Year in review: 18 most memorable moments of 2018 ⚽

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From Kylian Mbappe taking over on the biggest stage to Jose Mourinho getting the boot, world football served up plenty of memorable moments in 2018. Here, in no particular order, are 18 events that defined the last year, broken up into three distinct categories.

The 2018 World Cup

Naturally, the World Cup looms large when reviewing the past 12 months.

Julen Lopetegui fired by Spain

Quality Sport Images / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Talk about killing the vibe. brilliant response from Zinedine Zidane, was the standout event in a contest littered with them. His relationship with the club - and its fans - hadn't always been smooth, but none of that mattered as he trampolined off the ground and acrobatically found the back of the net.

The daily news cycle

There's never a dull day in the world of football.

Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal

The time had come. The end of Arsene Wenger's decorated tenure with Arsenal was probably overdue. But that didn't lessen the emotional impact when the French gaffer finally called time on his 22-year spell at the Gunners' helm in April. A true Premier League titan, Wenger's influence on football - both in England and abroad - was immense.

Juventus fans can't help but applaud Ronaldo

Angel Martinez / Real Madrid / Getty

It was quite the year for feats of pure athleticism. Gareth Bale's aforementioned bicycle kick came on the bigger stage, but it can be argued that Cristiano Ronaldo's entry in the Puskas conversation ultimately shook up the football landscape. The Portuguese star received a standing ovation from Juventus supporters when he beat Gianluigi Buffon with a sensational bicycle kick of his own in the Champions League, later admitting the applause factored into his decision to join the club.

Manchester City reach 100 points

Manchester City had long wrapped up the Premier League crown when Gabriel Jesus scored the winning goal against Southampton on the final day of the season, but you couldn't tell based on the reactions of the players. Even Pep Guardiola leapt in the air and pumped his fists wildly as City became the first team in Premier League history to crack the 100-point barrier, setting a bevy of other records in the process.

Roma's comeback vs. Barcelona

LLUIS GENE / AFP / Getty

"Roma have risen from their ruins." Peter Drury couldn't have put it any better. Nobody gave Roma a chance to overturn a 4-1 first-leg deficit when they returned home to take on Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, but that's precisely what they did. Kostas Manolas' decisive late goal had fans in tears, spawning a seminal celebration from the Greek defender as well as Drury's instantly quotable commentary.

Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid

Just how significant a role did that standing ovation play? Ronaldo, after nine trophy-laden years with Real Madrid, stunned the football world when he made a €100-million move to Italian champions Juventus in July. The 33-year-old attacker is the Old Lady's leading scorer this season, being relied upon to help Juve get over the hump on the continent while his former side struggles for goals without him.

Copa Libertadores descends into chaos

Matthias Hangst / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It should have been one of the grandest spectacles in the history of Argentine football. Instead, the Copa Libertadores was marred by a combination of fan violence and ineptitude from the authorities: an attack on the Boca Juniors team bus by rival River Plate supporters forced the second leg of the final to be postponed multiple times. It was ultimately shifted to Madrid, of all places. What a shame.

Zlatan makes his MLS mark

Zlatan Ibrahimovic sure knows how to make one hell of a first impression. Of course he does. The well-traveled superstar didn't waste any time making an imprint on Major League Soccer, scoring with an absurd 40-yard dipping strike in his LA Galaxy debut. It came against the club's new city rivals, LAFC, no less. And he wasn't done there. Late in the season, he scored the 500th goal of his outstanding career in typical Zlatan fashion: a spinning karate kick into the top corner. Nobody else has a flair for the dramatic quite like Ibra.

Atlanta United win MLS Cup

Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

Atlanta is a soccer hotbed. Over 70,000 people packed the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in December to watch Tata Martino and Co. capture the club's first MLS title. Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron led the Five Stripes to a championship in just their second year of existence while the rabid fan base is already among the most passionate anywhere in the world.

Mourinho out

Manchester United faithful everywhere - and Paul Pogba - got the perfect Christmas gift when grating bench boss Jose Mourinho was mercifully sent packing. Having overseen the Red Devils' worst start to a league season in nearly three decades, his firing was inevitable, but it still sent shockwaves throughout the football world.

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