This is the end, beautiful friend – And now, the end is here, and so we’ve faced the final curtain. Unless of course you find the allure of Millwall vs Swindon too strong to resist. In which case you couldn’t be blamed, and may well be vindicated as in all honesty it’s likely to be a much more entertaining game than this end of season showpiece was, which was only just about legitimately such a thing because there was a piece to show at the end of it. The new razzmatazz of a weekend match day, intended not just to booster the accessibility for fans but also to garner a greater world wide audience, was undercut slightly by the events on the pitch, which weren’t that far removed from the spectacle of watching some blue and black paint dry slowly over some red and white paint. Or perhaps the other way around, given the actual possession trend of the game, but then assuming that the blue and black paint resisted the red and white from actually settling, and then somehow forced it to peel off completely, possibly due to heat, or the incorrect application of an undercoat, or the wrong type of paint. All of which of course, is just a very good example of why I should stop using metaphors.
Assumption is the mother of all ….truths – The share of the global audience situated in England were given the mouthwatering choice of Gullit, Souness & Redknapp on Sky, or Andy Townsend and Diddy Hamman on iTV. Despite the prospect of hearing the phrase “They didn’t do as well as they dreamed of doing did they Diddy?” at some point in proceedings, or indeed the chance of briefly imagining what it might sound like if Andy Townsend worked on MTV Base (which may well in fact not actually exist anymore), the choice was an easy one, tempered only slightly by the prospect of being “literally’d” to death by Redknapp over on Satellite. At some point within the first 20 minutes of the build up coverage the pundits had decided amongst themselves that Jose Mourinho was definitely going to be at Real Madrid next season. Whilst this is almost undoubtedly true – and all but confirmed later on in proceedings – anyone without a deep understanding of the backroom workings of football would have been left bemused at how generally accepted this hypothesis became throughout the program. Initially they simply speculated pitchside whilst attempting to dodge the overly affectionate attentions of the Bernabeu sprinkler system; “..and of course he could possibly be here next season Jamie?” and then about 10 minutes later, seemingly fuelled entirely by the proof of their own speculation – and possibly by Jamie’s willingness to take his own literally’s literally – they’d decided that he definitely would be, and spent the rest of the show openly referring to him as the Real Madrid manager, pondering that “…he won’t want to lose this groundsman” and that “there’s going to be a lot more expectation to win it again there” before he’d even won it here.
Back to the Future II – After the marvelous spectacle of some twirly sheety things twirling around for a bit, we were off into the action after Bayern revealed themselves to be endorsing the Back to the Future approach favored by Chelsea in playing their last game of the 09/10 season in their 10/11 strip. Inspired clearly by the free flowing sexy football attacking ethos of Sunderland, the red and white stripes dominated the early possession, but (in a far more accurate homage to the Black Cats) failed to do almost anything useful with it at all as the template for the evening was set and Inter proceeded to pick them off calculatedly on the counter.
Mour than meets the eye – Much will inevitably be made of the rather infrequent attacking performance from the new champions. Their incredibly low possession stats, combined with the overriding image of them parking the plane at the Camp Nou will only help enhance the myth that the big I am, J-Mo, He who shall be named at every available opportunity, the Capo di tutti Capi himself, Jose Mourinho is a negative, boring football tactician who grinds out anti-football to the chagrin of all and sundry. This isn’t anything I agree with, but it’s also something I can’t completely deny either. Already last night message boards of both Real Madrid and, oddly, Manchester United, where full of the kind of passionately divisive rhetoric which only the special one can inspire. The oft hypothesized career plan which sees him transform Real before taking over from one of the few men he actually looks up to at United (before managing Portugal to World Cup glory) still has many fans of all 3 unconvinced. Some love him regardless, some hate him with a rarely matched intensity, and many agree that his brand of effective football would jar horribly with the expectations of both clubs, not to mention his national side. But what is an unfair assessment in my opinion, is that Inter were under the cosh for long periods, or even worse, outplayed. This is complete nonsense, because not only did the Nerazzurri’s game plan work to perfection, but in the admittedly fleeting moments when they had the ball, they were the far better side with it. Their football at times was brilliant, with neat interchanges, one touch passing and clever running, whereas Bayern stuck firmly to the tried and trusted tactic of giving it to Arjen Robben and seeing if he could do anything interesting. The fact that Inter spent the majority of the game with the ball in their half is irrelevant. They avoided defeat by parking the bus, but they won by playing the better football.
Diego Mentality -And of course, by having the bizarre hybrid love child of Sylvester Stallone and Jim Carey up front. With all the embarrassing riches the equally embarrassing Diego Maradona possesses up front going into the World Cup, the one who’s arguably in the best form right now is Diego Milito. With not only a brilliantly taken brace on Saturday, but goals in both games against Milan in Seria A, the winner against Roma in the Coppa Italia final, crucial strikes against both Chelsea and Barcelona in the CL knock out stages and the winner on the final day of the league season against Siena with the title still very much in the balance, he’s thrust himself firmly into the spotlight as the on field face of Inter’s Treble. If the annual individual awards were more a “whose been the best performer of this season” accolade than a “whose the best player in the world right now” award, he’d be in with a very good shout. And of course, if he wasn’t in a World Cup year in the same side as Lionel Messi.
A game of two halves…or not – Completely contradicting my earlier (attempted) metaphor, the second half started incredibly brightly with both sides coming a fingertip and shin pad away from scoring respectively within the first 2 minutes. It settled back into the accustomed banality soon after though, sporadically roused by Robben’s attempt to emulate Norman Whiteside after the hour and Milito’s gloriously taken second. Essentially, it was almost a spitting image of the first half, only with slightly more desperation on Sunderland’s part. However with Inter as belligerent at the back as Gordon Brown on a stubborn mule nailed to the floor, Esteban Cambiasso seemingly playing in 4 different central midfield positions at once and Milito and Samuel Eto’o showing remarkable discipline in tracking back and covering their markers, there was never really any danger of Munchen mustering anything more than a wild lucky pop from distance.
Home and Jose’d – And in the end it was Inter’s day, as so many had assumed it would be. Their first European Cup for 45 years. The first Italian team to ever do the treble and the proudest day in the career of the much deserving plastic mannequin of Javier Zanetti. All that was left was the fun of the post match celebrations. Some people in cardigans seemed to have wrangled their way onto the podium. Jose was there, grinning away. Several players did that annoying thing where they turned their shirts the wrong way round so we could see how to spell their name correctly. Jose was crying. Maicon and Eto’o had draped themselves in their national flags, oh look, there’s Jose again. Moratti’s on the pitch now, he’s talking to…oh Jose. Now Jose’s doing something else, sort of wandering around a bit hugging people. Time for some ads. Why are Matt Lucas and David Walliams doing adverts for Natwest? That Nike advert is brilliant. Oh back again, oh hello Jose! What’s Mario Balotelli doing there? Why are the cameras on him? Honestly, you’d think this night wasn’t all about Jose Mourinho or something.