Something From The European Cup Weekend: Lionel Messi; English clubs in the big cup
The Good, the Bad and the Odd
Monday 30 May 2011
Rarely has a player so clearly defined the difference between confidence and arrogance as Lionel Messi. On collecting the man-of-the-match award on Saturday night after numerous nutmegs and a brilliant goal, he described his personal performance as 'the least important thing.'
Still, it wasn't a bad weekend for the 'little flea': his goal was his 53rd of the season, his 12th of this Champions League campaign (to equal the record held by Ruud van Nistelrooy, set whilst playing for Manchester United) and his first goal on British soil, all while becoming the competition's leading scorer for the third successive year. Simply put, he is the best player in the world, playing in the best team in the world.
English clubs in the big cup
And the award for best supporting role in a Champions League final goes to... England, apparently. Following Barcelona's win over Manchester United on Saturday, English teams have now lost five out of the last six finals – Arsenal in 2006, Liverpool in 2007, Chelsea in 2008, and United in 2009 – with Barcelona the victors on three of these occasions. Over their two finals against the Catalan side, United managed just three shots on target, which suggests the team's problem is not a lack of bottle on the big stage, but more to do with the fact that they can't get the ball. With arguments over the amount of football played likely to return, some will call for Premier League sides to copy the La Liga winter break model. It would be much more constructive to just copy their possession-hogging philosophy.
The power of one
This year's final ended a 40-year-old tradition – since 1971, an English team has always beaten a Spanish one in a European final when the year ended with a "one". Chelsea started it by beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1971 Cup Winners Cup, followed by Liverpool's European Cup triumph over Madrid in 1981. In 1991, Manchester United beat Barcelona to Cup Winners Cup glory, and Liverpool won the Uefa Cup 5-4 over Alaves ten years later. Strangely, after Saturday's game Javier Mascherano dedicated Barcelona's win to his former club, Liverpool, saying: "I know Liverpool supporters after my exit were maybe a little bit sad with me, but I'd like to say this victory is for them as well."
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