Italian Broadcaster Tiziano Crudeli Writhes in Existential Agony as Barcelona Overtakes His Beloved AC Milan

If, as devoted Olympiakos fan Agememnon once said, pain and suffering are the tragical source of knowledge, then Italian TV presenter Tiziano Crudeli must be a very wise man indeed.

Here he is, grappling with the fundamental questions of existence, which have rudely confronted him via Lionel Messi’s opening goal, M’Baye Niang’s shot off the post for Milan, and Messi’s second goal, after which Crudeli’s life has been drained of all meaning:

Yet take note of Crudeli in the last segment, his equilibrium remarkably restored, objectively marking Jordi Alba’s series-clinching goal in his notebook.

That’s hard-won wisdom in action.

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Fox’s Gus Johnson Experiment Starts Tomorrow with Real Madrid vs Man U

GusJYou may have heard that former CBS and ESPN sportscaster Gus Johnson, who made a name for himself with his exciting calls of NCAA basketball tournament games, has been tasked by Fox to become their lead announcer for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It’s a bold move because Johnson had never broadcast soccer before October 2011, when the plan was hatched and the March Madness maven started announcing San Jose Earthquakes games on the radio as the first steps toward getting ready for Russia 2018 and Qatar—cough cough bulls***—2022.

If you’ve never heard Johnson, here’s a best-of clip from his NCAA tournament work:

Some fans think he’s over the top, but when he’s doing a sport he knows and clearly loves, we say he works well, adding a layer of excitement and enthusiasm to the games.

To bring that buzz to soccer, well, he’s got a lot of work to do. He not only has to learn the game and all its subtleties (no mean feat) he also, we contend, has to genuinely acquire a taste for the sport. As Bootsy Collins once said, you can’t fake the funk.

Here’s Johnson doing a San Jose game this past year:

He’s not on top of it yet, but he does have five years to get up to speed. And Fox is not hesitating to throw him into the deep end. Johnson is doing Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 tilt between no less a pairing than Real Madrid and Manchester United (Fox Soccer 2:45 pm ET). Yikes.

The growing pains start tomorrow, but if the gamble pays off, well, maybe we’ll get calls at the 2018 and 2022 Cups that go a little something like this:

In Case You Missed ’Em: Three Great Goals from the Past Week

We’re a little late on two of these, but all three are worthy of multiple looks.

First up, Philippe Mexes, French center back for AC Milan, getting all Rivaldo-like* on Anderlecht in the Champions League last Wednesday:

Then there was Lukas Podolski’s stinging volley for Arsenal against Montpelier, also in the Champions League:

Sweet chip from Olivier Giroud to set him up, and what a finish.

Finally, a terrific team goal from Borussia Dortmund against Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga yesterday—a sweeping move from left to right, finished off by a one-touch exchange in the box and a clinical volley by Jakub “Kuba” Błaszczykowski**:

That one might’ve been the best of the bunch. Watch out for Dortmund in the Champions League, people.

*If you clicked the link and watched that Rivaldo goal, you may well have just witnessed the greatest goal in the history of the game. It was his third of the night, and it won the match 3-2. No, really.

**Kuba also scored what was, for our money, the best goal of Euro 2012. Here it is again, Poland vs Russia:

The Best Thing You’ll See All Week

Longtime Celtic supporter Rod Stewart—whose 1977 hit “You’re In My Heart” includes the lyrics, “You’re every schoolboy’s dream/ You’re Celtic, United…”—was in attendance for his beloved Scottish team’s landmark upset of Barcelona in the Champions League yesterday.

Let’s cut to him at the final whistle:

That’s the greatest. Forget the fact that Celtic only had 16% of possession on the day, they beat Barcelona. No one’s done that in the group stage of the Champions League since October 2009.

Let Us Now Praise Leo Messi, Part XLVI

There’s not much left to say about the 24-year-old genius-in-residence at Barcelona, but the goalkeeper’s reaction on Goal No. 3 of yesterday’s five-goal outburst against Bayer Leverkusen does a pretty good job of summing him up.

Take a look at the keeper after he’s beaten by Messi’s casually brilliant chip for his third goal. We’re pretty sure the English translation for that is WTF:

Messi has 48 goals in 42 games this season, and 228 goals, 93 assists, and 18 trophies in his career. And again, he’s only 24.

Is he the best ever?

The current titleholder, Pelé, said the following when Le Monde asked him that question recently:

“When Messi has scored 1,283 goals and won three World Cups, then we will talk.

“People always ask me: ‘When is the new Pelé going to be born?’ Never. My father and mother closed down the factory.”

That is top-notch stuff from the legend. And he has a point. Messi’s heroics are fresh in the public’s mind and eyes, while Pelé’s case was stated decades ago. The public needs a reminder.

The one knock on Messi has been that he hasn’t done it on the international level, and there’s merit to the charge. But he did bag a hat-trick for Argentina on last Wednesday’s international fixture date, and he has at least six more years of his prime left.

Pelé’s title is safe for now, but maybe not for long.

Quote of the Day: Ferguson Confirms Rooney’s Greatness, Whiteness

Ahead of last week’s Champions League clash between Benfica and Manchester United, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus called Man U striker Wayne Rooney the “best British player so far.”

Jesus then added, “but he doesn’t look like a British player but an Argentinian or Brazilian.”

Pressed for a response by The Sun, Alex Ferguson, Rooney’s coach at Man U, agreed—to an extent:

“If you look at Pelé, for instance, he was a very aggressive attacker also who could look after himself, so can Rooney. They have similarities that way—strength, speed, determination, but he’s white, completely white.”

Thanks for the clarification, Alex, but we’re pretty sure the Benfica manager was referring to Rooney’s style of play, not his physical appearance.

Slow News Day? Take the Time to Get Prepped for Tomorrow’s BP Champions League Viewing Party

We’re kidding, obviously: today brought some pretty spectacular news. (We enjoyed the Mark Twain quote that’s been batted around Twitter all day: “I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”)

And tomorrow is a brand new, bin-Laden-free day, with fresh pleasures in store—chief among them the second leg of the Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

So clear your schedule, grab your American flag, and come down to The Full Shilling at 160 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan (btw Wall and Pine) to watch the game with some fired-up fellow fans.

Kickoff is at 2:45, and your first drink is on us. We’ll be at a table in the back near the big screen.

Some of the topics up for discussion:

How much talent—in U.S. dollars—will Jose Mourinho leave on the Real Madrid bench for this leg?

How long will Dani Alves’s Oscar acceptance speech run?

What will the goals-to-referee complaints ratio look like?

What are the chances these squabbling Spanish siblings will cut the crap and play the soccer they are capable of playing?

We hope that last answer is “excellent,” and we hope to see you there.

Thanks for your support of Backpost.