The 50 Most Important Moments in Football History: Part Eight

Football is more than just a game. Over the last 150 years it has become a source of identity, conflict and debate for all who follow and play it. It has reached the furthest corners of the globe and boasts more players and supporters than any other sport. In this list, we will be going right the way through the illustrious, colourful and often tragic history of football and finding out once and for all what the most important moments are in this truly beautiful game.

36.  The Bosman Ruling (1995)

Jean-Marc Bosman
Way back in 1907 (Part Two) we saw how Billy Meredith helped form what would become the PFA. Two of the main things Meredith wanted to fight for, was the abolition of the maxium wage that was imposed upon footballers and greater freedom of moment for players who had been prevented by the power of their clubs. It would take until 1961 for the maximum wage cap was removed but players were still prevented from leaving clubs on a free transfer at the end of their contracts. This meant a club could keep unhappy (but potentially valuable) players on their books until a club paid them an agreed transfer fee.

Jean-Marc Bosman however, changed the footballing world in the 1990s. Bosman, a Belgian midfielder, was coming to the end of his with his side RFC Liege. His two year spell with the club was not a positive one and so Bosman was looking to move on at the end of his deal. French second tier side Dunkirk had offered him a deal he wanted to sign but Bosman was prevented from leaving the club on a free transfer because RFC Liege were holding out for a fee. Liege then cut Bosman's wages by 75% leading to the most significant legal battle in the history of the beautiful game.

Bosman's legal fight took five years to complete, the tussle going to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The arugement of Bosman and his lawyers was based upon the EU'sTreaty of Rome (1957). This guaranteed the freedom of movement for players anywhere in the European Economic Community. The legal wrangling ruined Bosman's career - he was banned from the Belgian league by the country's association. Other clubs would not sign the trouble maker, Bosman only featuring for French sides Saint Quentin and Saint Denis for short periods. In 1995 the ECJ made their ruling, finding in favour of Bosman and setting a precedent that would change football forever. Footballers could now move on a 'free transfer' at the end of their contracts, the power had firnmly swung to the players and has remained that way ever since.

Sol Campbell moved from Tottenham to rivals Arsenal 'on a free' due to Bosman

The impact of the Bosman Law saw the rise of the football agent. Players could demand massive signing-on-fees at their new clubs who were saving money because of the free transfer. Of course whilst it freed all clubs to benefit, as every football club in the world has, it has been infamously ranted about by managers. Sir Alex Ferguson remarked in 2015: "Once the European Court of Justice ruled that clubs no longer had to pay transfer fees after the expiration of a player's contract, all hell broke loose. Suddenly it was a free-for-all." Ian Holloway also exploded about Bosman in a press conference in 2010, after Manchester United and Wayne Rooney fell out over an improved contract (video below). So Bosman, still controversial but here to stay - a top 50 moment? Absolutely!

Ian Holloway has ranted continually about the Bosman law

37. World Cup 1998 - Owen, Ronaldo and France (1998)

The World Cup in 1998 is remembered for so many reasons: France winning on home soil, David Beckham's red card, Michael Owen's stunning goal, Davor Šuker and of course, Brazilian Ronaldo. This World Cup would be the largest ever, 32 teams instead of the 24 previously making the finals. France, the host nation, were hunting their first ever title whilst Brazil, the current holders, were well fancied for another success.

The group stages passed by without too much incidence: France winning all three of their games, Brazil winning two whilst also losing surprisingly to Norway, Germany and England progressing safely along with Argentina and Croatia too. Group D would see the biggest upsets, top seeds Spain failing to qualify and Bulgaria (who were excellent in 1994) finishing bottom of the group. This would set up an all-South American Last 16 tie between Brazil and Chile. Brazil's Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Bebeto had made flying starts to the tournament and this continued v Chile. Ronaldo netting twice alongside two more from César Sampaio in a 4-1 victory - Safe passage to the Quarter-Finals.  France meanwhile neeeded extra-time and a Laurent Blanc goal to see off Paraguay.

