Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Final Is No Place for a Pantomime Act

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Final Is No Place for a Pantomime Act

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

ONE of the most interesting sports films produced in recent years was 'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait'. It showed a 2005 football match between Real Madrid and Villarreal solely through cameras focused on Madrid's brilliant French midfielder. It captured an entirely new perspective both of the player and the game.

If the filmmakers are able, they might consider filming the Champions League Final, to be played between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at the Bernabeu in Madrid on 22 May, through cameras focused solely on the Inter manager, Jose Mourinho.

Is there a more infuriating sight than Mourinho shrugging? Or pouting? Or clapping, sarcastically, at the crowd, as he did last night during Inter's victorious 1-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona, in the second leg of a semi-final they won 3-2 on aggregate? I say not. But there are few sights more compelling. Mourinho can be as camp as Captain Hook. He is mindbogglingly arrogant and he is heedlessly provocative. But now that his team have denied Lionel Messi and Co the chance to retain their Champions League title he is the main attraction in European football.

Watching Barca versus Inter last night was like watching checkers play chess. Barcelona were quick, diagonal, relentlessly forward-moving. Tactical. Geometric.

Precise. Inter were intricate, organised and played in tight ranks. Strategic. Anticipatory. Clock-eyed.

Chess beat checkers. Even though they had to play an hour with 10 men -- on which more in a minute -- Inter were too canny, disciplined and robust. And Grandmaster Mourinho, when the game was up, made sure he was at the top of the story -- hurtling onto the pitch with his index fingers pointed towards the Inter fans high up in the Nou Camp (below), his top lip curled defiantly at the same tier.

The Champions League Final now feels old-school. Germany v Italy. The Anglo-Spanish moneybags axis is broken for a season. Bayern Munich are coached by Europe's other great tactician, Louis van Gaal. The final thus promises not goals and console step-overs, but tight, technical, disciplined play: grit and caution, rather than glitz and abandon. …

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