The first Champions League final on a Saturday night.(Another “convenient” bonus for fans already relieved of the most money for seats ever for a final) was a re-run of Rome 2009 for Manchester United and Barcelona. 10 to 15 minutes of frenetic United pressing caught Barca off guard initially before the Catalans took control and it was “say goodbye to the ball” for long periods for a United midfield who are ( or now were) almost universally acknowledged to be not the strongest in United’s twenty years of domination.
Inevitably Barcelona’s Pedro scored first although Rooney brought the scores level shortly afterwards with a fine finish to United’s best move in either this final or that of 2009. This glimmer of hope was soon extinguished in the second half as Barcelona dominated and won the game with goals from Messi and their third forward, David Villa.
Any witness to this game could not begrudge their success and can only wonder how they can ever be beaten. The technical quality of the side is a joy and it should not be forgotten that the midfield engine rtoom of Xavi and Iniesta are also the same duo that powered Spain to it’s first world cup title. They are supplemented by a modest 5ft 7ins of solid gold talent from Argentina, Lionel Messi, who advanced his claim to join the football elite of Pele, Maradona and Cruyff.
We must also acknowledge that Barcelona is a great independent city with a fierce anti-capital (Madrid) motivation, is “owned” by it’s 170,000 socis ( members) and draws many of it’s players from within 30 miles of the city. All attributes that many Mancunians of a red persuasion would aspire to. Is it not also possible that Barcelona’s success and Spanish football’s ascendancy is related to the number of professional coaches now in Spain? According to European football’s governing body Uefa, Spain had almost 15,000 Uefa A and Pro Licence coaches in 2008 – more than double the number of any other European nation ( England has just over 1000). And that is despite it taking 750 study hours to acquire a Pro Licence in Spain, compared with just 245 in England.