It’s that time of May again when fans of Barcelona and one of the big four English clubs get ready to support their team in the biggest match on the European club football calendar.
Only this time, they won’t be playing. But that doesn’t make the UEFA Champions League final any less exciting or historic.
Bayern Munich and Inter Milan stand on the brink of completing an unforgettable treble, having swept domestic honours in Germany and Italy respectively.
It’s a battle of two beautiful footballing minds as Louis van Gaal squares up against Jose Mourinho, who has progressed from his translator at Barcelona to becoming the self-anointed “Special One”.
The two men share egos that make Simon Cowell look like a boy scout. That self-belief and confidence bordering on narcissism have seen them mould successful teams throughout their respective careers.
And their latest creations are no different. Few can name two more impressive sides than the Nerazzurri and the Bavarians in this season’s competition.
Inter were simply breathtaking in their semi-final against Barcelona. They battered the Catalans in the first leg at the San Siro, giving them a comfortable aggregate lead to take to the Nou Camp.
Mourinho was proud of the fact that his team parked not just a bus but an aeroplane as well in front of Julio Cesar’s goal. You can’t begrudge the tactics for nullifying Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. It was one of the few times when Barcelona looked like they had ran out of ideas to get the ball into the back of the net.
Rui Faria, part of the Special One’s coaching setup, claims that the Portuguese tactician knows everything about every player. Obviously an exaggeration, but there’s no doubt that he has created a persona of omniscience that strikes fear in the heart of the opposition.
There’s always a feeling that a Mourinho side starts a match already a goal ahead. His pre-game quotes on referees and rivals alike have been sorely missed in the Barclays Premier League. Rafa Benitez’s weekly “I need more transfer money” speeches are a sad and bad replacement.
Van Gaal may prove to be his toughest adversary to date in a true master versus disciple contest. From launching a tirade on Arjen Robben moments after substituting him to telling general manager Uli Hoeness to stay out of his business and leave the coaching to him, you can see who Mourinho learnt his theatrics from.
One of them will join an elite group of coaches who have led two different sides to triumph in Europe’s preeminent football competition. The other will have to find excuses to blame the loss on everyone but himself.
There’s just so much attacking talent on show come Saturday night. Eto’o, Milito, Sneijder, Schweinsteiger, Mueller, Klose – just to name a few.
So get ready for drama, jubilation, misery and quirky post-match interviews that only a van Gaal-Mourinho showdown can bring.