[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] The round of 16 starts Tuesday so we're tracking player movement, acknowledging the fact Paris Saint-Germain's money is paying dividends and wondering out loud if soccer broadcasts in America will ever be the same after Wednesday.
Old faces in new places: Chelsea can’t repeat, but Didier Drogba can now that he’s at Galatasaray with Wesley Sneijder. Schalke 04 has Michel Bastos on loan from Lyon, Nuri Sahin returned to Borussia Dortmund, while Nicolas Anelka and Federico Peluso joined Juventus. Diego Lopez from Sevilla is in goal for the injured Iker Casillas at Real Madrid and Brazilian star Lucas Moura, who cost $54 million, finally arrived at PSG, as did David Beckham, who donates that amount before breakfast.
Potential dark horse Shakhtar Donetsk lost that designation when it drew a red-hot Dortmund, then succumbed to Anzhi Makhachkala’s lavish $48 million transfer offer for Willian, a member of our group stage Best XI.
Return on investment: The cash PSG was tossing around the last couple years felt wasteful, vulgar even, turning laughable as it struggled early. But the Parisian team won its UCL group by conceding the fewest goals in the tournament and is now alone atop France after 10 wins and one draw during its last 11 games in all competitions --- PSG isn’t struggling anymore.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 20 goals in his 20 Ligue 1 games while his 5 assists are the most in the UCL. Lucas, at 20, adds attacking verve and although a certain camera-friendly MLS champion may find it hard to crack PSG’s loaded midfield, simply having Beckham’s legendary right foot to call upon is an enviable luxury. With Valencia up next, the City of Light may be toasting the last laugh.
March Madness in February: On Wednesday, Manchester United at Real Madrid becomes the first Champions League game ever called by uber enthusiastic play-by-play man Gus Johnson, famous for his over-the-top delivery on NCAA men’s basketball for CBS.
Johnson, who has limited soccer experience, is the voice of a bold new experiment by Fox Sports that includes the final at Wembley, and could end with his voice spilling into your living room during the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which Fox owns the U.S. broadcast rights to. Destined to be a home run, or a train wreck, one thing Johnson has never been is boring.