David Farris with his TSG debut.
The Third Wheel.
To the casual outsider, La Liga exists as a fierce and epic battle between two clubs: Real Madrid and Barcelona. As if El Classico weren’t enough to keep people’s attention, last year’s race between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the top of the scoring list was spectacular. Part of what made this race so magical was that it was a microcosm of the athletic, the religious, and the political battle between the historically advantaged Real Madrid (represented by the impossibly good looking Ronaldo) and the precise, genius futbol of Barcelona (represented by little Messi).
And if you heard or read anything about soccer last season, you probably recognize that whole first paragraph as some recycled version of someone else’s story. Yes, it’s exciting to watch two captains of industry go at it week in and week out and then to have the crazy finish they did between the league and non-league stretch they played last Spring. Yes, YouTube is littered with videos like the one linked above showing goal after mind-blowing goal that you can watch until blood is shooting from your eyes to your laptop, phone, iPad, etc.
But for me and probably a few of you, watching that battle was a bit like playing FIFA on its Amateur setting. There is definitely something cathartic about putting together a dream team and watching it steam roll the landscape. And while historic campaigns like the 2010-11 are great PR directed toward the outer fringes of the La Liga and general futbol fan base, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
Maybe it’s all of those years of playing video games on the wrong difficulty level just to build confidence that I can carry into the outside world. Maybe it’s my nearly obsessive proclivity toward avoiding the bandwagon, the popular, or the otherwise widely known and appreciated. But if La Liga is going to hold my attention this season I’ll need some kind of alt-choice – something to make my hipster soccer friends jealous.
For the last few seasons that choice has been easy – Sergio Agüero. He’s talented at a level that could only be scientifically described as “bonkers”, has a tattoo written in a language invented by Tolkien, and is married to Diego Maradona’s daughter.
Agüero was the obvious choice to crown as the Third Wheel of the Spanish League. He scored 20 goals last season – second only to Ronaldo and Messi – and had essentially set up camp in every soccer writer’s transfer headlines all season long. Even with all of that press he was still flying just under the radar of most soccer fans because he played on a team that rarely, if ever, is shown on ESPN or The Deuce.
And then it happened. The siren’s song of petrodollars could only be held off for so long. At the end of July, Kun Agüero was tapped to be the next in what will probably be a long line of stars to watch from the sidelines of the City of Manchester (errrrr Etihad) Stadium as other, more star-y stars run around the pitch–hey folks, let’s be honest, that was Swansea and that could still happen.
The alt-dream was over. A million hipster hearts were broken and my knock-off Atlético Madrid shirt was declared ‘totaled’ and sold for scrap parts. The dream had died.
But of course, he wasn’t the only player in La Liga to score 20 goals last season. There was in actuality, a fourth wheel that worked quietly and efficiently to crash the talent party in La Liga last year.