Real Madrid relied on good luck and individual genius yet again to win a historic third Champions League in a row.
Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich. Only three teams have won the European Cup or Champions League three times in a row. Only one of them has done it twice.
Bob Paisley‘s Liverpool, Helenio Herrera’s Inter, Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan – great teams have tried and failed to win more than two on the bounce. Bayern was the last to do it, 42 years ago. Zinedine Zidane managed it in 28 months.
Whatever their limitations, however poor their domestic campaign has been, there can no longer be any doubt: Zidane’s team will go down in history as Champions League legends. They are, as Sergio Ramos said even before kick-off, “vintage“. Fortune favors the great.
There was so much doubt about their credentials this time, so much belief in Jurgen Klopp’s undaunted, free-flowing Liverpool, one of the only other clubs to come close to Madrid’s European record. It seemed that way from kick-off in Kiev, too: the Reds were brilliantly organized, pressing astutely, throwing Madrid off their swagger.
— #UCLfinal (@ChampionsLeague) May 26, 2018
After those scares against Juventus and Bayern Munich, Zidane’s side looked like they would, at last, be exposed. We should all know better.
Misfortune struck Liverpool 30 minutes in. Mohamed Salah, heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and his Ballon d’Or, was forced off in tears with a shoulder injury, having tumbled to the ground with Sergio Ramos, the man made for lifting trophies in this white shirt.
It left Liverpool looking uncertain, wary, and Madrid sensed it. The passing became crisper, the chances appeared, Karim Benzema denied a goal by the offside flag. Even the loss of Dani Carvajal ironically gave them a boost, with the full-back having looked every bit a player to have missed five of the last six games before he limped his disconsolate way down the tunnel.
Then Lady Luck returned. Loris Karius, whose improved form in 2018 has been a great success story of Liverpool’s season, collected a simple loose ball and threw it straight against Benzema’s foot. It was an error that seemed to perplex even the Madrid players, who were slow to catch up to celebrate with their team-mate, the much-maligned forward who produced arguably his best performance of 2017-18.
There was still room for another defensive lapse, a failure to clear a set-piece that gifted Sadio Mane an equalizer, a reminder of that fragility that almost let Juventus back into the quarter-final. Madrid survived that tie thanks largely to the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo; this time, it was Gareth Bale.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 26, 2018
Just 122 seconds after coming off the bench, he scored the best goal this showpiece has ever seen. It was jaw-dropping, exquisite brilliance. That’s the other side of this era-defining team: they make their own luck, too. When Karius flapped in another Bale effort to put the trophy out of Liverpool’s reach, it felt like destiny was rewarding the Wales star for even attempting such a bicycle kick.
Zidane has now won nine trophies since taking over in January 2016. He has his shortcomings, as he admitted this week – “I’m not the best coach, and I will always say that. I am not the best coach tactically” – but, when the success looks like this, tactics be damned.
They survived throwing away a 3-0 lead against Juve, being dominated by Bayern, being unsettled by Liverpool. Special goals and slices of luck carried them all the way to glory again. The undisputed kings of Europe, it seems, have a divine right to rule.
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.