Thursday, May 17, 2018

Atletico Madrid champion

On a day like today I do not like living in Latin America: I was unable to watch the Europa League final because it is in my working hours. I was half-following the match on Twitter, and was not surprised in the end when Atletico Madrid basically cruised to a 3-0 victory against Olympique Marselle. They deserve it mainly because of Diego Simeone, who has been heavily criticised this season, but is truly the reason that Atletico Madrid are where they are today: their third Europa League title since 2010; a period that includes two Champions League finals and one Spanish title. Atletico Madrid are the only team that poses a serious challenge to the dominance of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but also show how strong they need to be to compete against the two giants.
Since 2014 Spanish teams have won every European final, except for Manchester United's victory last year. It is indeed a testament to the strength in the Spanish league to have four top teams (although Sevilla has fallen this season), but it does not tell about the entertainment of the league. Here I am of the opinion that English, German, and Italian leagues are better. When it involves the big teams, things are just too predictable and easy for the big teams. In the other leagues (except the French) competition is much better, as more teams fight for the title and on a good day anyone can beat anyone. In Spain this is not the case.
So Spanish football is great because of its great teams, and less so because of its league.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The owners of the Champions League

Since the Premier League was introduced in 1992 Liverpool have never won it. Their last League title was in 1990, and their last FA Cup triumph was in 2006. So compared to other English sides Liverpool does not seem to represent the best the Premier League can offer; since 1992 Manchester United has won 13 Premier League titles, Chelsea has won five, Manchester City three, Arsenal three (and 9 FA Cups!), etc. But when you look at the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool, who today qualified for the final against Real Madrid, have been dominant: three finals since 2000, including their legendary triumph in 2005. Only Manchester United have done (slightly) better since 1992 (when the Champions League was introduced in its current form): four finals with two wins (1999 and 2008) and two losses (2009 and 2011). But overall Liverpool's history far exceeds that of any other English side: with five wins in seven finals Liverpool is the all-time best English team in the European Champions Cup/Champions League, as well as the fifth best overall (behind Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona).
It is impossible to say what history means, but it is clear that Liverpool, despite not dominating their domestic league or cup, are simply much better at the biggest European stage than some of the better domestic English sides such as Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Liverpool showed their European strength when they eliminated Manchester City in this season's quarterfinals, in a tie that they pretty much always dominated against the new English champions.
Liverpool just seems to be the English side that most "owns" the Champions League, and in the Kiev final they will face the European "owners" of the tournament: Real Madrid have won a record 12 European Champions Cup/Champions League out of 14 finals. They are the defending Champions, having won the last two finals (2016, 2017), and have in fact not lost a final in this tournament since 1981.
And who defeated them in 1981?

The final in Kiev will be huge, not just because these are two of the best sides historically, but also because both sides have been extraordinary in the tournament, fantastic players, and in particular because the two sides facing one another have whom I consider the two best managers in the world right now.

Forget the World Cup Final.

I guess on a personal note, before anyone starts bitching that I say something nice about Real Madrid, I must mention that I will never ever support Real Madrid (except when they play against the one team I dislike more, FC Copenhagen). I am a proud Anti-Madridista!