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Lionel Messi Champions League Final

Messi - Lionel's riches.

This week’s UEFA Champions League Final held football’s Valhalla in thrall as two of Europe’s biggest clubs prepared to do battle at Wembley for the first time since 1992. And as in 1992, England prepared itself for an invasion of a Spanish force feared across Europe as Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona looked to defeat Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in their own country. Although Barcelona were clear favourites, many of the spectral football enthusiasts here at In Off the Ghost fancied Manchester United to give Barcelona a stern test following their defeat at the hands of the Catalans in the 2009 final. However, United’s Champions League hopes sank faster than the Mary Celeste as Barcelona romped to a 3-1 victory with goals from Pedro, Messi and Villa.

After the game we were contacted by a spirit who knows all about Anglo-Spanish battles, and was livid with the capitulation of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. A cold welcome to Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth I!

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I - Even less penetration than United

“My loving people, I watched with baited breath the invasion of the Spanish forces onto British soil, hoping for a repeat of our famous victory at the Armada in 1588” spoke Queen Elizabeth I, majestic in full amour aloft a ghostly gelding, “I thought with foul scorn that Barcelona, or any other of the princes of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm and carry away the European Cup at the expense of an English club. I thought that Manchester United could compete with the Catalans as a side who had been recently amassed a record amount of English football’s riches. But brass shines as fair to the ignorant as gold to the goldsmiths. The Spaniards routed our forces, battering United 3-1 and conquering the Wembley turf.

“A fool too late bewares when all the peril is past, and Ferguson must now rue his team selection. Sir Alex, may God forgive you for picking Giggs and Carrick to face Xavi and Iniesta, for I never can. United had no man of the stature of Sir Francis Drake to lead them to victory. In the midst and heat of the battle, one man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without. Xavi controlled the midfield battle whilst the United midfield were crestfallen. They could not live with the devastation caused by the Spaniards most lethal weapon, Lionel Messi. I know it may look as if Messi has the body and haircut of a weak and feeble woman, but he has the heart and stomach of a king, and the ability to match the sport’s greatest ever players.

“However this game was not about individuals, and as a team Barcelona were imperious. Pique and Mascherano were like a rock that bends to no wind. With masterful displays from Abidal, Alves and Villa they used every one of their virtues on the field. Their superiority comes from many years of preparation, and now the end crowneth the work. It is a dark day for our nation. The Spanish forces and their merciless talisman Messi look set to dominate all of Europe for years to come.”

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Pissed-iano Ronaldo

This week saw a nation grind to a halt as the grandest, most expensive and ludicrously over-hyped coming together of two national treasures captured the imagination of the world. We think there might have been a royal wedding as well, but none of the deceased denizens of In Off the Ghost could give two hoots. Football’s afterlife was buzzing with talk about the latest El Clásico, with Madrid losing 2-0 to bitter rivals Barcelonathanks to two spectacular goals from the phenomenal Leo Messi. José Mourinho also added extra spice to the second leg with cries of conspiracy, accusing UEFA of favouring Barcelona with controversial refereeing decisions.

With Mourinho deploying tactics as cynical as we are about his conspiracy theories, it seems all but certain that we will see a Manchester United v Barcelona Champions League final in May. So, with all of this excitement already seen and with a second leg still to come, we spoke to a posthumous pundit who knows a thing or two about conspiracies, as well as being a leader of a group of people with vast amounts of money and an even greater sense of self entitlement. Please give a cold welcome to the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy!

JFK

JFK - "I wonder how many Madrid players will get sent off this time?"

“Conspiracy theories will always abound when people confront things they cannot understand,” said JFK with a brilliant smile and statesmanlike dignity, “but they are nearly always a mask for ignorance. Some people can’t understand why Lee Harvey Oswald wanted to kill me, so the conspiracy theories live on. Not much is different in Mourinho’s case. He can’t understand why he can’t outwit Barcelona, so he has turned to conspiracy to defend himself. The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Mourinho has created a mythology of Madrid fighting against the corruption of UEFA and Barcelona.

“Mourinho says his defensive tactics are necessary to face the passing play of his Catalan rivals. A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality. But if the methods are so abhorrent and the results so underwhelming, perhaps he must change. Mourinho must lead Madrid as I led the United States of America. In short, we must face problems which do not lend themselves to easy or quick or permanent solutions. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms.

