We are fortunate this year; fortunate because the arid desert of a summer without football is something we need not endure.
Euro 2012 and the Olympics in London mean there will be something more substantial than other, less important, sports and big club marketing junkets sometimes knows as ‘pre-season friendlies’.
Confetti is everywhere though and the job of cleaning it all up will be under way no doubt, while players celebrations will ease for a short break before the internationals are called upon.
The mess was made in the celebrations of Europe’s various league winners and GMF wants to sweep away the champagne corks (or massive beer glasses, in the case of the Bundesliga) and assess the key points in each victorious campaign.
Obviously there are hundreds of factors explaining each title win, but that would take too long. So GMF decided that the best way to sum things up would be to highlight a star man and a star moment from Europe’s top five leagues – now you’re beginning to understand our snazzy headline.
Anyway, here is what GMF came up with…
Champions: Manchester City
Star man: Vincent Kompany – A titanic presence in Roberto Mancini’s back four, the Belgian captained the side with strength and serenity. Very rarely beaten in the air and his positional excellence meant most forwards found little space when in possession around his area. City are not the same side when their captain is missing and it showed during brief absences due to injury and suspension.
Star moment: Derby dominance – Ok, we’re playing fast and loose with our own review rules, but the importance of the two could not really be separated. The 6-1 mauling of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side at Old Trafford was a statement of intent after two seasons of only hinting at having title-winning qualities. The 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium was hard-fought and, in the end, was the crucial result for them becoming Premier League champions. Too close to separate.
Star man: Andrea Pirlo – The classy midfielder was released by eventual second placed side, AC Milan, at the end of last season after they deemed him unable to stay fit and productive. Pirlo’s next move was to join Antonio Conte’s Juve and have a title-winning team built around him. He topped the assists chart in Serie A and out-passed his closest contender by an average 20 passes per game.
Star moment: San Siro ‘ghost goal’ – The title was still in the balance and Juve were a point behind AC with a game in hand when they went to Milan. The home side took an early lead through Antonio Nocerino and should have been 2-0 up ten minutes later when Sully Muntari’s header could not be kept out. However, the Rossoneri were soon livid when they realised the obvious goal had not been given. It was plain to see for most everyone watching that the ball had crossed the line. It was not given though and Juventus equalised inside the last ten minutes. They went on to win the title without losing a single game.
Champions: Borussia Dortmund
Star man: Shinji Kagawa – Although it looks like he may be on his way to Manchester United, the Japan international was exceptional this season as Jurgen Klopp’s side retained their title. The loss of young star Mario Gotze through injury was a blow, but Kagawa took up greater responsibility and showed his worth by scoring 13 goals, while adding eight assists. More importantly, he provided a continual supply line for top scorer Robert Lewandowski.
Star moment: Allianz Arena – Klopp’s side won another hard fought home game by a single goal in April to all but confirm their league title, but the first meeting of the season, in Munich, was crucial. Again, there was not a lot between them, but a solitary Gotze goal in the second half decided things and meant the gap at the top between the two was cut to two points. Dortmund’s stuttering start was put right and they were irresistible in their march to retaining their title from last year.
Champions: Real Madrid
Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo – it was hardly going to be anybody else was it? the Portuguese was an almost unstoppable force once again as he continued the now habitual individual records race with Lionel Messi. Ronaldo lost that particular battle but 46 league goals is hardly a total to be sniffed at, never mind the 12 assists. He scored some key goals along the way, helping to dispel the accepted wisdom that he goes missing in big games.
Star moment: Camp Nou victory – This was the moment that Barcelona’s vice-like grip on the La Liga title over the past three years was broken. The Catalans had just returned from a draining loss at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League semi-final first leg. Real had also been beaten against Bayern Munich, but they executed the perfect game plan to undermine Barca’s passing game. A scrambled first half goal gave them the precious lead, but they must have feared for their chances when Alexis Sanchez equalised in 20 minutes to go and Barca on top. They needn’t have because Ronaldo popped up with the winner three minutes later and celebrated with a ‘calm-down’ gesture to the gobsmacked Camp Nou crowd.
Star man: Olivier Giroud – It was an incredible season for the newly capped France International, as he finished top scorer for Montpellier and was joint at the summit of the Ligue 1 charts with PSG’s Nene. Giroud will surely be on the plane to Euro 2012 and looks like he may get himself a big-money move to one of Europe’s top clubs.
Star moment: Leaving it late at Lille – In the season’s penultimate league fixture, in-form third placed club Lille travelled to the stuttering leaders with ambitions of keeping alive dwindling hopes of retaining their title from last season. It looked to be heading for a stalemate as the game went into injury time, but Olivier Giroud had other ideas in the 93rd minute. The France striker latched onto a loose ball just inside his own half and steamed towards the Lille goal in a swift breakaway, before cutting back from the byline into the path of onrushing Karim Ait Fana and the attacker steered home with the goal gaping. It was an astonishing end to the game and all but secured their title with them only needing a point at bottom club Auxerre on the last day.
Ok, there you have it. GMF is certain that not everybody will agree, so we want you to tell us why – or you could want to praise us for our shrewd choices, though we’re not so sure about that one.
Either way, leave a comment below to let us know…