I’m not the first to say this, but holy shit, Ted Lasso was outstanding.
I could go on and on about why – whether you’re a soccer fan or not — you should check it out if you haven’t already. Four months after it premiered back in August, though, I realize a review wouldn’t be terribly timely. But right now — when we all (hopefully) have some down time — should present a great opportunity to rip through it.
In addition to how much I enjoyed watching it, there was another benefit to watching the show in December, just as Champions League group play wrapped up: It got me thinking about which characters from the show represent which teams that are still alive in this year’s UCL.
Before we go any further, a warning: the rundown below does feature some spoilers, but nothing too plot-heavy. So, to those who haven’t treated themselves yet, first of all, what have you been doing? And second of all, (I’m still talking to those in the dark on this show) close this tab, treat yourself to a quick binge and come back to this article after you’ve treated yourself.
The characters we’ll touch on in this piece range from the hero, Ted himself, to the villain, Jamie Tartt*, to Nathan the lovable human mascot (even in a show full of characters with redeeming qualities, Nick Mohammed’s Nathan is impossible not to love).
*It’s a testament to this show’s writing, I should add, that even Tartt is at least somewhat of a sympathetic figure.
On to the comps!
AFC Richmond Manager Ted Lasso is … Bayern Munich
I can explain. Plenty of people (there’s no way I’m the only one giving this concept a ton of thought) would probably link the show’s protagonist to whoever they deem the most lovable underdog/loser still alive in the Champions League. On one hand, that would make sense, as Ted definitely is not the sharpest soccer mind.
But the guy is a force of nature anyway. He wins over everyone he comes across, no matter the obstacles in his way. You know who else overcomes everything in its path, in impossible-to-ignore fashion? You guessed it, the German juggernaut.
I also like this parallel because Bayern winning the UCl is seemingly inevitable, and so is the likelihood that you’ll love this guy, and this show. I feel confident this show will hook you no matter your thoughts on soccer, or the NBC commercials from a few years ago that inspired this masterpiece.
High-maintenance star striker Jamie Tartt is … Manchester City
I didn’t get overly creative on this one — Tartt is, after all, a loanee from none other than Manchester City. He’s an exceedingly difficult guy to like early in the series, as he checks every box when I think, “douche bag:” mean to people for no reason, too handsome, selfish on the field, and way too in love with himself.
Is that a personification of Tartt’s eventual home in season one of this series or what? But we get to know Tartt better as the season progresses. By season’s end, we’ve learned that growing up, Tart was treated pretty awful by his dad, which created the unlikable teammate we meet in the pilot. One could also argue (though this site’s editor might not agree, and I wouldn’t either) that it’s not Manchester City the club’s fault it is owned by an unsavory group of wealthy investors from the UAE.
Sweetheart kit man Nathan is … Atalanta??
Which team that has reached the Champions League round of 16 could be described as unbelievably sweet, and also a hell of a lot more imposing than people think. I’m stumped on the unbelievably sweet and sympathetic part — none of these teams truly lack funding, and “unbelievably sweet” isn’t the biggest compliment for anyone in a competitive environment — but I guess it’s gotta be Atalanta.
Here’s my case for Nathan as the Serie A darlings: when we (or at least most of us) were introduced to them, Atalanta were a total wild card from Italy with no players that we could name — or at least no household names. When we meet Nathan, he’s a deferential equipment manager who gets treated with dignity by hardly anyone other than Ted Lasso. By the second half of the season, there’s no denying the soccer — and management — acumen that Nate brings to the table. And while it wasn’t that long ago that Atalanta was an unknown outsider, nobody who knows European soccer underestimates them, even if they still lack star power.
Grouchy veteran Roy Kent is … Atletico Madrid
Grumpy disposition? Check. Pedigree as a proven commodity? Check. Strangely likeable?? (at least right now) Check — though I realize Atleti isn’t for everyone. Roy Kent appears to be nothing more than a salty veteran who’s lost a step (or three) in the pilot. He doesn’t get along with Tartt, but doesn’t appear to be a hell of a lot nicer than his young nemesis.
But — as with every character on this show — there’s a lot more to him than we initially perceive. He’s a great uncle to his niece (and clearly a softie under that gruff exterior). Work ethic and grit are also huge aspects of who he is and why he’s enjoyed some success. Am I calling Atleti a surprisingly good uncle to an adorable niece? Yeahhh, no — I have no idea what kind of uncle this team would be — but work with me here.
Lastly, as we get to know Roy Kent, we like him more than we first thought possible, not unlike Atleti this season. In terms of style of play, if nothing else, Atleti is now a hell of a lot more entertaining, if not infinitely more likable (thanks to Joao Felix) than they were in August — just like Roy Kent!
Also, Kent gives off some serious Luis Suarez vibes, doesn’t he? Despite his age, the 33-year-old Uruguayan is fitting in well in the Spanish capital after years playing for Barcelona. Seven goals and an assist in nine La Liga starts so far this year is incredibly impressive, regardless of how you feel about Suarez. Here’s to hoping that there’s plenty more to come from both Roy Kent (in future seasons of Ted Lasso) and Suarez this year — and maybe beyond??
Sassy WAG Keeley Jones is … Manchester United*
Juno Temple is excellent as Keeley Jones, who dates Tartt in the early episodes before moving on to one of his teammates — I don’t want to spoil too much here. I compare her to ManU because about midway through the series, she describes herself as “famous for being almost famous.” In December of 2020, is there a better way to summarize the Red Devils? I think not. It was this line that got my wheels turning on which UCL teams this show’s characters embodied.
*Here’s the exception to my “only teams in the round of 16 were considered for this piece” rule.