Eventually, we have reached the end. The showpiece of the football season arrives on Sunday night. It might feel like years have passed since it all first started, but there is a warmth and comfort in looking at two European juggernauts lining up to round things off.
You can’t sit and watch Paris St Germain without Steve McManaman et al saying “you know, they’ve never won the Champions League”. Yes, Steve, we knew by the third time you mentioned it. It’s a wonder what a few billion Qatari Riyal can do to help you on the way isn’t it? Maybe that is the kind of criticism levelled at the French club too lazily though.
Yes, they’ve got enough cash to sit among the United Nations but who are we all kidding? Seriously. However you paint it, the only football clubs to break into the European elite within the last ten years (and remain there) have spent vast sums of money generated on the back of unregulated industry in developing nations. If you’re a fan of a club in the top ten of the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga and want your club to break into Europe, then you need an owner with stomach turning amounts of cash – but you can’t ask where it has come from and neither will UEFA.
On the pitch, they have finally provided a platform for their superstars to go and play. Their trip to Lisbon has focused on the mercurial Neymar, a man still looking to justify his move from Spain, and the returning prodigy, Kylian Mbappe. The two have all the feel of mates in the playground who know they are the best players in sight and want to drag themselves over the line, irrespective of who else is coming for the ride. The rest of the squad know it too – take a look at the wonderment of the PSG coaches and players alike, as it finally clicks for the star men and the chance of glory comes closer.
For the French champions, as the old saying goes, if you throw enough sludge at the wall it will stick at some point. They have been throwing it for a while.
A lot of snobbery hangs around how to describe Bayern Munich. They have won twenty football matches in a row. Whether it is a jealousy to recognise the peerless Die Roten or a reluctance to admit how fashionable and attractive the German powerhouse currently are, it is time for us all to accept they are a dynasty in the making.
The tactful and sympathetic replacement of old guard players with young, and even better, replacements has set an example for clubs worldwide on how to keep moving forward. Ribery and Robben making way for Davies, Kimmich and Gnabry. The club has also taken time to look at itself after the misstep of Niko Kovac, an acceptance of the need for an inside man to Captain the ship. Inadvertently, Hausmeister Hansi Flick has become the man to combine the experience of the past with frightening artillery of the future.
Another relentless march to the Bundesliga has led to the ultimate destroy-and-exit against Barcelona, followed by a second gear cruise against Lyon.
“It has all the makings of a classic” is a line that will be rolled out ahead of kick off, which indeed it does. With two sides geared towards relentless attack and goals it is surely just a case of who blinks first. It has to be Bayern in the end though. For all the oil-fuelled romance PSG bring to their first Champions League final, they are going up against a side that can take the game from them in a matter of minutes. And if anyone is remotely interested in salvaging what remains in the moral fabric of football, then how could you want to see the Qatari state…. sorry… ‘French club’ win?
Eyes peeled then for Neymar lifting the trophy in an empty Da Luz on Sunday night. Turn the lights off on the way out Monsieur, football as we know it has nearly left the building.
RGM Prediction – Bayern 3-1 PSG. Look out for a red card along the way.