2012/13 was my last season as an "official" Manchester United fan. It had nothing to do with Sir Alex Ferguson retiring, I'd just grown bored of football in general. I'm now back to caring but my attention lies elsewhere and in multiple places. These are the teams that keep me interested.
Sporting Club de Portugal (NOT Sporting Lisbon)
My new official team. I watched them play Olympiakos in the Champions League in November 2017 while I was on holiday and it was an incredibly chilled atmosphere. There was the expected buzz but no nastiness or hostility. And Sporting won! The club is going through a transition period after a number of their star players handed in their resignations, including #1 Rui Patricio, who left for Wolves on a free transfer. Manager Jorge Jesus, who left for the Al-Hilal job, was replaced by Siniša Mihajlović and I have no idea how that's going to go. But we shall see.
As a joke, I proclaimed myself a Leicester City fan when they were coasting in their Football League Championship winning season in 2013/14. I could barely name two players in the team. I got serious in 14/15 when they were close to relegation and pulled off the great escape and managed to name about 5 players. The season after was stuff of legend. Leicester City becoming Premier League champions after kissing the bottom of the league only 18 months before is the stuff of legend and just what the championship needed. I can probably name 11 players now.
The next few teams hold some form of sentimental value because that's what football is really about, right? I have been to Nice twice on holiday and it is easily one of my favourite cities in the world. They currently lead Ligue 1 and they've managed to turn stagnant water to Italian wine in the form of Mario Balotelli, who has 7 goals in 8 games for the Côte d'Azur side. Fingers crossed they can hold on for the title.
A Championship Manager challenge and subsequent domination of the world lead to my attachment to the German club. It was particularly exciting to watch them beat relegation from the Bundesliga on the last day of the 2012/13 season. They've gone from strength to strength since and recently recorded a 1-1 draw with the champions Bayern Munich.
This is a recent following and an excuse to watch Serie A again after a lengthy absence. Like many my age, I miss Football Italia with its goosebump-inducing intro and James Richardson's gradual loss of hair. More importantly, it was an opportunity for the British masses to experience a top flight league on terrestrial television. Live Italian football on Channel 4 on a Sunday afternoon? * Roast chicken and gravy can wait.
Espanyol's inclusion in this list might seem petty but hear me out. Barcelona is my favourite city in the world. Granted I've only been once but the Catalan experience was enough to change my life. I was lucky enough to do an open top bus tour of the city and visit El Camp Nou, the venue of The Greatest Champions League Final Of All Time (suck it, Liverpool fans). I even bought a shirt a size smaller than me because it was the only one available. Real Madrid's smug exterior and history involving General Franco meant Barça were my go-to top team outside of England. But that didn't stop them from courting controversy of their own. When Leo Messi was in court for tax evasion, his club stood by him as you'd expect from major corporation. Except their support left a bitter taste in many mouths, including my own. They launched a hashtag - #WeAreAllLeoMessi - oblivious to the idiocy of showing solidarity for a subsequently convicted tax evader. Or perhaps they were being honest about their own actions (I'll leave the conspiracy theories to Mourinho). Either way, that turned me off the club as superficial as my support for them was in the first place. The affiliation was therefore ropey at best so my eye turned to their rival club, Espanyol. This catered to two elements of my new footballing experience: they're underdogs and their home
is was Spain's Olympic stadium and I love the Olympics.