You know, that wasn’t the original title of this column…..
First it was, “Oh how the mighty have fallen…,”
AC Milan and Liverpool tangled in one of the best Champion’s League finals I can recall in recent memory, but they are also the answer to this question: What two perennial Champ’s League finalists are in the most disarray?
Back to the game…
It was one of the most dramatic soccer games I’ve ever witnessed. Will today’s Barcelona-Inter Milan semi’s match-up rival it?
The 2005 Champion’s League Final was, in short, one of those great games that even those who were not rooting for one of the sides recollect the environment where they watched it.
I remember watching the game in a rickety taco shack in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco. The crappy tables offset–oddly–by a gorgeous new HD television. I remember the incredulous final score (and victors) and emailing Shaun–a Liverpool fan–right afterward to ask him if his heart was still beating.
The final, a classic. AC Milan versus Liverpool in Istanbul, Turkey of all places.
The storyline? An improbable 3-2 penalties win after a 3-3 deadlock for perennial the bridesmaids from Liverpool. The Reds hadn’t won a major championship in nearly 20 years before that one.
However, as the storyline goes, it couldn’t have begun much worse for the team from Anfield. Just a minute in, Rafa and company found themselves on the wrong side of 1-0 on a goal by all-century Milan captain Paolo Maldini. The score then drooped to 2-0 for the English side and finally 3-0 before the break.
The trophy all but being etched permanently with victory for the Rossoneri.
But it was Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard in a game that at once created and stamped his legacy anew who notched a goal and a foul suffered to bring the team back and swap the scrawl on the trophy and history.
Take a moment to check out the clip below if you’re new to Champ’s League ball.
What’s immediately odd now about this all-time classic is the juxtaposition of the crumbling of Milan and Liverpool in 2010.
Six of one-half dozen the other who is in more dire straits and who is further from a return to glory.
After a second place finish last year in the Premiership, Liverpool are looking at a 2011 devoid of Champion’s League soccer.
The most fervent supporters will direct you to the ownership assumption by Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillette in 2007 as the catalyst for the club’s struggles. However the truth is it’s some amalgamation of the ownership’s financial management, the albatross of a new stadium with a completion that gets pushed out more than Brett Favre’s retirement, and a manager skilled at field tactics, but woefully anemic at player selection and building depth.
Just this past week, Hicks and Gillette looked to concede defeat on their investment and refinance $300M in debt for the club and sell a major stake in that club. The stadium, um, yeah….
On the pitch, the team has failed due to a reliance on two superstars who continually battle injuries (Gerrard and Torres) and season long search for a replacement for 2005 Champ’s League final equalizer scorer Xabi Alonso as the forecasted replacement, Alberto Aquilani, has played 27 seconds against teams not named Burnley.
Liverpool attempt to make the Europa Cup final in a decisive game against Atletico Madrid this Thursday.
‘Pools future? Highly dependent on replenishing both depth and adding superstars–hard to do without the Champ’s League monies to back bringing in talent. And there is also the matter of whether the manager who brought them the Final gold in 2005, Rafa Benitez, stays or gets rejuvenated at Juventus next campaign.
As sad as Liverpool’s situation is AC Milan for their part, might have to scale a bigger mountain back to the elite. Not only do they have similar financial struggles, but the eighteen they run out each game is simply decrepit.
Nearly the entire team is past their prime with the exception of two Brazilians: centerback Thiago Silva and forward (and one of TSG’s favorite players) Pato.
The mix of adding more veterans to this year’s team has failed with two counted on contributors (David Beckham, and Azzurri king Alexander Nesta) out for the year.
Can they get anything at all in return for their hotel laundry list of elder statesmen–in no particular order: Pirlo, Zammbrotta, Gattuso, Seedorf, Jankulovski, Ronaldhino.
And a quick aside on Ronaldhino…what a fraud?! Exerts and focuses himself for a few short months in a me-myself-and-I effort to get a look for the World Cup. What….have….you….done…lately, Ronaldhino?
The results on the pitch this year have been just as fraudulent. Manchester United playfully dismissed the Rossoneri in the Champion’s League (7-2 in aggregate) and Milan has already mathematically scuttled it’s attempt at the Scudetto.
The shepherd of those results? Former Brazilian great Leonardo, who’s completely lost the players and is rumored to have attempted to walk out on the club a few weeks ago.
And finally we get to the finances. After selling Kaka for $59 to Real Madrid last summer, Milan has hardly made a dent in organizing the books coming out this past week and stating that 2010′s financial results will be harder than 2009.
Here’s the question. How is a club listed as one of the wealthiest in Europe, playing in the largest stadium in Italy, and owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in debt and facing losses in the tens of millions this year?!
Something is fishy.
About the only good thinkgabout the Milan’s predicament rounding out the ’09-’10 season is that the state of affiars should allow some playing time for returning centerback Oguchi Onyewu. Oh wait this is an American publication.