Bayern, PSG meet in CL final
LISBON, Portugal (AP):
After an unprecedented suspension of the competition, pandemic-enforced changes to the format and a switch of location for the final, the Champions League will conclude today – 425 days after the first game was played.
Either Paris Saint-Germain will pick up the European Cup for the first time or Bayern Munich will become six-time winners of the continent’s premier competition.
And just a few hundred people, including the coronavirus-checked players and officials, will be allowed into the final, which is being played in Lisbon in late August rather than Istanbul in May, as originally scheduled.
Never before has the European Cup been handed out in such empty surroundings. There’s none of the usual gathering of tens of thousands of supporters in the host city. Only the large trophy in Rossio – Lisbon’s main central square – gives away that the biggest match in world football is taking place in the Portuguese capital.
The lack of buzz and atmosphere at this 65th European Cup final will not detract from the magnitude of the occasion for the teams. For the first time since 1998, the final is a meeting of two teams who qualified as domestic champions.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary since their formation – after the merger of Paris clubs – PSG are younger than the 65-year-old European Cup. Becoming European champions would be the fulfilment of a nine-year journey of lavish investment since the state of Qatar bought the club.
“They will be the most important 90 minutes of our lives as footballers and in the history of the club,” said Marco Verratti, who has been at PSG eight years.
More than $1 billion in player investment – including the €222 million world record signing of Neymar in 2017 – has turned PSG into such a dominant force in France that the seasons become a procession. Seven out of the last eight Ligue 1 titles have been captured by PSG and four of the last six campaigns have ended in domestic trebles.
But PSG had become synonymous with its Champions League collapses, failing to make the semi-finals for a quarter-century until this month in Lisbon.
Since winning the Champions League for a fifth time in 2013, Bayern have lost four semi-finals.
Founded in 1900, Bayern established themselves as a super club long before states started investing in football. Whereas PSG is an extension of soft power by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at Bayern, it is the fans who control the football club through a mass membership system.