by Thad Chapman Brown for World Football Commentaries
This is a humorous commentary on the current Papal Conclave in Rome. The Italians use the term, Papabili, to denote the favorites to become the next Pope. I would like to thank Thad for this highly creative, entertaining and informative article. All images are courtesy of Thad Chapman Brown.
The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign sets the stage for a frantic transfer battle to find a new pontiff. Here are a few of the moves likely over the next few months.
Cardinal Angelo Scola, A.C. Milan
The 71-year-old son of a truck driver is widely considered the most likely transfer target to sit on the Chair of Saint Peter. Pope Benedict XVI started him as an attacking midfielder in Milan, and he was instrumental in the buildup to some of Benedict’s most spectacular goals. With only a €10 million transfer clause in his current contract, the Rossoneri standout is easily in the price range for the Holy See. Serie A experience would point to an easy transition to the game as played in Rome.
Two main concerns: At 71, he’s a little old even for Milan. And rumor has it that Roman Abramovitch considers him a more technical version of Michael Essien, so do not rule out an exit to London.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Juventus
The rock solid central defender came through the youth system at the Pontifical Council and has anchored the defense at the Old Lady as captain for nearly a decade. A proven voice in the dressing room, keeping the other cardinals mentally sharp on match day. However, there are off-pulpit concerns. The Juve star has been known to over-consecrate the Blood of Christ, consume the excess, and create controversy via social media. He once tweeted that John Paul II couldn’t get past him with five seraphim and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Has an excellent relationship with Vatican Secretary of State (and Juve stopper) Cardinal Gianluigi Buffon, which might sway some of the undecideds in the conclave. Ravasi has three years left on his contract, so he will not come cheap.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Atletico Madrid
Pope Benedict XVI with Atletico Madrid
Rodriguez set records for baptisms while at Aguila in the Honduran top flight, and is without question the finest player to emerge from that Central American country. Can play as a holding midfielder, screening for the two center prelates, or attacking on the left in a 4-2-3-1, however he has a weak right foot when giving communion. A hard working but limited defender when asked to track back, he needs a strong cardinal at left back to cover for him. Only a year left on his contract, and Atletico is resigned to losing him to a club expecting consistent Champions League exorcisms.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Arsenal
At only 67, another of Arsene Wenger’s stunning youth discoveries. The Arsenal skipper spotted the right side attacker hearing confession on the sideline of a gravel pitch in Strasbourg. Preaches far beyond his years, and cracked the first team in a League Cup tie against Sikhism while a coltish 61. Has all of the technical ability in the world, on the youth team he helped other players decline irregular Latin nouns, and demonstrated a real flair for the ablative. Has the skill and finishing to move to the center of the pitch, keeping in mind what Wenger did with youthful wingers Thierry Henry and Boniface II.
Chose not to renew his contract in the summer, showing possible intent for a move somewhere with more silverware. Two concerns are his inability to break into the national side at Notre Dame and a slight build, which might raise injury concerns in the rough and tumble Vatican. If he does not become the Vicar of Christ, the usual suspects, City and United, seem likely to swoop in with big bids over the summer.
Christoph Schönborn, Shalke 04
Odds on successor to Germany captain Philip Lahm, and to Karl Lehman as the bishop of Mainz. Versatile enough to play anywhere along the back four, his perfect pitch allows him to chant with the best of them in midfield when needed. Nicknamed ‘Die Excommunicator’ for his hard-tackling style, he still has the pace and skill to overlap an archbishop on attack, though his crossing could improve. Came through the Shalke youth system and has been loyal to the team, but has to be considering a bigger stage at the point in his career.
Has clashed with the team chairman over loosening restrictions on divorce, and Shalke languish tenth in the table, with even a berth in the Europa League unlikely. Has shown a bit of a mercurial personality, so don’t rule out a shock move, either to rivals Bayern Munich or the Archdiocese of Freiburg.
Jaime Ortega, Ajax
Another Surinamese phenom to come out of Holland. Discovered by the youth director at AZ Alkmaar, discouraging the use of birth control while still only 58. Classic Dutch left winger, using blinding speed along the touchline to get behind defenders. Once finished a sermon in 12 minutes. Would be a stronger candidate but for two things. Had a terrible 2012 European Cup campaign, with Arjen Robben reportedly refusing to let him touch his thurible. Second, a typically independent-minded Dutch priest, there have been rumors of indiscretions with Calvinism.
