June kicked off with a bang, literally – Jose Mourinho signed on as Inter Milan manager and Ronaldo, fresh from doing the league and european double with Manchester United, publicly admitted in an interview that he wanted to play for Real Madrid.
The Ronaldo saga kicked into full force in June, with Manchester United fans turning on their own star player once he’d made known his desire to move. Real Madrid were eager to throw Robinho in the mix but with United refusing to comment on the issue (apart from what they’d already said in May – i.e. they’d rather bench him than sell him), the press and Real Madrid ran riot with Ronaldo single-handedly threatening to overshadow the Euros as the biggest story of June 2008.
In England and Spain (before we move to the Euros) changes were rung – Manchester City dumped Sven and called in Mark Hughes, Blackburn chose to go with Paul Ince and Chelsea dismissed one manager for lacking Premier League experience before bringing in another manager lacking Premier League experience, albeit with a much more impressive coach record. Phil Scolari was heralded as the manager to ‘fix’ Chelsea’s problems and take them to the next level (i.e. win the league and the Champions League). Barcelona would promote Guardiola from within their ranks and say goodbye to Rijkaard, a move that would be questioned at the time but in retrospect worked out quite well for the Spanish giants.
Euro 2008 started with a furious debate on whether tournament hosts should be allowed automatic qualification, especially since the hosts seemed incapable of winning games (let alone qualifying for a major tournament) in the buildup to and in the early stages of the tournament. Frankly we’re going to hear this every time a ‘weak’ country hosts a big tournament (South Africa in 2010, eh?).
Former winners (and possibly the most despised team at the event) Greece were summarily dismissed as were pre-tournament favourites France, but the real surprises of the tournament were to be found in the knock-out rounds. Some point to the drama of the Euros as proof that this was a ‘great’ tournament and I’m inclined to agree, but I do remember thinking during the tournament that a certain ‘oomph’ was missing throughout. There were no heated battles, no great blitzes, no individual heroes (although if there was ever a team to claim the title of heroes, it has to be Turkey for their astonishing comebacks).
It came down to perseverance, tactics and team-play and in the end, after heart-stopping performances by Turkey and Russia’s sublime displays, there could be only one winner, the team that persevered the most, valued teamwork over everything else and got their tactics spot on. Spain were worthy champions, long overdue by many accounts, and quickly hailed as the ‘best team of 2008’.
Back to Soccerlens’ 2008 Review.