After saying my goodbyes and wishing the players well, I leave the Angrense training ground for the last time. I had called everyone together for one last kick about before I left. We didn’t train, we didn’t run drills or split into groups or practice anything in particular. We just played football. It was fun. I discretely took a few of them to one side and asked if they would be open to joining me in Katowice. It wasn’t exactly the most ethical move but I thought I may as well ask. A few of them were open to the idea and a few of them sadly weren’t. More on that later.
For now, I’ve got a plane to catch. I stop at the flat to pick up Meatloaf, Burnie, and my suitcases, we get into a taxi and leave for Lajes Field Airport for the final time.
Goodbye Angra do Heroismo. Goodbye Hero Creek. Goodbye Terceira. Goodbye Volcano Island.
As it turns out, the flight from Terceira to Katowice is not an easy one. It’s an overnight journey, and we’ll initially travel from Terceira to Lisbon, Portugal. From Lisbon, we’ll fly to Warsaw, Poland. And from Warsaw, we’ll zip over to Katowice, our final destination. It’ll take 18 hours all told, except that it won’t, will it, because what are the odds that all 3 of my flights are on time? What are the odds that 1 of them is? I fucking hate flying.
Anyway, the flight to Lisbon isn’t all that bad. We arrive at 40 minutes past midnight, but now we have a 9 hour wait in the airport. Of course we do. I reach into my rucksack and pull out my laptop. We’re here for the long haul, so we may as kill some time hadn’t we? Let’s find out what’s been going on in the World of Football.
The Liga Nos title was retained by SL Benfica, but just barely. They won 79 points, which was only 2 more than rivals Sporting. Braga were a further 3 points behind, and Porto weren’t even close. 4th place with 64 points. Benfica boss Rui Vitória won the Manager of the Year award, which was quite a surprise given that Arouca were predicted 13th, but crept into the Europa League places thanks to the guiding hand of Jorge Castelo, who was the runner up for the award.
There’s been a plethora of great performers in the league this year, starting with Porto’s André Silva, who did one better than last season and scored the most goals in the league, ahead of Braga’s Hassan. Álex Grimaldo of Benfica was again one of the most consistently excellent performers, along with Thiago Maia of Sporting, and Pedrinho of Ferreira and Fejsa of Benfica bagged the most assists. SLB’s Ederson retained the Best Goalkeeper award.
Speaking of retaining titles, Arsene’s Arsenal have gone and done it again. They blitzed the Premier League and won 91 points, the exact same tally that they racked up last year. Again, they finished 9 points clear of Mourinho’s United side and again good old Arsene took the Manager of the Year award.
Oddly though, the top performers in the league were all from Arsenal’s rivals. Sergio Aguero’s still got it, as evidenced by his 22 league goals. Chelsea’s £69 Million 2017 Summer signing Mauro Icardi bagged 20 – the 2nd highest total. United’s Juan Mata, City’s James Rodríguez and Spurs’ Dele Alli all had fantastic seasons, as did United’s De Gea, who won the golden glove again.
Sacking Mick McCarthy and Steve Clarke didn’t save Ipswich or Forest, who are going straight back down to the Championship under the stewardship of Neil Harris and Javier Aguirre respectively. They’re joined by Crystal Palace, who are managed by Laurent Blanc, because obviously.
The trio will be replaced in the big time by Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion, Mika Lehkosuo’s Fulham, and incredibly, Steve McClaren’s Derby County!
In La Liga, Zizou and his Galacticos stomped their Madrid neighbours back down from the thrown, running away with the league on 94 points, which is 15 clear of Simeone’s Athletico Madrid and 16 ahead of Enrique’s ever-underachieving Barcelona. Quique Sánchez Flores won the Manager of the Year award for heroically guiding Espanyol to 5th and only 1 place off the Champions League spots, despite their predicted finish of 11th.
Luis Suárez of Barça and Simone Zaza of Valencia lead the way in terms of scoring goals with 23 and 21 respectively, but Lionel Messi unsurprisingly turned in some great performances. He was by far the highest performing player in the league, followed from a distance by his team mate Gerard Piqué, and he recorded the joint most assists with Real Sociedad’s Recio. Real’s Keylor Navas deservedly won his 2nd golden glove in as many seasons.
Moving onto the Bundesliga, and it’s very much as you’d expect. Bayern held Dortmund at arms length to retain the title with 91 points. Dortmund were completely isolated in 2nd, 10 points behind Bayern but 19 points clear of 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern’s Carlo Ancelotti won the Manager of the Year award for demolishing the Bundesliga.
Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the most goals, just ahead of Dimitris Diamantakos, who seems to have single handedly prevented Karlsruhe from dropping straight back down to the 2nd tier. Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng put in consistantly excellent displays for Bayern, while Roberto Lewandowski racked up the most assists, just pipping Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo to that honour. Neuer was unsurprisingly the top goalkeeper in the league. Wolfsburg are coming straight back up too, along with Braunschweig.
My God, I would not want to be Leonardo Jardim right now. The former Monaco manager moved to Juventus in December after Massimiliano Allegri took up the Manager’s role of the Italian national side. My intuition tells me that Jardim might not be in his new job for very much longer, because Juventus drew with the already relegated Spal on the final day of the season. That in itself might not have been so bad, but it allowed Roma to leapfrog the reigning Champions into first place. So after winning the Serie A Title for the last 6 years running, Juventus end the season on 75 points with Inter, and they pass the baton on to Roma. Nobody will argue with Roma’s Luciano Spalletti being handed the Manager of the Year award, I’m sure.
Paulo Dybala and Leonardo Bonucci both had fantastic seasons for Juve too. Dybala scored 21 and was the Serie A top goalscorer too, 4 goals ahead of Torino’s Manuel Pucciarelli, who was signed from Empoli last summer. The top assisters were Milan’s Andrea Bertolacci and Roma’s Diego Perotti and Inter’s Samir Handanovic won the golden glove.
The rest of Europe really wants to embarrass Juve too. As well as Benfica, Bayern and Arsenal, Monaco have also successfully defended their title with 99 points in Ligue 1, having promoted their former coach José Barros to Manager to replace Jardim. PSG weren’t that far behind on 93 points, but their reign of dominance seems to be well and truly over. Although they were some way behind the top 2, Bordeaux performed well above expectations and nabbed the last Champions League spot, earning Manager Jocelyn Gourvennec the Manager of the Year award.
PSG’s Edinson Cavani scored the most goals, just in front of Monaco’s Valère Germain. Bernardo Silva and Ángel di María had excellent seasons, Dijon’s Nabil El Zhar nabbed the most assists, PSG’s Thiago got the 2nd most, and Monaco’s Danijel Subasic won the Golden Glove.
Something I neglected to mention last year was the European Competitions, so here you go. Last year, Monaco beat a heroic Leicester side 2-1 in the final, meaning that the Jamie Vardy movie will probably have a pretty bad ending, and Man City beat Leverkusen, Barça and Juve to get to the final, and then recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Madrid to clinch the Champions League.
This year however, Napoli won the Europa League, ensuring that there would be no chance of a London-based winner by knocking out West Ham and Tottenham on the way. They drew with Inter 0-0 in the final but won 5-4 on penalties.
Athletico Madrid won the Champions League, knocking Juve, Chelsea and Bayern out on the way before beating poor Barcelona 1-1 in the final via a penalty shootout in which Messi and Rafinha missed from the spot.
I should probably mention Poland too, shouldn’t I? We do need to start learning a bit about the Polish Leagues. In the Lotto Extraklasa, Legia won the League on 69 points with Lech, Jagiellonia and Lechia qualifying for the Europa League. Bruk-Bet Termalica finished safely outside the relegation zone on 30 points, which I make a mental note of for later.
Ślask and Arka weren’t so lucky. They dropped down to the 2nd tier and will be replaced by Piast and our new club GKS Katowice. We, by the way, were promoted by virtue of having a goal difference of 8 while Wisła Puławy’s was 6. It looks like it got pretty tense towards the end there. My predecessor, Krzysztof Debek, who I don’t have anything against… For now… was poached by the aforementioned Bruk-Bet Termalica, which seems like a bit of a sideways move if I’m honest.
Anyway, how much time has that killed?
Fuck it, I’m taking a nap. Someone watch my cats.
PS – As the new Fantasy Football season is upon us, I thought I’d create myself a team and a League, which you can come and join! If you don’t play Fantasy Premier League but want to join, then follow this link, create a club and enter the code below to join my League. If you do already play, then you probably know the drill! My League code’s below.
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