With the end of the year comes year-end list-icles. It's an inevitability of the Internet, like cat videos or poor grammar.
Tonight's list is about pure entertainment, on and off the pitch.
Here are 25 of the most outrageous and funny moments in football this year, from the ridiculous soundbites to the tabloid scandals, awesome goal celebrations to the shenanigans that defy description, complete with video so we can all have a good laugh.
If you have any other moments you'd like to share from the past year, as always, have at it in the comments section.
This is from December 2010, so it slipped under the radar, but was close enough to within the year that it deserved a mention.
Before the winter 2011 transfer window, SC Freiburg's Mohammadou Idrissou said he wanted to leave Freiburg and play in the Champions League as rumors abounded that he was off to Schalke 04.
He joined Borussia Mönchengladbach in the end, but not before this lovely kiss-off from Freiburg supporters: "Idrissou spielt Champions-League auf PS3, die ganze Nacht, von zwölf bis acht." Which, for our non-German-speakers, translates to "Idrissou is playing Champions League football on his PS3, all night from 12 to 8 a.m." Boss.
Save for Balotelli (we'll get to him), it hasn't been the most banner year for ostentatious goal celebrations (where's Stjarnan when you need 'em?).
Maybe it has to do with the recession; we don't know. But Liverpool's Maxi Rodriguez and his teammates Sebastián Coates and Lucas Leiva gave us a choreographed routine following Maxi's goal on Chelsea during the Carling Cup quarterfinals.
What's funny isn't necessarily the stunt itself, but how nonchalant and oblivious Sir Alex is about the whole thing.
Everyone's favorite footballing megastar had a big year: European clubs vied for his affection, his L.A. Galaxy won the MLS Cup, he welcomed a daughter (Harper Seven) and was among the guests at the much-ballyhooed/totally overexposed Royal Wedding.
Also, he got a very, erm, messianic tattoo. Said Beckham of his new ink:
It’s Jesus being carried by three cherubs and obviously the cherubs are my boys and so my thought of it is that at some point my boys are going to need to look after me and that’s what they’re doing in the picture. It means a lot.
See, the thing about that is, Becks, it almost kind of sounds like you're comparing yourself to Jesus. I know you had a good year, but let's not go crazy.
Jose Mourinho is a serious man, deeply competitive, with a massive knowledge of the game and often pictured with an almost trademark scowl. But every once in a while, the Real Madrid manager does crack a grin, sometimes at the expense of his players.
In a match between Los Blancos and Almeria, Cristiano Ronaldo tries to win a header off an Almeria player and fails miserably, falling all over himself, which is pretty funny in and of itself, especially if you imagine it happening to the Benny Hill theme music.
Mou thinks so too, as we see him on the sidelines, trying to hold in his laughter.
Our second moment is a handball so blatant, it makes Thierry Henry look like Mother Teresa.
During the 2011 Women's World Cup, the Australian national team was facing off against Equatorial Guinea in a group-stage match in Mönchengladbach.
Matildas forward Leena Khamis landed a shot that hit the post, and Equatorial Guinea's defender Bruna caught it with both hands. The official saw nothing, and Bruna got away with it. Must've forgotten what sport she was playing.
Australia went on to win the match, 3-2.
When your girlfriend is Shakira and your team wins the Champions League, you bet that's a recipe for one heck of a victory party. The Colombian pop star, whose "sunshine" is Barça centre-back Gerard Piqué, invited the victorious lads on stage and had them show off their moves.
Piqué is joined on stage by his teammates David Villa, Victor Valdés, Xavi, Pedrito and Sergio Busquets, who all play football far better than they dance, as one might imagine.
And Sergi Busquets, always the ham, seems to be more into it than anyone else.
The Chelsea left-back made headlines back in February for accidentally shooting a work-placement student at the club's Cobham training ground. Cole was reportedly messing around with an air rifle in the dressing room, when the gun fired and the student was hit in the side. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.
Naturally, fans had a field day, with Manchester United supporters making a sign that read "Ashley, Don't Shoot" for the next match and opponents screaming "Shoot! Shoot" whenever the left-back had the ball.
If you were Ashley Cole, you'd probably get sick of it real fast.
The footballing world was swept up in a number of serious international discourses this year. FIFA corruption, the next World Cup locations, racism...but no issue did FIFA boss Sepp Blatter seem to take to heart quite like the heated debate over the snood.
Yes, friends, the snood. The half-scarf-half-hood neck sleeve made fashionable (or not) by Manchester City players like Carlos Tévez and David Silva (and Yaya Toure, pictured).
