As the Spaniards whimsically flamenco dance into 2012, whilst frivolously clicking their castanets towards January 6th, The Day of the Kings, their shining and leading star, FC Barcelona sit on the throne as the once-again newborn kings of the footballing world. They earned this right, at least officially, by winning the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup and thus replacing the previous best team in the world, Inter Milan.
The tournament is questionable in its competitiveness for a start: according to the final standings of the competition, as well as Neymar’s inflated but so-far unjustified ego, behind the rightful (even before the Japanese-hosted competition in which Barca didn’t even have to participate in until the semi-final stage) winners Barcelona, were Santos and Al-Sadd as the 2nd and 3rd best club teams in the world, apparently. Neymar agrees with the competition’s result, that has only ever served one useful purpose, making Sir Alex Ferguson bend over, “we are the second-best team in the world and for us that is a great reward.” I’m happy to bet that at least 20 teams in the world would want to contest that.
However, despite Neymar’s kicking and screaming and attention-grabbing, whilst carefully constructing his Mohawk and fathering a child with his 17-year old girlfriend in August, Messi turned up, rather like a missionary from King Herald, and ensured that for a while, at least, Neymar shall not become the new king of the world and remains, as Sportsnet put it, “underhyped” alongside that other sports person that no-one’s heard of, Novak Djokovic. No, really: according to Perry Lefko you need to be an “aficionado” of the corresponding sports to have heard of these performers.
It won’t be Neymar moving to Barcelona that could derail Chelsea’s European hopes, which Roman Abramovich has so long fostered and repeatedly seen snatched from within his grasp, though. It won’t be Messi pirouetting round a fallen Ashley Cole, whilst dummying a pass to Sanchez, just to pass it back to one of his loyal supporters, Xavi or Iniesta, before ghosting through the back line to receive a beautifully weighted through ball from one of the World Cup winners before curling a dipping shot past Petr Cech, either: although, it could be.
With Chelsea doing their best impression of a disappointed child on Christmas Day, “It will be difficult, Napoli were in the same group as Man City and Man City are unfortunately no longer with us,” on finding out their tie for the second round of the Champions League, even if they did beat Cavani Ft. Lavezzi & Co. it won’t be the three kings halting their progress with gifts of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. If Chelsea fail in Europe, it will be due to the loss of one man that Barcelona supposedly hold the right to sign back: Oriol Romeu.
Oriol Romeu has the appearance of his Chelsea team-mate Alex, but the playing style of fellow La Masia product Sergio Busquets and his impact on The Blues’ campaign has been valued as equal to that of fellow Spaniard and Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata. His performances in the hole between midfield and defence, more popularly known as the Makelele role, have been pivotal in Chelsea’s now-smoothing form, after a fluctuating start.