IT WAS a showcase for the very best the Bundesliga had to offer.
It was also a night to highlight the very best that Europe had to offer this season. These are the teams who had cowed the might of La Liga en route to Wembley but it wasn’t just about German football, it was about the strikers enlisted by the clubs.
Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski was the talk of the continent after his four goals against Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg left him a couple short of equalling Ronaldo’s Champions League tally for the competition and staking a claim to the Golden Boot. In the red corner, Bayern’s Arjen Robben has averaged a goal every 44 minutes of Champions League action this term.
To add intrigue, Lewandowski is touted to be joining Munich in the summer, and could link up alongside Robben in the Bavarian side.
In the build up to last night’s finale, Lewandowski was keen to play down the speculation which links him with a move away from the Signul Iduna Park. “The Champions League is a trophy too important,” he said.
“I’ll sort out the rest of my career after it. Now I only have the final in mind.”
And what a mind it is. Nicknamed “The Body”, it is the 24-year-old Pole’s mentality which has set him apart according to many of his fans in the game. They say he has a mindset which is focused and relaxed, they say he has a winner’s ice cool mentality.
But when Robben netted that 88th minute goal last night, it wasn’t steely determination etched on Lewandowski’s face, it was a looked of resignation. He may have netted 75 times in 139 appearances for Borussia Dortmund but one more proved beyond him on the night when one of his specials was needed most. He and his team-mates had been the fairytale feature of this season’s premier club competition and he had been their hero, they had pulled off more than the odd surprise to get this far, they had proved that they could not be easily written off but while he would keep going, sniffing around for the late equaliser, in that moment the look on his face suggested that he knew it was unlikely to come.
He may be Munich bound, but he is keeping schtum. “I do not know where I will play next season, I hear talk of Bayern and Real Madrid but I swear I am concentrating on Borussia. For the future we must wait a little longer – at the end of the season everything will be clear.”
But with Bayern racking up the trophies this term, setting the standards that everyone else in Germany and in Europe must reach for, and with Pep Guardiola on his way to join the new European champions, the lure may be too great.
On the night, though, it wasn’t Lewandowski who shone the brightest, it was his goalkeeper, Roman Weidenfeller, who fought manfully to keep the Bayern brigade at bay. Time and again he thwarted the attacks, his fingertips, he face, his legs, his hands, Bayern threw everything at him and he threw everything at the ball.
But Bayern proved that while Lewandowski captured the headlines in the build-up, their strikers would dominate them post-match. Croatian Mario Mandzukic got the opener, finally getting into the right place at the right time to tap home a lovely weighted Robben ball across goal.
And then it was the Dutchman who stole the limelight for himself. Having been pegged back, and with the game looking destined for extra time, it was Robben who got the winner. Last year he had trudged off the turf heart-broken after defeat by Chelsea. This year he was the winner. This time it was Lewandowski who has to live with the regrets but no-one in their right mind would bet against the Pole coming back just as strongly in the coming years.