Last week may have seen the first significant news of the football off-season, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Following the retirement of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, and David Moyes’ arrival at Old Trafford as his successor, there has been plenty more big news in the past seven days.
As I sat, as open-mouthed as the rest of Europe’s football fans, watching Bayern Munich ambush Barcelona in the Allianz Arena tonight, one question flickered through my mind: could this result happen next season?
It may seem a little early for pondering the future, but this article wouldn’t have been penned tonight had it not been for Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, with his second of the night, putting the tie almost undeniably beyond the reach of Tito Vilanova’s crestfallen men.
This week in Europe may have turned into the week of the comeback for the English quartet, but there can be little doubt, if any lingered, that the Premier League’s finest are no longer Europe’s dominant force.
Remember that spell when there were three English clubs in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League every year between 2008 and 2010?
At this time, footballing knowledge suggested that the continent had been conquered by Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. Well, can you really see that happening this year?
The European Super League. It has been talked about for a long time, but will it ever actually happen? Writing in September 2012 and looking ahead, in two years time a European Super League could be on the agenda.
This is because in 2014 the agreement that is in place between FIFA, UEFA and Europe’s leading clubs expires. As the leader of the European Club Association, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge points out, said teams will be free to do what they want. However, would they actually look to create a super league?
Two decades since the formation of the Premier League and the football landscape in this country has changed dramatically. The Taylor Report brought in all-seater stadia; the advent of television money has resulted in TV rights increasing from £50m in 1992 to £3bn today; the availability of talented Englishmen has dropped precipitously as the league has filled with foreign-born footballers, and home-grown players no longer ply their trade abroad. Why?
There are several ways of approaching this, but the most obvious is money. Players in England benefit from a laissez faire wage structure – indeed structure is arguably too generous a term. Clubs pay players what they want, and the more desirable an individual is, the greater the outlay will be from the side that wishes to retain or purchase them. Wages of £100,000-plus per week are commonplace, creating a safety net for English footballers who are of sufficient ability to be remunerated so generously.
It takes more than physical skill to be a winner at the highest level of professional sport. It needs grit, determination, focus and confidence. Chelsea have shown that in spades in their last three Champions’ League games. In both legs against Barcelona in the semi finals, the Blues were pinned to the proverbial wall from start to finish; tonight, in the main, was more of the same.
Home-town favourites Bayern Munich had more of the ball, four times as many opportunities on goal, and a plethora of chances to kill the 2012 Champions’ League Final both in regular time and extra time. Arjen Robben’s missed penalty, chances squandered by Mario Gomes and Thomas Muller, the botched pass from Ivica Olic which rolled past Daniel van Buyten before an open goal …