116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Galacticos Gone Soft

It was a hell of a Matchday 1, with plenty of notable developments, from the fairly ridiculous (Jose Mourinho's conspicacy theories) to the head-scratching (Liverpool fielding a squad that would have a tough time beating Bolton Wanderers, let alone playing in the Champions League), and with a hint of the spectacular (Shunsuke Nakamura's sweet free kick, Barca's general excellence, as well as Tomas Rosicky's screamer). I know I lamented the number of games just the other day, but there's nothing better than some classic Champions League action, and the game's best were on display these past two days.
Even with all of the incredible action and developing storylines, no Champions League subplot interests us more than what is going on with Real Madrid these days. The former bullies of the UEFA block turned in such an uninspired, unimaginative performance, you would have thought they started the game with Luis Garcia, Steven Gerrard, and Xabi Alonso on the bench. This is a team whose apparent sense of entitlement, and resistance to any kind of gritty play, allowed Olympique Lyonnais to run circles around them. The miracle was not that Lyon handled them in CL play once again, nor was it that Real's ballyhooed defense gave up two goals; the miracle was that Lyon didn't tack on an additional two or three. Real looked every bit the bunch of over-the-hill, overrated fat cats that they've spent the offseason trying to convince everyone they weren't.
Fabio Capello, the man Real have enlisted to right their incredibly fast-sinking ship, seemed so tactically rigid that Lyon could have fielded Boudewijn Zenden, Jermaine Pennant and Steve Finnan, and still 4-3-3-ed the isht out of the old Galacticos. Late in the match, needing two to come back and at least one to save face, Real eschewed creative play, crisp passing or even general teamwork in favor of cheap flopping.
But why should we care how Real Madrid does in the Champions League? Perhaps, due to their star power, it is because we look forward to seeing the world's best players performing at their best. Thing is, when those big names underperform, they become no better than those squads undeserving to be in the tournament. When Fabio Cannavaro gets beat straight up by Fred, or when David Beckham is about as useful as Drew Bledsoe under pressure, or when Raul is about as useful as, well, David Beckham, it's time to start over. Other clubs keep passion high by developing a fair number of their own players. For Real, that ship has sailed; nevertheless, they still have quite a bit of young talent, and perhaps it's time for the old guard to step back for the next generation of Real stars (save for Jose Antonio Reyes; he sucks). But since we're footballing from a lesser authority over here, what do I know? I'm the one on the Liverpool bandwagon, after all.


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