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Messi's roller-coaster year, Euro 2020 dominate Getty and AFP's best soccer images of 2021

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From bad to worse: Barcelona's 2021 to forget (2:03)

Barcelona is ready for a new year after 2021 saw their superstar depart and their first UCL group-stage exit in over 20 years. (2:03)

As 2022 looms large on the horizon, it is a timely opportunity to stop for a moment, take stock and look back at the year gone by.

Thankfully, Getty Images have complied their annual "Year in Review" and AFP have selected their "Pictures of the Year" collection, their respective picks of the best images captured over the course of 2021.

It was a year that, in the soccer world, brought with it a delayed European Championship and a Copa America as well as one of the biggest transfer stories of all time.

There were highly emotional events that united fans across the world, as well as split-second moments captured forever by some of the best sports photographers in the business.

Here are the best soccer images of 2021, as selected by Getty and AFP, presented in chronological order.

- Sports photos of the year 2021
- ESPN+ guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (U.S.)
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June 12: Christian Eriksen is shielded by his Denmark teammates after collapsing during the Euro 2020 group stage game against Finland in Copenhagen. The midfielder suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch and was rushed to hospital in the Danish capital, where he underwent emergency surgery that saved his life. Eriksen, 29, who has not played a match since, left Inter Milan earlier this month after agreeing to terminate his contract.

- Borden: Denmark sends emotional message to Eriksen


June 13: Roman Yaremchuk of Ukraine and Stefan de Vrij of Netherlands get better acquainted during a tussle for the ball during a Euro 2020 group match at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.


July 10: Lionel Messi is tossed into the air by his Argentina teammates after inspiring his nation to victory in the Copa America. The Albiceleste beat rivals Brazil 1-0 in the final to claim their first major title since 1993 and deliver Messi the first senior international trophy of his career.

- Messi's Copa America stats eclipse everybody at Euro 2020


July 11: Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci hoists the Euro 2020 trophy into the air after the Azzurri came from behind against England to win the final at Wembley after a penalty shootout.

- Marcotti: Mancini promised Italy changes and delivered


July 13: Tributes are placed in front of a huge mural of Marcus Rashford after the artwork in the Manchester United forward's hometown of Withington was attacked by vandals in the aftermath of England's Euro 2020 final loss. Rashford was one of three England players to miss penalties in the shootout, and he, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all received racist abuse on social media following the match. The mural was repaired and in November Rashford was awarded an MBE for his campaign to end food poverty for children in the UK.

- Dawson: How Rashford's mural turned hate into hope


Aug. 8: Messi is visibly overcome with emotion during his farewell at Barcelona, mopping up the tears as he reluctantly drew his 21-year association with the club to a close when he did not renew his contract.

- Laurens, Marsden: Inside Messi's final days at Barca


Aug. 11: Messi meets his new public after completing his free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. Throngs of excited fans flocked to the Parc des Princes to welcome the Argentine superstar amid a cacophony of flags, drums and flares.

- PSG fans give Messi a wild welcome at unveiling


Sept. 18: Club America fans are engulfed in bright yellow smoke as they await the arrival of the Toluca team bus outside the Nemesio Diez Stadium ahead of a Liga MX Torneo Apertura game.