…And We’re Loving It!
History’s been made in Scotland, Liverpool are imploding, the German National Team coach is leaving and Cristiano Ronaldo is OUT of the Champions League!
And that’s only the tip of the ice-berg when it comes to European soccer stories this week – not to mention the fact it’s only Wednesday. We’ve still got another night of Champions League and the weekend soccer still to come!
To make matters more interesting, Rangers’ Scottish Title Win, Liverpool’s crisis and the resignation of the German National Team coach could all be interlinked – we take a look at how below.
WATCH: Steven Gerrard Makes History in Scotland
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool’s favorite prodigal son, has made history by leading Rangers back to the summit of Scottish soccer on Sunday. The historical title win is Rangers’ 55th in their history, meaning they have won more domestic titles than any other soccer club in the world!
Added to that, their bitter rivals Celtic were this season chasing a never-before-seen 10th title in a row. The pressure was therefor on for Gerrard’s Rangers to stop Celtic’s record-breaking season with a historic one of their own – and they’ve achieved that and then some!
Rangers Chasing an Undefeated Season
Aided slightly by a Celtic implosion on and off the field, Rangers have been emphatic in winning the Scottish Football Premier League. They’ve gone the whole season unbeaten thus far, scoring 77 goals in the process and conceding just 9.
They’re also undefeated in European competition, a run they can continue if they win the first match of their two legged Round of 16 tie against Czech Champions, Slavia Prague, who are themselves undefeated domestically.
WTF is Going on at Liverpool?
Take a four hour drive south from Glasgow to Liverpool, and things are very different in Gerrard’s hometown. His former club are now in a period of crisis and have lost their last six home games – a stat that’s more shocking when you consider they had been undefeated at home since 2017, before a late January loss to Burnley started off this run of horrors.
Liverpool are still reigning Champions and manager Jurgen Klopp should have enough credit in the bank to remain manager should he wish. However, as well as turbulent time on the field, he hasn’t had an easy time off it either. His mother died back in Germany and he wasn’t able to fly home for the funeral due to Covid-19 conditions.
It now looks like the Champions League is the only realistic way Liverpool can save their own season. They have a 2-0 lead going into tonight’s game against RB Leipzig, but the match won’t be easy against the German side who are in far better domestic form comparatively.
Joachim Löw – It’s Time to Go
The German national team coach has decided his time is up, and has announced he will leave his post after the European Championships this summer. Joachim Löw has been in charge of the German National Soccer Team since 2006, and lead them to World Cup glory in Brazil in 2014.
He’s the longest-serving coach they’ve ever had, so replacing him will be no easy task. What names are at the top of the list? Well there’s Hansi Flick, Löw’s former assistant and now manager of all-conquering Bayern Munich.
And who else? None other than Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp!
How the Three Stories Are Linked
So how do the above three stories link up? Well, they could combine to cause a major reshuffle in European football management that just a few weeks ago would’ve seemed unthinkable. Despite Liverpool failing to reach the heights of previous seasons, Klopp’s position looked safe, Gerrard’s title was an inevitable incoming, but the thought of him going anywhere else wasn’t being discussed, and Joachim Löw’s resignation wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
They say a week’s a long time in soccer, and that’s never been more true than with the current situation. While it is still widely assumed that Gerrard isn’t yet ready for the Liverpool job that he is one day destined to take, the current crisis situation at Liverpool could see Klopp leave of his own accord at the end of the season, perhaps accelerating Gerrard’s projected career path.
Klopp Has Always Coveted the German Job
Until yesterday, the Gerrard-Klopp-swap had been tipped only as an outside possibility, but the Joachim Löw announcement has turned a few more heads. Klopp has always coveted the German National Team job, however it was thought he was eyeing up the chance to take charge in time for the Euro 2024 tournament – which takes place the same year his contract at Liverpool is up.
Klopp has already come out and said he intends to honor his contract at Liverpool, however the timing of Löw’s announcement will most definitely have caused an internal dilemma. Joachim Löw has been in charge of the German team for 15 years, so they will most certainly want to appoint a new manager with a similar long-term plan. As a result, Klopp’s goal of 2024 is most certainly out of the question should he refuse the job at this stage.
A Manager Merry-Go-Round?
Should Klopp shock the world and take his shot at the German top job earlier than planned, then Steven Gerrard would almost certainly fulfil his destiny and step into the management roll at Liverpool – that’s what most assume.
