Going on holiday means my blog has been rather neglected (as has my five-a-day intake of fresh fruit and vegetables – thank you cooks of Tennessee), but now I’m back it’s time to vent on a few recent stories.
Champions League Final – Groundhog day for United
I appreciate this must have been done to death in my absence, but so complete was Barcelona’s dominance that it must surely rank as the most one sided final since… well, since 2009 as it happens. Reading the aftermath of the final at Wembley, I wondered whether I had passed through a portal and emerged in the aftermath of United’s 2-0 defeat in Rome.
Plenty of experts are suggesting the more recent defeat will usher Alex Ferguson into a new stage of rebuilding at Old Trafford, but surely that’s what he’s been trying to do for the past two years. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but United are guilty of collective amnesia if they’d already forgotten how comprehensively outclassed they were the first time they faced Pep Guardiola’s side.
Consider that Ferguson lost that final despite being able to call on the services of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Having lost both of those world class talents, on Saturday he faced a Barca team that has been improving with each passing season under Guardiola’s command, including the acquisition of David Villa and the flourishing career of Pedro.
This is the reality for all who attempt to face the Barca machine. United have won three Premier League titles in four seasons, and contested three Champions League finals during the same period, winning one. A superb record in its own right, but one that only establishes them as Europe’s second best, and on Saturday’s evidence, some distance behind first place. That is the measure of how good this Barcelona side is.
Brutality didn’t work, and no one can out pass then, so what can you do? Whilst visiting New Orleans I noticed that vodoo dolls are freely available to purchase. Applying black magic to put Xavi in the treatment room for a sustained period might be the only way to stop them. He, more than any other, is at the heart of their PlayStation style, and the greatest passer of the ball I have seen in my lifetime.
Ronaldo beats Messi to the record
Well, I backed the wrong horse there. I should have known better then to doubt the ruthless selfishness that you need to win a goal scoring title, and Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t lack those qualities. Once he was within touching distance of the record for goals scored in a season it was never in doubt. His forty league goals broke the record by two, and he now has 86 goals in 89 appearances for Madrid over two seasons. A freakish beast of a goal scorer, I’m beginning to wonder if he isn’t the result of a Portuguese experiment in genetic engineering. Remarkably, Messi’s strike at Wembley means that both he and Ronaldo recorded a quite ridiculous 53 goals in all competitions in 2010/11. Where is this madness going to end?
Swansea in the Premier League
Swansea’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, is not a popular man among fans of my team. Back in the summer of 2009, Rodgers had completed six months in his first appointment as manager of Watford when Reading began to court his services. He responded by dismissing suggestions he was manoeuvring for an exit by stating he was a man of ‘integrity’. This being football, he was off a week later. However, I don’t hate Rodgers. His move to Reading ultimately ended in failure (he was sacked half way through the season), but I had seen enough at Watford to know he had a talent and insight lacking in many British managers. In six months he had turned Aidy Boothroyd’s hoofers into one of the most attractive passing sides in the division. His Swansea side have displayed the same attributes, albeit even more effectively. If more managers are able to demonstrate that expansive, possession football can be as successful as the direct, physical approach – so often seen as the blueprint in the lower leagues – then English football can only benefit.
And finally, I wasn’t going to mention this because, really, we could be here all day. With that in mind, I’ll keep it brief.
A popular comment at the moment is that it is the fans, and not FIFA, that really own football. This is a nice sentiment, but it is also untrue. The problem most fans face is that they have very little stake in the governance of professional football, bar a few exceptions where clubs are set up as membership bodies.
I would encourage everyone to read this blog post on the Guardian, which articulates the frustrations of many fans. I’m not sure about the choice of Beckenbauer, but I agree we could do a lot worse than to put a German in charge. The richest nation in Europe has one of the most envied domestic competitions among fans. If anyone is going to protect international football from being further destroyed by corporate interests, it’s surely the Germans. Put them in charge and give the World Cup back to the fans.
I’m afraid Mr Chuck Blazer*, despite his wonderful name, may prove to be a bit of a false prophet in his quest to take to the fight to FIFA. His own website appears to be more concerned with regaling fans with tales of world travel as a FIFA bureaucrat than it does with discussing football matters. Take this post on a meeting with Vladimir Putin, including Vlad’s holiday snaps of him feeding milk to a young farm animal. I don’t think I need to continue.
Finally, if you’re still confused about how FIFA really works, let Surreal Football enlighten you with their easy to follow flow chart.
*since publishing this post, Mr Blazer has been removed from office, then kind of reinstated, continuing the farcical pattern of events unfolding on an hourly basis. I will not attempt to keep up with them all here, but we may return to Mr Blazer in due course.