January 1, 2000
With Easter upon us and light showing at the end of the domestic season’s tunnel, all football eyes will turn towards Europe as much as sporting eyes generally focusing on the Olympic Games.
Having said that there is danger of a bit of overshadowing in the UK particularly, and not least because the games will take place in London and other locations around the country, but also because its looks like the football team representing Great Britain will be exactly that.
Expect Stuart Pearce to select a truly representative squad for the games that all true Brits can properly get behind and expect no political or administrative repercussions; not that there was ever going to be anyway to my eyes. For me the fuss was all about over protecting and fear without foundation by the home nations rather than the constantly expressed reality of the situation. Don’t forget the women’s team too. Olympic women’s football is first up, before the Games are officially opened. Why?
Back to Europe and a latest look at the Euro scene. Not surprisingly at this time, the UEFA official website takes a look at the Champions League final stages.
The latest edition of UEFA’s official magazine ‘Champions’ is out and featured on the site. I have to say that Cristiano Ronaldo is not my type of player, not so much because of his footballing talent but more his antics and gestures during the course of a game. I accept that football on television tend to highlight these things to the extent of giving a false impression, but I did attend the League Cup final between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur a couple of season ago and my opinion did not change very much.
Nonetheless ‘Champions’ salutes Ronaldo’s progress and I am prepared to accept that. Having just completed a quick fire century of Spanish Liga goals, Real Madrid’s Ronaldo is a worthy cover star for the latest edition of the magazine; I concede.
Ronaldo has been an undisputed protagonist of this season’s Spanish and Euro campaign for Real Madrid, having just scored his 100th Spanish top flight goal for the Liga leaders. The Magazine examines how he is maturing and developing as a player under Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
Ronaldo’s brilliant form has also brought him 19 goals in 24 UEFA Champions League starts – including six in six, with two assists, this term – and the UEFA.com users’ Team of the Year forward is putting his considerable individual skills at the service of the Merengues. It’s that word ,assist’ again! Mourinho says that Ronaldo is unbelievable and goes on,
“You would have thought with the number of goals he scored last season you couldn’t improve, but he is at another level.”
No doubt Manchester United would have been (at another level) if Sir Alex had been able to retain his services over the past season or two. I really can’t imagine United being knocked out of the Champions League without even making the knockout stages let alone missing out altogether on European pot hunting this season.
Ronaldo scored his 100th goal for Real Madrid CF as the Liga leaders returned to winning ways after having had their advantage over the Azulgrana reduced to six points following successive 1-1 draws. The Madrid outfit were back to their free scoring best against Real Sociedad de Futbol with a five goal haul.
Ronaldo’s landmark strike, on just his 92nd league appearance for the club, and a lob from Karim Benzema extended the hosts’ lead before the break, with the pair scoring again in the second half as Madrid registered five goals or more in a match for the ninth time this season.
Staying with goalscorers, ‘Champions’ meets Kevin-Prince Boateng, the moonwalking AC Milan midfielder, who talks about finding his feet at the Stadia Giuseppe Meazza. Meanwhile, FC Bayern Munchen’s Arjen Robben says that when it comes to the future, he is a dreamer rather than a planner.
`Champions’ also recalls the career of Sir Bobby Robson, who influenced a host of managers including Mourinho and Josep Guardiola, and is regarded by many as the greatest English coach ever. I think we will all vote for that but wait a minute, Sir Alf Ramsey did win the World Cup; your call. Also in the dugout, ‘Champions’ goes face to face with Luciano Spalletti and Leonid Slutskiy on the rise of Russian football and their clubs’ success in Europe.
Elsewhere, ‘Champions’ remembers the genius of George Weah, whose incredible story – beginning as a teenager in Liberia – blazed a trail for African footballers in Europe. The Magazine reports on the state of the game in Hungary, the first overseas team to beat England at Wembley as I recall it where the Prime Minister is an ex centre forward!
‘Champions’ investigates the rising trend for young goalkeepers as well as the history of the passing game, and is taken on a tour of Cyprus by APOEL FC striker Esteban Solari whose team performed wonders to reach the last eight of the Champions League. I don’t think that any Euro football watcher will argue with that; well done to them.