12:30 PM UTC
Leg 1
Game Details
 By Chris Wright

Zlatan introduces himself, Salah's lookalike, Ronaldo statue redemption in best of Toe Poke

Relive 10 of the best stories that amused and amazed in this season of football around the world.

It's that time of year again when we here at Toe Poke pause a moment to take stock of the season just gone -- the thrills, the spills, the truly, truly dreadful penalty kicks (stay tuned!).

Here are our various winners and indeed losers from 2017-18 ...

Redemption of the season

November brought with it redemption for one of the biggest laughing stocks of last season, as Portuguese artist Jose Antonio Navarro Arteaga was handed an artistic reprieve.

Arteaga is of course the man who made a hash of his commissioned bust of Cristiano Ronaldo, which went viral after going on display outside Madeira airport last year.

Thankfully, the 52-year-old sculptor's second attempt at capturing the Real Madrid man in bronze was much, much more flattering.

Doppelganger of the season

Fair to say, it's been quite a year for Mohamed Salah, not least because the Liverpool winger had the pleasure of being introduced to his identical human clone! 

Leak of the season

Philippe Coutinho's £142 million transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona was one of the biggest moves of the season. It's too bad Barca's kit suppliers ruined the surprise. 

Crackdown of the season

Ahead of the big derby between United and City back in December, Manchester Police finally announced a targeted crackdown on the greatest scourge facing the modern game: the half-and-half scarf. 

Introduction of the season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic made the leap to MLS in March by signing on with Los Angeles and, of course, saw fit to break the news in his own inimitable style.

The Swedish striker took out a full-page advert in the LA Times with a simple one-line greeting to his new audience: "Dear Los Angeles, you're welcome."

Heartwarming tale of the season

Undoubtedly the most heart-warming yarn of the campaign came in December when Christian Pulisic put out a desperate plea to be reunited with his faithful dog for the holidays.

Amazingly enough one of his Twitter followers made the 130-mile journey from Pennsylvania to Washington, ensuring the Dortmund man could spend his festive break with his faithful pup.

It truly was a Christmas miracle.

Makeover of the season

Having spent years honing his signature bouffant, Marouane Fellaini sent shockwaves through the worlds of football and fashion when he tamed his towering 'fro for a magazine photoshoot in March.

Indeed, the Manchester United hardman appeared in GQ Style rocking a daring pair of pig-tails.

What a cutie pie.

Prank of the season

When it comes to good pranks, it usually pays to keep things as simple as possible.

Back in January, Italian comedian Stefano Corti tricked Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho into signing a football shirt with Antonio Conte's name on the back.

Corti then waited a month for the pay-off when he presented the shirt to Conte while posing as a journalist at a Chelsea news conference, describing it as a "gift from Jose".

The Blues coach was not impressed in the slightest, especially as tensions between himself and Mourinho had escalated in previous weeks after several petty insults were exchanged.

Such larks!

Golazo of the season

We've seen plenty of astonishing goals fly in over the course of the season, but none quite as spectacular as the goal scored by A-League teenager Riley McGree.

McGree painted his acrobatic masterpiece in Newcastle Jets' semifinal win over Melbourne City in April by finding the top corner with a long-range scorpion backheel volley lob from outside the area.

The humble 19-year-old midfielder later admitted his strike was "a bit of fluke".

Personally, we'd have kept our mouths shut!

Penalty fail of the season

Headline writers all over the world saw their wildest dreams come true in February when a Brazilian midfielder by the name of Dodo pulled off what must surely rank as one of the worst penalty misses of all time. 

In action for Giresunspor, Dodo made a gloriously horrible hash of a second-half spot kick during a cup match against Fenerbahce.

Giresunspor duly went crashing out of the competition after conceding in the 94th minute.

Statue(s) of the season

We've seen Ronaldo get a new bust but not everything went smoothly on the statue front, as was witnessed when a Ghanaian artist attempted to pay homage to ex-Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien.

Spotted on the edge of a car park in the city of Kumasi, the effigy looked less like Essien  and more like C-3PO in a Chelsea shirt.

As the old adage goes, you've never truly made it in football until somebody makes an awful statue of you.

Dive of the season

There really can only be one "winner" in this category, and that man is Bayer Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich without a single shadow of a doubt.

"That was stupid. I'd like to apologise," said Herrlich immediately after the match.

No arguments here.

Red card of the season

Former Arsenal striker Sanchez Watt managed to get himself sent off and then quickly "un-sent off" during a non-league game in March.

Watt was booked for kicking the ball away as Hemel Hempstead hosted East Thurrock in the National League South, and that's where the fun began.

A true classic of the genre.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.