2012 in Football Part 2: Drama and dramatics

Records were broken, handshakes refused, and a certain Fabrice Muamba came back from the dead. 2012 has been one extraordinary year for football.

As clinical as ever.
Alison Chin

By Alison Chin

ESPNSTAR.com presents to you the second part of our look-back at events which dominated the headlines in 2012.

July

Terry acquitted by the Magistrates, charged by the FA

From the archives

John Terry cleared of racial allegations

Terry defence deemed not credible by FA

The fallout from racial abuse allegations levelled at John Terry by Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand began as early as February when the Chelsea player was stripped from the England captaincy, prompting then Three Lions manager Fabio Capello to resign.

Terry did turn out for England under Roy Hodgson at Euro 2012 and was acquitted by the Westminster Magistrate Court in July. However, he didn't completely dodge the bullet.

Under pressure from anti-racism groups around the United Kingdom, the English Football Association announced charges against Terry for the usage of abusive language two weeks after the Magistrate Court's verdict.

Denying the accusation directed at him once more, the Blues skipper requested a personal trial which he ultimately lost, but not before he denied the Three Lions any opportunity of calling upon his skills by retiring from international football at the age of 31.


2012 in Football Part 1: Drama and dramatics


August: The Gunners lose their captain...again

From the archives

Giggs: RVP signing sends a message

Fergie: RVP brings what United lacked

Manchester United complete RVP deal

When Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger swooped for Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud early in the transfer window, Gunners fans were excited by the prospect of the two new forwards linking up with star striker Robin van Persie. But it all turned pear-shaped for them soon after.

Van Persie, who had almost single-handedly dragged Arsenal into a Champions League spot, left for Manchester United citing a desire to win trophies. His departure and the fact that he joined one of Arsenal's once-bitterest rivals caused the fans to question Arsene Wenger yet again.

The fact that he has continued his stunning goal-scoring form in Manchester cannot have made it any easier for the Emirates faithful. Arsenal are in their eighth season without a trophy and the Dutchman is the second captain to have left them in succession after Cesc Fabregas' departure in August 2011.

September: Why so glum, Ronaldo?

From the archives

Calderon: Unhappy Ronaldo must go 

Laporta: Cristiano Ronaldo is human 

Arbeloa promises to stand by Ronaldo 

Ronaldo unhappy at Real Madrid

We may envy footballers the adulation and the glamorous lives, but September reminded us that those things may not necessarily lead to contentment.

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best and highest-paid footballers in the world, claimed he was "sad". Naturally, that was enough to send the entire community into an orgy of conjecture.

Some sources surmised that Ronaldo wanted an exorbitant wage rise, others pointed to a souring relationship with his Real team-mates, while certain parties believed it had to do with a growing frustration of living in the shadow of Lionel Messi.

Clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and City hovered like vultures; ready to pounce on the former Red Devil should his discontentment drive him to leave the Santiago Bernabeu. It proved an equally anxious wait for Los Blancos manager Jose Mourinho and the team's fans, both of whom were worried that Ronaldo's sadness would cause him to lose form.

All the speculation and criticism proved to be for naught in the end, as the 27-year old returned from an international break insisting that he was now fully focused on achieving further success with his club. Ronaldo grabbed his first hat-trick of the season two games later and all opinions subsided - at least until the next dramatic pronouncement.

October: Suarez dives head-first into controversy

From the archives

Rodgers defends under-fire Suarez 

Boyce: Football must eradicate diving 'cancer'

Suarez hits back at 'cheating' criticism

When Liverpool's Luis Suarez flopped like a beached whale during the team's Premier League fixture against Stoke, he was certainly not expecting the storm of controversy that followed. Labelled an embarrassment by Potters boss Tony Pulis after he pretended to lose his footing under pressure from the Stoke defence, Suarez was subjected to a barrage of criticism from established football journalists and officials, including FIFA vice-president Jim  Boyce, who likened the Uruguayan's actions to football's version of cancer.

Although Reds manager Brendan Rodgers and club director Ian Ayre pointed out that the forward was being vilified for a crime commonly committed by other players, Suarez failed to help his cause when he insisted the diving accusations directed at him were false. The 'diver' tag has since stuck to the Liverpool striker, and Suarez has found it difficult to convince referees of calling fouls in his favour.

To his credit though, Suarez has managed to continue banging in the goals - recently scoring his 11th goal of the season during Liverpool's 4-0 defeat of Fulham.

November: Clattenburg and Di Matteo sing the Blues

From the archive

Chelsea lodge formal Clattenburg complaint 

FA open to recording referee dialogue

Police drop Clattenburg probe

The penultimate month of the year was horrific for Chelsea.

It began with a controversial loss to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge during which referee Mark Clattenburg unfairly sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres before Javier Hernandez scored the winner for United from an offside position.

Chelsea then compounded matters by accusing Clattenburg of  "inappropriate language" towards John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata, prompting separate investigations by the English FA and the Metropolitan Police Service. Both came to naught - leading to numerous red faces in the Blues' dressing room.

On the pitch, the loss to United marked the beginning of a downward spiral for them - with draws against Swansea and Liverpool followed by defeat to West Brom. In Europe, Chelsea were ripped apart by Juventus, leaving the defending champions hanging by a thread in the competition.

Roman Abramovich, never in the running for the World's Most Patient man, soon sacked Di Matteo - the man who had been the toast of Stamford Bridge a mere six months ago when he took the club to their most coveted prize, the UEFA Champions League.

December: For the love of Messi

From the archive

Vilanova salutes 'great' Messi 

Gerd Muller lauds record-breaker Messi 

Immortal Messi breaks Muller record

Ever since Pep Guardiola shifted Lionel Messi from his attacking position on the flank to a more centralized role, the goals have flowed from the Argentinean.  As the strikes piled up, Messi juggled three Ballon d'Or awards and weaved his way past numerous records.

Last season, he became Barcelona's all-time goal-scorer and the first player to be the Champions League top scorer for four consecutive seasons.

The feats that distinguished Messi as one of the best footballers ever to grace this planet cannot be disputed, so what was there left for the 25-year old to do? Why, score more goals and break more records of course! This time, it was Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller's personal best that Messi claimed for his own, after the Barcelona star fired in his 85th and 86th goal of the calendar year against Real Betis recently.

Such was the world's obsession with Messi's latest feat that when the former Newell Old Boys player suffered a bruised knee during a Champions League fixture against Benfica, fans and media alike launched into an angry tirade against Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova for risking Messi in a meaningless game knowing that he stood on the brink of matching Muller's record.

The football world endured an anxious wait over the subsequent weekend but Messi allayed the distress when he took his place in the starting line-up against Betis and scored two typically brilliant goals as an early Christmas present to his fans.



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