Toppmoller gestures at history, and the rest is histrionics

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The Independent Online

The late Danny Blanchflower once said of the previous Real Madrid team to light up Hampden Park, winning the last of their five successive European Cups on that glorious night in 1960: "Who the hell remembers who the manager was?"* His point was that with players as richly gifted as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Francisco Gento, a coach was almost superfluous.

In other circumstances, the same might be said of the current Madrid team, chasing the dream again in Glasgow this week, in the final of what is now known as the Champions' League. But times change, and so does television coverage of sport. In 1960, cameras tended to follow the players rather than the managers; on Wednesday night, there will be endless cutaway shots of two men who have become, thanks to TV coverage, among the most distinctive of the campaign.

In one corner is Real's Vicente del Bosque, big and balding, with a heavy moustache, looking like no one more than the hapless René from 'Allo, 'Allo; in the other, Bayer Leverkusen's Klaus "Toppi" Toppmöller of the wild silver curls and melodramatic gestures, whose club from a small town in Germany could become champions of Europe without ever having won their national title.

Like Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, both of whom would love to have been leading their teams out on Wednesday, the two managers are photogenic in their different ways. Del Bosque, 51, is more Wengeresque, not as professorial but equally restrained, content to trust in the troops he has sent out to battle, in his case perhaps even a little overwhelmed by them. When the club president has spent £84m in bringing you Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane, to go with Raul and Roberto Carlos, how much shouting from the touchline is really needed?

Although a player at the Bernabeu from 1973 to 1984, and the holder of 18 Spanish caps, Del Bosque is hardly one of the more glittering figures from the history of Europe's most glamorous club. Even in John Motson and John Rowlinson's minutely detailed book The European Cup 1955-80, he receives a single, infamous mention, as Madrid are drubbed 5-1 by Kevin Keegan's Hamburg in the second leg 1980 semi-final: "Keegan led Real such a dance that young Garcia was taken away from his marking job and when the experienced Vicente del Bosque took over, he lost his temper and hit Keegan in the face. Del Bosque was sent off."

In the ensuing 22 years he has clearly grown less volatile while working behind the scenes for Real's nursery club, Castilla, then as head of youth development and finally first-team coach, winning the Champions' League in 2000 after only six months in the job, and the Spanish league last season, but losing out in the two domestic competitions this year. Deportivo La Coruña ruined one of Real's many potential centenary parties by beating them on their own ground in the Spanish Cup final, and Valencia deprived them of a 29th league title. A week or so ago it seemed as if knocking out the hated Barcelona in the semi-final would suffice whatever happened on Wednesday; Del Bosque should not count on it.

Win or lose, the pictures of him are unlikely to be as graphic as those of his more expressive opposite number, who has already been through an emotional mangle this past fortnight. In a schedule he described as "brutal", Toppmöller has seen Leverkusen squeeze past Manchester United, lose the Bundesliga title on the last day, and with it all hope of a domestic double in yesterday's German Cup final against Schalke.

"This is a time for cigarettes and drink," exclaimed "Toppi" after the second leg at home to United. Having indulged, he then headed for the Bernabeu, watched Real join his team in the final, and has been playing down his chances ever since: "Real are technically perfect... All the world says they are favourites... We're not better than them at anything."

Except, perhaps, bluffing. We will see on Wednesday, for when the camera homes in on Toppmöller's touchline antics, it will not tell any lies.

*Real Madrid's manager in 1960 was the former club captain Miguel Muñoz.

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