News : Champions League: Tuchel’s masterpiece – sport
The sky was cloudless and dark as the day of fame passed, and dozens of fans in dark blue shirts hooted Spanish barbarism on the monumental Praça da Liberdade. “Campeones, campeones”, they sang in front of the gigantic, inflatable pot with handles, the Champions League trophy. They too had been the protagonists of the day: 16,000 people, after all, had been admitted to the Estadio do Dragão. And what a difference that was compared to last year, when FC Bayern had to celebrate in front of empty ranks not so far from here, in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Now that Chelsea won the second Champions League title in their history after 2012 in Porto, the stadium wasn’t even lacking this: Madness.
On Saturday, the stadium of the dragon in Porto had honored its name for 97 fascinating minutes before “One step beyond” was chased through the loudspeakers. The classic among the ska anthems is always played at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC. The fans danced pogo and roared, and in front of them the team did the same. It was no longer possible to make out who was jumping up and down there in detail, the scenario had long since turned into a hidden object. And maybe, very maybe, that was the moment when Tuchel shook hands with his boss for the first time since taking office in January: the legendary Russian oligarch Roman Abramowich, the owner of the traditional London club.
It was “the best moment” for a first meeting, Tuchel would later say. When the thought was long in the air, he laughed. “Maybe it was the worst (moment), because from now on things can only go downhill.” Indeed: it doesn’t get much higher. “Olympus is blue,” headlined the Portuguese sports newspaper on Sunday O Jogo, related to Chelsea and Tuchel: He, who lost to FC Bayern Munich with Paris Saint-Germain last year and was then fired by SMS in December, on Christmas Eve, led his new team in a barely 130 -day the team rode into the top four of the Premier League, reached the FA Cup final and now won the premier class cup on the banks of the Douro. With a lonely goal by the German EM driver Kai Havertz (43rd) – and with Tuchel’s perfectly structured match schedule. When referee Mateu Lahoz whistled, Tuchel turned to the bench, beside himself with joy, clenched his fists and screamed like a dragon. It was a single explosion of euphoria. Then all his assistants flew at him, and his family wandered onto the field – his wife, his two children, who had had to do without him so often and for so long in the past few months.
“I’m walking through a movie,” said Tuchel at Sky, and confessed that he felt close to tears. “My family is here, the best thing that could have happened. My parents, who drove me to every soccer field, my wife, who was already in the Landesliga Süd and sometimes wondered who she was with. My grandmother who is now watching at home with over 90 … I know how much they are all happy. For them this is now. And for the fans! The whole game is for the fans. The game is a completely different game, when Fans are there. “
It is, that much is certain, not only different, but also better. English fans had invaded the city since Thursday and, the larger their number became, the previous annual beer consumption in the city, which had collapsed as a result of the pandemic, skyrocketed again. Masks? Social distance? C’mon! Should Porto not have become the new superspreader event: Thank you, Astra. It felt like more city fans had come, many without tickets, but who knows for sure. In the feeling of a certain victory that did not come after all. Because city coach Pep Guardiola wanted to be more cunning than hunger, as they say in his Catalan homeland, “mes llest que la fam”. In the end, the third Tuchel victory was in the third duel of the year with Pep. “We are the stone in ManCity’s shoe,” said Tuchel, who has won against all the great coaches who came before him since January, regardless of whether their name was José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti or Zinédine Zidane.
It was not inconvenient for him in the final that Guardiola suffered a coaching attack and renounced his defensive midfielders – even though one of them, Fernandinho, had urged him not to change anything at the press conference three times the previous evening. That, said the Brazilian, was the key: nothing to change! First Ilkay Gündogan was on the “six”, the Ukrainian Olkesandr Zivchenko, actually left-back, was supposed to assist him. Speed, technique, fast ball series, that was Pep’s plan – which failed. Although Chelsea even had to endure that the experienced defense chief Thiago Silva injured himself after a good half an hour and had to be replaced.
Later, as City blew more and more desperate attacks in the second half, Chelsea proved they learned how to suffer under Tuchel. Without ever losing the defensive order, which was one of Tuchel’s cardinal innovations when he took over the job from club legend Frank Lampard in January, and which ultimately provided the reason for the victory. Because City hardly got any chances and even fewer hits, the goal of the sinfully expensive Kai Havertz, who had been knocked on the ears again and again for moving from Leverkusen to London for almost one hundred million euros at the beginning of the season, was enough.
In the days before, Tuchel had the vague feeling that one would make it. The fact that the gut feeling, which was only expressed behind closed doors, became a reality had not only, but also to do with Guardiola’s formation. Chelsea goalkeeper Édouard Mendy had played the ball to the left, and when it landed at Mason Mount, a fatal hole had opened in front of City’s penalty area, which Havertz spied, filled, used. The center-backs and Gündogan were lost somewhere in the battle, and auxiliary sixes Zivchenko was late when Havertz usurped the scene.
He poked the ball past the falling goalkeeper Éderson, almost got stuck on him, and then had free rein to push the ball into the goal with the inherent coldness (43rd) – his first Champions League goal ever. Christian Pulisic, who came on for Timo Werner, had the greatest chance after that in the second half. But after an elegant, striking solo by Havertz, he lifted the ball to Éderson and just past the goal. It doesn’t matter: Even so and thanks to a remarkable and outstanding performance by Frenchman N’Golo Kanté in sixth position (which Guardiola ironically neglected), Chelsea became the first team from London to call a second Champions League title their own.
Such successes are usually rewarded. Even before the triumph of Porto, there had been rumors of an impending contract extension in London, which can now be seen as a certainty. “I’m not one hundred percent sure, but maybe with this victory I already have a new contract. Could be”, wondered Tuchel, and offered the image of the nerd who is completely uninterested in material things, who does not care about worldly things, but about them Football doesn’t care. “My manager said something, but I don’t know, we have to check that first,” laughed Tuchel at the press conference. According to SZ information, the contract has actually been extended by two years, with significantly higher salaries. An official confirmation was pending on Sunday. Tuchel’s manager Olaf Meinking did not comment. He noted the confidentiality of the agreement.
And now? Of course, the time has now come to celebrate, to let things sink in. But: “It’s about the next success, to be honest,” explained Tuchel. He experienced it on a different level, four years ago when he won his first professional football title. “When we won the DFB Cup with Dortmund, I didn’t come to the first training session with less hunger, desire or ambition,” he said. You can call it a declaration of war that can last for years. Because his winning team is bursting with class and youth.