It was all good just a year ago. 2012 was the first year in 13 that Olympique Lyonnais failed to qualify for the Champions League, missing out on the money and spotlight that European competition brings. In truth, the rot had already set in. Lyon hasn't won the league since 2008, its finances — including yearly turnover, income from player sales, ticketing, and merchandising revenues — have steadily decreased generally from year to year while its payroll and incoming transfer fees, spent trying to right le proverbial bateau, have soared.
But that's just the men's team. Olympique Lyonnais Feminin are world-beaters.
If 2008 was the onset of the men's decline and fall, it was also the year that the Lyon women began to win, to win everything; ecstatically, beatifically, and at a near-comedic rate. Though the club had seen success as top-flight champions since the early 1990s, 2008 saw the coming-together of the team that, today, might very well be the best side — club or national — in the world.
Here's a video of Lionel Messi scoring 86 goals in the year of our Maradona, 2012, breaking Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals for club and country in a calendar year.
It's hard to pick just one. There was the cheeky chip against Valencia, a shooting-star free kick against Atletico Madrid, the time he froze the Bayer Leverkusen backline in carbonite like a bunch of German Han Solos, and when he invented the geometry of the future against Granada. I liked when he backed a pickup truck into a compact parking spot on the roof of Zaragoza's keeper's garage, and when he made Philippe Senderos look like Lennie from Of Mice and Men against Switzerland. I loved the free kicks against Uruguay and Real Madrid, and the snapshot against Deportivo La Coruña. Nobody's better at their chosen sport than Lionel Messi is at football, right now. Watching him score 86 goals, either during the games, or in YouTube compilations, for Barcelona or for Argentina, was one of the greatest gifts we received this year. He'll be justly rewarded for these accomplishments with trophies and silverware, but I just wanted to give him my thanks. Watching him play is one of the best things I did with my time this year. — Chris Ryan
Football has returned, as if it ever really went away. In this week’s pod, Michael and Roger welcome the return of the English Premier League like an old friend. A friend that always makes you pay for drinks, sleeps with your wife, and reverses its Hummer over your dog. But still, somehow, the love endures.
The opening weekend was as unpredictable as the Blazered Men predicted. Roger’s beloved Everton spoiled the debut of Robin Van Persie in a tartan Manchester United kit, Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers wished he was still in Wales, and Tottenham’s loss to Newcastle proved Andres Villas-Boas’s project was still alive and well. But all this is really just the appetizer to the pod’s main course. Inspired by Augusta, the Men in Blazers are joined by their first Lady Friend of the Pod. Fresh off the Olympics, U.S. Soccer’s Megan Rapinoe drops by to offer her thoughts on crazy goalkeepers, Sir Ian Darke, and the fate of women’s professional soccer leagues.
My man Daniel G., inventor of Saber-Medal-Trics — a system that uses SI's comprehensive medal predictions to evaluate current results and project the final tally — e-mailed me with the good news that Tuesday was a watershed day for the Americans. We're now on pace to win one more gold medal than Sports Illustrated projected and seven more overall, while China is on pace to win one gold fewer than projected, and seven fewer overall. Here's the updated projection for the final tally:
U.S.: 43 Golds, 106 Total China: 41 Golds, 90 Total
It's now looking like a certainty that the Americans will win the overall count, and the only drama left is the race for golds.