Every player dreams of walking into a finals arena. Calling it boxing, tae kwon do, tennis, cricket, athletics or soccer you name it. A final is a final whether in the local estate or the highest ranked competition. The stage is what differentiates the final, is it in front of the pretty teenage girls that paint the neighborhood’s beauty or the roaring 69,901 fans from around Europe and beyond at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.
Two of the greatest football clubs in Europe are meeting up on Saturday 19th May for a grand finale of Europe’s most elite and prestigious competitions, the UEFA Champions League. Chelsea FC has risen beyond all odds to reach this point having been underdogs a few months into the competition.
They began the season on a high key with the replacement of Carlo Ancelotti (the double silverware winner) with a rather young and more visionary man, Andres Villas Boas. Coming from FC Porto having won a cool treble (Europa league, Primeira Liga and Portuguese cup), the top brass at the club was expectant of the fellow to deliver at least a set of twins by the end of the first season. This expectation was backed by the fans that saw him as Mourinho the 2nd this is after having served under Jose (the special one) Mourinho in different capacities at various clubs but most notably as Opposition scout at the Abromavic kingdom.
First game in charge and he manages a draw. Lucky him it was away at the Britannia stadium this did not draw so much attention to his tactics. However, his lack to produce a clean sheet against Norwich, a newly promoted team at the time, infront of home fans drew mixed reactions towards his defensive tactics and formulas. With the Hawthorns, he should have utilized that opportunity to stamp authority but a mere 2-1 is what he managed. This was slowly contributing to his turbulences at the managerial position. A major loss came soon after; Manchester United had the better of Chelsea with a 3-1 win at the theatre of dreams. This cast a heavy shadow on his leadership style and the dressing room wrangles slowly started to surface.
The season went on with Boas’ seat sinking deeper into trouble with all sorts of stories emerging of a coup staged by Drogba and friends with support from Terry and Lampard. This kind of tabloids rocked the managers’ boat and it started to dawn that his tenure was nearing an end while still in first year of service. His ploy to affirm his authority through daily utterances of his boss’ name made no impact as the Russian never loves defeat, however narrow. In months to come, it became evident that Boas was gradually sinking the Russians’ asset. Loosing his grip on a top four position was the first sign of the coup at work. This cast a huge dark spell on his future at the West London club.
A loss to QPR then later to Arsenal meant that the Portuguese had lost the clubs title as the ‘Pride of London’. With the fans he was done! The Arsenal win is what threw him totally off balance with the fans. From a lead to a 3-5 loss at home, no fan could hear any kind of explanation. It was clear, he must vacate the office as soon as possible. On the trails of those losses came the Liverpool loss at home, that 2-1 win by Liverpool had rippling effects as fans started chanting Mourinho’s name in almost every game. The season carried away with a number of losses and draws and few comfortable wins. His performance was not to be entertained in Abromavic’s arena and so with the Napoli defeat, a 3-1 thumping, the Russian saw it best to fire him.
In the closing weeks of February and the Portuguese’s exit could be smelt from a meter away. West Bromwich Albion returned the favor at their home ground, the Hawthorns, with a 1-0 defeat to dump Chelsea out of the top four by start of March. This was it for the Russian billionaire! The Portuguese was sent parking with all his contractual benefits being reimbursed to him in the most amicable manner to allow for smooth transition. With no impressing manager in sight, the club went a rank lower to elevate the 2nd in command, Roberto Di Matteo.
At this point, the Champions league looked blurred and a top four finish was an uphill task. The Italian however has not disappointed. He has risen to the task with his tactics proving what was needed to resuscitate the almost dying Chelsea. With Barcelona to face in the semi-finals of the Champions league, the West Londoners looked already out of the competition. The Catalans, being the reigning champions of the prestigious event and world top football club, seemed the ultimate task for Di Matteo. However, the former blues midfielder rose to the occasion and ensured the Spaniards were bundled out of the competition. This marked the glorious comeback of the English giants.
Walking into the finals to face Bayern Munich, there is a lot of uncertainty on the manager’s post. A section of the fans want Di Matteo at the helm come next season while other prefer a more experienced man like Guardiola or Rijkaard or maybe a return of the great Mourinho. There has been a lot of speculation of who will take up the position and over the past few months a lot has transpired in relation to the managerial position at the club. Mourinho is spotted in London looking for a house to purchase; this drew a lot of debate and rumor mongering as to whether the Portuguese was actually coming back to his club of honor. He however denied the connections and particularly retracted back to Spain to focus on his Real Madrid job and maybe ensure they secure a final’s spot.
Later on it emerged from very unclear sources that Abramovic and Guardiola had met in Paris to discuss his desire to have his club managed by Pep. This, however, has neither been denied nor confirmed by either party as Guardiola simply remain shut on the matter and Abromavic doing what he does best, not talking! However with the recent exit of Pep from the Barcelona camp has raised more rumors than possible of a union between the Spaniard and the Russian investor. In the course of this entire hullabaloo, Benitez, the former Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan manager, showed interest in the job but this never moved Abromavic even an inch towards his direction. This is despite the Spaniard’s record of a number of cups with both Valencia and Liverpool that range from UEFA cup (now Europa cup) to UEFA champions league. This clearly shows how detailed the investor is in selecting a suitable man.
While ignoring of Benitez, Villas Boas should drill in his head a poor show like that one at Chelsea could turn out to be a very dirty stain on his future endeavors. Even with his young age, he can end up not impressing any of the top clubs ever again due to his failure to handle player pressure and dressing room indiscipline. Redirecting, Di Matteo’s success now entirely lies on the finals of the UEFA champions’ league. To be counted as a success story he needs to win the coveted cup and bring it home to the Russians comfort. Avram Grant, the Israeli, had his opportunity of glory so near in Moscow but Sir Fergie snatched it away in the 11th hour. This was a perfect stage for a final, you are caretaker manager, the finals are in the hometown of your boss and it is the cup that he most desires. Why not win it and engrave your name in the history of that club? That is the same position in which Di matteo has found himself in come Saturday. Difference is that the arena is in Germany. This can however turn out to be a blessing to him, winning that title in the home turf of his opponents can solidify his grip on the manager’s position and extend his fortunes to being a favorite of the boss.
Whichever way the finals go the important thing will be the teams that walked into that arena to stage the thrilling match. Every member of both teams whether on the pitch or off will experience what few experience and this will be enough for most of them.
So let us meet at the Allianz Arena in Munich for the thrilling encounter between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich.
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