It will be remembered as the strangest of Champions League seasons but it has ended with a familiar name on the trophy after Bayern Munich got the better of Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s final in Lisbon, with their deserved success the result of the remarkable job done by coach Hansi Flick.
There was ticker tape at the trophy ceremony and the usual celebratory songs playing over the loudspeakers at the Estadio da Luz as the Bayern players savored the moment after Kingsley Coman’s goal saw them defeat PSG 1-0.
But it was a bizarre spectacle with the 65,000-seat stadium empty, supporters having been barred from attending the biggest match in club football.
The coronavirus pandemic killed the Champions League as we know it, at least temporarily, and UEFA was forced to come up with a new ‘Final Eight’ format in order to make sure its flagship competition was completed.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told AFP in an interview in Lisbon that the format was likely to be a one-off, and some will be tempted to say that this Champions League should always have an asterisk next to it.
But, against first-time finalists PSG, Bayern were worthy winners of their sixth European Cup, they are third in the Champions League era.
They won all their 11 Champions League matches this season, an unprecedented feat.
They scored 43 goals in that time on a run that included a 7-2 win at Tottenham Hotspur and the stunning 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the quarter-finals in Lisbon.
They just had the better of the final, even if they were fortunate at times up against the French side’s formidable attack of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria.
In Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, and Thomas Mueller, Bayern’s line-up featured four survivors from their last final victory, against Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
But this was also about the new faces, such as 19-year-old left-back Alphonso Davies, the Canadian international.
“Moments like these you dream of as a kid,” he told DAZN. “I honestly can’t believe it, winning the Champions League is the top level.
“Over the last few weeks we have shown everything you need to win every title going,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.”We lost 1-0 in the final against one of the strongest sides in Europe. We must maintain the same quality to carry on this road.
“As Flick said: “It’s a pity that the fans couldn’t be here with us today. Perhaps they can be back again in the future. A game like this without supporters is not the football that we know.”