2017 was a year when enduring legends restated their class, slapping down a host of brash young challengers and showing that age was just a number.
Whether it was a pair of 36-year-old tennis legends re-discovering their best form or a century old football club re-born under a new manager and sweeping all before them.
But the year was not just dominated by experienced masters as one precocious young leg spinner from Afghanistan showed.
Here are our picks for the International Sports Awards of 2017.
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
With an illustrious career already behind him, most pundits believed they had seen the best of the 36-year-old, but then they don’t know FedEx.
After taking half of 2016 off to heal from a serious knee injury the Swiss Master surprised everyone but himself by winning the Australian Open in January, then followed that up with his eighth Wimbledon title.
By the end of the year he had won the most number of grand slams since 2009, most titles since 2007, and had his highest win percentage since 2006.
Form may be temporary but Federer is permanent.
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
After starting the season with an underwhelming performance in Auckland, Williams showed her true form by winning the Australian Open for a record seventh time.
It was her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, surpassing Steffi Graf’s record of 22 – and she was eight weeks pregnant at the time.
INTERNATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR
With a team comprising some of the most high-profile (and most well paid players in the world) managing gigantic egos is a daily challenge.
Even more credit then to Los Blancos for putting aside those egos and working towards the good of the team.
When you have this much talent, and the team are willing to work hard for each other as well, then prizes must surely follow – and follow they did.
Five trophies came in 2017, including back-to-back Champions Leagues, La Liga (first since 2011-12), the Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup claimed in the UAE last month.
The best, by some margin.
COACH OF THE YEAR
With five trophies in just one year it had to be Zizou. Taking over after the underwhelming Rafa Benitez era, Zidane stepped up from the Real reserve team to one of the most high pressure coaching jobs in the world.
He quickly transformed the mis-firing Merengues from a team of superstars to a superstar team and the accolades, and cups, followed.
INTERNATIONAL YOUNGSTER OF THE YEAR
At just 19, the young Afghan leggie stunned the cricketing world in June when he took seven wickets for 18 runs in an ODI against the West Indies.
It was the fourth-best ODI bowling figures of all-time and he became the first player from an associate nation to take seven wickets.
He’s already played in the IPL and is set for a top career for the next decade.
The older Williams sister reached the final of two Grand Slams and returned to the WTA Finals for the first time since 2010.
The 19-year-old was exceptional for Monaco as they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and won Ligue 1.
The best of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales trekked to New Zealand to try and achieve the impossible. They almost did it and played some great rugby along the way
Every year there are some exceptional regional team and individual displays, and 2017 was no different.
From football to golf to swimming, headlines have been created with their achievements filling up countless column inches of this newspaper.
For Egyptians, it’s been a memorable 12 months with their national side qualifying for their first World Cup since 1990, while Farida Osman put the country on the map in the pool.
UAE rugby side Abu Dhabi Harlequins enjoyed an exceptional year, wrapping up all five domestic titles, while Henk Ten Cate used all his experience to bring success to Al Jazira.
Golfer Rayhan Thomas had a year to remember while the likes of Chirag Suri, Amna Al Qubaisi, Ed Jones and Achraf Hakimi deserve praise for their fine feats. Here are the Sport360° Regional Sports Award winners for 2017…
SPORTSMAN ON THE YEAR
Since arriving at Liverpool in the summer, the Egyptian forward has been a revelation. His blistering pace and eye in front of goal, has already seen him score 21 goals in all competitions and we have not even reached the new year yet. More memorably, he kept his cool to hit the decisive penalty that sent Egypt to next year’s World Cup – his fifth goal for the Pharaohs in the qualifers.
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Became the first Egyptian – man or woman – to win a medal at a World Aquatic Championships, claiming bronze in the 50m butterfly in Budapest last summer, her 25.39 seconds swim smashing the African record. Earlier, Osman won her first-ever individual NCAA title for Cal Berkeley, becoming the third-fastest swimmer in history in the 100-metre butterfly with 50.05 seconds.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
The best year in their history, the best year arguably in any UAE sports team’s history. An unprecedented five trophies were lifted by Mike McFarlane’s dominant side as they steamrollered all before them – the West Asia Premiership, West Asia Cup and UAE Premiership all earned in 2017. To put their achievement in context, Real Madrid have just won five trophies in 2017 – something even one of the most successful sides in club football history had never done in a calendar year.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Dutchman showed why he held assistant roles at Barcelona and Chelsea by masterminding Al Jazira to their second-ever league triumph. He admitted he didn’t have the best players but he did have the best team, and that showed as his side came through two stern matches to face Real Madrid in the Club World Cup semi-final, before finishing fourth – the best ever position by a UAE side.
