Sacchi, Zidane, Simeone and superstition
I read in AS yesterday a fairly over-the-top vision of the forthcoming final in Milan. Arrigo Sacchi says Atlético Madrid are a fishing boat facing a warship. Let's agree he's misguided with such a take, maybe a result of his view nowadays being from afar. But he's a guy who, before his spells at Atleti and Real Madrid, hit the highest of heights; so his will always be a voice worth hearing. I remember seeing the Real of the 'Quinta del Buitre' taken apart by his AC Milan side, then watching that team lift the European Cup against Steaua Bucharest at the Camp Nou. "Cosí si gioca soltanto nel Paradiso," trumpeted the headline in La Gazzetta.
"They only play like that in Paradise". That Milan display in Barcelona was utter perfection. Is it possible we'll witness the like tomorrow night at the San Siro? We'll have to wait and see! Atlético will come out committed as ever to their usual cause: intensity, positioning, fighting spirit... Up against that we'll see the Real of always, with the mighty attacking punch of their three best players. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo: a trio who've swiped the BBC's initials for themselves. That's the power of football! What was once the symbol of RP English, the linguistic axis of an empire, now also refers to Real Madrid's forward line.
And while we think about that, Atlético Madrid are now ensconced in Milan, a full 24 hours ahead of their opponents. Rojiblancos head coach Diego Simeone, who's a superstitious individual - a 'cabulero', as they say in South America - is at pains to make sure their routine is just the opposite to two years ago in Lisbon. Hence the elaborate training schedule of recent days, moving from hither to yon. He's even been after permission for Atleti to wear blue in the final, given they lost in red and white in 2014. A wholly more serene Zinedine Zidane pitches up with his squad today. Well, he is at the helm of a warship, after all...