2017 in football: Best moments of the year

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As the new year looms, Goal looks back on some of the best and most significant moments in football during the last 12 months

  1. Messi's audacious Clasico shirt celebration

    Back in April, as the 2016-17 Liga title race was heading towards a heated finale, Real Madrid and Barcelona locked horns at the Bernabeu. Barca came into the clash at the Bernabeu behind their bitter rivals and needed a win to haul themselves back into the title race.

    Things got off to a bad start for the Blaugrana as Casemiro fired Real ahead, but Lionel Messi cancelled it out five minutes later. Ivan Rakitic then put Barca ahead mid-way through the second half, but James Rodriguez struck in the final five minutes to haul Madrid level. However, Messi rose to the occasion once again, blasting the winner past Keylor Navas in the 92nd minute

    What followed was one of the most iconic images of 2017 and certainly one that will endure in the annals of Clasico history as Messi coolly held aloft his shirt in front of Real Madrid fans to mark his 500th Barca goal and the one that saw him overtake Alfredo Di Stefano as the all-time Clasico top scorer.

  2. Messi single-handedly dragging Argentina to the World Cup

    As the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification cycle came to a conclusion it looked like Argentina might not make it. Defeats to Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Ecuador, as well as too many draws, left the Albiceleste needing a win in their final in order to ensure their safe passage to Russia in 2018.

    The game against Ecuador in Quito got off to a disastrous start as Romario Ibarra shot Los Amarillos in front after the first minute and it looked like Jorge Sampaoli's men were set to miss out on a place at the world's biggest tournament for the first time since 1970.

    However, Messi was in no mood for such a narrative and he scored two goals within 10 minutes to put his country ahead before putting the icing on the cake with his hat-trick strike in the final 10 minutes. The Barcelona star had rescued his country and ensured that his talents will grace a fourth World Cup.

  3. The retirement of Francesco Totti

    May 28, 2017 was an emotional day in Italy as one of its greatest sporting heroes brought the curtain down on his career. After 25 years, Francesco Totti finally called it a day and he was given his swan song as a second-half substitute in Roma's 3-2 victory over Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico.

    The World Cup winner bid farewell to the Giallorossi faithful with a passionate and tearful address, delivered from the pitch and it is a moment that will, no doubt live long in the memory.

  4. Real Madrid win consecutive Champions Leagues

    Real Madrid are the most successful team in the history of the Champions League and they made yet more history in June 2017 when they became the first team to successfully defend the trophy in the modern era.

    Real won the European Cup four years in succession in the 1950s, while Bayern Munich and Ajax each won it three times in a row in the 1970s. AC Milan won it twice in a row in the late 1980s, but notably no club had managed the feat since the adoption of the new format in 1992.

    Los Blancos blew Juventus away in the final, easily beating the Italian champions 4-1 in Cardiff, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice.

  5. Chape plane crash survivor Ruschel returns to action

    The football world was united in mourning in November 2016 following the plane crash that claimed the lives of 71 people, including the majority of Brazilian team Chapecoense's players. So, when one of the crash survivors, Alan Ruschel, made a return to action less than a year later, it was particularly poignant.

    Ruschel who, along with Neto and Jackson Follman, was one of three Chape players to survive, featured in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Barcelona in August and then scored in a friendly match against Roma in September before making a return to competitive action later that month.

  6. Tottenham's farewell to White Hart Lane

    Tottenham ended their 118-year association with White Hart Lane in 2017 and they signed off in style with a 2-1 win over Manchester United, which ensured they finished the season unbeaten at the venue. Spurs subsequently moved in to Wembley where they will remain temporarily while their new stadium is built.

  7. Mo Salah inspiring Egypt to the World Cup

    Mohamed Salah has been the undoubted star of Liverpool's season, but his best moment in 2017 was arguably sending Egypt to their first World Cup in 28 years.

    The Pharaohs needed a win against Congo to qualify and things were going swimmingly as Salah opened the scoring, but Arnold Bouka Moutou threatened to ruin the celebrations when he struck an equaliser in the 87th minute. 

    However, Salah showed nerves of steel to convert a 95th-minute penalty which clinched victory and, more importantly, a place at the 2018 World Cup.

  8. Kuyt's heroic Eredivisie sign-off for Feyenoord

    Scoring a hat-trick to help your team win a league title on the last day of the season might just be the best way to sign off in football and Dirk Kuyt achieved that feat.

    The former Liverpool and Netherlands forward scored every goal for the Rotterdam giants as they beat Heracles 3-1 to pip Ajax to the Eredivisie title back in May.

    It was Feyenoord's first league title in 18 years and Kuyt went out on a high, announcing his retirement from playing just three days later.

  9. Iceland & Panama reach first ever World Cup

    World Cup 2018 will see two teams feature in the tournament for the first time after relative minnows Iceland and Panama booked their place in Russia next summer. The feat is particularly remarkable given the relative stature of the two nations on the global stage.

    Iceland, a nation of just over 330,000 people, topped a qualifying group containing the likes of Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine, while Panama pipped the United States to become one of CONCACAF's three representatives in Russia, along with Mexico and Costa Rica.

  10. Ronaldo equals Messi with fifth Ballon d'Or

    The year 2017 undoubtedly belonged the Real Madrid as Los Blancos dominated world football, winning five trophies and Cristiano Ronaldo was, unsurprisingly their main man.

    The Portuguese's exploits in the Real shirt during the year, which included a man-of-the-match display in the Champions League final and a total of 42 goals in all competitions, saw him collect a slew of individual awards.

    He was twice recognised as 'The Best' by FIFA in 2017, but the most significant of these - symbolically at least - was his fifth Ballon d'Or accolade in December, which brought him level with Lionel Messi.

  11. Germany cruise to Confederations Cup success

    Joachim Low's squad selection for the 2017 Confederations Cup left many scratching their heads as the Germany boss opted to leave out a spate of established stars. However, Die Mannschaft's so-called second string outperformed every team in their way to hoist the trophy over their heads during the summer.

    The world champions were without key men such as Manual Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels, but they managed to scoop the title for the first time in their history nonetheless.

    Led by Julian Draxler, Germany's breakthrough players included Leon Goretzka, Lars Stindl and Timo Werner, and they sealed glory by beating Alexis Sanchez's Chile in the final.

  12. Jermain Defoe's heartwarming friendship with Bradley Lowery

    England star Jermain Defoe's friendship with the late Bradley Lowery was at once touching and tragic.

    Sunderland fan Lowery suffered from a terminal illness, but regularly accompanied Defoe and the Black Cats as a mascot for games, establishing a heartwarming rapport with the former Tottenham striker. Indeed, Defoe was to the fore in supporting Lowery and his family as they sought to raise funds to help him fight the cancer neuroblastoma.

    Following Lowery's death in July, the striker attended the funeral and wrote a moving tribute saying that the six-year-old's "courage and bravery will continue to inspire [him] for the rest of [his] life."

  13. PSG smash transfer record for Neymar

    The past year has been an incredible period in the history of football as astronomical transfer market fees become the norm and the most significant of these fees was paid by Paris Saint-Germain to obtain the services of Neymar.

    The Ligue 1 giants forked out €222 million to Barcelona for the Brazil international in August, making him the most expensive player of all time, totally obliterating the record set when Manchester United paid €105m for Paul Pogba.

    Neymar's high fee was followed by another massive fee as Barca handed over €105m to Borussia Dortmund for Ousmane Dembele, while Liverpool made Virgil van Dijk the most expensive defender in history by paying €85m for his services.

    Check out the most expensive transfers of all time here.