A year that saw him make the cut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Dubai-based prodigy rewrote history by becoming the first Indian to reach the semi-finals of the US Junior Amateurs. As top seed, he was also part of the International side that lost to the US at the Junior President’s Cup and also shot a world record-equalling nine birdies in a row on the MENA Tour.
Not only did she become the first Emirati girl to win the Rotax Max Challenge, but also she won a seat in Formula 4 next year with the Prema team.
Was part of Gujarat Lions’ squad in the IPL, becoming the first UAE cricketer to do so. Didn’t play but his skills saw him break into the senior team.
The 19-year-old rightback finally made his Real Madrid first team debut, scoring once in his four caps, as well as opening his account for Morocco.
Dubai-born star had a debut to remember, producing a stunning rookie performance to finish third in the Indy 500 for Dale Coyne Racing.
Premier League clubs haven’t been shy of spending big this summer.
Indeed, it’s likely this will be the highest-spending transfer window to date as teams show no signs of slowing down.
New signings are a delight for fans but has the money been spent right?
Here’s five picks we think big bucks may have been slightly misplaced, or at least too many extra digits added in the cheque book.
The Tottenham full-back joined Manchester City in a deal worth up to £50m earlier this month – and the fee itself raised a few eyebrows.
While Pep Guardiola’s obsession with speedy and attacking full-backs is widely known, few expected City to spend so big on Walker – a man who was ousted from the first-team picture by Kieran Trippier last term.
In his eight seasons at Spurs, Walker of course won plenty of plaudits for being one of the league’s standout right-backs and has featured regularly for England, but for a player who is often criticised for his defensive frailties and indeed his end product when going forward, his price tag seems very steep.
While £50million is definitely the new £20million in today’s market, Walker’s value is still richly inflated. That’s no fault of the player but is he good enough to live up to such a billing?
For starters, he has to fight off fellow new signing Danilo to become the club’s main man at right-back.
The 24-year-old centre-back was one bright spark in a miserable campaign for the Clarets last time out and while the former Manchester United man is a solid defender, there’s debate over whether he’s worth £30million.
Again, another illustration of today’s inflated prices and the fact Burnley knew the Blues had cash to burn.
Keane will no doubt help sure up what was a leaky Toffees backline at times last season but doubts remain over his pace and certainly his ability to play and bring the ball out of defence.
He is likely to replace Phil Jagielka as a first-choice central defender and you have to wonder how much Jags would have been worth, if his pomp was in 2017. It’s a generalisation, but there’s not too much between the two.
On his day, the towering Austrian is one of those players who can wreck havoc on the pitch.
The sad thing is, he has failed to do this on a consistent basis and his attitude has often been found wanting, something Mark Hughes can probably attest to – and no doubt played a role in his departure.
The way Arnautovic instigated his exit from the Potters was perhaps par for the course in terms of modern football, handing in a transfer request and then subsequently throwing his toys out the pram.
That did for West Ham though, with Slaven Bilic’s men shelling out £25million on his signing alongside the most expensive pay package in the club’s history with wages up to £140,000 a week.
He’ll get his fair share of goals next season but many would say he isn’t as good as he thinks he is, with work-rate, productivity in front of goal and his general enthusiasm on the pitch sometimes not being reflective of the faith managers have placed in him.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out at the Olympic Stadium given they are in desperate need of goals and he’s only hit double figures twice in his career.
The talented Dutchman didn’t exactly set the world alight during his loan spell with the south coast club last term, but he did enough for Eddie Howe to make the move permanent and pay Chelsea a club-record £20million for his signature.
Ake registered three goals in 10 Premier League appearances last season – an impressive goalscoring feat for a centre-back – but of greater concern would have been his lack of game time.
While that could likely change come August, doubts remain over the 22-year-old’s ability as a top-class defender. The fact he failed to ever establish himself at Chelsea only adds further wait to this argument.
Bournemouth have paid a massively inflated price for his services and it seems risky business when they could have brought in more experience.
Ask Liverpool fans what they remember of the Spanish right-back from his loan stint at Anfield during the 2014-15 season and you’ll be greeted with a wry smile. Manquillo was a huge miss on Merseyside, and since then, has done little to enhance his reputation.
Last season, he was again on loan in the Premier League, at Sunderland, during their torrid relegation campaign – so that’s why it was so surprising to see Newcastle pay his parent club Atletico Madrid £4.5million for his signature.
It’s actually a bit of a bizarre signing and a baffling one at that, but Manquillo is still only 23 despite his plethora of clubs to date.
Toon fans may actually like how Manquillo played a part in their bitter rivals’ drop from the big time – he should definitely use that to his advantage when settling in at St James’ Park.