchant for controversy was well-established long before April's 2-2 draw with Chelsea. In fact, sinking his teeth into Ivanovic's arm was not even the first time he had been caught biting an opponent on the field. The Liverpool striker was banned for the rest of the season and the first six games of the current campaign. Despite that -- and suffering the disappointment of Liverpool turning down Arsenal's £40,000,001 summer bid for him -- the Uruguayan's irresistible form has earned him a new contract at Anfield and put the Reds on course for a top-four finish at least.
Just days after he said "I certainly don't have any plans at the moment to walk away," the most successful manager in British football history did just that. The 71-year-old had originally planned to make the surprise announcement on the Old Trafford pitch at the end of the season, but had to reveal the news with two games of the campaign left after the news leaked out. Ferguson bowed out in May with a record 20th league title in the bag, but his presence continued to be felt through the rest of 2013 as his successor, David Moyes, initially struggled and his new autobiography created headlines.
Football was still coming to terms with Ferguson's retirement when, eight days later, another Manchester United legend also quit the game. Former England captain Beckham's best days as a player may have already been behind him, but he still ended his final season as a champion. At the age of 38, Beckham bowed out having won the Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain, adding that to league championships won in England, Spain and the U.S. He is set to remain a key figure in the game Stateside as progress continues to be made over his founding of a new MLS franchise in Miami.
Once Tottenham's failure to finish fourth last season was confirmed, it always seemed likely that Bale would leave White Hart Lane. The reigning PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year was coveted by Manchester United, but the Welsh forward realised his boyhood dream of moving to the Spanish capital. The protracted nature of the transfer, the injury he carried upon arrival and Real's refusal to confirm the reported 100 million euro fee made for an unusually anti-climactic world-record transfer, but Bale got his dream move and his illustrious strike partner, Cristiano Ronaldo, got a lucrative new contract to reaffirm his status as top dog at the Bernabeu.
Arsenal fans were braced for another disappointing transfer window -- with failed bids to sign Luis Suarez and Yohan Cabaye leaving Mathieu Flamini as the club's flagship summer signing -- when one of the most admired playmakers in world football landed at their feet on deadline day. Ozil's former Real Madrid teammates thought it was a joke, but a club-record 42.5 million pound fee secured the Gunners a genuine marquee player. The Germany international is yet to show his brilliant best on a consistent basis in the Premier League, but his arrival undoubtedly reinvigorated the Gunners as they spent most of the first half of the season at the top of the table.
Despite winning the Spanish league title for Real Madrid and making Los Blancos regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League again, Mourinho left the Bernabeu under a cloud. With Chelsea's top target for the dugout, Pep Guardiola, heading to Bayern and Mourinho reportedly favouring the vacancy at Old Trafford, the Portuguese was welcomed back to Stamford Bridge. The coach proclaimed himself the "Special One" before winning back-to-back Premier League titles during his first spell, but at the first news conference of his second spell, he said he was the "Happy One" to be back at his former club.
It has been a while since Barcelona experienced such a tumultuous year as 2013. They began the summer by securing the signature of the most coveted young player on the planet, Neymar, on May 28. However, just a few weeks later, the club was rocked by the news that Tito Vilanova, the coach who had just steered the Blaugrana to regaining the Spanish title, had suffered a relapse in his fight against throat cancer and would have to step down. Barca acted quickly by appointing Gerardo 'Tata' Martino within four days, and the Argentinian coach has inherited the role at a time of uncertainty both on and off the pitch.
U.S. forward Dempsey returning to the MLS was one of the surprise moves of the summer transfer window, both for the deal itself and the swiftness with which it was completed. 'Deuce' had only joined Tottenham from Fulham the previous summer, after his long-mooted move to Liverpool fell through. A year on, however, with Dempsey seemingly not in Andre Villas-Boas' first-team plans, he returned to his home country as the MLS' highest-paid player, eclipsing even the base salary David Beckham picked up while with LA Galaxy. Dempsey will be back in Premier League action -- temporarily, at least -- when his two-month loan return to Fulham begins in January.
After years of Lionel Messi's dominance, this year's Ballon d'Or seemed wide open as Franck Ribery's Treble-winning exploits and Cristiano Ronaldo's ruthless consistency gave them each strong cases to win the award. Ribery had looked likely to win the prize but -- not long after FIFA president Sepp Blatter's impromptu impersonation of Ronaldo was caught on camera -- the deadline for voting was put back by a fortnight. The official reason given was a response to the low number of votes cast, and the move meant Ronaldo's stunning hat trick in Portugal's World Cup playoff triumph over Sweden could be taken into account. Given his end-of-year form and Messi's injury, the 2008 winner now looks a certainty to lift the award for a second time in January.
There are many reasons to look forward to next year's World Cup finals in the world's most football-fixated country. The group-stage draw has put together 2010 finalists Spain and Netherlands, England are pitted against South American champions Uruguay and Euro 2012 runners-up Italy while Group G -- featuring Germany, Portugal, the U.S. and Ghana -- is a genuine group of death. However, the nationwide protests which marred the Confederations Cup, continued concerns over stadiums being completed on time and fatal accidents at grounds in Sao Paulo and Manaus mean the focus between now and the big kick-off in June will not all be on the upcoming action on the pitch.