In March 2011, Blatter made a motion to ban the snood among professional players, calling it "dangerous – it can be like hanging somebody.”
Real productive meeting, Sepp.
Real Madrid got off to a terrific start in their Champions League campaign, eventually going 6-for-6 in the group stage, a better record than any other squad. But when Los Blancos went to Croatia to take on Dinamo Zagreb at home, star player Cristiano Ronaldo got a less-than-welcoming reception.
Ronaldo, always one for the extremely quotable soundbite, explained to the press after the match that the haters were only hatin' because he is "rich, handsome and a great player."
Ronaldo's seemingly massive-headed quips are often the subject of fan debate. Is he serious? Is he trolling his fans? Is he trying to be funny and the joke gets lost in translation?
Regardless of how you feel about Ronaldo and his choice words, he always finds a way to stay in the brightest of spotlights.
Okay, so maybe there were more awesome goal celebrations this year than we thought.
Manchester City made their Champions League debut this fall, and after a rough start to their campaign against Bayern Munich and Napoli, they finally pulled off a win against Villarreal thanks to a last-minute scorcher from Sergio "Kun" Agüero.
Roberto Mancini, naturally, celebrated the only way any classy, reserved gentleman of football would: fist-pumping like a boss.
As often happens on the Internet, there are already like a bazillion YouTube dance remixes of this, but my personal favorite is the one set to Run-D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky."
This slide headline is a bit facetious, to be sure, and the Manchester United star's affair wasn't necessarily hilarious (especially if you're Ryan Giggs, Stacey Giggs or a Manchester United supporter) or outrageous, but the fact that he tried to take legal action against Twitter and all the insane/inane media hype around the situation kind of is.
When Giggsy had an affair with Big Brother star and glamour model Imogen Thomas and folks were trying to name names on Twitter, the footballer took to filing a gagging order to ensure his name wasn't leaked to the press and tried to further legal action to figure out who was naming names on the social networking site.
Member of Parliament John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Giggs as the footballer, then only known as "CTB" by anyone for whom it wasn't totally obvious that it was Ryan Giggs.
Tabloid rumors about another extramarital affair with his brother Rhodri's wife surfaced over the summer, but Giggs and Stacey are still happily married and Giggsy can still be seen on the pitch at Old Trafford.
Everything pretty much went back to normal, except people without any legal experience now at least sort of know what a "superinjunction" is.
And by "mad, mad year," we really only mean two specific incidents, but they still made headlines.
The always colorful vice-captain of the Rossoneri had a banner year for outrageous behavior in 2011.
First, and perhaps less amusingly, during a Champions League match, he got into an altercation with Tottenham Hotspur coach Joe Jordan, in which Gattuso gave the former English league hard man a headbutting and an attempted throttling, resulting in a four-match ban.
Later on in the season, Gattuso helped lead his squad to their first Scudetto in seven years, a big moment for AC Milan. While celebrating the title after their final victory, Gattuso's choice of actions went viral: he stripped down to his skivvies, and along with his teammates, led loyal supporters at the Curva Sud with a chant of "Leonardo, uomo di merda" ("Leonardo is a man of sh**").
In a decidedly more tasteful but nevertheless entertaining moment from AC Milan's Scudetto celebration, Kevin-Prince Boateng took to channeling the King of Pop. He got up on stage in front of his teammates, managers and fans at the official celebration and performed a spot-on Michael Jackson dance to "Billie Jean," silver glove, moonwalk, the whole shebang.
Mohamed Al-Fayed, who is still trying to convince the world that MJ was actually a Fulham supporter, declined to comment. Speaking of which...
It wouldn't be a full year in world football if Diego Maradona didn't do something completely nutters, right? Right.
Maradona, the recently appointed coach of Emirati club Al-Wasl, was conducting an interview before an Etisalat Cup match in September, standing before a banner dedicated to him from his grandson, Benja.
When fans proceeded to mess with the banner in an effort to get in front of the camera, Maradona got fed up and introduced a fan's hand to his foot.
There's nothing weird about putting a statue outside a football ground. Old Trafford has its holy trinity; Anfield, its triumphant Bill Shankly. But when you're noted statue enthusiast Mohamed Al-Fayed and you commission a statue of King of Pop Michael Jackson outside of Fulham's Craven Cottage, fans might be scratching their heads a bit.
Said Al-Fayed of the decision to construct said statue:
The last game he attended here with me, he was running like a child, he loved the place.
He loved Fulham and he wanted to attend all of the matches.
People will queue to come and visit it from all over the UK and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of.