The most famous Last 16 clash was undoubtedly Argentina v England (video above). On 30th June, the rivals of 1986 would meet again on the world stage. The match got off to a rip roaring start, Batistua scoring a penalty in the 5th minute whilst Shearer responded with a penalty of his own 4 minutes later. Then came one of the moments of the World Cup - Michael Owen, 18-year-old Liverpool striker - scored a goal to announce himself to the globe. The stunning solo goal put England 2-1 but on the stroke of half-time, Javier Zanetti levelled the match. Perhaps a turning point came just two minutes into the second half, Manchester United's David Beckham kicked out at Diego Simeone right under the referee's nose. The midfielder was dismissed and England would surely now be heading home? The English managed to take the game into extra-time, Argentina failing to find a way through in this too. Penalities would be needed to settle this fixture! Hernan Crespo and Paul Ince both missed their sides second penalty and with everyone else scoring, it came down to the fifth and final spot-kick. Step up David Batty... The Yorkshireman didn't score and England were out, penalty heartbreak yet again!

Ronaldo was Player of the Tournament
In the Quarter-Finals, hosts France would need penalties too to put away the Italians, the Croatians (who dominated Germany 3-0) would await in the Semis. Argentina lost to the Dutch whilst Brazil were given a scare by Denmark. They snuck through 3-2 with Rivaldo the hero of that game as he secured a brace. Onto the Semi-Finals - Brazil v Netherlands & France v Croatia. Ronaldo, who had come off the back of a 34 goal debut season at Inter Milan, scored just after the break and seemingly put the favourites through. Patrick Kluivert (of city rivals AC Milan) had other ideas though and 3 minutes from time secured another half hour of bonus football for the fans watching at home! A 4-2 penalty victory was enough to see Brazil into yet another final. France, playing in Saint-Denis, had right-back Lillian Thuram to thank for their victory as Croatia (with Golden Boot winner Davor Šuker) suffered a 2-1 defeat.

So the stage for the Final on 12th July 1998 was set - Host France versus favourites to defend their title Brazil, mouth-watering! However, to everyone's surprise, Ronaldo (who had been star of the tournament) was left off the teamsheet when the names were published. It was later revealed that around lunchtime that day, Ronaldo had suffered a convulsion, The Brazil squad, some of whom witnessed it, were shocked and distressed in the build up to the evening's game. Suddenly, just before kick-off, Ronaldo was re-instated into the side. What was going on? It turned out medical exams passed him fit to play but the match that then took place would prove otherwise. Juventus midfielder Zinedine Zidane scored two first half strikes to put the French into an unassailable lead. Emmanuel Petit rounded off the Final in the 93rd minute to give France their first ever World Cup triumph. For Brazil and Ronaldo, 1998 would always remain a question of 'what if?'.

France were World Cup 1998 champions

38. Manchester United's Treble Winning Season (1998/99)

The 1998/99 season is the most successful in the great history of Manchester United Football Club. With Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm, United had won four titles in the Premier League era, the league and FA Cup double coming in 1994 and 1996. They had become a formidable force, despite Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen declaring in August 1995: “You can’t win anything with kids”. Those ‘kids’ were the famous ‘Class of 1992’, featuring David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt. It would be 1998/1999 that would become their crowning glory.

Over the summer of 1998 some old faces left Old Trafford, Brian McClair and Gary Pallister the notable men to move on. Fergie’s young but impressive side would be supplemented by the arrivals of defender Jaap Stam, winger Jesper Blomqvist and striker Dwight Yorke. However, things got off to a difficult start in August with United losing the Charity Shield 3-0 to rivals Arsenal. That loss though, would be one of just five throughout the course of the coming season – only 3 occurring in the Premier League. United would also have a spell of 33 games unbeaten in all competitions starting on Boxing Day 1998.

So to the Premier League title and from gameweek 1, Man United had to show off that 'never say die' attitude akin to a Sir Alex side. 2-0 down in the 79th minute, a Teddy Sheringham strike would bring the Red Devils back into it. Then, Mr Reliable - David Beckham netted to level the game in injury time. This result would help keep an unbeaten home record till December when Middlesbrough would record a surprsing 3-2 victory. This though, would be the only time United would lose at Old Trafford all season. Arsenal would push the title race all the way till the end of the campaign but Man United secured the title with 79 points, 1 clear of their rivals. Trophy 1 wrapped up!

The FA Cup meanwhile was no easy cup to secure. Seeing off Merseyside enemies Liverpool in the 4th Round, Chelsea then took them to a replay in the Quarter-Finals. Drawing 0-0 at home, a Yorke double put United into a Semi-Final clash with Arsenal. The two sides met at Villa Park but a 0-0 draw meant they'd have to do it all again in a replay just 4 days later. With Beckham on the scoresheet the two sides would finish 1-1 and head to extra-time. Ryan Giggs netted a 109th minute winner, leading to the famous celebration above. In the Final at Wembley, Man United would meet Newcastle United with Sheringham and Scholes scoring to lift the trophy. Even if they lost in the Champions League final just 4 days later, the Red Devils would still have a League/Cup double.

