thumbnail Hello,

The key men in Los Blancos' electrifying hammering of the Champions League holders all developed their game in England, highlighting the exodus of its best talent to Spain

COMMENT
By Julian Bennetts at the Allianz Arena

It was the aesthetes against the athletes and it wasn't even close. As Real Madrid poured forward at the Allianz Arena, reducing Pep Guardiola to impotent rage in Bayern Munich's technical area, it almost seemed unfair, as if we were waiting for a boxing referee to halt the bout.

Los Blancos were just so much bigger, stronger, more powerful and, well, dominant physically as well as on the scoreboard. It seemed akin to the school playground when a group of elder, bigger children decided to teach a bunch of young upstarts a lesson. Bayern watched on, helpless. They had been squashed not only by Spanish technique but by the best of the Premier League, too.

Among the admirers observers on the touchline was Roy Keane. After the match he put a hand around Cristiano Ronaldo's shoulders, congratulating his former Manchester United team-mate on a sumptuous performance. On Twitter, Gary Neville talked of how this is the philosophy to which the Red Devils should aspire – one based on pace and power.

MADE IN ENGLAND
How Madrid's stars rated
Cristiano Ronaldo

Luka Modric

Gareth Bale

Xabi Alonso
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Sir Alex Ferguson should feel honoured – Madrid have taken the best of his old United sides and improved on it in what was perhaps the finest Champions League performance since 1994.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that a Madrid team full of those who have learned and shined in the Premier League put in such a resolutely British display. Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on the two flanks were sprinters straining at the leash and, behind them, the two schemers, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso, knew exactly when to release them.

The third Madrid goal, swept home by Ronaldo after interplay between Bale and Karim Benzema, would have been a dream for Florentino Perez, the Spanish giants' president, who has helped oversee a spend of £905 million since they last won the Champions League, in 2002. The chase for La Decima has become an obsession but, in turning to a group educated in England, Madrid may have cracked it.

Ronaldo's personality is more Madeira than Moss Side but his formative years were spent in the Premier League, as were those of Bale, Alonso and, to a lesser extent, Modric. All four would be contenders for the very best in their position were they to return to England this instant; a reminder to fans of what they are missing in a division lacking the raft of genuine superstars that it used to boast. So many of them now form the bases of La Liga's elite.

"This is definitely why I came to Madrid," Bale told ITV, having been swept away from Tottenham to the tune of a record €100m (£86m) last summer. "This is why I wanted to come to the biggest club in the world. To win trophies, to win massive games." He could not have been part of anything on this level had he stayed where he was - and all the tricks that he learned in Southampton and north London ensured a smooth transition.

Their coach, too, has only had his know-how sharpened from a spell in England, Carlo Ancelotti having won the double with Chelsea before his harsh sacking in 2011.

If Chelsea progress to the final, we could have a rather strange meeting of Iberian and British styles, reversed; while Madrid have adopted a Premier League approach of physical power, the Blues under Jose Mourinho are more akin to a traditional Spanish side with schemers such as Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard prominent.

The fear from Los Blancos' point of view is that Mourinho, their boss until last summer, knows better than anyone how to get under their skin and stop them from playing yet such worries could wait, certainly until after the second semi-final.

Instead, as Madrid's players trooped through the mixed zone in the Allianz Arena, they appeared not to have a care in the world.

Sergio Ramos could barely move for attention, going live to several radio stations in his homeland to discuss his performances and his two goals – headers that were continually playing on the TVs mounted around the mixed zone. His eyes were transfixed, watching his own feats. After suffering so brutally in the semi-final against Bayern two years ago, missing the decisive penalty, it was hard to begrudge him the pleasure.

Ronaldo and Bale are as imposing in the flesh as you might expect; two men who could have been athletes if they had not been blessed with wands for feet.

Then, behind them, came the diminutive figure of Modric. The Croatian sported a sheepish grin and refused requests for interviews before being hugged by a member of the Madrid backroom staff. He had been the conductor, guiding his Madrid team-mates around the pitch. The orchestra had done its work. The athletes had won.

Love Champions League football? Then you’ll love the great DVDs on offer at Goal’s Official DVD Store – click here to take a look!

Related

From the web