What we learned this week: Champions League destiny a mystery at world’s end


WWLTW is reliably informed that the world is due to end on Friday. It may have already begun.

Indeed, all those years ago, the Mayan prophecymeisters picked a fine day to foresee the collapse of civilisation – being, as it is, the day after a Uefa draw ceremony.

Sitting through interminable preamble with the administocracy’s multilingual MC, Gianni Infantino, who shared occasional moments of pitiable ‘banter’ with his co-conspirators, is enough for anyone to welcome the onrushing annihilation of infinity.

The theme of prophetic doom pervaded the whole ceremony but was mirrored chiefly in the way that the draw reflected exactly the results of its rehearsal. Not one tie different. The universe is making a point.

Patrick Kluivert noticed. Sifting through the mountain of balls in the Europa League draw, the Dutch great dropped things here, there and everywhere with the uncalmable clumsiness of a man facing finality. You have to feel for the guy: Imagine Basel v Dnipro being your last contribution to humanity.

Taunted by fate, we all must meet our demise knowing that we were promised one of the most thrilling knockout rounds ever.

Manchester United v Real Madrid? Borussia Dortmund v Shakhtar Donetsk? Tottenham v Every Team Who Won A Major European League In The Late 2010s? Truly, we are not worthy of such excitement. So we will never get to see it.

Perhaps what we have learned from it all, however, is a lesson on the eternal oddness of football. Nobody ever truly wins this sport. As soon as a trophy is lifted, the competition for the next one begins. And it is in this way that we embrace our Mayan doom. We will never now know who will win the Champions League – but just imagine how good it would have been.

Photo of the week

Andy’s Christmas Carroll is a mournful one

It all started so well for Big Andy Carroll. Loaned out by Liverpool in a way almost as moronic as that in which they bought him, that goalless-but-rampaging first game for West Ham was supposed to be the start of something great.

But it didn’t. The England man is a huge square peg being Hammered into a suitably square hole but – who knew? – hammers hurt. And injuries picked up in that particular toolkit have just about put paid to his west London jaunt.

Lots of people like to laugh at Big Andy but he is very much the Tiny Tim in his own Christmas Carroll this year. Hampered by both his size and financial situation, you can only feel sorry for him, knowing that his tale is unlikely to end all that well.

If West Ham don’t want to pay £90,000-a-week to keep him on past January, fair enough. How else are they supposed to fund Sam Allardyce’s debilitating egg-nog habit this winter, after all? But going back to Anfield as an incongruous plan B – until Fabio Borini gets fit again shortly, anyway – is no kind of seasonal miracle.

Newcastle love a pun

Regular readers of WWLTW will be well aware that this column is prone to a good* pun now and then.

Already it has succumbed to some Dickens material and doubtless it will again one day – but this is an interest that needs to be managed carefully so as no unfortunate overdoses take place. Wordplay is not to be taken lightly.

So if Newcastle would kindly stop their clear attempts to goad a horrific holiday-related pun out of WWLTW, that would be appreciated.

Yes, this column is onto you, Magpies. This Demba Ba-to-Arsenal story doing the rounds? WWLTW is onto you. “Ba humbug”? Anything about Santa and a clause? “Newcastle are set for yet another helping of stuffing this festive season”? It’s too easy. Not going there. Hopefully Father Christmas will leave a sense of subtlety under the tree next week.

*Quiet at the back, they’re all brilliant.

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