Liverpool-Real Madrid: a spectacular final to illuminate a dark time in European history | Champions League

Wchicken Real Madrid lost the first leg From their Champions League round of 16 match in Paris on February 15, the world was a different place. By the time the second leg was played, Russia had invaded Ukraine. Football had ceased to be important. But those who watched as Real miraculously turned the match around will never forget it.

This year, the Champions League final takes place at a time when the war is raging in Europe. Have been moved from Saint Petersburg to Paris because Russia, the aggressor, has been excluded. The autocrat Putin’s war is changing the whole world.

Is he real Madrid team that are distracting Europe in the sad times this spring. On their way to the final, they beat last year’s finalists Chelsea and Manchester City in a similar fashion to their victory over PSG. Their opponents dominated the game, Real survived critical phases and then surprised their opponents and the football world with brilliant moments.

In the semi-final against City, Real were two goals down in the 90th minute and won. It reminded me of Bayern Munich’s painful defeat against Manchester United in 1999 or Chelsea’s victory in 2012.”Final Dahoam”, my personal Waterloo. In the Premier League, on the other hand, City last Sunday turned a 0-2 into a 3-2 in five minutes and they became champions. The inexplicable is part of the fascination of football.

Now the 13-time champions Royal take on six-time champions Liverpool. As for whether Real can pull off another miracle, all eyes are on Karim Benzema. The best striker in the world represents what is Real: talent, genius, intuitive understanding of the game, confidence in his own strength. against PSG scored three times in 17 minutes. He scored 10 goals in the six qualifying matches. He has equaled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for goals in the Champions League in one season and could overtake him in the final.

Benzema’s missteps off the pitch don’t make it easy to admire him unreservedly. But he is one of the greats. he has already won the Champions League four times. In Paris, like Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos (who won the first of his four titles with Bayern), he could match Alfredo di Stéfano, who created the Real Madrid legend with the only winning streak from 1956 to 1960.

Karim Benzema celebrates his goal against Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals
Karim Benzema, shown after marking Manchester City in the Champions League, has established himself as one of the greats. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

Discipline is not what one associates with Benzema. Keeping a player like him on the right track requires a manager who knows who he is dealing with at a club every footballer dreams of playing for. Carlo Ancelotti, the first coach to reach the final for the fifth time, is a perfect fit at Real at the moment. Against City, he changed Kroos, Modric and Casemiro in 10 minutes. Recognizing the right moment for such a knockout requires instinct. And whoever collects the consent of these players for his decisions on the band, like Ancelotti, enjoys absolute credibility.

The Galactics – that has been the tradition of Real for more than half a century. There is the best of the best of each generation. They come from Spain and South America, occasionally from Europe, usually from the great footballing nations of France, England, Italy and Germany. City and especially PSG are emulating Real and want a piece of that glamour. In a decade they have not been able to catch up. They are still copies and Real, although they were left without Kylian Mbappéit is still the original.

Liverpool represents a different path. The decisive factors in his football are physicality, speed, forward drive in almost every position. That’s how most teams want to play. In the Europa League final, Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Rangers in an exciting battle. But no one comes close to Liverpool’s excellence; the style of the time is tailored to the port and the working-class city.

There, in seven years, a unity has developed between Jürgen Klopp and his players. He manages to transfer Liverpool’s underdog mentality onto the pitch and draw strength from the aura of the club’s historical dramas around Heysel and Hillsborough. Like all great teams, Liverpool they have developed an identity that leads them to their third final in five years. Barcelona was more than a club, Bayern was”Mia San Mia”, and in Liverpool Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mané never walk alone.

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“You will never Walk alone!” The team is bigger than the individual. Philippe Coutinho, once Liverpool’s best, didn’t realize that. He didn’t make it at Barcelona and Bayern, and now he plays at Aston Villa. Mohamed Salah, on the other hand, became a star in the Liverpool community. When he was 12 years old, he traveled four hours every day by bus to train in Egypt; he today he is in the hall of fame. This ambition, this greed to assert itself, characterizes Liverpool. The contrast with Real and Benzema could hardly be greater. That’s why I’m incredibly looking forward to this game.

Of course, you can’t enjoy football lightly, you can’t ignore war. It has repercussions for the people of Europe, especially in Ukraine. In the group stage, Real Madrid lost at home to Sheriff Tiraspol, a club from Transnistria. His coach, Yuriy Vernydub, left the team just before the Europa League match in Braga on February 24 to defend his home country of Ukraine. A few months ago he won at the Bernabéu, now he is fighting with his compatriots on the front line with a gun in his hand. A football story of the year 2022.

Philipp Lahm’s column appears regularly in The Guardian. It is produced in collaboration with Oliver Fritsch in online timethe German online magazine, and is being published in several European countries.

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