Football: Chelsea revel in the unreal

Nick Townsend in Monaco sees Super Cup play into hands of Super League opponents

SO, THE kings of Spain failed to singe Ken Bates's beard, and a mere three weeks into the season, the bombastic Chelsea chairman already has a first trophy to place on that proverbial Stamford Bridge mantelpiece. Say what you will, after so many years gathering dust that particular piece of furniture is beginning to creak under the weight of the darn things.

"Three cups in six months..." Gianluca Vialli savoured the image and could scarcely comprehend his fortune as he considered the latest acquisition in the bowels of the Stade Louis II (they obviously haven't told him that cups are like London buses; you wait an eternity for one and then three come along together).

Yet, it was all a strangely subdued aftermath, because the problem comes when you start examining the quality of the latest pot. A League Cup and a European Cup-Winners' Cup under Vialli, since his accession to Ruud Gullit's throne, have an accepted hallmark, but a Uefa Super Cup, the consequence of the Uruguayan Gustavo Poyet's late winner, does not bear such close inspection and would not fool the experts in the least. Which undoubtedly explains why the majority of those fanatics were absent from the 10,000 crowd, among whom the genuine followers of either side who had made the effort appeared to be out-numbered by the great, the good, and the here-for- the-goodies brigade - the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, his IOC counterpart Juan, Antonio Samaranch, and our very own Chelsea devotee and Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, were among those present - in the VIP area.

Yet, if captain Dennis Wise felt it was all as slightly unreal as Madrid were on the night when he raised the most recent addition to the family silver to the skies, he didn't betray it. Neither did the remainder of Vialli's cosmopolitan combination who, as the public address blared out that ubiquitous theme, Queen's "We Are The Champions", linked hands and like lost performers from Riverdance dashed in formation across the pitch before diving none too graciously a la Jurgen Klinsmann.

Only the heartless would have denied the players their moment, just as Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke and Ron Harris and Co did against the same club, seven-times champions of Europe, when they met in a Cup-Winners' Cup final in Athens, suitably fuelled by a day's poolside binge, 27 years ago.

It was just that, frankly, unlike that scene of Chelsea's first European triumph, this wasn't the moment, and the incongruity of it all, as the locals drifted away and even the committed provided a less than heart- felt response, bordered on the surreal. There was no doubt that Chelsea fully merited their win, confounding such world- class names as Raul, Mijatovic and Roberto Carlos, all be it one inflicted on a side behind them in terms of preparation and who do not play their first domestic league game until tomorrow night.

Yet, the players' antics seemed about as phoney as the 90-minute war that preceded them. It was, in truth, played in the atmosphere of a testimonial and the significance was not lost on critics of a European Super League that the contest was staged only a few hundred yards down the road from where junketing Uefa officials have been on the offensive all week against the prospect of such a football revolution that might produce a league of similar soulless contests.

A travesty of an occasion was only raised to a level approaching acceptability by a distinguished display from the commanding Marseilles-born defender Franck Leboeuf, evidently relishing his return to the climate of the South of France. There was also the introduction of Brian Laudrup for the first time since his arrival from Rangers for the faithful to appreciate. But otherwise it was more of an exhibition of persuasive supporting evidence against any tournament, league or cup that does not possess that essential naked edge of competitiveness.

When Marcel Desailly, deployed by Vialli in midfield, afterwards declined to offer an opinion on the proceedings, claiming "My English is not so good", it was presumably a diplomatic withdrawal because he simply had nothing positive to contribute. Indeed, the Real coach, Guus Hiddink, gave the game away completely when he declared: "For my team it was not a problem, winning or losing."

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a European league. It will happen in some form, but it is unlikely to be in "private" hands. Those who have shown their own hand containing plans for a league based on prestige and wealth of its founding members might do well to reflect on the indifference shown to this particular contrived encounter. However much you connive, the fans need convincing. At the Stade Louis II they were not persuaded. Across Europe, they are not.

"Un reve: une realite", they say of Monaco, and the proponents of a super league genuinely believe one can become the other, merely by raising the stakes with easy talk of easy money, sufficient to break the bank at the casino here. Perhaps by selecting the principality, where everything about value is put in perspective, as a suitable venue from which to launch their counter-offensive, Uefa got it right. Only in the case of Monaco is it possible to have both a dream and a reality.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor