I’ve been to Madrid. I went in 2010, not 2014. I went in January, not June. And I went to Madrid, not Lisbon, and that’s where my stumbling lead-in towards serious analysis of the Champions League final, this season held in the Portuguese capital, falls apart. Onwards and upwards. Well, onwards, anyway.

To try and cut down on the narrative, it’s Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid this year, and— huh? They’re both from Madrid? Oh, so they are! This is actually a big deal – Atletico have only won two of their last 30 games against Real one of those wins coming this season. Real have lost in four of the five Copa Del Rey they have played against Atletico. Atletico won La Liga this season, and Real finished third. And Atletico are looking to win their first ever Champions League, and Real want to win their tenth. It’s a real shame it’s not being played in Madrid – my first paragraph might’ve been better, too.

Read the rest of my preview here on Betting Instinct – if you liked the first bit, the bits after that aren’t bad either.

1497 games, 0 goals. If we’re being honest – and in moments such as these, we tend to let a lot go – Sir Alex Ferguson’s record at Manchester United had been downright ordinary. You can’t even forgive him on the basis of assists, either – he has none. In those 1497 games, the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn’t pick Sir Alex Ferguson to start once. He never came on from the bench – even Bebe played seven matches for Manchester United. Twenty-seven years at Old Trafford, and Alex Ferguson has nothing to show for any of them.

But let us not dwell on his shortcomings, though they are many. Let us instead reflect on his triumphs. He looks really funny when he celebrates. He looks really funny when he’s upset. He look really funny when he’s angry, and I’ll be goddamn damned if he doesn’t look really funny when Manchester City win the title in the dying seconds of the season.

He has seen the great players come and go. Bosnich, Neville (no, the other one), Bosnich, Bosnich, Milne, Anderson, Bosnich, Taibi, Obertan, Bosnich – oh, and Mark Bosnich, of course. And look to his child prodigies, the class of 1992. Ryan Giggs remains the finest left winger to have had an extra-martial affair with his brother’s wife, Gary Neville is Phil Neville’s brother, Nicky Butt’s career came to a pitiful end in South China, and Robbie Savage maintained a level of intolerability not witnessed in the Premiership since the days of Kevin Muscat. Ferguson bore them all – I wouldn’t put childbirth past him – and their legacies are also his.

United fans should be excited about a new era. With a grumpy, grudging, stubborn Scotsman to be replaced by a grumpy, grudging, stubborn Scotsman, much is changing at Old Trafford. They can be excited about the return of Cristiano Ronaldo who, after hitting the 200 goal mark for Real Madrid recently, is reported to be “shitting himself” with enthusiasm over the prospect of playing under one of the finest managers to manage Everton in the last ten years. They can be excited about the return of Ferguson in two years’ time when David Moyes is discovered floating face-down in a pool of his own tears. There’s a lot to be excited about. It’s exciting.

Get excited, everyone. Get excited.

 

Max Grieve

I don’t think you know anything about football. All right, so you might know some things about football, but whatever you know about football isn’t nearly as important as what I know about football. Knowing more about football than you do, I feel that it’s critical that I let you know who I think were the 25 best players from 2012. So I’ve done a list, chosen from the 80-man shortlist compiled by Backpage Football, because that’s what everyone else is doing. 

What was that you had to say about my list? That’s right, you didn’t say anything.

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Some art to take your mind off the list.

1. Lionel Messi

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

3. Andres Iniesta

4. Radamel Falcao

5. Robin van Persie

6. Xavi

7. Andrea Pirlo            

8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

9. Yaya Toure

10. Bastian Schweinsteiger

11. Gianluigi Buffon

12. Vincent Kompany

13. Luis Suarez

14. Mats Hummels

15. Xabi Alonso

16. Philipp Lahm

17. Neymar            

18. Mario Gomez            

19. Gareth Bale

20. Didier Drogba

21. Sergio Ramos

22. Giorgio Chiellini

23. Daniele De Rossi

24. Arturo Vidal            

25. Edinson Cavani

26. Steven Gerrard

27. Steven Gerrard

28. Harry Kewell

29. Steven Gerrard from 2005

– Max Grieve

I could have written at length about the Ballon d’Or; an award which recognises the best in an exercise which, like the rest of life, is essentially futile. If we have a good run, we all should die about seventy-eight years after we’re brought into the world, and the universe is only going to melt anyway, when the Sun explodes and eats everything. In five or six billion years when this happens, nothing will matter, especially not an award for running and kicking.

I could have written at length about the Ballon d’Or, but I drew some pictures instead, and the writing was left to Get Goal Side. Here’s one of Tito Vilanova. 

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You can see the rest at Surreal Football

– Max Grieve

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