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There is an interesting effect that is often studied as part of the Chaos Theory in mathematics and mechanics known as "The Butterfly Effect". In simple terms, it refers to how small, insignificant events and seemingly unrelated occurrences can have a big impact on the world.
While virtually impossible to prove scientifically, the Chaos Theory can be applied to anything and any aspect of life. Therefore, here are some examples of this Butterfly effect in football;
small events that might seem insignificant but ended up changing football history in one way or another. But how would football be different today if these particular events had not occurred exactly as they did?
1) RONALDO IS A BARCELONA LEGEND?
It is 2003. Manchester United sold Beckham to Real Madrid. United want to replace him with then Leeds player, Harry Kewell. Kewell however rejects the offer in favour of Liverpool because he wants to play for a team that is "on the up". United are left scrambling for a player to replace the legendary David Beckham. In a desperate transfer, but one that Sir Alex wants, they settled for a virtually unknown young player from Portugal called Cristiano Ronaldo. The rest, as they say, is history.
Kewell agrees to sign for Manchester United and the club has no need for any more players. Meanwhile, Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal all have shown interest in signing Ronaldo. Let us examine simply one possibility, perhaps the most fascinating one. With the United bid no longer on the table, he opts to play for Barcelona. He becomes teammates with a young Lionel Messi a few years later. He wins the UCL final against Manchester United in Rome and so, he never joins Real Madrid. The Galácticos never happen and the world is denied the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry.
But a simple refusal by an insignificant player in this narrative changed all that.
If one goes even further into this strange transfer transfer saga, it goes. much deeper. In Barcelona, Joan Laporta had been elected as a president for the first time and part of his campaign was the promise of signing David Beckham from Manchester United. However, Madrid were successful in the transfer and as a result Barcelona signed Ronaldinho whose style was considered "too ugly" to play for Real Madrid. Seems slightly ironic in hindsight
However, both these events set off a golden age for both Barcelona and Manchester United and eventually even Real Madrid.
2) ZIDANE NEVER HEADBUTTED MATERAZZI?
The year is 2006, the date July 9. It's the World Cup final in Berlin, and it's an all European affair between France and Italy. The match is tied at 1-1 in extra time. In the 104th minute, Willy Sagnol crosses the ball into the path of Zinadine Zidane. In the 1998 World Cup he had scored two headers to give France the World Cup. However, in this particular match, Zidane's powerful header is met by an incredible save by Italian goalkeeper Buffon. Moments later, Zidane is sent off with a straight red card for head butting Materazzi's chest. That match was Zidane's last professional game. With Zidane out, the game goes to penalties and Italy win the 2006 World Cup. Buffon is forever remembered as the best Italian goalkeeper and the footballing World will always remember the 2006 World Cup for the iconic Zidane head butt.
Willy Sagnol's cross is headed into the net by Zidane in the 104th minute. France score and win their second World Cup. Zidane does not get sent off and instead is declared the Man of the Match in his last professional game. France win their second World Cup title. In 2018, France win yet again, expect this is their 3rd title. They bypass Argentina and become the country with the third most World Cups in history.
One save changed all that.
3) LEWANDOWSKI PLAYS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN ENGLAND?
The year is 2010. Robert Lewandowski has had a great season in Poland with Lech Poznan. However he is leaving and his two possible choices are either Borussia Dortmund or Blackburn. Lewandowski's flight to Blackburn is cancelled as an Icelandic volcano erupts filling the air traffic space with ash and dust. Lewandowski ends up joining Dortmund. He plays as a super sub to Barrios for a long time. However as Barrios gets injured in the Copa America, he cements his place in Dortmund's starting XI. He ends up scoring 22 goals and wins the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal with a hat trick to his name against Bayern. Through his great performances, he catches Bayern Munich's attention and they end up signing him in 2014. He goes on to become one of the most prolific goalscorers in modern day football with him winning the Champions League and his name being considered for the Ballon d'or.
The volcano in Iceland doesn't erupt. Lewandowski flies to England on his scheduled flight and signs for Blackburn. Things don't go according to plan as Blackburn end up getting relegated to the Championship in 2012. Lewandowski doesn't attract any attention while playing in the lower division of England. He is considered a Blackburn legend and eventually retires as such.
It's crazy how a volcano all the way in Iceland can affect the fate of a man and a club in such a bizarre and random manner. Such is the hypothetical beauty of The Butterfly Effect.
It can be summed up with this quote:
“The things that change the world according to the Chaos Theory, are tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently, a strong storm ravages half of Europe.”
~ Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens