With stars born, sensations caused and champions crowned, 2008 has been a dramatic and memorable year for football. Now, as this annus mirabilis comes to a close, FIFA.com looks at the statistics that have underpinned its greatest individual and collective success stories.
years after topping the Egyptian Premier League for the first time, Al Ahly added to their record tally of titles by claiming a fourth successive league championship, their 33rd overall. Although their year ended on a flat note with a poor FIFA Club World Cup campaign, the Cairo giants have now won three times more domestic titles than their great rivals, Zamalek.
years after the Copa Libertadores was established, South America's elite club competition's first-ever Ecuadorian winners were crowned in July. Liga de Quito were the club to make history, beating Fluminese on penalties to become only the third team from outside Brazil and Argentina to lift the Libertadores in the past 17 years.
years without a major trophy ended for Spain this summer when they ditched their reputation as international football's great underachievers with victory at UEFA EURO 2008. The 1-0 final win over Germany proved merely to be the high point of a year to remember for La Furia Roja, one that also witnessed them establish a new unbeaten record of 38 matches in FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers, score their 200th preliminary goal and go 715 minutes without conceding.
games unbeaten took Standard Liege to their first Belgian league title in 25 years, with a 2-0 win over Anderlecht on 20 April clinching glory. This season, however, Standard are the team doing the chasing, with Anderlecht currently leading the Jupiler League by four points.
major trophies have now been brought to Manchester United during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign, this after a year to remember for the English giants and their Scottish manager. Not only did 2008 bring the 10th Premier League title and second UEFA Champions League crown of Ferguson's tenure; it ended with the Red Devils clutching their first-ever FIFA Club World Cup after victory at Japan 2008.
years ago, Hoffenheim were an eighth-tier amateur team playing their football in utter obscurity. Today, at the halfway point in the Bundesliga, they sit proudly at the summit of the German top flight, having held off Bayern Munich for the title of Herbstmeisters. Can they hold on to top spot? All will be revealed in 2009.
years is all Hull City needed to climb from the bottom rung of English football to its top tier, clinching promotion to the Premier League in a dramatic Championship play-off back in May. The Tigers are also making the most of their first season in the top flight for 104 years, with a superb first half of the season having left them perched just below Arsenal in sixth position.
Manchester United appearances was the mammoth tally accrued by Bobby Charlton between 1954 and 1973. The Old Trafford legend was in the crowd at Wigan Athletic to see Ryan Giggs equal that tally in a match that saw the Welshman cement his status as the most successful player in the history of the English top flight by securing a tenth league winners' medal with the decisive, title-clinching goal.
caps is the milestone that Edwin van der Sar reached, eclipsing the record of Denmark's Peter Schmeichel, when he kept a clean sheet for the Netherlands in Norway on 15 October. In doing so, the 38-year-old became the joint-third most-capped goalkeeper alongside Jorge Campos, this in a year that also saw him become the oldest player ever to represent the Netherlands in a major tournament.
goals is Rogerio Ceni's running goal tally after another year to remember for the inimitable Sao Paulo No1. The 35-year-old, who has racked up 839 appearances during his 18-year spell at the Morumbi, was once again an inspirational figure as the Tricolor Paulista clinched a record third successive Brasileiro title.
years after the previous record was set, Alexander Frei became Switzerland's all-time leading goalscorer by scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein on 30 May. This brace took the Borussia Dortmund striker past the 34-goal mark set by Xam Abegglen between 1922 and 1937, and despite suffering ligament damage during UEFA EURO 2008, Frei has since fought back to increase his international tally to 37.
years after Stanley Matthews received the first-ever Ballon d'Or and 43 years on from Eusebio becoming the first Portuguese winner, Cristiano Ronaldo made history by claiming France Football's prestigious prize. The Portuguese winger will now hope that his remarkable contribution to Manchester United's 2007/08 season, which included 42 goals, will help him claim the FIFA World Player of the Year award in Zurich on 12 January.
major trophies, 557 Bundesliga matches and a record 190 clean sheets had been accrued by Oliver Kahn by the time the Bayern Munich stalwart hung up his gloves on 17 May. 'King Kahn', who was voted the world's best goalkeeper on three separate occasions, ended his career in fittingly glorious fashion, leading Bayern to a league and cup double.
Primera Liga goals are all that Raul now requires to eclipse the legendary Alfedo Di Stefano's tally of 227. The Real Madrid captain would need another 24 to surpass the record total of the late, great Telmo Zarra, but in the meantime he can content himself with holding two records of his own, as the top scorer in UEFA club matches and as the UEFA Champions League's all-time leading marksman.