The Champions League Final’s Real Winners

1. This guy.

Sure, there will still be some drunken fools in some English pub somewhere who will say that Lionel Messi never would have done this at the Brittania. Even they do so half-jokingly. What matters is that Messi can’t seem to help breaking ducks in Champions League Finals. He’s a habitual duck breaker.

“What’s that? I can’t score a goal with my head?” Doink.

“What’s that? I can’t score a goal in England?” Boom.

The arguments about Messi are now permanently elevated from “best player now” to “best player ever.” He has reached this pantheon just weeks before his 24th birthday. There is little left to do but sit back and watch what he does next. Sure, the Maradona contingent will continue to grumble that he hasn’t won a World Cup yet, but so long as FIFA’s corporate partners look the other way and the breakaway drums don’t start beating, he seems likely to get at least two more shots at it.

2.) Football fans everywhere.

We needed a good watchable game like that, didn’t we? After Barcelona’s shamefully childish display in the semifinal tie against Real Madrid, it was somewhat gratifying to see a Champions League Final live up to its billing. Those sports fans in the USA who started growing more curious about international football after the last World Cup were treated to a grand display of club football at its highest level. They’ll be back. They might even join those raucous crowds at MLS games before it’s over.

There it is, America. We’re here. We like soccer. Get used to it.

3.) Ashley Young and Luka Modric.

You could see it on Sir Alex Ferguson’s face throughout the 2nd half of that game: Manchester United’s midfield wasn’t good enough. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were too old, Michael Carrick couldn’t keep up, Antonio Valencia and (for the short time he was out there) Nani were all but invisible, and Ji-Sung Park was effectively negated. United may have been good enough to win the Premier League, but they were clearly over-matched here, and with no truly promising midfield prospects in their ranks, they’ll have to go out and buy some.

Young and Modric will be the Red Devils’ top targets this summer. The pending sale of Dimitar Berbatov will finance at least one of them. Others might be cleared out as well to make room for these two and perhaps more. The only thing for sure is that Sir Alex’s midfield will look completely different by next August.

4.) Cesc Fabregas.

For all the praise that’s been heaped on Barcelona and Spain this weekend, a few (including our pal Brian Phillips) have already suggested that we could be nearing the end of this run for this club and this country. Why? They’ve played a ton of games in the last four years. Eventually, even the best peter out. The 2011 Los Angeles Lakers can tell you all about that. Keeping up that level of excellence requires an immunity to fatigue that few humans possess.

This is why Cesc Fabregas’ wish to return to Camp Nou will be fulfilled this summer. In order to maintain this level of greatness, Xavi and Iniesta will need to rest a little more often, and who better to fill their shoes than the Barca product who’s been captaining an elite Premier League squad for the last two years?

Also, although we’ve heard nothing like this yet, don’t be too shocked if Zlatan Ibrahimovic ends up being the makeweight for this transfer. He has a knack for being on teams that win domestic trophies. Arsenal could use someone like that right about now.

5.) Me.

In the last three days, I’ve lost my day job and won a replica jersey. This must be what being a Birmingham City supporter feels like.

This proved to be a much easier contest to win, given that I only had to beat 5 other challengers, rather than 212 in our Fantasy Premier League competition. As I said from the beginning, though, you must beat Off Constantly to claim your prize, and nobody did. So there. Better luck next time, everyone.

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