Barcelona's season; Messi's too

Barcelona's season; Messi's too

Barcelona's season; Messi's too

Lionel Messi

Florentino Perez heralded a third term as Real president by spending 80 million pounds (94 million euros) to Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo, a world-record transfer, and Kaka from AC Milan for 67.5 million euros.

The cheque book also came out in the summer for, among others, striker Karim Benzema and midfielder Xabi Alonso, for around 35 million euros apiece, and defender Raul Albiol for 15 million — taking Real's 2009 spending to above 200 million euros.

Barcelona set the standards on the pitch by winning the Champions League thanks to a goal in each half by Eto'o and Lionel Messi for a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the final in Rome to add to Spanish league and cup titles. They also won the world club title while Messi was named the FIFA World Player of the Year.

The focus for much of the year was on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup — a nerve-wracking time for some of the fancied nations. Argentina struggled but made it in the end, but question marks remain over coach Diego Maradona.

Maradonaa also had to cope with two-month ban imposed by FIFA for obscene remarks after Argentina reached the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Uruguay in October.  FIFA was facing several issues as the year came to an end, including a match-fixing investigation taking in nine European leagues and the possibility of introducing goal-line referees following Thierry Henry's handball which helped France make it to South Africa next year at the expense of the luckless Irish.

On the international stage, Brazil came from two goals down to defeat the United States 3-2 in the final of the Confederations Cup in Johannesburg. The US had previously ended a 35-match undefeated run by European champions Spain.