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Madrid smell glory again

Published: Thursday 2 May 2002, 18.39CET
Real Madrid CF will return to the scene of arguably the greatest European Champion Clubs' Cup final
Published: Thursday 2 May 2002, 18.39CET

Madrid smell glory again

Real Madrid CF will return to the scene of arguably the greatest European Champion Clubs' Cup final

"Trophies and history do not win you a final." Thus said Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid CF's director of sport, on the match-up of the Merengues with the team from the chemical town, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, in the climax of this year's UEFA Champions League.
 
Memories of 1960
For Madrid, the return to Glasgow - or 'Glasgooooooooooow!' as the morning after's Marca has it - for the Hampden Park final stirs obvious memories. It was there that they won their fifth successive European Champion Clubs' Cup in what many consider the greatest final of them all, the 7-3 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.
 
Chasing their ninth victory
Now, following the 3-1 aggregate defeat of FC Barcelona, they are chasing their ninth victory in what will be their 12th final - as well as a third European crown in five years. A visit to the trophy room at the Santiago Bernabéu leaves no doubt that the sole purpose of the "Greatest club in history" is to collect silverware. (There is even a trophy for chess in there.) According to the blurb, "the greatness of Real Madrid is not measured by the number of trophies won but by the knowledge that they are going to keep on winning them".

First European Cup final
Leverkusen's story could barely be more different. A club without a single domestic title, and whose modest BayArena is less than a third the size of the Bernabéu, are in their first European Champion Clubs' Cup final, seeking to add to their one previous continental success, the UEFA Cup win of 1988 (against another Spanish opponent, coincidentally, in RCD Espanyol).

'A team to fear'
However, anyone who saw their sense of adventure in the first leg of the semi-final at Old Trafford - where the attacking endeavour of Michael Ballack, Yildiray Bastürk, Lucio et al provided one of the tournament's finest spectacles - will not doubt the pedigree of these underdogs. Not least Valdano. "They're a team that's been on the point of winning the league, the cup and the Champions League in one season," he said of a side also still in contention for a domestic double. "At this level you cannot consider them a surprise. They're a team to fear - probably the in-form team in Europe at the moment - and we must respect them a lot."
 
Outstanding performer
An hour before kick-off yesterday Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller could be seen working his way through the crowds outside the Bernabéu, ready to see for himself who would be joining his side in the final. There were shouts and whistles as he passed; sticks and stones to the German coach but he will know that Raúl González, Madrid's outstanding performer on the night, really could hurt him.

Searing shot

Barcelona may have had 60 per cent of possession but their opponents had twice as many shots on goal. As in the first leg, the woodwork denied Barça with the match goalless: four minutes after Philip Cocu hit a post, there was Raúl dispossessing Xavi Hernández and flashing a searing shot past Roberto Bonano to effectively seal Madrid's passage to the final.
 
'A wonder goal'
It was not a typical goal of a player whose speciality is the 'vaselina' or lob. Zidane, whom Raúl virtually shoved aside before letting fly, described it as "a wonder goal - but better than that". It was his 35th goal for Madrid in Europe's premier club competition, the same as Ferenc Puskás and second only to Alfredo di Stéfano. It was not just his goal, though. Early in the second half, as Barcelona, now back on level terms, played keep-ball inside their half Raúl's dogged pursuit of possession sent a wave of applause rippling around the ground. "I have to say that Raúl's determination in his goal and in the second half were very important," said his appreciative coach Vicente del Bosque afterwards.

'A Picasso is a Picasso'
While Toppmöller considers how to stop Raúl, Del Bosque will be worrying about the loss of form of Luis Figo, whose listless performance - he surrendered possession 15 times - earned catcalls and cries of "Cambiále" (take him off) before his withdrawal midway through the second half. According to Valdano, the Portuguese international is still feeling the effects of an old ankle injury. "He was out for six weeks, which explains his performance today. But Figo is Luis Figo, just as a Picasso is a Picasso."
 
Another masterpiece
Whatever Figo's state of body and mind by then, the hope is that come 15 May, Hampden Park will witness another masterpiece.
 
 

 

Last updated: 05/05/02 19.31CET

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