15. May Madness (or the life of Aimar Sher)
For the second half of the 23/24 season, we made something I’ve been eager to do for years already: bring unquestionable players in. Players that will unanimously bring quality to our squad. Finally, we have the guns for it. And, as we will see later at this episode, these signings proportioned plenty of entertainment, for good and bad reasons. The board put some cash into our hands and we brought the bling.
/ Transfers Out
Top quality signings
CB Felix Uduokhai
, age 26
CM Mahmoud Dahoud
, age 28
Uduokhai, a solid centre-back that unfairly completed his 26th anniversary in a club like Augsburg, where he completely annulled our strikers at the 0-0 tie in December. He had to be brought. The other stellar signing was Mahmoud Dahoud, the second Kurdish player in our squad, signed by activating his ridiculously small release clause.
GK Erol Coskun
, age 17
CB Benjamín Kuscevic
, age 27
All eyes towards Erol Coskun: he’s already at place to fight with Dani Martín for the goal-keeping spot and can become even better as he matures. The other rotation-level signing was the excellent Chilean Benjamín Kuscevic, who will fight for a spot against the well-performing Victor Nelsson.
This episode will not only be the story of Union Berlin, but also a story about the Kurdish attacking-midfielder Aimar Sher, who had been benched at his club because of the rise of two Argentineans: Tobio and Pereyra. With the arrival of Mahmoud Dahoud, Sher definitely lost his place in the Starting XI. So when Union beat Hertha and Gladbach, he came out of the bench and played some minutes.
Outshined by Tobio and Palombi, Sher hasn’t seen his name at February’s scoresheet. One of the best players during the first years of Naki, he seems more than ever to be losing space. The club was winning, and he was not a part of it. It felt like a game over. Until Europa League came by. Union needed a win after missing chances and getting no more than a draw against Villarreal and Dahoud was ineligible for the competition, as he had played in it representing Köln. The team won, but Sher played poorly and was substituted by Oriol Busquets, as Naki wanted a more defensive team for the second half.
Union finally lost another game after some more months invincible, but the main story relies on the Europa League. Playing the giants Arsenal, Union dropped another tie at home, after the Gunners opened the scoreline with an early penalty kick. In the second leg, Arsenal sat on the advantage and tried to take control of the match, fending off our advances to perfection. Until the man got his call and scored a banger at the 92nd minute of the encounter. Aimar Sher, one-nil. The fans that traveled from Berlin to London went bananas. Sher, the Kurdish midfielder, commanded by Naki, the Kurdish manager, sent Union to the quarter-finals.
Here, the story bifurcates. We overpowered Bayern
, but this is far from the main story here.
Remember Leverkusen? This is him now, feel old yet?
After finishing the first half of the season 9 points in front of anyone, Neverkusen has came back to life with their unbelievable run of 3 wins, 4 draws, and 7 defeats at the previous 14 games, blowing the league wide open. We had our wobbles ourselves, Bayern and Dortmund sketched a recovery, Frankfurt came out of nowhere to be part of a four-way title fight.
At Europa League, we had some rare opportunity to breathe by sending the sensation Midtjylland packing with two wins. At Pokal, another gutting elimination, this time at the penalty shoot-outs.
The unfold of the events of April turned May into chaos. The month would be a title decider for Bundesliga and Europa League with 6 games for a club that never played more than 3 games in May before. Leverkusen, who unbelievably fumbled the Bundesliga, had their eyes fuming for some redemption at Europa League.
And they got a tie at Olympiastadion, where the game was moved to allow Union to profit from the ticket sales. Amiri opened the scoreline, but Ovelar tied it right away. In Bundesliga, a mix of first-team and substitutes got a turn-around over Wolfsburg, enough to keep Union at the fight.
The second leg of the UEL semifinal promised more drama: the 0-0 of the first-half would put Leverkusen into the final, and Paulinho making it 1-0 for the home side turned it into an even more dramatic game for us. Fortunately, it didn’t take long until Lemperle got the equalizer that led the game to extra-time. Ovelar entered the pitch at the 69th minute, but was knocked out of the game at the 78th minute by an injury.
Aimar Sher came in.
At the 85th minute, Lemperle found Tobio open to score. The goal-keeper couldn’t deny him. But the VAR did. Offside. Only the extra-time would tell who’s the winner, and if not that, penalties. It wasn’t until Tobio found Sher at the box. He chipped the keeper, but he didn’t connect the way he should. The ball touches the keeper's left hand side post and rolls over the line. When the defenders got there to clear it, it was too late. The ball was entirely behind the line. Sher gets Union into the Europa League final.
Hungover, Union faced Dortmund the next game and was torn into pieces. Alexander Isak scored a hat-trick, Union was wrecked, but the title fight was not over, as Union managed to put their shit together at Mainz. As their recovery came too late, Dortmund and Bayern were out. It was Union against Eintracht, it all came down to this. Union needed to beat Leverkusen at home and cheer for Wolsfburg to steal points at Frankfurt, which happened. Frankfurt dropped two points at home.
But we did the same. We failed to beat Leverkusen’s defence and the 0-0 meant the Bundesliga went to Frankfurt. Eintracht Frankfurt of all people, German champions for the second time, the first since 1959.
But Union still had the Europa League final, which would be played against Tottenham. Naki’s game was simple: jam, irritate, hurt. Jam the game, irritate the opposition, hurt them when they are vulnerable. We jammed the game, as the multi-millionaire Spurs reached the sub-optimal 0.98 xG score. We irritated them, as we made them nervous and overly desperate for a goal. We hurt them, by finding an opening in a counter-attack played by Reis to Sher, to Lemperle open at the right wing, to Ovelar unmarked at the box, to the back of the net. The only goal of the game.
Union Berlin, Europa League champions.
Final Standings - Bundesliga
That was the final picture of it all. Leverkusen, from 9 points ahead the second place, to 2 points short of the UCL spot. Eintracht Frankfurt, the champions appearing out of nowhere. Union, the gutted side that almost clinched a second despite all the hiccups along the way. Dortmund and Bayern, the underperforming giants. It had it all. Not the best quality. But boy, we didn’t miss it.
The Bundesliga didn’t come this time, but a continental trophy did
. I take it.
@Jack we can indeed say that Union Berlin made things more interesting than they were, definitely
@Harleygator after the way NEVERkusen bottled it, even the AI can close some 10 points