The Multiverse theory suggests the existence of countless alternative universes, where every decision leads to another branch of new universes with the opposite outcomes happening. This notion indicates that anything that we can think of could actually materialize in a new alternative universe, even if in the one we exist, it doesn’t.
In this article we are going to have a short glimpse into one of those innumerable universes, where the possibilities, which may seem as thin as a micron in our own, can materialize into solid reality.
2021: Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two Spanish giants of football which have been entangled in an epic clash for dominance since the dawn of football time, are mere shadows of themselves. The two powerhouses, which dominated European football for the majority of the past two decades are now two trembling candles instead of the flame-throwers they used to be. How did that happen...
For Barcelona it looked like an ever going downhill run from the moment of their golden 2015 in which they won as many as 5 trophies, through their shameful eliminations from the UCL in the consecutive years and the scandalous actions of their board, which all but lead to the departure of their G.O.A.T.
For Real Madrid it was a sudden cold shower in the form of their greatest goal scorer announcing his departure from the club, after the triumphant night in Kiev. It was like a slap in the face which left the team’s ears ringing for the next 3 years. Depriving the team of their weapon in attack, Real Madrid was left struggling to score goals and spinning in a downward spiral of coach changes. Even the return of Zinedine Zidane and the purchase of new players couldn’t improve their toothless attack.
The rivalry between the two giants, which used to be so electrifying and enticing turned into a casual bar-fight as compared to the world war it represented in previous editions among fans, as well as players, coaches, presidents and everyone else involved. The interest was fading away just as the individual rivalry had disappeared with the removal of one of the components. Even Messi seemed less interested and motivated to show himself failing to contribute in the Clasico ever since Ronaldo’s departure. Everything seemed so …calm.
Calm…Could that be the calm before the storm? Was it just the moment of tranquility before the hurricane in the making hits the scene full scale? Was it the point of clear sky above, with the clouds grouping in their numbers from all sides and forming a solid wall of greyness, tightening around the observer?
The indications were present. The first sign was the return of Laporta as president in Barcelona, a figure having direct relation to the most successful time for Barca in recent history. The rivalry was announced with his pre-election campaign – posting a giant poster of himself against the very heart of Real Madrid – the Bernabeu stadium. It was like a declaration of war. With his election as president, there was already one element of the storm in presence. The presidential rivalry – two of the most successful presidents of the Spanish giants were facing each other and calculating their moves.
The next element was the coaching rivalry. With both teams heading into uncertain futures, the speculations about their coaches intensified. On both sides there were obscure signals as to who will lead the teams in the upcoming season. Two names stood out as potential replacements for the present coaches. Two legendary names, who had brought countless moments of joy among the fans of the respective team, as well as countless moments of bitterness to the fans of the opposing team.
Raúl González Blanco, the legendary No 7 of Real Madrid, was making furor with the B side Castilla, having brought the youth UCL trophy to the trophy cabinet in the previous year and coming so close to promoting the team to Segunda Division, just to miss it by unfortunate concurrence of the circumstances.
On Barcelona’s side was another legendary figure, Xavi Hernandez, the mastermind and genius of a player who had been at the core of the famous tiki-taka style that destroyed teams with ease in the not so distant past. He was taking his first coaching steps and showing a lot of promise in that area too, bringing success to his team in Qatar.
While it was true that both of these managers were quite inexperienced and there was no guarantee of their success on a higher level, there was a promise of a great coaching rivalry that would add up a bit of spice to the Clasico, something that had been missing for quite some time. The kind of rivalry that Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho had previously provided.
The third element of the perfect storm was the rivalry on superstar level. With both clubs heading into a major team rebuild, the need of a corner stone for their new projects was evident. Real Madrid had long admired the promising young star of French football – Kylian Mbappe. The player had expressed his desire to play for the club too, so it looked more of a question of time when that marriage would happen.
This left little to be decided, who would be the great rival, the other superstar that would electrify the clashes between the giants with sparks jumping when their weapons met each other once the giants woke up from their sleep. Barca still had their G.O.A.T, Leo Messi, but was he really what they needed, or did they have to move on and embrace the future rather than the past? Would he still be their weapon, or was his time over? Could he be the great rival for the epic clash to come as he used to be for longer than a decade?
These questions seemed to answer themselves with the emergence of a giant on his own, the Norwegian Viking who took Europe by surprise and scored goals as if he was playing against the local amateur team, Erling Braut Haaland. Of course the competition for his signature was heavy, including Real Madrid as well, but nothing was impossible in the eyes of a man, determined to bring glory to the club he took charge of. Laporta was a resourceful man, securing a loan of 500m Euros to cover the short term danger of bankruptcy was enough of a proof of that.
The potential of this great rivalry was immense: Kylian Mbappe vs Erling Haaland, the two G.O.A.T.s of tomorrow, that would super-charge the storm bringing it across the scale of storms to the level of a hurricane. As had the rivalry between Ronaldo and Messi sustained the interest of the viewers in the past, so would the new one entertain the fans all over the world once again, inspiring kids to become footballers and chanting their favorite’s name. Surely this rivalry would push the Spanish giants to their limits and bring them back to their rightful place on top of the European football elite.
But what about Messi? Did he have to make way for a new generation and look for his happiness elsewhere? Was he really redundant in the newly forming perfect storm? Or was there something else missing…
Ronaldo. The great rival of the past. The player who was striding side by side with Messi along the hall of the greatest players ever, surpassing legends of the past and writing history with ink of goals and trophies. Where was he now? What had happened with him since his departure? Did he find what he was looking for when he walked away from his home – the Bernabeu stadium?
It seemed that the divorce with Real Madrid was just as mutually unfavorable as the marriage between the two had been mutually beneficial. The years away in Italy had only left Ronaldo frustrated. Frustrated with the lack of support, the evasive UCL glory, frustrated with himself for making a mistake and parting ways with the club, where he felt at home, perhaps. Could that be rectified? Would they embrace him back as the prodigal son that returned to his father? He was unhappy at Juventus. That much was obvious. He was not shying away from showing that publically, and the last indication of that was transporting all his fancy cars from Turin back to Madrid.
The potential of the storm was increasing, threatening to bring it beyond the level of a hurricane and turn it into an extinction level event in the scale of storms. A storm unheard of in the past, generational, even epochal. That would make the rivalry so fierce, people would talk about it long after the storm had passed away, leaving a deep trail in the football history. Five levels of legendary rivalry would unite and turn the clash into a footballing nuclear war. The legendary presidents would move the pieces on the board and wait for each other’s mistake, calculating and predicting what the other would do. The legends of the past - the coaches would bring their philosophy and vision into the teams, taking turns to outclass each other as generals in the armies clashing on the legendary battlefields of Bernabeu and Camp Nou in the Clasicos. The legends of the present would once again embrace their rivalry into their swan songs. The legends of the future would take the mantles from their "ancestors", matching each other stride for stride and march ever deeper into the hall of fame of the greatest game of all time.
Calm…The calm before the perfect storm. Would a flap of a butterfly’s wings create the necessary conditions, or would a sparrow dive from above and grab the butterfly before it can complete that final flap?