Well, at least up until Saturday’s showdown in Madrid. But we can forget that, the final doesn’t really matter, does it? As the great American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson would say: it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey there.
He’s a pretty quotable fellow, actually, who came out with some great lines.
Speaking of which, here’s some of the best quotes from this year’s unforgettable edition of the Champions League, ranging from some rather regrettable pre-match interviews in the group stages to impassioned words of joy from the victorious Liverpool camp.
“I’m just a normal lad from Liverpool whose dreams have just come true”
20-year-old world beater Trent Alexander-Arnold’s tweet in the aftermath of the Reds’ triumphant showing at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium makes us all realise just how fabulous his and the team’s achievement is.
We’ve all dreamt of leading our childhood club to glory but unfortunately those hopes never become a reality for most. Don’t pinch yourself though, Trent, you actually did it. Savour the moment, revel in it. You’re a hero.
“[Real] Madrid is bigger than any of us – it always returns and it returns even stronger”
Santiago Solari was the man at the helm when Real Madrid were all at sea in March. He couldn’t save them from being shipwrecked, though neither could Zinedine Zidane when he replaced the doomed Spaniard.
Despite Los Blancos’ nightmare campaign, Solari’s parting words after the 4-1 humbling by Ajax in the quarters (as quoted by the BBC) are a little bit ominous. The club are set to use an enormous transfer war-chest to turn their misfiring squad back into a deadly machine – everyone else, beware.
Erik ten Hag
“We get €10m from TV, they get a lot more. Is it still unfair for them or for us?” (Sky Sports)
You can’t argue with facts. Erik ten Hag gave a perfect, measured response to Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino’s suggestion that his wonderful Ajax outfit had an unfair advantage in the build-up to their semi-final meeting.
The Argentine felt it was unjust that Dutch football’s governing body had moved a round of Eredivisie fixtures to allow
“Thank you, football. This type of emotion without football is impossible to live, to feel.” (BBC)
Tottenham needed three goals in less than one half of football to reach the final in Madrid. And they were away from home. And they were up against an Ajax side oozing confidence and class.
They did it, somehow. They shouldn’t have, but they did. I doubt even Pochettino believed that they could. No wonder he ended up thanking the sport; I was too after an absolutely staggering 24 hours of Champions League football. I feel truly blessed to follow the beautiful game.
“Most of the children are probably in bed so… these boys are f***ing mentality giants!”
So said an ecstatic, eccentric German following an unthinkable night of nostalgia and euphoria. He has a point, it takes a certain iron-like mindset to even dare consider the kind of comeback Liverpool pulled off.
They had a mountain to climb against a Barcelona side featuring possibly the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch. Klopp’s boys didn’t just climb that mountain, raced up and conquered it. The ghost of Istanbul fuelled the Reds’ charge on a monumental night at Anfield.
“We have the best players in the world. The hunger in this group is incredible.”
Stand-in manager Mikel Arteta was forced to eat his own words when taking charge of Manchester City in the absence of the banned Pep Guardiola. The ex-midfielder talked a very big game, but his recruits fell flat on their face days later against Lyon.
In an interview with the club’s website as his City squad prepared for the opening match of their European campaign, Arteta suggested they were unrivalled in the footballing world. Funny, then, when they put in a dire performance against the French side, a game which they were lucky just to lose!
“Just a little curiosity for my lovers and the lovers of the stats.” (Independent)
“This is a disgrace, they put four people that know nothing about football in charge of looking at the replay for VAR. Go f**k yourselves.”
Not really much to say here. Paris Saint-Germain only really have themselves to blame for their calamitous collapse in the last-16 versus United, yet still their Brazilian managed to find someone else to accuse in an explosive Instagram post. It’s simply never his fault.