Famous Last Words
Soccer Scribe’s thoughts on the 2017/18 season that’s just ended.
- So, Pep Guardiola, then. One of the great threads of Soccer Scribe is the media’s pious fascination with the Catalan, whom we are told “plays the game the right way”. It’s not good enough to consider him a fine football coach, a visionary even. No, he is routinely referred to as a genius. Well, if 2017/18 told us anything, it’s that Pep won the richest league in the world with the richest club – and collapsed pathetically when it really mattered in the UEFA Champions League, the true measure of super clubs and super coaches. As predicted on these very pages. Pep remains a very good coach for the world’s richest clubs – but he’s never won anything without having one of the two biggest budgets in his league – and he’s never won the Champions League without Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta.
- Real Madrid 2014-2018 is one of the greatest winning machines of all time. Churlish carping from certain quarters after their three-in-a-row was completed in that harrowing win over Loris Karius is fatuous. Madrid know how to win when the stakes are high. They’ve won four of the last five European Cups and people are seriously questioning their greatness? Their route to the final (with wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern Munich) was one of the toughest of all time. This is a genuinely great side.
- Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo used the occasion of the three-in-a-row to threaten to depart the club. Then, Zinedine Zidane simply showed them how to do it. Talk about stealing their self-entitled thunder. What a way to go out.
- Zidane is still not considered half the coach Guardiola is. The fact is, the Frenchman was the perfect man for Madrid’s egotistical superstars, a man who, as a player, could compare favourably to any of the current dressing room. That’s what they needed and his calm demeanour has worked perfectly in that particular environment. Nobody considers him a genius, which is fair enough. Guardiola is perfect for the richest clubs in the world who wish to dominate their domestic leagues. He gets the job done domestically. He doesn’t win the European Cup, though. Yet, he’s a genius, apparently. Take either man out of their particular comfort zones and neither would likely flourish. It’d be fascinating to see if either is brave enough to try to prove us wrong.
- Gareth Bale’s goal in the Champions League final was surely the greatest ever scored in a major final – yes, better than Zidane’s in 2002 and Van Basten’s in 1988. Poor old Cristiano Ronaldo must have been deeply jealous. He’s rarely overshadowed (unless it’s by Messi), but even his marvellous effort in Turin against Juventus was outdone by the Welsh bun’s outrageous strike in Kiev.
- You’ll never win a European Cup with Dejan Lovren and Loris Karius. And so it proved. Now we’re told that the stricken goalkeeper was concussed by the devilish Sergio Ramos prior to committing goalkeeping Hara Karius. Who is telling us this? Why a US doctor? And who is one of the key donors to the hospital in which this doctor works? Why, John W. Henry, the principal owner of Liverpool FC. If we are to believe this sorry tale, why is Jürgen Klopp strongly rumoured to be lining up a replacement for a man who was concussed and is, thus, blameless for the catastrophe that befell him in the biggest match of his life?
- Robert Lewandowski’s agent says his player wants to leave Bayern Munich. Well, after his repeated failures in the Champions League over the last four years, perhaps it’s time for Bayern to wish him well. He’s simply not done it over a long period and can now be discounted when considering the very best strikers in wold football.
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s failure to turn up in the Champions League final – repeating similar no-shows in 2014 and 2016 – means the Ballon D’Or award is still very much up for grabs. If he is overshadowed by Lionel Messi in the World Cup, he’ll need a stellar start to next season to retain his title. Right now, though, he is probably ahead due to his season-long Champions League exploits, even if the final was a forgettable one for him personally.
- Manchester City, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich all ran away with their domestic leagues. Only Serie A had a proper title battle, and that fizzled out quickly enough when Juventus flexed their competitive muscles to overpower a Napoli side that hit a record points total for a runner up. Domestic football is now every bit as predictable as the Champions League. Football needs another Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, or Leicester City to break through.