“A huge welcome to our fans, who are not just from Munich, but from all over Germany,” beamed FC Bayern's stadium announcer Stephan Lehmann during the build up to kick off at Wembley on Saturday evening.
Whether he meant it or not, Lehmann had, in one short phrase, summarised the nature of the rivalry between his club and Borussia Dortmund. While the latter have, since the profligate days of the nineties, regained their image as a rooted, worker's club with a local fanbase, Bayern's growing global appeal is almost as relentless as their success. This Final was to be one between the lovable homegrown boys of Dortmund, and the financial behemoth of FC Bayern. Or, as Jürgen Klopp had put it, a Final between 007 and the Bond villain.
Bayern, however, did not stick to that particular script. They proved a malevolent genius too much for Bond at Wembley, and put a valiant BVB to the sword in the 89 minute. For Dortmund, who had captured the hearts of neutrals across Europe, the fairytale was over.
No one, though, should begrudge Bayern their fifth European Cup. While they may not be quite as likeable as Dortmund, they remain an admirable club, whose primary focus on youth production, financial stability and attacking football renders them in many ways no different to BVB.
Their traditional domination of German football remains one based on success – a notion which has, over the decades, become the lifeblood of this club – and history, not on debt, foreign ownership, and exploitation of the fans. And while the current furore over Uli Hoeness' tax returns may see them maintain their image as FC Hollywood for a little while yet, there is little danger that the core values of FC Bayern will change for the worse at any time soon.
They are values which Jupp Heynckes has upheld marvellously in his two year spell. At Bayern's celebratory banquet, the 68 year old was his usual self. Dignified, humble but driven by success and ostensibly delighted to have joined an elite group of managers who have won the European Cup with two different clubs. He is likely to retire when Pep Guardiola replaces him this summer, and few could ever hope for as impressive a send off.
Dortmund, meanwhile, have their own hero. Klopp may have fallen at this particular hurdle, but he has now cemented his role as the most talked about – and possibly one of the most liked managerial talents in Europe. The BVB faithful, devoted and vocal to the last as always, will have been delighted to hear him declare his plan to stay put for several years to come.
The fans themselves, despite Lehmann's pointed remark, proved this weekend why they are considered the best in Europe. Their rapturous display of pride in their defeated team after the final whistle was only a few decibels lower than the celebrations of the Bayern fans at the other end, while the team's arrival in Dortmund was greeted with nearly as much jubilation as Bayern's victorious touchdown in Munich.
Such devotion was well rewarded on Saturday, even if the result left BVB empty handed. The performance of a weakened Dortmund side was more than the spirited fight of the underdog, it was the authoritative, glistening display of an equal power.
In their pressing, their swift changes of pace and their endless capacity to create chances, Dortmund showed that, even without Mario Götze, they are a magnificent outfit. The fans, for their part, showed just why they are known as the best in Europe, by honouring their defeated team in some style at the final whistle.
The evening did not just belong to Bayern, but nor was it about the bad guys overcoming the lovable underdogs. For once, this was a Champions League Final in which two relatively equal forces played an open, enthralling game of football, which could only ever have ended with a last minute winner. The backstage chaos over tax scandals, expensive transfers and psychological warfare were all forgotten, and the world was treated to a spectacular battle between two equally admirable football teams.
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