Catching Up On A Season Lost

A Retro Romp Through 2003/04

Though I consider myself an avid football fan I missed the entirety of the 2003/04 season. There is no sinister subplot here, no coma or jail time. While living abroad NBA and MLB were just more interesting.

During the fall of 2017 I rectified this oversight and plugged some holes in my football memory. The result were fourteen podcast episodes and some four and a half hours for your enjoyment. Here’s the rundown of the matches and links to all of the episodes.

Almost missed out on this guy too; the horror. (Photo: Darz Mol. CC-BY-SA)

An early look at Spain’s leading trio

In the summer of 2003 a bucktoothed Brazilian took Barcelona by storm. His name: Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, or rather just Ronaldinho. We took a look at his home debut for Blaugrana, taking on Sevilla. In the same summer David Beckham had joined the Galacticos party at Real Madrid. Los Blancos had already picked up their first silverware of the season (the Spanish Super Cup) and were hosting Valladolid on the third matchday of the season. Threatening to break up the eternal duo were Los Che. With Rafa Benitez on the sidelines Valencia had claimed La Liga in 2001/02. In Europe too they had come mighty close… What would 2003/04 hold in store? Their match against Atlético gave us an early taste.

Then from Italy…

The Champions League final of 2002/03 had seen Milan take on Juventus. The latter had to do without the mercurial Pavel Nedved on the day. And it showed. Bereft of much attacking threat Juve limped into a penalty shootout which they lost. For the rematch in Serie A the following autumn Nedved had some demons to exorcise.

There were days in the early aughts when Thierry Henry was simply unstoppable. Unfortunately for Internazionale November 25th 2003 was such a day. The Invincibles were guests at San Siro that day but while their domestic campaign was taking off, Europe seemed elusive. On the fifth Champions League matchday a win was needed to survive in the competition. Luckily for the Gunners they had Henry.

…to England

The Ghost of Christmas Past brought us a boxing day meeting of Manchester United and Everton. While the hosts fielded talents such as David Bellion, Quinton Fortune and Eric Djemba-Djemba, Everton relied on the steel of Thomas Gravesen and Duncan Ferguson. Oh and each side boasted a future all-time great. It’s Cristiano Ronaldo running into Wayne Rooney for the first time. They tussled and they fought; but did Everton pull of a christmas miracle at Old Trafford? Humbug they did.

These days not much separates Tottenham and Manchester City. The same could be said for the early aughts, only with a vastly different level of play. A lot of hoofball on display then in this FA Cup Fourth Round Replay. The hosts have already claimed a decisive lead when City’s Joey Barton gets himself sent off shortly before half time. Surely it would be smooth sailing for Spurs after the break?

A glimpse into the future

As they meet in February 2004 PSV and Ajax are tied for first place. PSV are the reigning champions, in large part thanks to Mateja Kezman. Ajax boast a side rivalling their mid-90s team in sheer talent. This match features seven players who would go on to play in the World Cup final 2010.

Two unlikely finalists, guaranteed maiden winners, and a battle of wits between Sam Allardyce and Steve McClaren: The League Cup final 2004 had it all! While this match features a trio of future England managers (Gareth Southgate being the third), both sides also field a World Cup winner. Youri Djorkaeff laced his boots for Bolton. Juninho Paulista took to the field for Boro. Lots more “Ah, totally forgot about him!”s await you in this episode.

Jose leaves his card

United were in a sorry state in early 2004. Well, if you go off their usual standard. Rio Ferdinand had been handed an 8-month ban for missing a drug test. Missing their defensive lychpin United could hardly keep a clean sheet. At Porto, for the first leg of a CL R16 encounter, they even lost 1:2. What’s more, Roy Keane was sent off in the closing moments for stamping on Porto’s goalie Vitor Baia. In the return leg heartbreak for the United faithful, though, arrived only late.

Lads, it’s Rostock

There used to be a time when it was not just a question of when but if Bayern would win the Bundesliga. In 2004 they indeed could not keep up with the offensive juggernaut that was Werder Bremen. Sadly we could not find a meeting of the two top clubs from 03/04. We did, however, find a visit of Hansa Rostock to Munich’s Olympic Stadium. The match depicts fairly well what this Bayern side was about. Because even though they were up 2:0 after just a few minutes, the match was far from over.

Under the watchful eyes of Jose Mourinho did Chelsea host Monaco for the return leg of their Champions League semi-final encounter. Porto had booked their place in the final just the day before. For Mourinho, though, the trip to the Bridge was as much opposition scouting as it was surveying his soon to be battleground. After their 1:3 loss in the first leg Chelsea’s manager Claudio Ranieri was a sitting duck. And Jose Mourinho his designated successor. The only question was, would they meet in Schalke before season’s end?

A quick trip to South America

For the penultimate episode in the series we ventured out into the world, away from Europe. What better port to head for than Buenos Aires where Boca Juniors are hosting River Plate. With only two points separating the sides the fierce Superclásico might be a title-decider. And it features future greats Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano!

Having started in Spain we brought it full circle as newly crowned La Liga champions Valencia take on Marseille in the Uefa Cup final. The French side built around Didier Drogba finished a lowly seventh in their domestic league but overcame strong opponents to reach Gothenburg. Would their international exploits continue or would Valencia pick up the doblete?

The playlist in full: