Bayern Munich are champions of Europe for the sixth time in their history. The champions of the longest Champions League season ever — so long that the final was being played a few days after the next season had already begun. A tough start to a season, the sacking of a coach, and the invincibility post lockdown has delivered them a treble, the third in their history. For PSG, there will be regret, disappointment and perhaps even a touch of hope. They got this far, and having shaken off the albatross — and all the memes — now, maybe now (!) they can really do what should be doing in this competition.
Winning this competition though takes time. It takes a certain kind of legacy.
There’s two ways to win the UEFA Champions League. One: breeze through the group stage. Then hold fort and keep your nerves intact. Navigate tough periods of tough matches at the knockout. Smash, grab, take the trophy. The second, the one Bayern Munich employed, is simpler. Win every game of the Champions League.
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And all of that without Robert Lewandowski needing to score.
It will grate PSG that the goal that beat them in their first ever Champions League final was scored by a young Parisian who trained at their very own academy before deciding to move on to try his luck somewhere else. It would have also grated to see two young Frenchmen, the two full backs hugely responsible for dragging French football back into conversation in 2018, two years removed, asking for French football to fail. It will also, perhaps, grate that all of this happened for a trophy that was quite literally invented in Paris.
And adding to things for PSG to grate about are how Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Neymar — the man brought in specifically to win this competition — missed three chances in a performance that on another day would have put them away. It will also grate that Manuel Neuer seems to have taken this Ter Stegen comparison really seriously. Like damn seriously. It has almost become a , oh you think Marc is good eh? Okay, first he will concede eight against my side and then I’ll show you how to save close range shots while executing a perfect split. Sweeper Keeper? More like a Helicopter Keeper. He saved brilliantly from Neymar (twice in seconds), saved off Mbappe (the Frenchmen was later revealed to be offside) and watched on nonchalantly as the Argentine blazed over.
All pre-match predictions of a high scoring encounter were hopeful, more misguided than real. This was always going to be a battle between two perfectly matched sides. A high pressing, high line German team against a speedy, skilled, long ball releasing PSG.
In the first half, PSG did more of the damage, their high speed front three consistently breaking behind Jerome Boateng and David Alaba, forcing mistakes and creating openings. Which is not to say Bayern didn’t have chances of their own. Lewandowski manufactured something out of literally nothing, with a swivel, turn and shot that bounced off the post. Going into half time it was the Parisians who were definitely doing better and would have wanted to come back and be served some more.
A few different things happened after halftime. First, Bayern decided to take some risks, get closer to the PSG forwards and give them a few knocks. Second, Kingsley Coman decided to get his dancing shoes on. The goal when it came may have come courtesy of a brilliant move off the other wing but Coman had caused Thilo Kehrer all sorts of problems from the restart. The goal was a brilliant sweeping move, started by Joshua Kimmich passing the ball to Gnabry on the right, who played it inside to Thomas Muller quickly. Muller laid it into the path of Kimmich again and his inch perfect cross to the far post was met by Coman’s perfectly angled head. Bayern were one to the good.
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It is important to remember here that Bayern haven’t lost a game since football came back on post the lockdowns. They haven’t lost a game since early February, 20 games in all. Lewandowski has scored in every game he has played this season bar nine. He has scored in every game he played in the Champions League, except on this day, the final. And yet Bayern Munich have the trophy.
Perhaps that is a lesson in itself for PSG. For so long their transfer policy has ended up making this team of superb individuals, just that: a team of superb individuals. Whether this post lockdown Champions League is Thomas Tuchel induced or just a team deciding to play as one, the truth is they are superb as a collective. They have spent a lot of money on a lot of players, and opened up a transfer fee vortex, the repercussions of which could be felt even on the Bayern side (Phillipe Coutinho’s high money move to Barcelona, a direct cause of the inflation caused by Neymar and Mbappe’s moves). It is time to invest sensibly. The season may be over, but actually the season has just begun.
Bayern have done what they do, a sixth title from their 11th final at this stage. PSG have only reached two European finals before this (in the now extinct Cup Winners Cup). Winning takes time.
Oh, and to make things worse for Barcelona (how can you not talk about them), they now reportedly owe Liverpool an additional £4.5 million for Phillipe Coutinho.
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