Saturday April 19 2014

Would be great for soccer if Liverpool, Atletico won titles

Diego Costa has been so outstanding for

Diego Costa has been so outstanding for Atletico Madrid this season. Atletico currently lead the Spanish La Liga standings. Agencies photo 


Michel Platini has launched himself face first into the battle to curb financial doping and go some way to ensuring level ground and fair competition in European club football.

It is a battle that could see him and Uefa lose face and all credibility were they to lose it as is very possible, for it is not every day that the wealthy don’t get their way.

In this battle of attrition, Platini has got himself some very unlikely allies in two clubs that have waged their own wars against filthy rich rivals and are on the verge of winning.

Enter Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, clubs in the leagues Platini’s Uefa ranks highest in Europe, two domestic competitions that in the first place have been the inspiration behind the Frenchman’s battle for a semblance of equality.
In the other three local ones, at the moment Platini has no helpers against Bayern, PSG, Monaco and Juventus.

With just a handful of games left to play in either league, Atletico and Liverpool both control the destinies of their respective titles, although it won’t be easy to see this to the finish line.
But wouldn’t it just be nice, not only for Platini and Uefa but for everyone in the bigger picture, if there were no more twists between now and the last whistle in May, just so we had new, unlikely champions in England and Spain?

Flash back to the time when a manager without the CV to match marched through the doors at Anfield and flashed out the club’s record signing, saying he didn’t fit in with his philosophy.
Fast forward to the present day and envisage how Liverpool play, and how Andy Carroll would be a misfit weighing heavy on their style and ambitions.

Brendan Rodgers takes full credit for the foresight and move, a bold one considering that he has never been availed with the kind of money to replace Carroll or match Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man United in the market.

Here is a man who desperately wanted but could not land Diego Costa (Atletico), Henriykh Mhktariyan (Dortmund), Mohammed Salah (Chelsea) or Christian Eriksen and Glyfi Siggurdson (both Spurs).

Here is a man who had to settle for a playmaker Inter Milan could find no place for and hence all those loans (Coutinho), a goalkeeper from Sunderland, a striker not good enough for Chelsea (Daniel Sturridge) and backups not even heard of in their native Spain (Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto).

Here is a man only lucky to have kept Luis Suarez because the bigger boys like City and Chelsea, or far away Real Madrid and Bayern, who could have easily offered more than just one pound above his buy-out clause, were fully covered in the striking area.

If he wins the league playing more attractive, exciting football and out-scoring all those big boys, it will be a victory for the minnows and for football.

Atletico Madrid
Liverpool, at the very least, play in a league whose rules ensure that a club of their stature will rake in as much if not more television money than their richer rivals, and have a global brand built on a history so rich that it will attract more attention and sponsorships from, say, the overflowing Asian market than those same rivals.

Atletico Madrid are not so lucky in Spain, where everything starts and stops with Real Madrid and Barcelona, where the disparity is so big that the league has been a two-horse race for years now, and the situation was only getting worse each year, since Valencia last challenged.
Then comes Diego Simeone, a miracle worker who has molded the team, their playing style and character in his own image, a collection who will go to the end of the world for each other, compete till they drop.

The work ethic and the tactics are such that every opponent will acknowledge it is the toughest, most intense battle they have to face.

Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa will come and go, but if Atletico retained their current identity it would not matter too much in the long run.
Money is good for football, but its excesses have been threatening to adulterate the game for a while now. The hope lies with the Liverpools and Ateticos of Europe. Now, if only they could win …
@markssali on twitter