Brad Friedel was almost in tears as he sat in FOX's broadcast boost during the Champions League final last May. Chelsea had just knocked off Bayern Munich, and at the same time bumped Friedel's Tottenham out of Europe's top competition for the next season.
This was supposed to be Friedel's time to shine in the Champions League after he helped lead Spurs to a fourth-place finish in the Premier League. For the first time in his 18-year career, he was going to have an opportunity to play on the club level's biggest stage. Well, at least that's what he thought before Chelsea took England's fourth and final Champions League spot by winning in 2011-12.
You couldn't help but feel bad for Friedel then. And you can't help but feel sorry for the 41-year-old now.
Friedel's career is winding down and there's nothing wrong with Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas' decision to start planning for the future by bringing in younger goalkeepers to compete for the starting spot. But it just so turned out that Villas-Boas brought in a keeper who is expected by many to start right now by signing France international Hugo Lloris for 10 million euros.
Friedel has won the No. 1 spot and has started all four of Tottenham's Premier League games this season, but he has been in the spotlight ever since Lloris was signed on deadline day. It's been nothing but drama for Friedel, who is hoping to add to his current streak of 308 consecutive Premier League appearances. While he says he appreciates the "healthy competition," the pressure is on.
Friedel had reached the legal driving age before Lloris, 25, was born. The former MLS player was playing in England when Lloris was 10. Quite frankly, Friedel is old and Lloris is in his prime.
Lloris seems to have locked down playing time this year as he will likely play in most, if not all, cup games. Villas-Boas rested Friedel for Thursday's Europa League matchup against Lazio, and Lloris impressed by keeping a clean sheet in the scoreless draw.
"Hopefully we will have long runs in all the cup competitions so there's going to be plenty of matches to share around," Friedel told the British press earlier this week. But what if they don't?
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Friedel has made it clear that he expects to be Villas-Boas' top-choice keeper for the entire season and then he will evaluate his options next summer. If he doesn't find a place in the Premier League, the former U.S. international will likely retire instead of joining a lower league. A return to Major League Soccer - also known as the world's retirement league - is not an option.
Lloris is expecting to start sooner than later and while he's been a good sport by displaying a positive attitude, the Frenchman will begin to grow frustrated by lack of playing time. "I am in an adaptation period," he told L'Equipe after Friedel was named the starter. "I've had very few training sessions, and there are players that I didn't know. But I am expecting time on the pitch."
On Friday, French publication Le Parisien ran quotes from former Manchester United goalkeeper Fabian Barthez bashing Friedel's ability at this stage of his career and questioning Villas-Boas' decision to not start Lloris this season.
"Lloris is one of the five best goalkeepers in the world," Barthez told Le Parisien. "He is faster than Friedel, he jumps higher and he is very strong mentally.
"What is happening now is incomprehensible, but I'm not concerned. He will become the centerpiece of the club. Hugo is a calm guy, a good worker. Tottenham will not let him stay on the bench for a long time."
Just as he did after watching his Champions League dreams disappear on llive TV, Friedel responded publicly to Barthez's comments.
"Just saw barthez comments," he wrote on Twitter. "I normally don't comment on such crap but when disrespected by someone I don't respect I must.
"Barthez was ignorant, disrespectful and out of order to mention my name."
Friedel is getting more attention than he deserves. He's been a quality player for almost two decades and you can't help but feel sorry for the veteran as his career comes to a close in way he probably didn't imagine.
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