Barcelona battles with Real Madrid over the La Liga crown. Juventus narrowly edges out Milan for Lo Scudetto. Manchester City maybe wins the Premier League – but only after some mad spending. Porto wins in Portugal with Benfica as runners up. See the pattern? Am I the only one who’s tired of seeing the same teams winning again and again?
One of the joys of football is that we have some big clubs who normally lie in the top. They attract players and spectators because of their history or their money, and mostly a mix of the two. The big clubs play the big games, and the big games are big games because of the big clubs. And don’t get me wrong, I like the big games – but when taking a step back I must admit that it is becoming boring to watch the same two handfuls of teams fight it out not just for domestic glory but also the Champions League. I don’t even want to name those clubs. We all know who they are.
When talking to random football fans about the history of the CL it always baffles me that they almost without exception singles out the 2004 final between Monaco and Porto as the worst final in recent history. None of them remember the game itself, they only remember the names of the clubs, and apparently these alone are enough to dismiss the 2004 final as rubbish. To me it’s exactly the other way around.
The 2004 final was the most beautiful of all, because the teams playing it out were surprises. I don’t mind a Barcelona – Man. U. final now and then. I don’t even mind that finals between teams of that caliber is the norm, but I need some more spice. A big name final is like a good steak. It’s genuine, well proven and fulfilling. But sometimes we need something else. Sometimes we need some surprising spice that make us realize why we love food in the first place. Something that make us appreciate it even more. Something that make us go ”Wow – can they DO that?”. There’s too much steak and too little spice in the football world.
It’s all well and good that Juve and Milan fight over Lo Scudetto to the end, but it’s only really interesting because Juve come back from two seasons in hell and a huge scandal before that – that’s the story. Had Calciopoli not happened it would have been exactly the same story as so many years before it. Juve fans would have celebrated their 30th Scudetto (I know they do anyway, but that’s another story) as if it was something utterly fantastic, when in fact it would have been utterly boring.
It’s cool that we have Juventus, Milan, and Inter who have shared the majority of Scudetti between them, but it’s not cool that it’s considered almost a miracle when Roma, Napoli, Fiorentina or Lazio win, and rightly so. I’m a Napoli fan and I might be biased. But that Roma, Lazio, and Napoli combined have 7 league titles as opposed to Milan, Inter, and Juve’s 64 (or 66) is a sign of a basic weakness in the system. Any big team in Italy apart from the most successful three needs a perfect storm to win the title. It’s rigid and it’s boring. It’s not different in Spain. The Scottish league is a joke. The EPL is getting there. And won’t even mention Portugal…
There’s a few exeptions to the rule and in my view the French championship is the best. We have big teams like PSG, Olympique Marseille, Bordeaux, Monaco, Lyon, and some games are bigger than others – but the actual league title is up for grabs. In France tradition and renewal meets. Lyon grew out of nowhere and their rivals St. Etienne, the hitherto most successful French team, faded. The oil dollars of PSG might change the picture now, but so far it has been beautiful for ages. I prefer Serie A to League 1, but we need some of the French equality.
I’m not calling for total equality among all teams, because then no one could do better or worse than expected, because there would be no expectations. But we need just a bit more equality. Just a slightly bigger chance for Roma, Napoli, Lazio, Fiorentina, Tottenham, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, and other clubs like them to battle for true glory and not just a chance to get beaten by Juventus, Milan, Inter, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man. U., Chelsea, Man C. Arsenal, and Bayern M (it looks ridiculous, but this IS the club of top teams – any other club with European success is a ”surprise”) in the latter team’s run for yet another CL final.
So all in all – congratulations to Juventus with a title that for once carries a good and genuinely exciting story. May they, and the other top teams, have a harder time on the future. Football will benefit from it, and maybe it will open some peoples’ eyes to why Porto – Monaco was just the kind of CL finals we need some more of.
Photo by kool_skatkat