Just as everyone was coming to terms with the tragically annual end of the domestic football season, and starting to focus their attention on the collection of novelty plastic car flags, everyone’s favorite former Chelsea manager (or indeed.. ‘person with any connections to Chelsea at all’) snapped his fingers in front of the global consciousness – like a mother to an unruly distracted child – and brought us all back down to business as he started his jibber jabber ahead of the 55th European Cup final.
Jose Mourinho’s statement that the Champions League final is now a bigger game than the World Cup final stopped a line shorter in practice than it did in his own head, where it continued “….because I’m not in the World Cup final”, but never the less reminded those of us starting to get carried helplessly into the World Cup whirlpool that we had one last bit of club football to deal with, and that it was actually, a rather important one.
There’s something a little odd about the Champions League final taking place on a Saturday. The climax of the season has always seemed to digest better with the game taking place on the Wednesday following FA Cup final weekend. There was something about the immediateness of it all that kept the juices flowing. Having a whole week to mourn the end of domestic duties seems to have let the fizz out a little, or maybe that’s just me.
Never the less, here we stand, on the threshold of crowning a new European champion, as the greatest manager who’s ever lived ™ and his merry band of corner wresting shirt bandits take on Arjen Robben and some other people. Both teams are vying for the treble. Both managers are vying for their second trophy and neither team was fancied before the start. It’s safe to say that in a topsy-turvy season, which has seen shocks across the board in all Leagues, (even if the likely outcome was eventually reached in most cases in the end) this is a fitting final.
However Maureen’s assertion that “It is even bigger than the World Cup because the teams in it are at a higher level than national teams” doesn’t quite ring true for me in this instance. I’m fairly sure Spain would thrash them both. Convincingly.
But both teams unquestionably deserve to reach this final, even if they deserve it more on the merits of knock out football than football football. The obstacles were put in their way, and they hurdled them in the best way they could. Fair cop. You can’t argue with that. The anti-game that was Barca-Inter has wrongly overshadowed a commanding performance from the Italianless Italians in the San Siro, and whilst Bayern have been on the grateful end of some shocking refereeing in the knock outs (most notably against Fiorentina where Miroslav Klose scored the first leg winner whilst being at least a day in front of play) either winner would be a worthy one.
So who will it be? Well, with the Munch(en)-back of Notre Damn suspended for the Germans, the game could well be decided in Madrid by two Madrid cast offs, who’ve been arguably the two best players in the competition this season (don’t believe the hype, Messi’s only telling contribution to the whole thing was his 4 goals against Arsenal).
My willingness to laugh at anything that goes wrong for Real makes the fact they are fervently chasing Ribery whilst the player they let go, Arjen Robben, has been outshining him across the pitch deliciously satisfying. If this were any ordinary year, the slap headed former Chelsea man could well have been in with a shout for the big shiny individual trophies come December (since the CL is pretty much the only competition you need to shine in to claim a nomination – just ask Kaka) but this is not an ordinary year, and the World Player & Ballon D’or will be decided in South Africa, and will still likely – and rightly – be Lionel Messi.
For the Nerazzurri, the other balding Dutchman Wesley Sneijder was the mastermind at Stamford Bridge in the quarters. With little to choose between these less than silky sides, the purists amongst us will hope it’s these two who decide the outcome, and not the missing links of Lucio and Van Buyten.
Then of course there’s Samuel Eto’o, who’s been busy doing an impression of someone who isn’t Samuel Eto’o for most of the season, only to occasionally remember himself at crucial and decisive moments. He could well achieve the startling feat of winning two trebles with two different clubs in consecutive seasons, which would surely be a record of some sort, though I really can’t be bothered to check.
Whatever happens, we’ll have a new Champion, and some form of history made (though technically of course, everything is some form of history making, but if you’re thinking that, shut up). Whilst a lot has been made of Inter not winning it for 40 odd years, it’s been largely overlooked that Bayern could well end up with their fifth trophy, which under old rules would have meant they got to keep the cup – as Liverpool did in 2005. This has unfortunately now been changed (which I’m going to unfoundedly assume was the result of something heinous Liverpool did) to “a special mark of recognition” which could be anything from an extra star on their shirts to a framed certificate from Platini and a free flight on Ryanair to anywhere within the Iberian Peninsula. Who knows?
But while I don’t agree with Jose, this is still the biggest game in club football, so lets hope it’s a big filling hearty meal to keep us tided over until the big summer feast. Bring on the trumpets. The Champions..da da da daaaaa.!
With Iceland already responsible for foisting the twin terrors of global financial crisis and Kerry Katona on the world, the dastardly volcanic ash cloud threatens our brave combatants progress to the 55th European Cup Final in Madrid. How will Mourinho, Van Gaal and an itchy dancing bear cope with the set back?