Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nicky's UEFA Top 10- Season Ending Edition

1. Inter Milan- UEFA Champions, Serie A Champions, Coppa Italia Champions
2010 will be remembered as the year Jose Mourinho took the football world by the nutsack and said, "I am the Special One. You must all bow down, and kiss my butt". Inter had won 2 UEFA titles in its history, in 1964-65. A long ass time ago. Mourinho brings them a third this year, and now rides off to Real Madrid with the seemingly insurmountable task of motivating Real's perennial menagerie of semi-retired bajillionaires to excellence.

2. Chelsea- English Premier League Champions, FA Cup Champions
Chelsea is probably better than Bayern Munich. In fact, they are almost certainly better than Bayern Munich.They had the misfortune of running into an Inter team that was not going to lose in the Champions League in the Round of 16, and if that hadn't happened it probably would have been them meeting Inter in the finals or somewhere in that neighborhood.They came on strong at the end of the season to return to the top of the Premier League, denying Manchester United a 4-peat(we'll set aside that Man U lost Wayne Rooney at the end of the season, injuries are part of the game, especially in England). They did all this against the backdrop of a tabloid circus surrounding John Terry, so extra points for degree of difficulty.

3. Barcelona- La Liga Champions
A dizzying array of talent, led by Lionel Messi, the consensus Best Player In the World. They won a very prestigious domestic league, and yet I think the final verdict on this season is that it was a disappointment. They looked helpless in the Champions League semisagainst Inter, despite being the more talented squad. The only explanation there is that they were outcoached, but against Jose Mourinho that can happen. In the long run, Barca coming up short may be a good thing for them and us as fans, as they will now be pushed to improve. They've already started the process by going hard after Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas.

4. Bayern Munich-Bundesliga Champions, DFB Pokal Champions, UEFA Runner Up
As an 8 year old whippersnapper in 1983, I fell in love with the Chicago White Sox. They made theirfirst postseason appearance in 24 years that season and did it by "Winning Ugly", a phrase coined by an opposing manager to describe that team's penchant for winning and not looking very impressive doing so. The same can be said of Bayern Munich this year. They didn't exactly mow down the competition in the Champions League, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. In fact, were it not for the away goal rule they would have exited in the round of 16 at the hands of a very ordinary Fiorentina squad. However, they kept finding ways to advance, thanks mostly to their scoring firepower. They killed a giant in Manchester United, won the German Cup,and returned to the top of the Bundesliga despite a shaky final two months of the campaign.

5. Manchester United
A big fat nothing next to their name. No titles this year of any kind. Their season was far from a Liverpoolesque disaster, but bringing home nothing is not a good season for Man U. The first inkling of trouble came when they got knocked out of the FA Cup in a 1-0 loss to Championship club Leeds. But OK, upsets happen in the FA Cup, that's why it's so popular. Then Wayne Rooney got hurt and things really went south. They bowed out of the Champions Leaguein the quarterfinals, losing to a Bayern Munich team they had no business losing to. You can maybe blame it on a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Old Trafford just 4 days earlier, another huge match, but that's the price the English clubs pay for playing in the best league in the world I guess. It just seemed like a year that whenever they were put to the test, Man U couldn't come through.

6. Real Madrid
The perennial Champions League underachievers came on strong at the end of the year to make the La Liga race very interesting. They ultimately came up short, but there's really no shame in going 31-4-3 in La Liga. In fact, it's pretty damn impressive. Cristiano Ronaldo had a solid 26goal season, and Gonzalo Higuain put in 26. Mourinho is most likely coming, and will no doubt be accompanied by at least one of Real's annual big money signings. I think big things might be in store in 2011 for Real.

7. Marseille
Ligue 1 Champions, Coupe de la Ligue Champions
The French league acquitted itself very well in the Champions League this year. Yes, I realize that it was Lyon and Bordeaux doing the acquitting, not Marseille. Those teams finished well up the track behind Marseille in Ligue 1 though, who finished a commanding 6 points ahead of Lyon to bring OM their first Ligue 1 title since 1992. Pulling off the double in a league that raised its level of play this year puts this team firmly in my top 10.

8. Lyon
Mixed results for OL this year. Yes, they vaulted themselves into the spotlight on the world stage by advancing to the semis of the Champions League.However, a second straight year with no additions to the trophy case can't really be considered a successful campaign. Their knocking off of Real Madrid did put a nice feather in the cap of both their club and their league though, and earns them a spot here.

9. AS Roma
The Giallorossi served the function of being Inter Milan's stablemates and boogiemen for the latter part of the season, and in doing so not only helped keep the eventual European champs on their toes, but of course enhanced their own reputation as well. Roma came up just 2 points short of winning Serie A, and were the runners up in the Coppa Italia. To paraphrase Hurley to Ben Linus in the LOST finale, they were a great number 2.

10. CSKA
They are Russian Men of Mystery, but they knocked a pretty good Spanish side out of the Champions League in Sevilla, and played Inter as tough as anyone in the tournament, losing a pair of 1-0 grind it out decisions.

AC Milan- Finishing 12 points behind the second place club in Serie A is a disaster for this club. The coaching situation is rightly in flux.

Arsenal- England's girlymen look great against inferior competition, but not so good whenever they have to play for anything. Fabregas might be leaving, and they look vulnerable to being next year's version of Liverpool.

Liverpool- What a mess.

Juventus- Ibid, your honor.

AND IN OUR HEMISPHERE...- Toluca defeated Santos Laguna on PK's to win Mexico's PDM Playoffs. Columbus and LA Galaxy are leading their respective divisions in MLS, with the Galaxy being led by breakout star Edson Buddle who leads the league with 9 goals. Corinthians are off to a 3-0 start to lead the Brasileirao, and Argentinos Juniorsand Estudiantes are duking it out at the top midway thru Argentina's season.

WORLD CUP -Patrick and I are laying down the plans for World Cup coverage. We'll be all over that shit.

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