What no one has really spoken about is potential candidates for the would-be vacant job at Rangers. Gerrard’s work at Rangers over the past three years has been excellent, ultimately restoring the club to former glory – the fans would therefore want a Box Office appointment should he leave. Frank Lampard’s a free agent, and he’s used to wearing Blue, but he’s also been linked with the vacant Celtic job at the other side of the city.
It’s all just speculation at the moment though, and it’s a story that could be ongoing throughout the summer or reach a sudden conclusion next week – who knows?
Elsewhere in Soccer…
Cristiano Ronaldo is OUT of the Champions League
On Tuesday, the Champions League reminded us why it’s the best knock-out competition in world sport. Juventus faced a shock Champions League exit at the hands of Porto after an extra time free-kick put them out on away goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo has shouldered much of the blame for the shock exit, as he capped off an all round poor performance by turning his back in the wall for the free kick, allow the low-hit ball to go through his legs, and ultimately into the net through the finger tips of polish goal keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Out with The Old GOATs – In with the New
Ronaldo and Messi Bow Out
Juventus’ exit from this year’s Champions League is their third consecutive loss to underdog opposition. They lost in the quarter finals to Ajax in 2019, Lyon in the last 16 in 2020 and now Porto at the same stage in 2021.
What’s worse is that all of these losses have come since Ronaldo was brought into the fold for the purpose of winning the competition. Juventus have won the last 9 Seri A titles in a row, but their domestic dominance looks to be relinquished this season as they sit in third place behind AC Milan and Inter Milan.
Ronaldo was bought to bring success – instead he’s been part of a slow regression.
The Juventus regression is a sure sign that Ronaldo’s days at the top are over, however it may also be the same for his long-time rival at the top Lionel Messi. Barring a miracle repeat of the famous comeback in 2017, Messi’s Barcelona look almost certain to exit the Champions League at the hands of PSG – lead by the new GOAT-in-waiting Kylian Mbappé.
Haaland and MBappe Step Up
Ronaldo and Messi’s apparent decline as they reach their mid-30s has coincided with their successors stepping up to the plate. Borussia Dortmund made it through to the quarter finals of the competition thanks to two goals from Erling Haaland, who has now become the player to reach the 20 Champions League goal milestone the fastest – doing so in just 14 games. At the age of 20, Haaland has now scored more Champions League goals than Totti, Ronaldinho, Zidane, R9, Adriano, Tevez and Falcao managed in their entire careers. Just wow!
In Paris, Kylian Mbappé could today extend his run of five goals in six games in this season’s competition, knocking out Messi in the process. At the age of 22, MBappe has already won three Ligue 1 titles, two Coup de France trophies, one World Cup and has reached a Champions League final.
The end may be in sight for the decade and half of Messi and Ronaldo dominance, but we have two very exciting young heirs ready to share the limelight for years to come.
Messi and Ronaldo to the MLS?
The gradual decline of Messi and Ronaldo’s stock in Europe could be good news for soccer fans here in the US. After all, what does every top European soccer player do as their careers are winding down? They come over to the MLS of course!
Ronaldo’s time at Juve looks to be up, as they’ll want to make space on the salary bill for someone younger, meanwhile Messi’s desire to leave Barca last summer was no secret. While there are a handful of European clubs interested enough to pay sky-high salaries for two thirtysomething players, that interest is most certainly dwindling.
Does that mean we could see Messi and Ronaldo face off for one or two final season here in the US? We’re certainly holding out hope!
Michael McKean is an experienced writer with a portfolio that includes work on the subjects of sport, gambling, travel and finance. With a background rooted in journalism, Michael first ventured into the professional writing world based in Switzerland, where he wrote for a number of language and travel sites and magazines before moving into the world of sports writing and gambling sites.
As an avid soccer fan, who follows everything from the Scottish lower leagues to the European elites, he has earned himself a solid reputation as a reliable football betting tipster and predictor. Outside of work, Michael has always gotten involved with grassroutes football everywhere he has worked and lived – UK, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Brazil – and still isn’t shy when it comes to pulling the boots on himself. As well as soccer, he has also developed a love of North American sports, particularly ice hockey – a love which began in Switzerland and saw him venture across the pond to follow the NHL. Moving away from dry land, he’s also a keen longboard surfer and is happiest when writing with a view of the ocean.