Football in 2015: Barcelona dominate as Chelsea and Man United crash to new depths
Luis Enrique assumed the role of Barca head coach midway through 2014 after the team experienced a lean spell under Gerardo Martino, and has led the Camp Nou outfit back to silverware.
Barca lost their first game of 2015, 1-0 away to Real Sociedad, in controversial circumstances as Lionel Messi was benched.
However, the Blaugrana subsequently went on a stellar run of domestic form to claim the La Liga crown and Copa del Rey, beating Athletic Bilbao in the final.
Arguably the Catalan side’s best football was saved for the Champions League, with Enrique’s team steamrollering Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus on their way to winning the tournament for the fifth time.
Barcelona started 2015-16 in similar fashion, winning the European Super Cup against Sevilla, and they sit on top of La Liga at the winter break.
Enrique’s men concluded a memorable year by claiming the FIFA Club World Cup earlier this month in Japan, beating Argentine side River Plate 3-0 in the final.
The only blot on their copybook was losing to Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup, which prevented Enrique from equaling Pep Guardiola’s 2009 feat of winning six trophies in a calendar year.
Now we have our 5th trophy! A perfect 2015 for all Barça fans. Congratulations culés! pic.twitter.com/ls8nVTUo7N— Josep Maria Bartomeu (@jmbartomeu) December 20, 2015
Messi missed two months of action due to injury but is still the frontrunner to win a record fifth Ballon d’Or.
English football was marked by Chelsea’s dominance last season in winning the Premier League, but a dramatic slump this term has seen Jose Mourinho sacked.
Leicester City’s story has arguably been the most heart-warming in Europe, with the King Power Stadium minnows going from relegation candidates last season to title hopefuls this time round.
Nigel Pearson kept the Foxes in the top flight by small margins last season, with Claudio Ranieri taking over in the summer and leading the side to the Premier League summit by Christmas.
Jamie Vardy also broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games.
Van Nistelrooy's former side, Manchester United, face troubles of their own as a promising start to the 2015-16 season was abruptly ended by a sequence of no wins in eight games that has seen the Red Devils crash out of the Champions League and fall out of the top four in the league.
Elsewhere in Europe, Juventus, Bayern and PSG continued longstanding domestic dominance by winning their respective leagues.
Zenit St. Petersburg won the Russian Premier League in 2014-15, while runners-up CSKA Moscow top the table at the winter break this season.
In international football, Chile won their first-ever Copa America crown on home soil by beating Argentina on penalties in the final.
Qualifying for Euro 2016 also came to a conclusion, with 24 teams booking a place in France. Notably, England qualified with a perfect 10-out-of-10 wins, while the Netherlands missed out on a place in the finals after finishing fourth in their group.
Finally, the game’s reputation continued to be damaged by governing body FIFA, with a corruption scandal hitting new lows as shamed president Sepp Blatter and UEFA equivalent Michel Platini were banned for eight years.