2001: a football odyssey.
First up, it's Serie A. The lights, the glamour, the history. This was an era when Italian calcio ruled the roost. Where the creative gladiator went to ply his trade, fighting tooth and nail against roaring defences. Rather poetically, Roma would take home the Scudetto of 2000/01, their first since the season of '83. At the time, it was a league filled with Francisco Totti, Alvaro Recoba, Manuel Rui Costa, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero. The trequartista list could go on, but time wouldn't allow it.
Sunday 17th June, 2001. 15:00. Battling it out for the Italian league crown were the challengers of Juventus and Roma. Lazio and Parma had fallen by the wayside, Milan and Inter weren't even close. The task of I Giallorossi was clear. Beat Parma in the Estadio Olympico, and the division would be theirs.
The task would not be an easy one though. Facing a Parma team filled with stars, Roma would need to play the match of their lives. In Gigi Buffon, Crociati had one of the best young keepers in the world. Defensively, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram stood in way of La Lupa. An early goal from Totti settled the nerves, and after Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta's strikes, Roma knew. The didn't care about letting in a consolation goal. 3-1 was enough.
Batistuta had spent nine years at Fiorentina before a transfer to the nation's capital the previous summer. For the Argentine goal machine it was a dream realised, he had finally got his hands on a Scudetto. As for Francecso Totti, the emotion was even more real. Having watched his boyhood club from the stands, he gave his people what they so richly needed.
For this season, I'm not suggesting Roma will beat Juve to the Serie A title, but they could.
Having made the Champions League semi-finals last term, I Giallorossi may have regained some confidence in their ability to challenge. They also have a new trequartista in the form of Javier Pastore. It'd entertain everybody if this season's action went down to some last day deciders.
With Juve acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese star will again take centre stage. Just like when Rui Costa's joined AC Milan in the summer of '01, Ronaldo will have the eye cast over him due to his phenomenal transfer fee. If a certain diminutive Argentinean were to follow in the footsteps of South American compatriot Alvaro Recoba and join Inter, the light would 100% shine back on Italian football. A forgotten king for the last two decades or so, it's time to tune in for this year's show.
We now take a trip north to Germany, for the most dramatic day in Bundesliga history. Going into the final fixtures, Schalke were three points behind Bayern Munich, but ahead on goal difference. Die Königsblauen therefore had to beat SpVgg Unterhaching, and hope Hamburg could do them a massive favour. Little did they know, their hearts were about to be unmercifully played with by the football gods.
Schalke won their match 5-3, and all eyes were now on Ottmar Hitzfeld's Bayern in the Volksparkstadion. The game was tied at 0-0 until the league's top scorer Sergej Barbarez knocked in a header for the home side. As things stood, Schalke would champions for the first time since 1958. With fans of the Gelsenkirchen team swarming onto the pitch in celebration, they turned around to see Bayern's last chance on the jumbotron screen.
False information had filtered through the stands. They weren't champions yet. In fact, they weren't champions at all. In the fourth minute of added on time, an in-direct free kick had been awarded to Die Roten. Set by Stefan Effenberg and struck by Patrik Andersson, Bayern finished top of the table once again.
In comparison to next season, all likelihood is that Bayern will win again. However, if history is anything to go by, they might not. Since '01, there has been four times where Schalke have finished runner-up to Bayern. On three of those occasions, the Bavarian club have failed to win the title the year after. Could next term make that stat four out of five? Schalke will hope so.
However, if they take a look at who won Meisterschale the last time Bayern didn't, then they'd see the name of arch rivals Borussia Dortmund. It really is win or bust for Die Knappen.
Back on the shores of England...actuallyWales, Liverpool and Arsenal were to do battle in the FA Cup final. With Wembley under development, it was the Millennium Stadium of Cardiff that would host the final of our game's oldest cup competition. It was a match in which Arsenal would bludgeon Liverpool, but fail to win. Early on in the game Thierry Henry rounded Sander Westerveld and saw his goal bound shot blocked by the arm of defender Stephane Henchoz. The referee did not.
Ashley Cole and Freddie Ljungberg saw chances cleared off the line, before the latter did eventually break the deadlock. Then Michael Owen happened. Two goals in five minutes, the first was a reactive rebound from a scrappy set-piece. The second was anything but. Racing on to a Patrick Berger clearance-cum-through ball, Owen sent Tony Adam's for a spin and lashed a shot across David Seaman. A classic smash and grab job.
Could the Reds complete another FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League treble this term to replicate 2000/01? It's more likely they've got their signs set on the Premier League. Either way, they've spent enough to compete.
As for the Champions League final, Bayern beat Valencia 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, of which both goals were spot-kicks. With VAR a major part of the World Cup, could it be the centre of attention in next year's European showpiece finale? Ronaldo's transfer to Juve and the rising star of Kylian Mbappe mean the tournament is all up for grabs.
Just don't let Real Madrid win it again.