If the Holy See pass on him, look for a €25 million move out of the Eredivisie in the summer, with Barcelona a likely destination for a player with Ortega’s technical skill and upside.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Paris Saint-Germain
A wild card choice, to be sure, but once they get in that conclave who knows what might happen. Arinze came out of nowhere to lead Bastia from Ligue 2 into the top division, netting a division high 31 goals in the campaign. He then attracted a stunning €19 million offer from the new Qatari ownership at PSG, showing either profligacy or an unlikely religious awakening for the Gulf nation. No less a critic than Eric Cantona, after seeing him play only one game, told L’Equipe that Arinze was ‘Half Samuel Eto’o and half Pius XI.’
The only true No. 9 in contention for the pontificate, there is some concern he is more of a flair cardinal and might not take well to more mundane administrative matters at the Vatican. Uses his strong body to hold the ball against Protestant center backs, and passes deftly when support arrives. Has not been tested at the highest level, and the other cardinals might want to see him at a more competitive cathedral for a few years.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, River Plate
The only bright spot in years of disappointment for Los Millionarios, the Buenos Aires club would sorely miss his cerebral encyclicals along with his classic Argentine playmaking. His close dribbling skills while in the confines of the confessional box are legendary, and even in the rough and tumble Primera it is not unusual for him to finish a match with vestments still spotless. One note of caution is his inability to prosper during two trips to Spain, once for Valencia and a second time with a synod near Getafe.
Was pedestrian at best during a disappointing 2011 Copa America for Argentina, spending most of his time on the bench reading Thomas Aquinas. With Juan Ramon Riquelme retiring from national football, he may prosper moving to his natural position as a No. 10, and Leo Messi still called him, ‘The only priest I could work with other than Xavi.’ Prying him away from River Plate would be a shrewd money move for God’s representatives on earth.
Editor's Note: The new Holy Father is actually a member of San Lorenzo.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Manchester City
A second wild card potential pontiff out of Africa, Turkson has yet to find his roll in Roberto Mancini’s rotation. Gifted beyond belief, equally adept with the ball on either foot, and he sees the field like he has St. Peter himself on his shoulder. But he has yet to produce consistently over a single season. The Abu Dhabi ownership splashed out €30 million for the player after seeing him convert a single family of Methodists in Lyon. But he has had a hard time breaking into the crowded City midfield, and in the January transfer window there were rumors of a loan deal to Muslim side, Galatasaray.
Wage demands of 100,000 per week and a well known distaste for the Eastern Orthodox church scuttled the deal. Both the player and the club might think a change of scenery is in order. Strong support form other African bishops who see in Turkson both strong doctrinal leadership and the ability to win back the ball in the middle third of the pitch.
Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, Porto
Surprisingly, the only Brazilian in contention for the big prize, Scherer is the kind of flamboyant, goal-scoring, marauding right back only his country can produce. He has been known to admonish minor sins to the tune of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ and once called the Book of Luke ‘A real bossa-nova of a Gospel.’ He preached his way through the youth system of his home town Curitiba club, then dazzled in the pulpit at top flight Santos before moving across the Atlantic to shine at Porto.
He is clearly ready for a bigger stage, though there are concerns that the 2014 world cup, staged in Brazil, could be a distraction. The 61-year-old would bring youthful exuberance, samba king flair, and pinpoint crossing to the Vatican, along side top flight scholarship on the Council of Trent. Real Madrid are also said to be suitors.
Lonely Planet Tour of Rome
About the Author
Thad Chapman Brown is a professional author, an unprofessional photographer and musician, and an enthusiastic traveler to anyplace he can think of and afford. His first book of fiction, a crime novel about two college friends who meet later in life with tragic/comic results, will be available soon from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and smashwords. Chad has extensive experience writing about music, technology, digital media, and the various ways in which those things intersect. Even so, he is happy to write about goulash or yak trekking, or reviewing movies if that’s the gig.
You can follow Thad @thad_brown on Twitter and please take a look at his Amazon profile page. Please visit his website to learn more about his work.
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