Live: 2036/37 Champions League Final

“Hello, hello! Welcome to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul!!! It is amazing to be back here in this glorious city, the Second Rome, the City on Seven Hills!!! I’m your host, Jamie Carragher, here as always with Gary Neville, a man known for his passion if nothing else!!!”

[The camera pans to Gary, wearing a slim-fitting charcoal suit, the perfect image of decorum. Save for the life-like visage of Nicolaj Bur that is carved into the side of his hair. You are no connoisseur, but even you can tell that the stylist wielding the straight-razor had a deft hand. Despite his relative professional dress, Gary has a manic, crazed look in his eye. A bowl of black jelly beans sits in front of him.]

“Jamie-lad, what a night it is. Two massive squads. One, the undisputed beasts of Italian football, the Old Lady. One, an upstart Serbian squad that has gone from strength-to-strength these past few years. Two squads, led by two brilliant managers. Two men, one Cup, if you will!”

[Gary laughs wildly, something akin to a hyena’s bark. Jamie looks desperate to bring the broadcast back onside, and interjects.]

“Two amazing managers, no question. One, Cristiano Ronalda, a man who danced across the pitch for years, the other–“

[Gary interrupts, annoyed.]

“It’s a joke, Jamie-lad. Take it easy. Google it at home, kids. Trust me.”

[Jamie winces visibly, again trying to bring the broadcast back onside.]

“I get it, Gary…truly–“

“I’m sure you do, you filthy bird.”

“That’s neither here nor there, Gary.”

“Jamie-lad. Let’s keep it simple, yeah? So that you can understand. You, standing here in this booth wearing clothes, you are the broadcasting equivalent of gas station sushi. I, on the other hand, am like a cut of Waygu No Sumibiyaki, served with tahoon aioli and daikon ponzu. So forgive me if I’ve already heard enough out of you tonight.”

“Tell me then, Gary, if you’re so ****ing clever, who wins tonight? The Italian machine led by your former teammate, who just claimed their 16th straight Serie A title, but has twice failed to win the final under his guidance? Or the hipster upstarts from Belgrade, a side filled with youth, brimming with potential, led by the brash Nicolaj Bur, a side seemingly propelled by the personal tragedy that he and their Chairman recently suffered?”

“Jamie, Jamie…look. As you know, I have an honorary ‘World Theatre Degree’ from Oxford, but that is one Javanese Shadow Play that I cannot — nay WILL NOT — perform for the likes of you. I refuse to play your games. In fact, I happen to have a sealed envelope here, with the name of the winning side written on it. So you go ahead and play your little games, trying to discern what will happen. Because I already know what will happen. What some physicists claim has, in fact, already happened, we just have not perceived it yet in this dimension. In fact, some might argue that, regardless of who wins in a ‘practical’ sense, the real winner here tonight is the game of football.”

[Jamie sighs audibly, rolling his eyes. As such, he doesn’t see Gary slip the envelope into his jacket pocket. You notice that there are, in fact, two envelopes in Gary’s pocket. One appears to be marked with a ‘J’ the other with a ‘P.’]

“We all know you’re less than impartial, Gary. You’re supporting Partizan, you just don’t want to say it to avoid embarrassing yourself.”

“I’m not the embarrassment here, Jamie. Look at that tie you’re wearing.”

“My wife gave it to me, Gary. We’ve discussed this. Family is out-of-bounds.”

“That’s not what she told me in the pool last night, if you know what I mean.”

“****ing hell, Gary. That’s not funny.”

“What’s funny is that she told me you’d say that.”

[Jamie looks confused for a moment, as he realizes that his wife did go out for a late swim at the hotel pool last night. Gary chuckles, seeing that he has got the best of Jamie, and takes a long pull from the flask stashed in his kitbag next to several flares. In the background, the Champions League anthem starts, as the teams walk out onto the pitch.]

[Note: if you are here during the live blog, you will need to hit refresh to see new updates as the match progresses.]
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11th minute

“Quiet so far, eh, Gary?”

“Almost too quiet, if you know what I mean, Jamie-lad.”

“Juventus controlling possession, but with nothing to show for it. And we all know that Partizan will not care one whit about possession, in the abstract. It’s in the way that you use it, isn’t it Gary?”

“Wise words, Jamie. Wise words.”

13th minute

“Juventus under pressure, looking to play out of the back…and they break the high press with a long ball, finding Rosti behind the Serbian defense…”

“WHAT A SAVE FROM BEGAJ, JAMIE-LAD!!! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”

“The first real chance of the match, and Ronaldo is on the sidelines, gesticulating wildly before demonstrating the proper technique to young Rosti. That sound you hear is the halftime hairdryer warming up…”

19th minute

“Again, Gary…the Italians manage to break the high press with a long ball over the top, with young Rosti screwing his shot miles wide, leaving his manager prone on the pitch.”

“Classic Rosti, that, Jamie-lad. Cristiano would’ve buried that one like a dog with a bone. They could be up 2-nil, but…what’s that? Yes, Cristiano has removed his brogues and is putting on a pair of six-studs. Oh my, young Rosti is truly in for it now. You almost feel sorry for the lad, Jamie.”

20th minute

“First chance of the match for Partizan here, Gar-bear, Kouao whipping the corner in for Congo, who heads just over! If he puts that on goal, the Serbians are up!”

“Jamie-lad, keep in mind, we have to use his full name or else we’ll get sued… Bur has been up shouting instructions and…yes, it looks like the Serbians are dropping their high press somewhat, having lived dangerously these first few minutes.”

