Getty Images has selected its top sporting photographs of 2020, with a bumper crop of soccer stills making the selection of the year’s most compelling pictures.
The 2019-20 season was effectively divided in two by the coronavirus pandemic, with leagues across most of the world postponed indefinitely in March.
Lockdowns and restrictions meant that, with a handful of exceptions such as in Belarus and in Nicaragua, no football was played anywhere for several months, with teams ultimately returning to play out their fixtures in empty stadiums thereafter.
When and where they could, top-level soccer leagues and tournaments were able to complete the season and crown their champions.
Here is Getty’s pick of football photos taken around the world from the beginning of the year through to the delayed conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign in August, in chronological order.
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Taking flight (Jan. 11)
Roberto Firmino leaps above Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld to control a high ball. The Brazil international scored the only goal of the game in London, sending champions Liverpool 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Slip slidin’ away (Jan. 14)
The pure joy of winter football is clear to see as Gwion Edwards of Ipswich Town and Josh Ruffels of Oxford United go hurtling through standing water during a cold, sodden and ultimately goalless League One game at the Kassam Stadium.
At the double (Jan. 18)
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring the second of his two quick-fire goals against Crystal Palace, blissfully unaware that a 90th-minute own-goal from teammate Fernandinho is about to undo all of his hard work. The 2-2 draw left defending champions City stranded 13 points behind league leaders Liverpool, who also had two games in hand.
The shirt off his back (Jan. 19)
Mohamed Salah whips off his jersey in celebration after scoring against Manchester United in a 2-0 win at Anfield, the day after City’s 2-2 draw against Palace. The victory boosted Jurgen Klopp’s champions-to-be 16 points clear and still boasting a game in hand over their nearest rivals.
Waltzing Matildas (Feb. 13)
Even 10 months after this photo was taken of Australia’s Women’s team celebrating Emily van Egmond’s goal against China in an Olympic qualifier, the sheer joy captured in it remains infectious.
Top tifo (Feb. 14)
The atmosphere inside Borussia Dortmund’s famous Westfalenstadion begins to reach a pitch as thousands of fans perform an enormous choreographed banner display before a Bundesliga match against Eintracht Frankfurt. Little did they know that their beloved stadium would soon be strictly off-limits to them for months to come.
Midfield generals (Feb. 26)
Luka Modric and Ilkay Gundogan get closely acquainted during the first leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the Bernabeu. The COVID-19 pandemic meant the teams were forced to wait 5½ months before reconvening at the Etihad for the second leg on Aug. 7, which City won 2-1 to advance through to the quarterfinals.
Kop out (March 11)
Diego Simeone charges up the Anfield touchline after watching his resilient Atletico Madrid side scrap back from two goals down to knock defending European champions Liverpool out of the Champions League in the round of 16 in extra time.
Back to work (June 8)
Following a three-month hiatus due to lockdown, Irish side Bohemians return to training to find almost everything had changed. The players are seen having their temperatures taken by trained medical staff before being allowed back onto the premises.
Paint the town red (June 11)
Sevilla’s grand Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium looks resplendent as it lies almost empty as La Liga resumes following the end of the nationwide lockdown in Spain. However, with fans still forbidden from congregating inside the stadium or out, what should be a passionate and vibrant local derby against old foes Real Betis remains eerily subdued.
Heads up (June 17)
The stands might be empty but the 6-yard box at Osasuna’s El Sadar stadium is positively jam-packed during a La Liga game against Atletico Madrid.
Swimwear issue (June 21)
With stadiums around Europe still closed, Everton fan Michael Cullen — better known as “Speedo Mick” — watches the Merseyside derby against Liverpool at home while sporting his trademark attire.
Red sky at night (June 25)
Thousands of Liverpool fans flouted lockdown restrictions and congregated outside Anfield to celebrate the club’s first league title in 30 years after it was made a mathematical certainty by Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City. Police did not attempt to disperse the “generally good-natured” crowd, but did make a point of commending those fans who decided to stay indoors and celebrate within the safety of their own homes.
The coming storm (July 1)
Maximilian Krauss dribbles toward the touchline as a dark and foreboding cloud shelf rolls over the German 3. Liga game between SpVgg Unterhaching and FC Carl Zeiss Jena.
The wall (July 2)
In an image that would have made absolutely zero sense just a few months prior, Raheem Sterling wins a penalty against Joe Gomez and Georginio Wijnaldum at the Etihad as fans watch on from a vast, looming virtual video wall stationed pitchside.
Get this party started (July 22)
Jurgen Klopp and his jubilant Liverpool players are finally able to celebrate winning the Premier League together following a 5-3 victory over Chelsea at Anfield in their final home game of the 2019-20 season. It was unfortunate but sadly inevitable that the Reds were then left to lift the trophy inside an empty stadium, almost exactly one month after securing their historic title.
Bad hair day (Aug. 22)
Paris Saint-Germain forward Kadidiatou Diani’s face is temporarily obscured while being challenged by Arsenal’s Beth Mead during the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinal meeting between the two sides.
Safe hands (Aug. 23)
Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer hoists the Champions League trophy aloft after captaining his side to a narrow 1-0 victory over PSG in the final.
Let me take a selfie (Aug. 23)
Thiago Alcantara beds down amid the ticker tape to spend a little quality time with the trophy on the pitch at the Estadio da Luz following Bayern’s Champions League triumph and record the moment for posterity. The midfielder joined Liverpool a month later.
So near and yet so far (Aug. 23)
Neymar struggles to hold back the tears as he watches Bayern Munich celebrate their Champions League win over first-time finalists Paris Saint-Germain.
Lyon’s pride (Aug. 30)
Lyon refuse to be perturbed by the empty stands as they celebrate winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the fifth consecutive season. By beating Wolfsburg 3-1 in San Sebastian, Spain, the dominant French side also completed their second successive Champions League/Division 1/Coupe de France Treble.
Bird’s-eye view (Aug. 30)
Sydney FC’s Rhyan Grant celebrates what proved to be the winning goal in extra time of the A-League grand final against Melbourne City. A stark contrast of joy and woe, captured from on high.