The Champions League, the best of the best, the sternest test—simply put, the interminably difficult quest.
Placed on such a pedestal is this series of games, that some now view it as more important than the World Cup.
The games are upon us again.
From the most boring bore draw to end all bore draws at Marseille last week, featuring a team so good that they lead the EPL (is that a clue?), to the thriller at the stadium named after an airline, featuring a handful World Cup winners.
What advertising that is for those aeronautical chaps. Arsenal are in good shape economically, particularly when their manager keeps them competitive on a relative shoestring. The mark of managerial brilliance in this day and age.
It seems this season that some hell for leather English and French management is keeping the Champions League interesting.
Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger at present put out such attack-minded sides that they have lost games! Goodness me, is that allowed? Shouldn't they be sacked?
These two have put out teams that have embarrassed the ruling elite—playing both more exciting and attractive football than the old aristocracy of Europe. The amusing thing is, historical success is now inhibiting the giants of Europe.
Jose Mourinho has been charged with sorting one giant out at all costs.
AC Milan, though, have gotten ridiculously complacent, with an attitude that hints at laziness. They cannot compete in Europe anymore.
In saying that, I could be embarrassed when Milan visit White Hart Lane to play Tottenham Hotspur, though I suspect Spurs could be in reasonable nick for that one. The beauty of football is that it's so much harder to tell.
The Champions League, though, has become rather stagnant. The group stage takes away the magic of a knock-out tie as soon as the competition starts.
This is preposterous, given the magical history of the competition, when it came down to two matches, winner takes all, from the word go.
That is when you would see teams attack, throw caution to the wind and players go to new levels of brilliance. These things are missing in the early stages, though these stages make large amounts of money, so they are deemed more economically viable.
Never mind the game, people should still watch.
This is complete brainwashing by the media and UEFA. They have convinced the viewing public to accept this passionless fodder in the group stages as "football," when we all know it is but a dress rehearsal.
Bring back earlier danger, bring back earlier fatal losses for the big clubs. Bring back dynamism and vitality. These are the things missing from the Champions League now.
The same old teams get through every year. Why couldn't it be shaken up?
Just enter more teams if you want the same amount of games—you would only need four or five more to keep the tournament at a decent length, while having all the magic and horror of the old European Cup.
That holy chalice of cup football.
Make it a holy chalice again—bring back the magic. Enter more teams, but make it champion vs. champion. In Europe, it's possible to run a competition like this and save football.
Otherwise we'll continue to put up with drudgery and defense in the name of no-mistake football—with the lowering of skill and ability to play.
I realized I had been brainwashed recently when I saw David Luiz play for Chelsea against Fulham and Manchester United.
The guy is prodigious—amazing skill at centre back. Absolute magic. Like the old days, when any player on the pitch could be the principle weapon in the squad, when centre backs could score from 30 yards whenever they got a clear shot.
I contend that a return to a competition more inclusive of more European footballing nations, with no group stage and a compensation of more teams entered, would begin to bring back the magic of the world game.
It could happen, if football was true to itself, if the administrators who go for top dollar in negotiations could remember why they liked playing football in the first place—the ball rolling in the sun, the strike, the goal and the fun.