To the final piece of that treble jigsaw. Manchester United were attempting to become the first ever English club to ever win a treble. United's group contained Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brondby and despite drawing 4 of their 6 games (both times 3-3 thrillers with Barca), the 6-2 & 5-0 win over Danish side Brondby was enough to take second place in their group. United would then go through the knock-out rounds unbeaten, Italian sides Inter Milan and Juventus put to the sword. Bayern Munich would await on 26th May 1999 - it would become one of the greatest finishes to a final ever. Mario Besler gave the Germans a 1-0 lead after just 6 minutes and had seemingly stolen the treble from Sir Alex. Then the unthinkable happened, Teddy Sheringham netted in the 91st minute to seemingly secure extra-time before Ole Gunnar Solskjær sent himself down in United history. A 93rd minute goal to win the match and send the red half of Manchester into delirium - United were treble winners!

Super-Sub Solskjær!

39. I am a Special One – Mourinho (2004)

We talked about two 2004 moments for this spot, Greece wining the European Championships was as stunning and unexpected as Denmark doing the same in 1992. However, we could not miss out this man. Hate him or love him, Jose Mourinho is someone who has dominated the headlines of the football world for the last 15 years. 2004 was the moment he arrived on the scene, announcing to the world 'I think I am a special one' upon being appointed Chelsea boss. He asked for us not to think of him as arrogant, well I'm not sure that happened... but has he gone about proving himself ever since?

Jose Mourinho, known by Barcelona fans derogatorily as 'The translator' because of his role there as Bobby Robson's translator, first shot to real fame at FC Porto. He won back to back leagues between 2002-2004 and then stunned Europe with a stunning Champions League victory in 2004. Having put out Chelsea in the Semi-Finals, Porto put Monaco away 3-0 in the Final. This attracted the attention of ambitious new Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who appointed him manager in the summer of 2004. Mourinho ruffled feathers instantly, I think it's safe to say that if you weren't a Chelsea fan you hated Jose!

Jose Mourinho led Inter Milan to a treble in 2009/10
For all his ego, coupled with the finances of Abramovich Jose's Chelsea won the Premier League in his very first season, along with a League Cup. The very next season? He won the league again! Despite setting an unbeaten home record by the start of the 2007/08 campaign, over 64 consecutive games, Mourinho and Abramovich fell out. In September 2007, 'The Special One' left the club. After the season off Inter Milan became the new venue for Jose. In Italy the Serie A title was secured within his first season yet again. Yet again this was retained in 2009/10 in Jose's spectacular treble winning season - Serie A, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League trophy. Following this season, Real Madrid came knocking and Jose too the chance to move to Spain.

Real Madrid was where Mourinho's rivalry with then Barcelona boss, Pep Guardiola, was ignited. The two did battle for the La Liga title over Jose's 3 years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Jose winning the title once, adding to a single Copa del Rey and a single Supercopa de España. Whilst popular again with the fans of the club he manages, Jose doesn't always win fans at other clubs. His defensively focused style, that prioritises winning over beautiful football, is undoubtedly successful but not always enjoyable. This did not stop Chelsea bringing Jose back in 2013 however, Mou again delivering a Premier League title (14/15) and a League Cup. Jose's relationship with Abramovich, and a poor start to the 2015/16 campaign, saw Mourinho leave Chelsea for a second time. Now at Manchester United, a Europa League his major success, the pressure is on Mourinho to succeed again and challenge his old adversary Pep Guardliola at Manchester City.

Mourinho has 3 Premier League titles with Chelsea

Mourinho's career has spanned four countries, managing 5 of the biggest clubs in the history of football. He has won trophies wherever he has gone, let me just reel off Jose's managerial trophy cabinet for you: 2x Primeira Liga, 1x Taça de Portugal, 1x Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira, 2x UEFA Champions League, 2x UEFA Cup/Europa League, 3x Premier League, 1x FA Cup, 4x Football League Cup, 2x FA Community Shield, 2x Serie A, 1x Coppa Italia, 1x Supercoppa Italiana, 1x La Liga, 1x Copa del Rey, 1x Supercopa de España. Not bad for a translator eh? Special? I think so!

