Friday, July 12, 2024

Euro 2024 – A welcome break from club football

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The season that recently came to its end in club football was certainly interesting, though each of Europe’s top five leagues brought its own kind of excitement to the fans.

In England, Manchester City won the Premier League title for the sixth time in seven years – they were only briefly dethroned by Liverpool in 2019/20 – though Arsenal ran them close in the race. In Spain, Real Madrid reclaimed the Spanish crown and added their 15th Champions League trophy to the cabinet as well. In the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen gloriously took formerly perennial champions Bayern Munich off the top of the German game. In Italy, Inter Milan retook the Scudetto after their triumph in 2020/21, with city rivals AC Milan and Napoli sitting on the throne in between. Only Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 title in a rather expected way, finishing nine points clear of AS Monaco.

However, most of these journeys were accompanied by off-the-pitch topics, widely discussed at least as much as the game itself. Manchester City are currently the subject of proceedings over alleged 115 breaches of financial rules and failures to cooperate with the investigation, and they’ve recently launched legal proceedings of their own against the Premier League, all of which together puts a shroud of doubt over their domination of the English game. Liverpool’s era under Jurgen Klopp has come to an end, Chelsea sacked manager Mauricio Pochettino while Manchester United decided to stick with Erik ten Hag, after both teams endured underwhelming campaigns.

Leverkusen faced uncertainty over the future of head coach Xabi Alonso, heavily linked with the three great clubs of his playing days – Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, before he finally confirmed he’d be staying on. Bayern parted ways with Thomas Tuchel and after a multitude of names linked being linked with the job, they appointed Vincent Kompany, the ex-coach of Burnley, who were relegated from the Premier League. Borussia Dortmund, the unlikely Champions League finalists, have just confirmed that they’ve appointed Nuri Sahin to replace Edin Terzic in the Signal Iduna Park dugout.

PSG tried hard to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay put but eventually lost his services to Real Madrid, and the transfer has only strengthened the notions of the inevitability of the Spanish giants after their Champions League triumph. How exactly the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid plan to overthrow them next season is hard to imagine at this point.

There’s been much talk about football revolving around money, with many good points to prove it. But now, the attention will finally move to the game, as stars around the continent prepare to represent their respective countries at the tournament starting this evening (Friday), when hosts Germany play Scotland at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

It’s always difficult to predict the winner of a major international tournament, but it feels this one goes beyond most in that aspect. You’ll never want to rule out Germany, especially as the hosts, or Italy, or Spain. France and England have immensely strong squads, Portugal too, and everyone will have their dark horses to add to the mix as well.

But one thing is certain. It will certainly be refreshing to watch the players play for their nations, for their fans, for glory, and for football, rather than for money. Most will have motives of their own too, like England captain Harry Kane who still hasn’t won a major trophy in an otherwise brilliant career, or Mbappe, who has won the World Cup with France but lacks the European crown. Italy, the reigning champions, will be seeking to make up for failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Spain won consecutive tournaments in 2008 and 2012 with the 2010 World Cup squeezed in between, and they will now aim to prove they can do at least something of the sort again.

This is the kind of rivalry that proper lovers of football relish.

Let the games begin.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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