The Europa League, a tournament competed for by some of the best talents in Europe, regarded highly valuable by any manager or player and if won, a magnificent lifetime achievement.
However, where did the love go for this beautiful competition in Great Britain?
It was eleven years ago, eleven long years ago that Liverpool, the last British club to win the competition, lifted the trophy. They went to extra time drawing 4-4 with Alaves, and won via the golden goal when Geli for the Spanish side scored an own goal after 116 minutes of play. Since then nothing, zilch, it hasn’t returned, and neither has the passion for it by the British fans. Why is this?
Apparently now the Liga BBVA is the best in the world, on a different level to every other league. It boasts the two best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. You would assume that this magnificent footballing nation would take this tournament for granted, push for the maximum success and brush the trophy aside? No, since Liverpool did win the trophy eleven years ago, Spain has claimed the Europa League five times (more than any other country): Atletico Madrid (2), Sevilla (2), and Valencia with just the one.
These emotional times in football are filled with tears for the winners and losers, when a team from Spain leaves the competition you will find them lying on the pitch in disgust, in an emotional wreck. However, this year both Manchester clubs exited the competition and no remorse was shown, none. Obviously there are individuals in the game and some take matters differently to others, but you will generally find the Spanish sides the most willing in this competition.
In England it is seen as a nuisance to the league campaign, and clubs will often sacrifice games in Europe and rest key players for benefit towards the league. However it goes the other way around in Spain; just like Athletic Bilbao this campaign, the Europa League matches took a toll on the side and players were rested in the league to benefit for Europe, and after reaching the final and being defeated to Atletico Madrid, they had nothing. It was a failure, however if they won, the season was a huge success am I right? All in all the sacrifices took Bilbao to 10th in the league, a huge failure in the eyes of all Bilbao fans.
As a Newcastle fan, I’m optimistic about this years’ campaign and hope that Alan Pardew will see the Europa League in the way that the gaffers in Spain do. If he can restore the culture and international recognition in the club with a successful European campaign it will no doubt attract brighter football, and maybe the success the fans deserve.