Tactically Naive prepares to welcome our new ultra-elite overlords.
Back once again, here’s Tactically Naive, a look back at the last week in the world of soccer. Or football. Or whatever you like to call it. We’re here for it. We’re here for you.
It’s our ball and you can’t play with it
A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of the Super League. Again.
According to the hard-working people at Football Leaks — doesn’t it just? — and Der Spiegel, the Old Powers are once again plotting to decouple from their national leagues and float off into a super-continental tournament. Documents have been signed. Discussions have been had. The future is coming.
A future where every game is a Big Game. Where every sponsorship deal is proportionately gargantuan. Where the best of the best don’t have to waste their time going to such provincial backwaters as “Naples” or “Valencia”, but can instead focus on what’s truly important: losing to Barcelona again.
If you’re anything like Tactically Naive, you’ll be conflicted on the matter.
On the one hand, it’s not a great look. A small group of administrators, consultants, speculators, and reputation-launderers want to gather yet more of football’s money and attention for themselves, stretching the iniquities of the game to the breaking point and beyond, and leaving behind the footballing cultures and traditions that brought them to prominence in the first place. You could probably call that “selfish.” You could even modify that with “grotesquely.”
But on the other, there is a logic to it. Outside of the Big Teams, football clubs are largely in the business of not collapsing, while players and managers jostle around in the hope that a Big Team will decide to pay them four times their current salary. Teams that cross this divide do so temporarily, before having their assets stripped and being sent back to their places. And as the competitive imbalance broadens, the number of important games dwindles, and a league campaign is reduced to a few high-profile fixtures surrounded by a sea of formalities.
Which means, on the third hand, that a Super League might be something of a relief.
You’ve doubtless noticed that the biggest teams in European club football require an awful lot of attention. They sit at the top of the table and they squawk and they throw things at one another, and then at you, and they demand that you look at them. Look! A new signing! Look! A new kit! Look! A new partnership with a brand of tractors for some reason!
They’re like toddlers, if toddlers had social media teams, wall-to-wall media coverage, and most of the available money. They’re like royal toddlers.
And this is fine some of the time, and we get a fair amount of decent football out of it, which is more than those parasites at Windsor ever deign to hand down. But we also get these huge competitive imbalances, these broken leagues, and the constant reminders that these are the important teams. Not the other ones. The Champions League’s anthem makes this explicit, in several languages. These are the best teams.
If they all go off together, what will they leave behind? It won’t be as good, doubtless, in a technical sense: the Super League will have the best players and managers. But what’s left behind might well be more competitive than it was. It might even be more interesting. It will certainly be just a little bit quieter, which might be no bad thing.
And as for those that leave — this is the fourth hand, if you’re counting — TN can’t help but wonder if a rupture between a club and its country of origin will have a strange effect on their identity. Does the idea of “Manchester United” really make sense when it isn’t tangled into the broad sweep of English football — into the league they have won 20 times, and the rivalries and grudges and history of it all? What purpose is there in a United that can never play Leeds?
(Even more appallingly: most of these big teams will end up mid-table or lower. What might that do to the brand?)
Perhaps that can all be fudged: promotion and relegation, cup competitions, B-teams, and so on. Perhaps clubs will find a way to keep themselves at home even as they play away. But there is — the fifth hand — one last great benefit to a European Super League: the moment it becomes a reality, is the moment we never have to hear another European Super League rumour again. A blessed time of peace will descend.
Return of the Roondog
We don’t know whose idea it was, but we’d like to thank you and buy you a beverage of your choice. Wayne Rooney is going to play for England again. Isn’t that nice?
Yes. Yes, it is. A chance for Rooney, as he begins the slow drift into national treasure territory, to play for his country again, something he always seemed to take extremely seriously. Maybe even a chance for him to enjoy it, which he never quite seemed to manage when things really mattered. And a chance for a stadium full of people to give him a big clap, then a comedy boo, then another big clap, which sounds like a good evening out to us.
Most important, however, is that this is a chance for Britain’s journalists to come in off the long run about the importance of an England cap and the terrible damage Gareth Southgate is doing to something or other. They get to use words like “honour” and “cheapens.” They get to appeal to high ideals of competitive purity. They get, in short, to go Full England Journalist about things. Barely even November, and it’s already Christmas. Well played, Gareth Southgate.
Read more: sbnation.com