Playing a final is not for everyone. Manchester City has just won the Champions League in Istanbul. Yes, Pep Guardiola, finally, returns to be the king of Europe as coach after 12 years of attempts and frustrations building and managing the best teams on the continent and the planet. But the Catalan coach must not have left entirely happy. Deep down, you should feel a stone in your shoes that will bother you for quite a while. It is that, without taking the trophy or the jackpot, the winner of the tactical battle was Inter.
The Milan team, with simplicity and effort, played the game they had to play to cancel the circuits of a rival that in the previous one seemed impossible to beat. The final stitch to deliver the blow was missing. As did Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea two Junes ago in Porto. Nothing else. Nothing less.
Inter is meritorious, although at the end of the day, history is written by those who win and everyone will remember the German Ilkay Gundogan raising the Orejona with the rain of confetti that took over the field of play of the Ataturk stadium. The approach of Simone Inzaghi minimized the best expressions of a City, who also knew how to put on the overalls, battled and found the goal of the difference with the shot of the Spanish Rodri, perhaps the best midfielder of today.
Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan lifts the champion's trophy. Photo: EFE/EPA/SEDAT SUNA.
It is insisted. Inter was meritorious. But the Italian coach's proposal was to destroy the virtues of the opponent. He lacked construction. And that situation does nothing more than think about what happened a little less than six months ago in the Lusail stadium, the scene of the final of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, when the Argentine National Team played eighty minutes of phenomenal football to erase from the field a team that on paper, and Marcelo Bielsa already said it, was superior.
And there is the difference, beyond that nobody will forget that monumental save of Dibu Martínez against Kolo Muani, that madness that served to reach the penalties and later celebrate until eternity after the rejection of Gonzalo Montiel. Football is made of imponderables. However, Lionel Scaloni and his coaching staff plotted the perfect match on the outskirts of Doha – despite Mbappe's monster. They minimized France not only by appealing to the destruction of the opponent's strengths, but to the construction of an offensive and high-intensity game. Pressure up top and quick partnerships in the middle to set up an unforgettable match.
Playing a final is not for everyone. And every day that passes from that December 18 does nothing but generate respect and exalt the healthy daring of the Scaloneta.
Messi kisses the World Cup. Iconic moment. Photo: REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo