Alas, ’tis that time of year again when thoughts invariably turn to the ‘new’ and stock is taken of the twelve months that played out hence – and we forthright bods at Soccerlens are no different.
As we yet again slide effortlessly over the cusp of a footballing decade and into 2011, we thought it high time to bestow the deserving (and, conversely, shame the contemptible – the ‘Biggest Losers’ list is imminent!) who have curried our favour during the last 8,765.81277 hours.
Anyway, enough of this idle chatter. Lets get down to brass tacks shall we? Here we go peeps, the Soccerlens ‘Biggest Winners’ of 2010 (in no particular order)…
1. Gareth Bale:
Rightly or wrongly, Tottenham winger Bale has seen his global stock rise astronomically after coming of age during the latter half of this calendar year – chiefly due to his double-decimation of reigning European champions Inter Milan earlier on in this season’s Champions League proceedings.
In a direct parallel with Spurs’ oft-wavering form, the 21-year-old Welsh flyer has fluctuated from ‘nigh-on unplayable’ to ‘there to make up the numbers’ and back again at domestic level this term. However, it is an indisputable fact that, when the Lilywhites are on song, it’s usually Bale that’s providing the lion’s share of the Londoners’ dynamism.
By association, Tottenham themselves also get a special mention for their efforts in bringing Champions League football to ‘The Lane’ for the first time, then making it though to the knock-out stages without a hitch in their maiden campaign.
2. Inter Milan:
The Nerazzurri‘s trophy haul for 2010 reads thusly: One Scudetto, one Coppa Italia, one Super Coppa Italia, one Champions League and there’s still a potential fifth title on it’s way (they face Congolese upstarts in the FIFA World Club Cup final tomorrow) – which, all-in-all, makes it pretty difficult to dispute their inclusion on a list of ‘winners’ really.
To save a bit of room later in the list, I’m also going to lump the individual performances of Dutch schemer Wesley Sneijder, goal hero Diego Milito and the coach responsible for germinating Inter’s all-conquering siege mentality, Jose Mourinho, in for good measure.
Using the same principles applied to the previous pick, Spain tiki-taka’ed their way to World Cup glory in July, despite one of their number being kung-fu kicked in the heart by a swarthy Dutchman along the way.
‘La Roja’ are now both reigning World and European champions – which isn’t half bad for a team almost exclusively populated by dwarves.
4. Das Kraken Orakle:
‘Paul the Octopus’ enraptured us all at this summer’s World Cup after repeatedly displaying his uncanny line in clairvoyance.
The mystic mollusk successfully predicted the outcome of all eight (each of Germany’s seven games, plus the final) of the ties he was quizzed over by the staff at Oberhausen’s Sealife Centre – before duly retiring, becoming a ‘symbol of western decay’ (© Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and then, sadly, dying.
R.I.P Paul, the psychic plate of calamari.
5. Bolton Wanderers:
Perhaps a surprise inclusion, but Owen Coyle‘s complete re-rendering of the Trotters as an actual ‘footballing’ entity this season is worthy of a mention in my book.
Over the past few years, Bolton became synonymous with the kind of agricultural ‘survival’ fodder still peddled by the likes of…well, you know who, but Coyle’s pervading mantra of trying to ‘play the game the way it should be played’ has seen his side rivalling erstwhile bastions Arsenal in the ‘attractive football’ stakes on several occasions this term – all without the need for any wholesale changes to his squad.
6. John O’Shea:
Manchester United’s utility man was rewarded for his long years of diligent service with a colossal £16.5 million (four years at £80,000-a-week) contract in October.
What did United get in return. Well, this…
…’tis madness gone stark-raving mad i tell thee, but I bet you O’Shea isn’t complaining!
Whereas football’s governing body are certainly not winners on any ‘moral’ standpoint, Sepp Blatter and his flock of ageing associates look set to have secured themselves the mother of all pensions with their decision to ‘open the game up to new territories’ – especially as those new territories (Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022) just so happen to be awash with gaz- and petro-dollars.
8. Bayern Munich:
Die Roten may be wallowing slightly in this season’s domestic campaign, but Louis Van Gaal‘s side came within a whisker of securing a domestic and European treble last time out, eventually succumbing to Inter in the Champions League final after blasting their way to both Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal success earlier in May.
I’d wager that a double-winning season is still nothing to sniff at.
Aside from all the stockpiled trophies and titles, Pep’s peerless side produced the…most…flawless display of technical team football I’ve ever witnessed in my woefully unfulfilled lifetime when they absolutely tore Mourinho’s quivering Real Madrid side asunder at the Camp Nou at the tail end of November.
90 minutes’ worth of Barca’s utterly, utterly beguiling approach play left me feeling totally spoilt, subconsciously aroused and just a little damp around the edges.
10. Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andre Iniesta:
For the first time since 1989, one single club can boast the honour of employing all of the three players named on FIFA’s 2010 Ballon d’Or shortlist.
After AC Milan last accomplished the feat over two decades ago, Barcelona are now guaranteed to see one of their stellar trio of trequartistas handed FIFA’s newly streamlined bauble when it’s doled out in January – and it’s hard to argue with the logic behind the shortlist, though many are still questioning the decision to snub the aforementioned Sneijder.
As an aside, wouldn’t it be nice to see Xavi‘s midfield artistry finally recognised by football’s top brass?