Soccer team of the year?…APOEL Nicosia
Yes World, European and Spanish champions Barca have been brilliant and in time we may say they were the greatest ever club side to play the game.
But given they have Lionel Messi — who also in time may be viewed as the world’s greatest ever player — the biggest stadium in Europe, vast finances, the bedrock of the team of world champions Spain and an organisation which calls itself “more than a club”, Barca should be one of the world’s top teams.
They ought to have won more than their four European Cups, three of which have come in the last five years. Barca are also not actually top of La Liga at the mid-season break with Real Madrid three points ahead.
APOEL Nicosia meanwhile have no high expectations.
APOEL weren’t even Cypriot champions in 2010 and had to battle past three other Nicosia sides — that is a lot of derbies — to win the national championship in May.
They were then thrilled just to make the Champions League group stages after three rounds of qualifiers.
For such a small side from a tiny footballing nation to not only make the Champions League last 16 but to top their group was nothing short of a miracle, especially as they finished ahead of twice European champions Porto and former UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The first Cypriot team to reach the knockout stages have no big name players, just an immense will to win and a hugely strong team bond.
Don’t expect them to roll over against inconsistent Olympique Lyon in February’s last 16 either. They could easily pull off another surprise and thus deserve to be up there with Barca as a team of the year.
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