40. The Miracle of Istanbul (2005)

"Six minutes. Think about it for a moment. What exactly can you do in six minutes?"

The quote from John Williams' book, "The Miracle of Istanbul", says it all. In six short second-half minutes, perhaps the most remarkable game in football history was turned on its head. The game we are talking about was of course the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final. Competing in the historic city of Istanbul was 2003 Champions AC Milan and former European giants, Liverpool. By 2005, Milan had confirmed their position as Europe's top club - their squad was made of superstars, like Cafu, Paolo Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko - and their manager was former Italian midfielder, Carlo Ancelotti. Liverpool, on the other hand, had been inconsistent for over a decade and with the exception of 2001, had struggled for meaningful silverware.

In 2004, Spanish manager, Rafael Benitez joined the reds. In front of him was, to quote Steven Gerrard, "a squad which needed strengthening and improving". Benitez's job was huge, but with the acquisitions of Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia and the undeniable homegrown talents of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, he at least could boast a strong spine. Following a nail-biting Champions League group campaign, which saw the Reds minutes away from a group-stage exit, the knockout rounds would see them face Bayer Leverkusen. Victories both home and away set up an emotional tie against Juventus. In May, a Luis Garcia 'ghost goal' saw off new, yet bitter rivals Chelsea. Milan had less problems and comfortably made it to the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul. The match itself saw Milan as clear favourites.

56 seconds. Maldini. Milan 1-0 Liverpool.

Not the desired start for Benitez's men. The XI selected to start the match had been a surprise from the off as his usual pragmatic approach was left, in favour of a more attacking style. Before long, Milan were tearing Liverpool to shreds. Brazilian playmaker Kaka was running the show and two quick-fire Hernan Crespo goals gave the Italians an unassailable lead. At half time - Milan 3-0 Liverpool.
"As I walked towards the dressing room, I was suffering from a depressing combination of despondency and humiliation. I couldn't bear to life my head up and glimpse at the faces in the crowd."
Jamie Carragher 

The second half was changed in a mere six minutes. Following the introduction of German Didi Hamann, the Liverpool system changed. Suddenly, the flair of Kaka was stifled and the rampaging full-backs of Milan were forced to defend. In the 54th minute, Captain Steven Gerrard headed Liverpool back into the game. His celebration was to rouse the euphoric support into a cacophony of noise. Within two minutes, forgotten man Vladimir Smicer had smashed in from twenty-yards and four minutes after that Gerrard was brought down by Gattuso for a penalty. Alonso's spot-kick was saved by Dida, before he thumped the rebound into the roof of the net. Milan 3-3 Liverpool.
“I could not believe it. It seemed impossible...I think this is part of the beauty of football. That match is part of destiny, of things that can’t be explained. Even today I can’t believe it.”
Hernan Crespo

Into extra-time. Extra time saw Milan come back at Liverpool. Applying intense pressure to increasingly fatigued legs was sure to pay off. In the 117th minute, just 3 minutes before the end of play, one of the greatest double-saves in football history was made. Firstly, a downward header from Shevchenko was denied by Jerzy Dudek before a point-blank reaction deflected a certain goal over the crossbar. For Shevchenko, it was now he knew the cup was destined for Liverpool. In the resulting shoot-out, Serginho, Pirlo and 'Sheva' himself missed, meaning the cup was returning to Merseyside.

So what did this mean for football? Firstly, it made us all take note of the underdog - it showed that team spirit, passionate supporters and resilience can go a long way. It gave fuel to the notion that every minute in football match is as important as the next. A game is never over. In just 6 unpredictable minutes, you can go from forlorn despondency, to the centre of the universe.

Dudek saves Shevchenko's penalty to win the Champions League

by Gareth Thomas (@TFHBs)

We hope you enjoyed part eight of our '50 most important moments in football history'. Make sure you check out our previous editions of this series:

Part 1 - Moments 1-5 (1857-1883)

Part 2 - Moments 6-10 (1888-1914)

Part 3 - Moments 11-15 (1917-1949)

Part 4 - Moments 16-20 (1950-1960)

Part 5 - Moments 21-25 (1961-1970)

Part 6 - Moments 26-30 (1974-1986)

Part 7 - Moments 31-35 (1986-1992)


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