Finding beauty in the 2013/14 season

I started this season pointing out my disillusionment with modern football – the senseless and hollow fanfare that surrounds the beautiful game – I want to end it by looking at what kept me hooked this year. Forgive the mainstream nature of the layout, hopefully you’ll enjoy the content more.

1. Miroslav Klose and the hand of a decent man

This is hopefully one of those moments that will go down in football folklore, sat nicely alongside a clip of Maradona telling a journalist how he urged his teammates to celebrate, so the referees wouldn’t realise he punched the ball into the net.

Klose, we know this, is in a different class and when he inadvertently used his hand to bundle the ball in the net during the early minutes of a 3-0 defeat to Napoli, he quietly notified the referee.

Hopefully his boss forgave the 35 year-old striker by the end of the season, in which netted 15 league goals and has come to within one of Gerd Müller’s Mannschaft goal-scoring record. Legend.

2. Financial Fair Play

I’ll be honest, my fist clenched in a Nadal-style celebration when UEFA suspended and fined Malaga over unpaid bills. I have nothing against the Spanish team. If anything, their collection of antiques is quite adorable, but Financial Fair Play is a necessity and it was nice to see UEFA take action (and the CAS dismiss the appeal). You can imagine my happiness, then, when the Premier League announced that it will also introduce financial regulations.

However, with the relaxed nature of those regulations, with word that UEFA’s own FFP will be challenged and newly-promoted Monaco out-spending even the most determined golddiggers, it is difficult to remain as optimistic.

Still, until the European Court of Justice rules on FFP and Monaco strut their expensive assembly of legs on grounds across Europe, I’ll be happy. Promising.

3. Robbie Rogers

The only reason this is not top of the list is because the MLS is involved. Shudders. You probably heard of Robbie Rogers, right? The former Leeds United forward… he didn’t play much… the gay footballer. That narrows it down to one of two, well, one of two who have come out.

The endearing part of the Robbie Rogers’ story is that he is now playing football again having come out. He’s not the star of the team, but he does play for LA Galaxy (Beckham woz there), on occasion. He admitted being nervous before his first appearance, but it went alright and he’s now working on improving his fitness after four months away from the game.

As refreshing as it is to know of a gay professional footballer, he is very much an exception. After coming out he announced his retirement, at the age of 26. Luckily he was signed up, but it does worry me that he felt he should retire. Just read this piece about David Testo. Kick it out.

4. Borussia Dortmund

Coming back to the pitch after that little transgression, is there anyone who doesn’t love Borussia Dortmund? They were the story of this year’s Champions League. Wonderful players, the world’s most lovable coach and a magnificent stadium (almost always sold out). Not to mention that they were underdogs (although, once again, Ferguson shows he knows everything).

After the departures of Sahin, Kagawa and Gotze in successive seasons, with Lewandowski also looking likely to go, I don’t expect Klopp’s side to maintain this level of excellence over the coming 12 months, but they were wonderful to watch. Encore!

5. Benitez comes good

I could not believe the dismay of the Stamford Bridge faithful when Benitez replaced Di Matteo, and I was delighted when, among many loud jeers, he finished his job having achieved the best possible results.

The way Chelsea’s fans treated Benitez was disrespectful and uncalled for. Yes, he knocked you out of the Champions League ages ago and he had a spat with one of your managers. Big deal.

He is a man like me or you, treat him with dignity, especially as he delivered two trophies and Champions League qualification. Given that the squad was nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title and was practically out of the Champions League when Benitez came, the League Cup defeat might count as his only failure.

One moment of his internship that sticks out as particularly pleasurable came at Old Trafford in the FA Cup where Chelsea recovered a two goal deficit following the openly maligned substitution of fan-favourite relic, Frank Lampard. Special.

A twenty-something whose love affair with football has ruined more relationships than he’s been in. Florian is now trying to put things right by ranting about it and he can be found on Twitter doing just that

Tags: Champions League, Chelsea, Premier League

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