The Champions League has entered the twilight zone of football. Bayern Munich, who’s ground will host the final in May, are out to “wreck the dream final” and Chelsea are the underdogs—the filthy rich, billionaire fuelled vanity team of underdogs that spent fifty million on a whim, in order to secure Fernando Torres’s signature. Real Madrid, play the ‘bad guys’, the pantomime villain—largely helped on by Jose Mourinho’s uncompromising win at all costs attitude. Barcelona is simply the best team in the world.
The Allianz Arena, Munich, had come to life. At the weekend, a lacklustre performance had seen all but the most optimistic of supporters, relinquish any hopes they may have had in the Bundesliga. But, this was different, this was the European Cup. The stands were bursting in a sea of red to a point where, once the crowd started to clap in unison, the whole border of the pitch becomes a hazy wave. Amongst them, there are two former winners of the competition, Oliver Kahn and Franz Beckenbauer. The atmosphere during the build-up to the game is probably best described by one of the headlines yesterday: “Bayern out to wreck Dream Final”. Just try telling that to the 66,000 strong capacity that had amassed, to roar their team to a final that would be held there in May.
The more intriguing notion brings me back to the stands— to Franz Beckenbaur. Known as the Kaiser in his day, Beckenbauer, is now the honorary president of Bayern Munich FC. During his playing days, he was part of the World Cup winning West Germany side, in 1974. The opponents that day were The Netherlands—the clockwork orange– led by one Johan Cruyff. It was billed as Total Football’s defining moment—the moment the beautiful game would become the winning game. As it happened, the Dutch, tried to humiliate Germany, and were beaten 2-1 on the occasion. They opened the scoring early on and let arrogance replace composure. Beckenbauer began to run the show, capitalizing on the complacency the Dutch had let seep through their team.
Johan Cruyff, as we all know, is mister Barcelona:
“It’s better to fail with your own vision rather than following another man’s vision.” Johan Cruyff,
The quote embodies everything Barcelona work for—the sort of thought that is behind the alchemy of La Messia. During the 1974 World Cup, Cruyff, was named player of the tournament. Since their playing days both Cruyff and Beckenbauer, have gone on to become icons at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively. As players, as coaches, as people they are the physical manifestation of what the two great clubs stand for in the game. Even if it is only in the stands, the thought of these two historical figures gracing another major final together, for me at least, still hints at a very interesting final. It is the opportunity to witness a re-enactment of the ’74 World Cup final through modern interpretations of the game.
Bayern, as it stands, hold a goal lead going into the second leg—I am still far from convinced that will be enough to see them through. Chelsea may well have a bigger say than has been assumed. In all, I just wouldn’t be so quick to point out which combination makes for the “dream final”—we all have our opinions. There are too many combinations of interest involved this year. Whether, it is ex-players, historical reasons or managers potentially returning to their old club, the final is sure to be a fascinating affair.