“23% possession, 3 shots on target, 18 fouls? For Madrid this is not good enough. For of those to whom much is given, much is required. Madrid must put an end to this war-like football or this war-like football will put an end to the might of Madrid. Mourinho is a brilliant tactician and a knowledgeable student of the game. However, with his cynical style we see that the more his knowledge increases, the greater his ignorance unfolds.

We asked JFK whether Real Madrid and José Mourinho were in crisis. He rubbed in his chin, smiled and replied: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity. Mourinho has the opportunity to become a legend at the biggest club in the world if he can overthrow the superpower that is Guardiola’s Barcelona.

“I believe that Madrid as a club should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of besting Barcelona, winning the Spanish League and returning safely to the pinnacle of European football. No single football project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the career of José Mourinho; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

“The second leg must see a change in both playing style and personal behaviour. Courage— judgement—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities which, with their managers help, must characterize the final instalment of the El Clásico quadruple that lies ahead.”

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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We are the Champions League

Life is a gamble. Every day we try to predict the future and how things will turn out. What will happen if I tell my boss that he is a fat, balding prune? Can I get across the road before this lorry turns me into a fine paste? Who will shoot first in the hideous ten team orgy of a Premier League relegation battle? The future is hard to predict. Maybe if the writers here at In Off the Ghost were a little better at guessing what was going to happen next, we wouldn’t be bringing you the latest gossip from football’s Elysium. We could’ve got a nice job working for Northern Rock or Enron instead.

However, there are other posthumous pundits on our eternal terraces who feel that they’re a bit better than us at predictions, and with a fortnight of exciting UEFA Champions League ties ahead involving all four English clubs, we have decided to bring you the forecast from one of our most flamboyant residents. A cold welcome to Queen front man Freddie Mercury!


Freddie Mercury

Mercury - Master of the offside trap

Chelsea v FC Copenhagen

“After their recent poor form Chelsea will be asking themselves – is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? The Champions League represents an escape from Premier League reality. If Ancelotti fails to guide the Blues past FC Copenhagen then … mama mia, mama mia! Abramovich will have a devil put aside for him! But I think they will be fine, Lampard is back and in form for the Pensioners and fat bottomed Frank makes their rockin’ world go round.”

Prediction: 3 v 1

 

Manchester United v Marseille

“Man Utd have been in foul form and an even worse temper recently. If they can’t beat you they will rock you instead. Take Rooney for example. One minute he is leaping through the skies like a tiger, defying the laws of gravity. Next he has a scowl on his face, he’s a big disgrace, waving his elbows all over the place. And if it’s not Rooney, it’s Ferguson; purple nose on his face, “the ref’s a disgrace”, Marseille are gonna put them back into their place.”

Prediction: 0 v 1

Barcelona v Arsenal

“Barcelona and Arsenal have so much in common. They share one vision. They have one heart, one soul, just one solution to football: pass, pass, pass. Arsenal played brilliantly at the Emirates, but I can only see one goal, one outcome for Wenger’s men, and there’s only one direction they are going – out of the Champions League. Messi will want to break free and unleash his kind of magic on the Gunners at the Camp Nou.”

Prediction: 1 v 0

Spurs v AC Milan

“Tottenham’s run has been incredible and Redknapp will be hoping another one of Europe’s big sides bites the dust at White Hart Lane, especially now that the crazy little thing called Gattuso won’t be playing. Bale already put Inter under pressure, so Milan should beware because, hey, he’s gonna get you too!”

Prediction: 1 v 0

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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At the turn of each year, In Off the Ghost likes to recognise the achievements of the previous twelve months by presenting the illustrious In Off the Ghost ‘Tombstone Trophy’ to the most deserving teams or individuals for the football feats that have impressed us the most. We also like to have our annual awards as doing so gives us the opportunity to welcome the newest members of our posthumous punditry team that have joined us during the past year. So without any further ado, let’s get on with the show!

Leslie Nielsen Award for Comedy Value – Ian Holloway

Nielsen and Holloway - Naked Fun

We asked comedy legend and Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen who he would give the award for comedy value during 2010, adding that surely it should go to Blackpool manager Ian Holloway.

