The transfer that has been rumored to go down for some time looks to be nearing its completion tonight. Various reports indicate Brazilian club Santos are going to accept Barcelona’s €25-30 million bid for burgeoning superstar Neymar. These are reports as of this moment, but enough people in the know seem to believe this is going down. It is believed Neymar and his family are discussing the personal terms of his contract with the Catalan giants.
The Champions League final has been about adverts since its inception. If you’re looking to be convinced to buy beer, a television sports package or anything else you can think of to help feel masculine, spending a couple of hours tuned in to coverage of Borussia Dortmund versus Bayern Munich will do you very little harm, aside from the fact that all of these are terrible, terrible products. But this year’s final has an added bonus: the game itself is actually going to be an advert this time, with most of Dortmund’s exciting young players being linked to other, less successful, but financially rolling in it clubs.
Pick a newspaper or television channel right now and their transfer roundup section will be full of Dortmund players. The Guardian’s football page is full of match previews and bland chatter about the game; alongside all that is the ‘buyer’s guide’ to Dortmund. Rather than being able to celebrate the moment – the brilliant achievement – of playing in the Champions League final, the most exciting team in Europe this season is being discussed as a set of assets, ready to move on to bigger things. Not bigger footballing achievements – they’re at the pinnacle there – but bigger pay-days.
Mario Goetze isn’t playing because he’s injured. Or ‘injured’, depending on how you want to think about the world. Dortmund’s best player, whether he’s not playing for this reason or because he really is injured, is playing for their opponents next season. Dortmund’s reward for bringing him up through the ranks is having him taken off their hands as soon as he starts looking a bit handy. ‘Let’s play a game. Us against you.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘Before we start, we’ll have all your best players’ ‘That doesn’t sound like a great game’ ‘You’ve missed the point of this game.’
Watching Dortmund play tomorrow should be fun, but instead it’s miserable – spelt ‘F-U-C-K T-H-I-S’. I mean, Juergen Klopp spoke about the process he’s working against earlier on in the week: “Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw.” Kagawa was nicked from Dortmund last season, now he’s being wasted by United. The teams Dortmund are being picked apart by have so much money that they literally can’t spend it all on a first eleven, they’ve had to start putting together entire squads of talent made elsewhere. So rather than getting to see it every week at Dortmund, the talent gets bottled up. What fun!
None of this is new, it’s just an extreme example of a footballing culture gone bad. Teams like Dortmund take all of the risks on players, either developing them for years or picking them up when they aren’t certain to be worth the money, and then get no time to enjoy the reward when those risks come off , or rather when the result of careful calculations come off. Teams like United and Bayern, on the other hand, incur none of the risks, because they’ve got the money to buy guaranteed talent. Why’s this bad? Well, if you think things being this unequal and this unfair counts as bad, which I do, then it’s bad. But even if you don’t care about those things – even if you regularly masturbate over images of famous capitalists – you’re going to have to agree that this process is just boring, and that makes it bad too.
When Bayern play Dortmund we don’t get to watch Gotze, one of the most talented players in the world, maybe because he’s already been bought by Bayern. Worse, we don’t get to see this Dortmund team grow together, because it’s going to be picked apart by clubs who have been far less astute than Dortmund, but, largely, happen to have more money than them. And that all takes away from the spectacle of what, in terms of ball-kicking alone, could be a great final. It has to take away from it. We’re watching one long advertisement. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BUY A F*CKING ELECTRIC RAZOR.
Christian Benteke is being linked with a move away from Aston Villa and the same principle as just described applies. When Villa signed him last summer, I remember people saying that he wasn’t even that highly rated given what Villa were spending on him. They got one season of reward for that risk and now a bigger club will take him off their hands. Booooorrrrriinnnng.
One game left, so one match prediction this week. The paucity of Champions League-related models is a testament to just how unpredictable these games can be, what with the limited sample size and the relative parity of talent in most of the fixtures. Except for this one. Along with the rest of the world, both the lines and the models predict a likely Bayern win.
On a side note, I read with interest Martin Eastwood’s notes on his prediction model from the Premier League, and I thought it would be interesting to run the success rate of the models next year as a measure of return on investment. A far more interesting way to illustrate whether a model is working is to do a running calculation of the ROI, no? I’ll sort it out for you.
I have this feeling that Bayern are just going to steamroll Dortmund into the ground, and Juergen Klopp will have to put on a brave face in the post-match scrum. So in the spirit of enjoying the Klopp happy dancing for a little while longer, a mildly amusing Klopp video to help you pass some of the time at work.
Yeah yeah meta jokes are so 2011. Still, there are so many good previews floating around today that it would be pointless for me to add any more muck to the slop pile of raw speculation. But I can use my flawless reading skills to good use and point you in the direction of what’s pretty effing good.
“It’s like playing Galaga. Remember Galaga? You could nab every power-up in the game, you could clear level after level, but those aliens were going to keep munching their way toward you forever, like a typewriter ribbon that never ran out. (Remember typewriters?). Bayern is the endless loop of aliens; Dortmund is a kid who’s only got so many quarters. You can root for the kid, but be realistic.”
Jebus Murphy Phillips! The whole thing is basically as good as this, and it includes some nice Robben jokes. Actually some of the better you’ll read between now and tomorrow.
It centres around whatever Robert Lewandowski is capable of doing:
“…Bayern will almost certainly have more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than Dortmund. If Jurgen Klopp’s side are to record an unlikely triumph, they will have to depend upon ruthlessness in the final third.
Fortunately, up front Dortmund have Robert Lewandowski – second-top goalscorer in the Bundesliga, and a striker who demonstrated his incredible goalscoring potential with a brilliant four-goal haul against Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg.”
In any case, the appraisal doesn’t look good for Dortmund. Reus and Lewandowski haven’t been linking up well recently since Goetze’s departure, which may explain a bit of their shit league record since Mario picked up his injury.
Sometimes the best thing is to put the wonderful history of the European Cup in relief. There is no better example of a team defined by success in Europe than Sacchi’s side and their romp in the 1990 final against Steaua Bucharest. It also contains a historical titbit I hadn’t heard before on how the Italian military assisted TV crews after a strike in Spain almost led to a TV blackout (plus ça change I guess).
Well, that was a lot quicker than the last time. So basically Benitez is kind of like the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction, Mr. Wolf. Someone leaves a legacy but in the process makes a bit of a mess at the end, and he just sort of swoops in and cleans up.
Total opportunist. Anyway, in case you’re catching up: Inter sack Stramaccioni, hire Walter Mazzari from Inter, Rafa goes to Napoli. Deck chairs shuffled. What it means for any of these teams…well. I think Inter kind of win here. Rafa’s not really a project man, and Napoli have become a project club.
Yeah, there’s not much sugar-coating a 16-6-16 record, 54 points, and a 9th place table finish for a team that won the treble three years ago. So the lesson here is what, never appointment younger coaches, never hire internally, and never hire people with law degrees.
Oh and be sure to watch out for the Internet reminding you that Rafa Benitez is looking for another job. Because the last time he was at Inter, woah doctor!