A Radio 5 Live debate from the Santiago Bernabeu preceded Wednesday night's second leg posing the question: ‘What would a combined XI of the two teams on show look like?".
The sad truth for Manchester City is that after eight years of incredible spending it would probably be entirely made up of Real Madrid players.
Joe Hart would have a puncher’s chance of getting in ahead of Keylor Navas but in the outfield positions which City player is better than his Madrid counterpart?
Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are City’s Galaticos but the Argentine and the Belgian were second best on the night to Real Madrid youth teamer Jese Rodriguez and to the man Manuel Pellegrini wanted to sign two summers ago, Isco. Everywhere else it was a no contest. And it’s not that this is a vintage Real Madrid side.
Marcelo is not at his best at left-back and the Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco midfield is not as good or as balanced as the Xabi Alonso, Angel di Maria, Modric trio that reached the final two years ago. But even so City were still second best.
City had better hope that not having the best individuals no longer matters under Pep Guardiola because if not then he really does need the ‘half-a-new-team’ – that phrase that has bounced around the Premier League ever since it was confirmed he would be taking over.
The Real win will have been even harder to take for City’s sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, because he must have seen in the white shirts of Real exactly the players that Manchester City need if they are to go forward in Europe.
Madrid signed Sergio Ramos from Sevilla when he was 19. City have not been able to unearth the English equivalent and grab him before the rest. Dani Carvajal and Jese are both products of the club’s youth system – City continue to come up dry on that front.
They were priced out of signing Gareth Bale by a club at that time that was not as hindered by the same financial restrictions and have failed to come close to luring him back ever since. But even a talent such as Modric was allowed to leave England and head to La Liga.
When Pellegrini spoke last year ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League exit to Barcelona he said the club needed to sign one exceptional player - the ‘crack’ as he called it - that other big sides in this competition all have and that City lack. It still seems that they don’t have that one very special player.
On Tuesday night Atletico Madrid were Antoine Griezmann-inspired as they brushed past Bayern, whose talisman Robert Lewandowski scored on the night but could not get them back into the tie.
For Real Madrid on Wednesday it was Bale who was the difference for the ten-time winners.
Ludicrously the jury is still out on whether he has been a success of a failure at Real . Two European Cup finals – one in which he scored the crucial first goal in extra-time and the other in which it was his shot that broke City’s resistance in the semi-final – is a better return than most big money signings can hope for in their first five years, much less first three.
He will argue last night’s goal was his and if it is eventually given to him then that makes it 20 for the season.
With 19 in the league he already has his best return in his three years. He should have scored what would have been his tenth headed goal of the season but hit the frame of the goal.
Injury remains the only thing stopping him from replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid’s best player over an entire season. "He can do everything Ronaldo can do," said Zinedine Zidane at the weekend after another Bale goal had kept Real Madrid in the title race for another week.
There will be ever fewer detractors for the Welshman after last night’s contribution.
The supporters who packed the avenues leading to the stadium to welcome the coach were singing his name as the players left the Santiago Bernabeu. If they handed out European Cups for welcoming the team bus then Madrid would win this tournament every year.
Once again the flares lit the path to the coliseum. It takes more than that to win it but they have so many more of the ingredients than their opponents.
Homegrown talent, the best of their own league and the world’s most expensive player.
The consolation for City is that Real Madrid do not go into the final as favourites because Atletico have Diego Simeone – a coach capable of moulding a group of 11 players into a one monster moving as one, thinking as one and winning as one and that still goes a long way.
City are getting a coach who is perhaps capable of working a similar miracle.
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