“Yes, you’re right” began Nielsen “I am choosing Holloway, and don’t call me Shirley. He has done a fantastic job and they only have a fifty/fifty percent chance of going down, though there is now only a ten percent chance of that. Some of his quotes have been terrific, like this one:

“ ‘I am more than happy [at Blackpool] and I am afraid the chairman will need a hell of a tub of cream to get rid of me – I’m like a bad rash and not easily curable.’ ”

“Staying in the Premiership is like having sex. It’s a painstaking and arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way, you’re forced to go down.  Like a blind man at an orgy, he has had to feel his way in, but he has done his job with a smile, had a few laughs, and now it looks like the cows have come home to roost.”

JD Salinger Award for Questionable Mental Health Issues – Fabio Capello

Salinger and Capello - One was a recluse, the other has no excuse.

“I choose England boss Fabio Capello for this award” stated Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger, “for taking the piss out of Stuart Pearce on the touchline, for playing 4-4-2 at the World Cup, and hell, for playing Emile Heskey at the goddamn World Cup. He looked like he was standing on the edge of some crazy cliff, trying to catch his players as they ran, one by one without looking over the edge. Only, he was about as good at catching as Rob Green, and then he threw himself over for good measure.”

Bernard Matthews Award for Biggest Turkey   Wayne Rooney

Rooney and turkey - both stuffed up in 2010.

“I’ve seen some big turkeys in my time” said turkey specialist Matthews, “and especially at the festive season, but none in football bigger than Wayne Rooney this year. He has had a fowl 2010.”

The Gary Coleman “What You Talking About Willis?” award – Sam Allardyce

"You? Real Madrid? What you talking about Allardyce?"

“I’m not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Inter or Real Madrid. It wouldn’t be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time.”

Dick Francis Award for Crimes Against Football – Holland & Inter Milan

Dick Francis and crimes against football.

“Both the Netherlands’s brutal display of violence against Spain in the World Cup final and Inter Milan’s away victory against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final are tied for this award” declared former champion jockey and prolific crime writer Dick Francis, “both were painful to watch, but for different reasons. Evil genius Jose Mourinho is the prime suspect in this case, having masterminded Inter’s pragmatic pummelling of Barcelona which went on to inspire the Dutch approach for dealing with many of the same victims in the World Cup Final.”

Thanks for following In Off the Ghost during 2010, we hope to see you again in 2011. Happy New Year!

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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Iker Casillas

Real Madrid get their Casillas kicked by Barcelona

‘The Death Rattle’ is a new feature from your favourite biologically challenged blog, and it gives two of our posthumous pundits the chance to engage in a deathly debate about the coldest football stories.

Even though the football phantoms that frequent In Off the Ghost have left their mortal vessels, their basic human instincts are still harboured in the spirit that lingers on after death. Fear, boredom, rage, that feeling when you get a sneeze stuck, they all still exist in the afterlife. So as you might expect, the partisan nature of football supporters also thrives in football’s Valhalla, and no game in European football separates fans like Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Supporters watch in their millions to admire the passion, talent, and occasional pig head on display, and last Monday’s ‘El Clásico’ pitted two teams against each other who have a rivalry more fierce than a Joey Barton temper tantrum. The game resulted in a spectacular 5-0 victory for the Catalans as Xavi, Pedrito, Villa and Jeffren all netted to crush Madrid’s fans, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the ‘Special One’ too.

In response to this incredible game, In Off the Ghost has contacted two post-humous pundits to discuss the match from their own differing perspectives. A big welcome to Irish writer, poet and prominent aesthete Oscar Wilde, and legendary, cerebral comic juggernaut Bob Monkhouse.

Oscar Wilde

Wilde Wilde Guest

WILDE: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. That is why I watch Barcelona. Their passing was beautiful, their finishing sublime, scoring with each of their first four shots on target. They turn football into an art form, to watch Xavi and Iniesta is like giving oneself over to pleasure.”

MONKHOUSE: “Real Madrid’s performance in ‘El Clásico’ was a joke. I heard that Mourinho tried to hit Carvalho after the game. It was only once, but mind you he was in a Volvo.”

