This is football
Leicester FC are the champions of England. I’m sure that has sunk in by now. Atlético Madrid are in the champions league final. The year is 2016. Football, they now want to claim has been taken back from the power hungry suits men, but lets not be naive football needs the suits, it needs the money men, it needs the glamour and it needs the excitement of top dollar transfers that teams are willing to pay to stay the Crème de la Crème of world football. So while we are trying to come to terms with the scale of these two teams’ achievements, one word that should not be used to describe it is ‘miracle’. Calling it that takes away from the inventiveness of the players, the managers and the always forgotten backroom staff. Leicester hang in when everyone was discounting them calling it a blip when they were top of the table, that the other teams were bound to get their act in order and restore the normality of seeing the likes of Manchester City et al at the top of the table. La liga on the other hand needs to stop being known as a two team league, Atlético with their brand of negative football are here and they are here to stay. I don’t think their’s a team with as much personality and tenacity as that pesky little Spanish team, they simply do not go away! They don’t know when they’ve been beaten. They defend all day long and then get that sole goal against the run of play which is just a dagger to the heart to most teams who play with the bravado of attacking.
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This brand of football that Leicester and Atlético play is not what modern football is about. There are no complicated formations, no fullbacks playing as centrebacks, no sweeper keepers and the likes, but a simple and effective 4-4-2. As a fan you can always predict their lineup, yet as teams who have played them have discovered this season, its as hard as ever to beat them. Yet I wouldn’t call their brand of football boring, just different and as with everything this is not as easy to take as we would like.
Football purists, and I would include myself in this category like to see attacking football, exciting heart in your mouth edge of your seat sort of playing where teams throw caution to the wind and look to win the game by scoring more than their opponent not defending as much as possible and wait to get that unexpected goal. Football however is evolving, changing constantly looking at player like Kante, most would not describe him as the most exciting player but my goodness do we not all enjoying watching that little man who seems to have the energy of five football players combined. Jamie Vardy has redefined the status quo of a modern striker, he’s 29 and heading to the Euros; their is no player of the future tag that Iheanacho and Rashford carry, he’s a player of now. From a player who used to turn up to training drunk to a player who holds the record for most consecutive games scored in the Premier League not a tag to be looked at lightly. Riyad Mahrez on the other hand has the flair of a player that needs to be playing on the succulent pitches of the Bernabéu to the Camp Nou, he’s as exciting as a player can get and the player that Leicester would be pained to let go off and being let go he will be, the European giants will come knocking and their glamour and promise to play with their dream players, to gain hero status, to hear your name chanted by 60,000 plus fans will win over even the most of humble of players.
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Antoine Griezmann. Just stating his name should be enough to explain the kind of impact he has had on Atlético, United are said to be prepared to bid for him and thats what happens when you turn up for the big games the way he was the source of anguish for the Bayern players and fans and his goal threatened Guardiola’s legacy as one of the best. With Griezmann they have the ultimate poacher, the player to score the unexpected goals when needed the most. The perfect player to suit the counter attack model his team has, a player when included in a team that plays to his strengths will have their Suarez and Ronaldo, the ultimate big game player. With a refreshed Torres by his side, this is a team that should not be discounted to lift the trophy in Milan. Knocking out two of the best teams in Europe is not a mean feat and just what is needed to call yourself the best team in Europe. Real Madrid if they do what is required of them tonight will lay waiting for them, a team they do not fear and are more than capable of beating, the tide will be against them however. Football can cruel, and painful, and beautiful, and magical. Football can give you the highest of highs and lowest of lows. As fans of this beautiful game we are privileged to enjoy a sport that can leave you with a myriad of feelings.
This is football.
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