Man City’s first UCL, Messi’s 8th Ballon D’or… Unforgettable football moments of 2023

 Man City’s first UCL, Messi’s 8th Ballon D’or… Unforgettable football moments of 2023

By Chimezie Amos

One of the best years in terms of football in recent memory, 2023 had all that a football fan dreams of except the FIFA men’s World Cup but hey, the FIFA Women’s World Cup was on the menu.

The round leather game fans witnessed thrilling matches, brilliant comebacks, embarrassing losses, several fairytale journeys, last-minute winners, retirement of some of the greats and many more. Let’s look at some of those moments.

Spain winning Fifa women’s World Cup

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is an international football tournament for women’s national teams. It is held every four years and the last edition before 2023 was hosted by France in 2019. Ladies from the United States took the Cup home for the fourth time and in 2023, the tournament was held in Australia and New Zealand as joint hosts for the very first time.

The tournament featured 24 teams from around the world, with each team playing three group stage matches before advancing to the knockout rounds and it was mouth watering. Australia and New Zealand 2023 FIFA women’s World Cup saw more teams, more games, and more goals than every other women’s world Cup edition in history.

From Hannah Wilkinson’s opening-day strike to help New Zealand win their first ever FIFA women’s World Cup game in 22 years and 15 games of trying to Sam Kerr’s Sydney thunderbolt, to Linda Caicedo missile curling into the top-right corner which helped Las Cafeteras to a historic win against Germany.  Spain and England faced off in the final match that took place on August 20, 2023, at the Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia. A goal by Olga Carmona, assisted by Mariona Caldentey, gave Spain a 1-0 victory in front of 75,784 spectators.

Alexia putellas celebrates world Cup with teammates

UEFA Champions League Final 2023 (Manchester City 1 vs Inter Milan 0):

Manchester City did not only become the new boy in the champions league winners block, they completed a sensational treble season by beating Inter Milan 1-0 to win the Champions League for the first time at the Ataturk Stadium. Rodri’s 68th-minute goal settled a cagey contest that a far-from-fluent City dominated but they never looked comfortable against the Italian team that have won the competition three times.

Despite conceding the goal in the second half, Inter still stuck to their strategy of extending the game into extra time and made several threats to tie the score but  Ederson, stood out to guarantee that City would win the Champions League for the first time. With this accomplishment, Guardiola wins his third Champions League overall and makes history as the first manager to win the treble with two different teams.

After Manchester United (1999, 2008), Liverpool (2005, 2019), and Chelsea (2012, 2021), Manchester City became the fourth different English team to win the UEFA Champions League with that victory. This is more than any other participating European country.

Newcastle and Arsenal returning to the UEFA Champions League

Newcastle United and Arsenal secured Champions League football this year 2023 for the first time since 2003 and 2016 respectively.

It is true that The Magpies had one season in the Europa League under Alan Pardew back in 2013 but that was a one-off and Europa league is not EUFA champions league – No disrespect to clubs playing in the Europa league.

In their return to their return to the biggest club competition in Europe, The Magpies were welcomed with a group that contained AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint-Germain.

Arsenal also returned to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in seven years under Mikel Arteta and the Spanish manager admitted he was “proud” to have led the club back to Europe’s top competition.

The London based club secured qualification to the knockout stage of the competition in some style as they beat Lens 6-0 in a sublime performance.

Retirement of Football Legends

2023 saw the retirement of some football legends – Eden Hazard, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cesc Fabregas, Mesut Ozil, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gianluigi Buffon, Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott including the so called “New Messi” that retired before the “Old Messi” – Bojan Krkic and host of other legends.

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the world of football. They can cut short the careers of talented players. Hazard is one of those. The Chelsea legend retired from football aged 32 after injury nightmares.

Hazard celebrates winning a trophy with Chelsea

The Belgian had an amazing time as a Chelsea player, winning PFA award, Goal of the Season awards, numerous trophies and as a bonus, he single handedly decided the Premier league winners on two occasions.

See also: Hazard, R9, Jack Wilshere… football stars whose careers were cut short by injury

During his 16-year football career, he made more than 700 appearances and gave the football world some genuinely amazing moments, including several unforgettable goals.

Zlatan Ibrahimović also bid farewell to the sport after a successful career that spanned multiple top clubs in different countries scoring 511 goals in 866 club games as well as 62 in 122 for Sweden. He told AC Milan fans during his farewell message “goodbye to football, but not to you”.

FIFA World Cup winner, Buffon retired this year also at the age of 45. He is known as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Gareth Bale announced his retirement from professional football in January 2023 following a successful career at both club and international level. Bale won the UEFA Champions League five times with Real Madrid.

Messi’s record 8th Ballon d’Or

Every player dreams to one day win the Ballon d’Or once or even to be shortlisted for the award because it is the most prestigious individual award in football. However, just few players in history have managed to win the award more than once. In fact, Only 10 players have won multiple Ballons d’Or and only five of them have claimed the biggest individual honour in football thrice or more.

Messi poses with his eight Ballon d’Or award

Then, there is Lionel Messi who made history in 2023 by winning it a record eighth times with a total of 462 points. The closest player to Messi in number of Ballon d’Or is Cristiano Ronaldo with five Ballon d’Ors – both players shared the biggest stage in football for more than a decade.

Mason Greenwood returns to the pitch

Mason greenwood returned to football with Gatafe after 18 months of not playing a competitive game following his suspension by Manchester United since January 30, 2022, over allegations of attempted rape and assault. All charges against Greenwood were dropped in February of 2023, and he is now attempting to reignite his career with the Spanish club.

Napoli’s remarkable first league title since 1989-90

Napoli players celebrate winning Seria A for the first time in over three decades

After Argentina’s legendary player Diego Maradona guided them to their only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990, Napoli finally ended a 33-year drought to win the league.

Coach Luciano Spalletti broke down in tears following his team’s much-needed third Serie A championship victory. At 64, the Italian manager became the oldest manager to win seria A.

Liverpool Epic thrashing of Manchester United 7-0

2023 was not the best year to be a Manchester United fan. The Red Devils had series of problems and saga ranging from Greenwood’s case to Antony’s case to problems with Jadon Sancho to management and ownership issues but nobody would have predicted that they would also suffer their heaviest defeat in over 90 years.

On March 5th, 2023, United went to Anfield for a premier league match and were hammered by Klopp’s Liverpool 7-0 inflicting the Manchester club its joint heaviest defeat in history – the other big loss was to Wolverhampton Wanderers on boxing day of 1931.

Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah, and Cody Gakpo all scored twice for Liverpool in that resounding victory to demonstrate the strength of Klopp’s developing forward line. However, the win was ultimately insignificant because United secured a top-four finish and Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Also see: GOAT debate settled? — How Messi became football’s most decorated player

Related post