WILDE: “Erm, yes, Madrid were horrendous, I am glad you do not try to defend their performance, Bob. The way they throw their money at players who are in form is ludicrous. They are nothing but fashion victims and, from the artistic point of view, fashion is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

MONKHOUSE: It’s true, Madrid do like to chop and change, and Mourinho is worried about getting the boot too. Apparently when he got into the dressing room, the ‘Special One’ turned to his assistant manager and said “how long do you reckon I have left at Madrid after that performance?” His coach replied “ten.” Mourinho looked puzzled and said “ten what? Weeks? Games?” The coach looked at his watch and mumbled “nine…eight…seven…”

WILDE: “Oh dear, that was awful. Do not get me started on the subject of Mourinho, he is nothing but a cynic. And what is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Why does he continue to waste the talent of Benzema?

Bob Monkhouse

Monkhouse: "Last time I saw a football match a dog ran onto the pitch. The ref booked it for fouling in the penalty area"

MONKHOUSE: And why does he play Carvalho at the back? That guy is so old he remembers the first of the Mohicans.

WILDE: Please stop! Anyway, I can’t understand why Mourinho had Madrid playing a high line without a second row of midfielders to press their opponents. It seemed to me that after such a humiliating defeat the Madrid side were all in the gutter, and the stars they were looking at were the brilliant Barcelona players. Lionel Messi is such a prodigious talent that now I have nothing to declare except his genius!

MONKHOUSE: That Messi chap isn’t all that great. I heard that the last time he was injured he said to the club doctor, “do you treat small players?” The Doctor said, “yes, but you have to be a little patient.”

WILDE: Right! That’s it, I’ve had enough. I’m going.

So while it’s all smiles at the Camp Nou, no one will be laughing at the Santiago Bernabeu for some time after this humiliating defeat. However, with Real Madrid two points off the top of the league and going strong in the Champions League, it would take a brave man to bet against Mourinho bringing trophies back to Madrid and restoring grins to the faces of the Los Merengues.

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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'Please God, don't send me back to the Galaxy.'

When I was lying on my deathbed, one of my many regrets was that I had never travelled the world. I had never experienced the cultural wonders of the continent, had never been harassed by street performers or relieved of extortionate amounts of money for local delicacies.

However, my time in the afterlife has given me the chance to discuss all things football with the late and great of many nationalities. So now In Off The Ghost can share with you, the world of the living, their opinions on the latest European news.

The biggest story in Europe at the moment is David Beckham’s return to the Serie A with AC Milan after his self-imposed purgatory in the MLS. Beckham helped the Rossoneri to a 5-2 victory over Genoa at the San Siro. I asked legendary opera singer and Italian football enthusiast Luciano Pavarotti what he thought of the performance:

Pavarotti

'I bet you a tenor that Beckham gets in the England Squad.'

“I love the English, they are eccellente!” boomed the tenor. “Signor Beckham showed more invention than Da Vinci against Genoa! He has class and beauty, much like some of the other Inglese I have met. It also helps that his fan base is bigger than my waistline! Ha-ha! And Milan need all the popularity it can get with Signor Berlusconi as the owner.”

In Off The Ghost’s Spanish Football correspondent is famous Spanish painter Salvador Dali, who watched a surreal round of Copa Del Rey matches this week. Atletico Madrid were murdered by second division Recreativio 3-0 and Barcelona were beaten 2-1 in their first leg by Sevilla:

Dali - Strange

“The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents, and this was running high after Barcelona’s performance last year. Now the celoso are delighted  after this result.” pondered Dali, twirling his moustache around his fingers.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision. These results go to show that the big teams can be demolished by brave conquistadors!”

A final delve into the catacombs of European football takes us to the Bundesliga, where we have non other than 80’s Europop sensation Falco, who conquered the world with his smash hit ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ and was an avid follower of both the Austrian and German Bundesligas.

Falco - Impressed by a Leverkusen starke mannschaft.

“This season has been über competitive again, with Bayern München down in third and Bayer Leverkusen playing some wunderbar fußbal this season. In fact they have rocked me all the way to the top! Their goal keeper has been especially impressive. Come on rock me Rene Adler, ja!”

When I asked Austrian born Falco what he thought Leverkusen’s chances were of finally winning the Bundesliga, he was quietly confident:

“Like the Berlin wall, Leverkusen’s Bundesliga hopes normally start to crumble in November and are rubble by the summer. But this year they seem to have a more starke mannschaft so they might finally be champions.”

(All material in this blog is entirely fictional and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone, alive or dead, other than those of the author.)

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