The resurrection tales of Anfield and Amsterdam will live long in the memory whatever the eventual conclusion in Madrid.
The spectral being in charge of the lever marked logic must have departed its post for 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday and left the job to the work experience kid.
The resulting Liverpool–Tottenham final is only the second time England have supplied both Champions League finalists. Throw in the progress of Arsenal and Chelsea in the Europa League, and this is arguably the country’s finest season in Europe. The blanket domination suggests the Premier League is now Europe’s best.
Liverpool’s extraordinary passion play against Barcelona made the case; Tottenham’s repeat performance against Ajax seconded it. That both clubs somehow hauled themselves up from the bottom of the well with second-hand climbing equipment underlined not just their resilience and togetherness but also the depth of talent they have at their disposal.
No Mo Salah? No Harry Kane? No problem. There is always Divock Origi and Lucas Moura.
It was heartening that the providers for the Belgian and the Brazilian were two Englishmen in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dele Alli. That is how the Premier League should be and how – thanks to an improving production line and savvy global managers – it now looks at the top clubs.
If there was irony in it taking the introduction of Fernando Llorente and a revision to route-one football from Spurs to pull of the Great parts Escape Take Two, then there should be no shame in that. At Spurs and Liverpool, the traditional strengths of the English game – pace and combativeness – have been melded successfully with the superior technical skill that for so long has been the preserve of continental sides.
In a more poetic but no less energetic way, Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, have set the bar domestically and should secure their second successive Premier League title on Sunday. Under the most colossal pressure from Liverpool, where one slip on the high wire would – and still could – be their undoing, City have held their nerve with 13 successive victories. Jurgen Klopp’s team have lost just one Premier League match all season and yet are still likely to fall short.
With those two at the top, punching and counter-punching game after game and pushing 100 points, it has to be the best league around, does it not? A caveat. A league is the sum of all of its parts and in a season in which Europe has fallen to the English, the bottom of the Premier League has fallen away. Huddersfield’s point against Manchester United last Sunday was the first by a bottom-three side against a top-six club all season. Cardiff could improve that record against United on Sunday but, for a league that prides itself on its competitiveness, it is not a statistic to be proud of.
Compare that to La Liga where the bottom three of Huesca, Rayo Vallecano and Girona have mustered 23 points – including six wins – against the top six in Spain, and the difference is stark. The Premier League has become top heavy, and the danger is it will only get worse. International TV money has, thus far, been split equally between all 20 clubs but from next season all increases will be allocated according to league position. So the rich will get richer.
Football still does dreams – but it needs high-quality threads to weave a magic carpet.
The Premier League may glitter on the catwalks of Europe but the trade-off should not be that it ends up wearing a fur coat and no knickers.
Two, should shame clubs the No Divock A league is the sum of all of its parts
KENNY DALGLISH and Robbie Fowler played in the pro-am at the British Masters on Merseyside this week. So did Juan Postigo Arce.
Not heard of him? He is a Spaniard who plays off a handicap of one. Oh yes, and he also has another handicap of one – one missing leg, that is.
Arce was born without much of his right leg and uses a crutch to get around the course.
This week he left spectators at Hillside and playing partner Paul Waring open-mouthed with the power he generated through his incredible balance and core strength.
“Until you actually see him play, you can’t grasp it,” said Waring, a European Tour professional.
How good could he be with two legs? It is a valid question, but not one Arce ever asks himself.
“Accept yourself as you are,” he shrugged. “If you have only got one leg, you will only ever have one leg, so be happy with it.”
FORMULA ONE desperately needs the Mercedes monopoly to be broken up at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. While the scrap between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, right, at the top of the drivers’ standings is absorbing, an unprecedented sequence of four successive one-twos from Mercedes to start the season is threatening to turn 2019 into a manufacturers’ parade. Excellence is to be admired but total domination dims the lights in any sport, and Ferrari’s decision to fast-track their car upgrade two races sooner than planned reflects the alarm. The Tifosi will not be the only ones hoping it has the desired effect at the Circuit de Catalunya. Someone – correction, anyone – needs to close the gap on Mercedes.
CHELSEA’S decision to appeal to CAS over the transfer ban is understandable given the baffling judgment in the Caster Semenya case.
Maybe they hope CAS get it all wrong again and ban outgoing transfers, so they can keep Eden Hazard.