[Jamie adopts a fake Scottish accent.]

“I, too, like to live dangerously, Gary.”

“**** off, Jamie. That’s not what your missus says.”

21st minute

“And now it’s Partizan looking to sneak behind the Italian defense, as Kouao lays it on a platter for Vukojevic, who might have a step…they’ve turned the tables on Juventus here…”

“As your missus likes to say, Jamie, two can play that game…”

21st minute

“WHAT A SAVE FROM RAMOS, GARY! WHAT A CHANCE FOR PARTIZAN!”

[Gary moans in a decidely uncomfortable way, it is unclear whether the sound denotes pleasure or pain.]

25th minute

“AND AGAIN ROSTI IS SET LOOSE BEHIND THE PARTIZAN DEFENSE, BUT BEGAJ STANDS TALL TO DENY HIM! A SHOCKING PERFORMANCE FROM THE 22 YEAR-OLD ITALIAN!”

[Gary begins to mutter darkly in Serbian, pulls a screwdriver from his kitbag and begins to sharpen it on a whetstone. Jamie fails to notice.]

38th minute

“That’s poor from Vukojevic there, isn’t it, Gar-bear. He’s 20 yards from goal, he has to hit the target.”

[Gary just grunts in response, continuing to sharpen his screwdriver.]

“Things have most certainly cooled off a bit, Gary. 20 minutes of mayhem, but things are settling into a nice rhythm now, both sides, giving and taking.”

“Just like me and your missus last night, Jamie-lad.”

“I wish you’d stop saying things like that, Gary. Please.”

Halftime

“Gary, Gary, Gary…I counted 4 solid chances for Rosti. 4. I can only imagine what’s going on in that locker room right now.”

“Ronaldo was beside himself at the end, Jamie-lad. We could all see it. Drinking his coconut oil, smearing it across his chest in frustration, I mean…that’ll ruin a suit, Jamie. Even I know you don’t go there.”

“Exactly, mate. Exactly. All it will take is for one goal to open this match up, mark my words.”

60th minute

“Gary, my old son, something has to give. Corner to Juventus. Both sides, snatching at half chances, although Partizan’s more direct approach has seen them look more dangerous in moments. Crossed in…Vujadinovic can’t clear…the ball is loose…IT’S IN THE BACK OF THE NET! AFTER ALL THE SEXY FOOTBALL ON SHOW TONIGHT, IT’S THE UGLIEST OF GOALS!”

[Gary screams, cursing in rapid-fire Serbian, brandishing his shiv in a menacing fashion.]

60th minute

“Hold on, there, Jamie…VAR…THERE IS IT! OFFSIDES! NO GOAL, JAMIE, YOU JUVENTUS-LOVING ****!”

62nd minute

“So close from Partizan, Gar-bear…the ball falling to Ibrahim on the far post, somehow having snuck through the crowd… Just over the bar.”

“Jamie, can you clear up a dispute, for your missus and I? Is Star Wars the one with the little wizard boy?”

“Gary, first of all…not now. Second of all, I don’t have enough time to explain to you all of the different things that are wrong with that question.”

“Maybe you can explain it on your blog later.”

“You know what, Gary, make fun of it all you like. It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want.”

65th minute

“First substitution of the night for the Serbians, Zoob is coming on for Baric, who has struggled to find his rhythm tonight.”

[The stadium echoes with the cries of “Zooooooob” from the Partizan support.]

69th minute

“Bouare whips it in…Partizan clear, but only to…THERE IT IS, EDUARDO “THE BARBER” BARBARA SMASHES HOME FROM 20 YARDS!!! NOW THAT’S SEXY FOOTBALL, GARY, SEXIER THAN WINSTON CHURCHILL HIMSELF!!!”

[Gary grabs a flare, lights it and throws it out the window in the Juventus support below.]

75th minute

“Zarkovic and Bobar on…Partizan looking to find a breakthrough, their counterpress back in effect…scrappy this, but they win the ball and look to counterattack, Ibrahim has space…oh, my, that’s a cynical challenge from Rousseau!”

“He’s on a yellow, Jamie! By all rights, he should be off! And…THERE IT IS! WELL-DESERVED! THE ITALIAN CHAMPIONS ARE DOWN TO 10 MEN!”

[Down on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo is in tears, rending his garments while appealing to the Gods above.]

90th minute

“I tell you what, Gary. It just isn’t good enough. Juventus are sitting deep, and Partizan simply cannot find a way through. There will be 4 minutes of time added-on.”

[Gary weeps and shouts wordlessly, urging Partizan forward.]

94th minute

[The final whistle blows, Juventus having withstood wave after wave of Serbian attacks, each of which has fallen short without testing Ramos in the Italian goal. Nicolaj Bur stands in the Partizan technical area, angry at the display from his side. Cristiano Ronaldo, for his part, is on his knees, smearing his face with lipstick, crying tears of relief after falling short the last two times he reached the final. Gary, for his part, has barricaded himself in the corner, tearing an envelope with the letter ‘P’ on the outside into shreds, before consuming them, the tears pouring down his face.]

Full Time

I’m not angry lads. I’m disappointed.

I’m not going to lie. That hurts. We had our chances and didn’t take them. And when Juventus were reduced to 10 men, we couldn’t take advantage. We have no one to blame but ourselves. The usual season review will follow later this evening.

Look forward, I was thinking about putting off a full-blown tactical revamp until after Partizan was complete, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to go down that road now. It will require modest tweaks to personnel, but I think this is the time to start working the new system into the mix.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series conceived and co-authored by Seattle Red and Oriole that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?


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