The Chronicles of Almunia: part I
Lionel Messi darted past Vermaelen, slipped the ball past Bacary Sagna and laid it off to Xavi. Messi continued his run, and Xavi found him. The Barcelona striker was one-on-one with me; Manuel Almunia. The fans held their breath. The Argentine genius feinted to shoot, and tried to go around me. I dived at his feet, and somehow managed to grab the ball without obstructing him. The crowd roared; the commentators applauded my bravery and my brilliance.
And then, I woke up. This had been one of the better dreams. Most nights I can’t sleep without seeing… him. Jens. I shudder when I hear his name spoken. In our household, he is referred to as “You-Know-Who”. I still get paranoid that one day I’ll turn up to training in my Miatta and he’ll be there, waiting for me, with those unforgiving eyes boring into my very soul. Luckily I know the boss would never do that to me. I’m not sure I’d ever recover.
I trudged downstairs to greet my pet Chihuahua, Pebbles. She would never boo me. She would never call me a liability. She would never try to sell me off to some Middle Eastern slave traffickers. Although the boss still says that was a technical error. Maybe he means the error was not going through with it.
“Here Pebbles! Come here girl!” I coo. She trots over, takes one look at my face, and walks away. *sigh*
Things aren’t going so well right now. I told myself I wouldn’t take my gloves off until I kept a clean sheet. They’re starting to give me blisters. I can’t even remember what a clean sheet feels like anymore. I don’t know what I can do to make things better.
Suddenly, inspiration hits me as I gaze into the mirror. In the corner of my eye I spot something: hair dye. Of course! A bit of my favourite L’Oréal Paris was sure to do the trick. As long as I make sure it doesn’t go in my eyes again, like before the Man United game. That was a fiasco.
I drove to the Emirates Stadium feeling a new man. This was going to be the day I turned things around. Peter Odemwingie, Jerome Thomas, Chris Brunt – you’re all mine. Even the traffic lights were going in my favour. Although the gloves made it a bit tricky to steer.
Settling down into my seat in the changing rooms, I attempted to catch the eyes of my fellow professionals. Being one of the senior, more respected members of the side I felt I had a responsibility to reassure some of the younger lads. They seemed to be avoiding eye contact with me though. Maybe they just felt insecure because they rather liked my new hair-style. Couldn’t blame them.
I listened carefully as the boss briefed me on my task ahead. He seemed concerned about the smell my gloves were giving off, but I insisted it was just a new unorthodox hand sanitizer from the rivers of Columbia. He bought it – am I that metrosexual?
Taking one final glance in the mirror, and kissing my polaroid of me and Pebbles (I’m sure she just didn’t recognise me that morning), I headed down the tunnel. It was only West Brom, and with my new hair-style I felt confident, powerful, and I knew that this time –
73 minutes later
3-0 down. SHIT.