Football is cruel

In the end all you could see was the pain on his face. After 90 minutes for it to end that way was something he never even thought would happen in his worst nightmares. As he scanned the crowd he tried to disguise the emotions but it was impossible.

Like a man who got up in the middle of the night to answer a phone call that could only be bad news, and who stood on an upturned plug on the way. Despair etched into his features like a full-faced tattoo of grief. The light gone from his eyes, never to return because on the biggest stage of them all, with millions watching, this had happened.

It was hard to even begin to comprehend why. What had he done to deserve this? He just wanted the ground to open up and swallow him but there’s never a random, isolated sinkhole just when you need one. All those eyes on him, watching, judging, laughing, mocking.

He thought back to moments where he knew he could have done better but that made his heart ache so badly he thought he might pass out. All he could hear was the rhythm of it, each beat like a thrash from a leather belt across his back. All of him hurt. His mind, his body, his very soul – as if he had done a deal with Satan in a previous life for something good and this was the payoff in this one.

Couldn’t the cameras point somewhere else? Look at those players over there celebrating, cavorting, filled with joy at the achievement of winning three in a row. Please, they could just leave him alone, let him get on with what was left of his life now. But no, Steadicam Steve held his equipment pointed directly at that face which told you so much without even a single word being spoken.

One day he might get over it. One day he might forget, or be allowed to forget. One day even the vaguest memory of it wouldn’t make his entire body burn with anguish and desolation. One day he might be able to speak of a heartbreak so profound it could only be expressed through a performance: a recital in which the people who came to view it could fully understand his woe because they would be close to it as the essence of it oozed from every pore.

One day he might forget that he was robbed of the chance to score the fourth goal in a Champions League final then take off his shirt, flex his muscles, and celebrate like this was a game he won single-handedly. Not now though.

Now is too soon.

Poor old Loris Karius though, eh? That’s a night he’ll want to forget as quickly as possible, and it means that along with us Liverpool will surely be browsing through the Market of Goalkeepers this summer. I like to think of it as a kind of flea market but with keepers on plinths making provocative and sultry movements to attract buyers, but however you picture it yourself is fine.

I tweeted this last night about Sergio Ramos:

Some people thought it was a criticism. Which, in fairness, it is a bit. I thought his foul on Salah was hugely cynical, he knew what he was doing even if he didn’t necessarily mean to damage him that badly. But at the same time he was prepared to make the foul knowing it might well hurt his opponent.

Anyone who has watched him and his career and his 312 red cards of whatever it is has to recognise that he’s a great player but also quite a bit of a bastard. And when I tweeted that it was part criticism, but also in some ways admiration for his absolute and unflinching commitment to being the biggest bollix he can possibly be at all times in the name of winning football games.

I wrote last week about Arsenal needing to be a bit more robust, and even one of his toes would increase our bastard-quotient by a significant amount. I did feel for Mo Salah though, after what was an amazing his season it ended in a terrible way and I hope he’s ok for the World Cup.

The injury inflicted on him weakened Liverpool considerably as an attacking force, again part of Ramos’s thinking I’m sure, and when your keeper has a night like that on top of it all you’ve got no chance.

Not a lot of Arsenal stuff going on this morning, but thanks to everyone who pointed me in the direction of this interview with new head coach Unai Emery. Well worth a read this morning if you’ve got a few minutes.

Have a great Sunday, more tomorrow.