Champions League Returns

By Jake Appleman

Soccer is back. With the Champions League now in full swing, I hit up Nevada Smith’s this past afternoon to catch Real Madrid-Lyon with my boy who is moving next week to a town an hour outside Lyon to teach English for the year.

It was an eerie feeling. Almost exactly a year ago this exact matchup took place in Lyon, and I sat in bar in Madrid taking it all in—tapas, Mahou and football, the most awesome trio east of JKidd, RJ and VC.

What I remember specifically about that experience was my buddy’s host father repeating the phrase “many chiefs, few Indians” in reference to Real Madrid’s obsession with acquiring superstars (called “galacticos” in Spain) while forsaking the strength of their midfield and team chemistry.

Fresh off a 4-1 slashing of recently promoted Levante, Madrid appeared poised to not reenact last season’s 3-0 thumping. Well, some stars have left (Julio “Sucks” Baptista…have fun Arsenal fans…Zinedine Zidane, Thomas “Moby” Graveson, Pablo Garcia) and some even more tantalizing names have been added (Jose Antonio Reyes, Mahamadou Diarria, Ruud Van Nistelroy, Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson), but the result was the same: violent beatdown. The 2-0 final score doesn’t indicate how badly Lyon outplayed their Spanish counterparts. Once again, Madristas should send a bouquet of flowers to goalie Iker Casillas for doing what could only be described as, “Goldberg in his first game with the Mighty Ducks except good.”

Madrid was this overmatched:

Calling the impish and out-of-control Roberto Carlos garbage would be insulting to Oscar the Grouch.

Calling Cannavaro worse than Roberto Carlos might be insulting to Roberto Carlos. THAT was the same guy that captained Italy’s defense to a World Cup? (UPDATE: CANNAVARO says it was fitness that was his and their biggest problem. Not mental lapses. I’m all for this excuse. Blame Utah.)

Saying new signing Diarra—ruthlessly signed away from Lyon no less—was invisible would be offensive to ghosts. And maybe Ghostface if he liked soccer.

Saying Brazilian international and Lyon dead-ball specialist Juninho, he of the droopy eyes and Al Pacino “I’m going to kill you mother——” disposition, took a few free kicks would be like saying Kobe took a few shots during his 81 point game.

On probably Real’s best chance, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos bumped into each other while both went airborne for the same ball.

All this negativity aside, having a new coach like Fabio Capello should help some in Madrid stay slightly upbeat. Under a lesser coach, the result would have been much worse.

Still, many chiefs, few Indians. Its no wonder the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since they had Scott Brosius and Paul O’Neil.