The fans were decidedly less convinced.
The 2011 Copa del Rey was Real Madrid's first trophy under Jose Mourinho and what looked to be the beginnings of a new era for the club. They had beaten rivals Barcelona to return the cup to the Bernabéu for the first time since 1993, and there was much rejoicing in the land of Los Merengues.
And then, Sergio Ramos accidentally became the world football equivalent of that one drunk guy at the party who knocks into the table and spills everyone's cups and makes the kitchen floor all sticky and/or breaks a lamp during a really spirited session of teaching everyone how to "Dougie."
While greeting adoring fans at the victory parade, Ramos accidentally dropped the trophy and the bus ran over it. The cup was replaced by a less-flattened version, now on display at the Bernabéu.
He's a striker. He's good at darts. He's the subject of an excellent B/R personality quiz that you all should take when you're done reading this.
And in 2011, no player gave the masses greater joy, made more headlines for his shenanigans and created more memetic moments than Manchester City's highly gifted and highly enigmatic young striker, Mr. Super Mario Balotelli.
To round out this list, in no particular order, we give you his seven most entertaining moments of 2011 (and knowing Balotelli, there's probably still an omission or two):
8. Super Mario the Super Hero
In what was either a brilliant moment of human empathy or a well-engineered PR stunt (depending on who you ask, but we're going to go ahead and guess how most folks see it), Balotelli played after-school special hero to a truant Manchester City supporter.
When the lad showed up at City's training ground and asked Balotelli for an autograph, he asked the kid why he was ditching school. Turns out, he was being bullied. So Balotelli drives the young fan and his mum to the school and gives his bully a good talking-to. Hopefully, Balotelli's actions have turned the truant lad into a fine, upstanding citizen.
7. Super Mario Pays It Forward
Like Balotelli's other Random (or PR-engineered) Act of Goodwill, this makes our list not because generosity is hilarious or outrageous (rather, it's a trait more people should possess), but because it is part of a ball of events that has defined the cult of personality that is Balotelli in 2011.
Just a year after being questioned by police upon driving around with £5,000 in cash in his pocket and responding, "Because I am rich," Balotelli opted to share the wealth, giving £1,000 of his £25,000 gambling haul to a homeless man.
6. A Few More Items and He'd Have His Own 12 Days of Christmas
Sometimes, when you're shopping, it's easy to get sidetracked. You go to the supermarket for milk and bread and walk out with tequila.
But during a certain shopping trip to John Lewis, Balotelli must have gotten really sidetracked: instead of picking up an ironing board and other housekeeping items requested by his mum, Balotelli and his friends returned with a giant trampoline, two Vespa scooters, a Scalextric slot car racing set and a partridge in a pear tree.
5. Like You've Never Taunted One of Wayne Rooney's Bedfellows at a Restaurant
Back in March, Balotelli came under fire in the British tabloids after taunting Jenny Thompson, the prostitute who reportedly counted Wayne Rooney among her clientele, at a posh restaurant in Manchester city centre.
According to witnesses, Balotelli chanted "Rooney! Rooney!" at her across the floor at San Carlo and then blew a raspberry at her companion for the evening. This can definitely be filed in the list of What Not to Do at a Posh Restaurant, right in between "tucking your napkin into your shirt" and "vomiting on the hostess."
4. He's a Striker, He's Good at Darts
Back in March, Balotelli found himself making the headlines for the wrong reasons yet again when he threw at least one dart at a youth team player at Manchester City's Carrington training ground. Luckily, nobody was hurt.
3. Fashion Victim
During a Europa League quarterfinal match between City and Dynamo Kyiv, Balotelli reached memetic heights once again as he struggled to put on his training bib—twice!—and had to enlist the help of team officials to help him get dressed.
2. Baby, You're a Firework
Accidentally starting a house fire isn't all that weird; in fact, it's just unfortunate.
But accidentally starting a very substantial house fire because you or your mates were trying to set off firecrackers through the bathroom window? Not quite as smart.
But it's all good: after that, the Treacle Partnership had no trouble finding a firework-safety spokesman for Bonfire Night.
1. Why Always Me?
The man, the goal, the shirt, the meme, the legend. After opening the scoring in the 6-1 shocker that was the Manchester derby, Mario Balotelli lifted his kit over his head to reveal a shirt that reads "Why Always Me?"
Knockoffs were sold en masse and the slogan has since become a buzz phrase by which his career has been defined.
Why always you, Balotelli? Because you're a legend, so in the words of Pink Floyd, shine on, you crazy, crazy diamond.