Real Madrid are a staggering seventeen points adrift of La Liga’s summit and seemingly cannot shake an uncharacteristic habit of dropping points. Zinedine Zidane’s job hangs in the balance while their major stars are reportedly eyeing the exit door, blaming anyone other than themselves for the club’s plight. Make no mistake about it the reigning Champions League winners are in a state of crisis.
So how does this behemoth of European football respond when in such straits? According to a number of reports they plan an eye-wateringly expensive summer overhaul of course.
Neymar is on their radar, as too is Eden Hazard and Harry Kane. Plausibly in the months ahead we could witness the biggest outlay undertaken by a single club in the game’s history.
This only goes to illustrate – as if any illustration were needed – the impossible task faced by any team seeded outside of Pot 1 in the grandest club tournament in the world should they endeavour to ever navigate their way to an unlikeliest of triumphs. A giant momentarily stumbles then immediately sets about adding a further few feet to their intimidating stature. The challenge only gets harder.
Which is why since the turn of this century only nine clubs have lifted the big eared trophy in eighteen years, a monopoly by the elite that is only fated to continue as the continent’s biggest clubs splurge obscene fortunes on the finest talents available. For the likes of Basel, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Besiktas then – the longest priced sides left in this season’s competition – going deep will remain their most realistic objective.
Even here, at the last 16 stage, their mission is onerous. Despite winning the Swiss Super League for the eighth consecutive time last term and boasting an array of extremely capable players Basel are presently a stunning 9/1 to defeat Manchester City this Tuesday in their first leg on home turf. Arguably, given City’s incredible form, even this is charitable. Besiktas meanwhile are considered rank outsiders to pull off a shock at Bayern while the Shakhtar v Roma odds reveal a tighter affair is expected there.
Yet the unfortunate fact remains that should an outsider ever pull off a memorable attainment of European silverware they realistically must face the very best to do so. In all probability they must do so two or three times over along the way.
The last occasion an unfancied side shocked one and all was Porto in 2004, masterminded by a special one. Prior to that it was Borussia Dortmund in 1997. So it is certainly true to state that a reversal of fortune is due, some would say long overdue.
But when the trophy-dominating, all-conquering mega-clubs only get stronger in crisis that slim likelihood becomes an ever more impossible dream.