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.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker