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Ten Reasons To Be Excited About European Football Next Season

Ten Reasons To Be Excited About European Football Next Season
By Declan Johnston Updated

[tps_header]Setanta Sports announced yesterday that ESPN and BT Sport are set to become part of the Setanta package. This means Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 games will be hitting your screens in the season ahead. There will be plenty of reasons to tune in too, so we have listed our top ten to whet your appetite. [/tps_header]

1. The Montpellier factor

With the rise of the billionaire owner, the unrepentent rate of commercialisation in the game and the ever growing gap in equality, it seems Europe's major league titles are being shared out between an ever narrowing circle of elite clubs. Bavarian business behemoth Bayern Munich, natural resource dependent Manchester City, PSG and Chelsea and even the multi-million-euro-earning, replica-shirt-flogging enterprises Manchester United and Barcelona seem to have a grip over their national league titles that is unlikely to slip.

Every now and then though, there comes a reminder that football is a game played by 22 humans on a pitch and anything can happen. 22 millionaires yes, but 22 humans all the same. Montpellier's claiming of the French league title in 2012 is arguably one of the greatest footballing achievements of the twenty-first century. They incredibly managed to hold off back to back player of the year Eden Hazard's defending champions Lille and superstar riddled PSG to win the league. They had finished 14th the season before. Football fans are tied to the sport by the power of narrative. Only football can produce stories like Montpellier's. It's worth tuning in for a story like that alone.


2. Falcao vs Ibrahimovic (or Dmitry Rybolovlev vs the Qatar Investment Authority)

Teams like Montpellier however come along only once in a blue moon and their football is often more efficient than it is spectacular. What the billionaire era has offered us - which has happened before in footballing history of course, think of Franco's Real Madrid or the Colombian El Dorado league of the 1940s for instance - is the chance to see some of the best footballers in the world assembled on one football pitch.

When Moncao take on PSG next season it will be a chance to witness the best footballers Qatari natural gas and Russian potash can buy. That includes the likes of Thiago Silva, James Rodriguez, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Eric Abidal, Lucas Moura, Ricardo Carvalho, Gregory van der Wiel, João Moutinho, Javier Pastore and of course Falcao and Zlatan. For sheer entertainment, that's an unmissable clash.


3. Crazy Owners


Continental football has no shortage of what the blurb writers like to call 'colourful characters' plying their trade on the pitch. There are far more however seated upstairs in the directors' boxes.

Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini for instance has gone beyond the point of being a parody of himself. Since entering football as the owner of Venezia in 1987 he has fired 51 coaches, including poor Francesco Guidolin four times. While Palermo will be in Serie B next season, there will be no shortage of bizarre owners in the top flight. You might see Catania's owner Antonino Pulverenti sitting on the bench with his players, Lazio owner Claudio Lotito speaking in Latin or being chased across the field by his players in their underwear or Silvio Berlusconi in an orange jumpsuit.



The owner that takes the proverbial biscuit though is Montpellier's Louis Nicollin. The man made his money in waste collection and became chairman of Montpellier in 1974. Prone to homophobic, sexist and just generally offensive outbursts he is famous for saying things like "Montpellier champions of France? If I was Marseille, Paris, Lyon, Lille or Rennes, I'd stab myself in the arse with a sausage!", "Well done Bastia. They have bigger balls than us. We have shrivelled olives" or "Jean-Claude Dassier [Marseille president] is adorable, but he doesn't know where a bull pisses from." Guaranteed entertainment. And offence.


4. You can bring back Football Italia

Saturday mornings in the 1990s for obsessive football fans meant one thing - not banter infested Soccer AM but Football Italia with hipster idol and all round good guy James Richardson. While AC Jimbo might not be back to present the programme himself, you can recreate the experience. All you need to do is find yourself some tasty Italian baked treats, decent coffee and a Serie A game and let the good ol' nostalgic times roll.


5. Tifosi

One of the most dramatic aspects of watching European football in the flesh is the unveiling of a tifo just before kick-off. Suddenly the rabble of football supporters melt into a collective and the sense of anticipation rises palpably. If you can't be there though, they look just as impressive on TV.

6. Guardiola vs Klopp

Football has always been a language of its own. You never hear phrases like 'The firemen were at sixes and sevens, it was a mess', 'John has yet to pledge his future to Spar' or 'Barack Obama is still waiting to break his world peace hoodoo'. Perhaps the Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich clashes in the season ahead though will see the development of a sort of ultra-fashionable footballing Esperanto made up of terms like tiki-taka, gegenpressing, transitions and false nines that will actually be completely incomprehensible to everyone including those speaking it.

In any event these games will not require any extra analysis to enjoy; they should be breathlessly entertaining. With more storylines than a Quentin Tarantino film, they will be compulsive viewing.

7. Bright Young Managers

Next season might turn out to be neither the season of Klopp nor Pep on the other hand. With retirements taking place across the board in the European leagues, there is plenty of room for a young Jose Mourinho or Alex Ferguson to rise to the top.

Vincenzo Montella took a struggling Fiorentina to fourth last season in Serie A and seems to be building a squad capable of surpassing that achievement this time around.

Christian Streich's SC Freiburg also missed out on the Champions League by just one spot last season. Streich however is an interesting figure who seems set to build on last season's success. A former teacher, he worked his way up from coaching the youth squads at Freiburg to now being one of the most promising managerial talents in Germany.

In France Christophe Galtier has worked similar wonders on a small budget with the once great AS Saint-Étienne. If he can keep his squad together, in particular striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he may be set for another successful season this year.

8. Mario Balotelli

What more needs to be said? He is a one man show that will never fail to disappoint.

9. Der deutsche Traum

Well now that our entire lifestyle is being funded by loans from German pensioners, we may as well don our most fetching pair of lederhosen, pick up a litre of beer and enjoy some world class footballers cultivated through a responsibly operated network of centrally run footballing academies for a fair and reasonable price. Oh, while standing up too. German football is pointing the way forward for everyone at the moment and there has never been a better time to start living the German dream. And you can get your credentials in early for supporting them on their way to claiming the 2014 World Cup.

10. Golazos

There will be goals. Good ones. And lots of them.










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