Introducing President Money
Post-Euro 2000 Real Madrid would bring in new President Florentino Perez, he of the endless supply of money, a type of Santa Claus who alone had the power to assemble the dream team in everyone’s minds, with every conceivable star in world football playing for Real Madrid by the end (Raul, Zidane, Ronaldo were the main ones). Eventually he got carried away, tossing aside the defensive players while the frontline stars grew old and slowly became yesterday’s men. In 2001, however, the first addition was Luis Figo, important to Real for the politics of having stolen him from Barcelona, and he delivered for a year, working well in tandem with Raul. But the new-look Real, while streaking Spain, lost their Champions League to perhaps the most committed team we would ever see.
The featureless champions
Bayern Munich of 1998-2002 mostly relied on the supreme goalkeeping skills of Oliver Kahn, so unrelentingly dominant that he would unprecedentedly win the 2002 World Cup’s Golden Ball as its best player. On his back it was easy for Bayern to form an airtight defence and keep a stranglehold right up until winning the trophy, driven and focused from having thrown away the title two years ago, conceding two injury-time goals to Manchester United in the 1999 final. Even the juggernauts of Real Madrid were no match. Real keeper Iker Casillas made one mistake, and the tie was over.
Bayern’s focus couldn’t last beyond this year, once they finally sated what had been lacking. The lack of sparkle in their play was revealed in a very poor 2001 final against Valencia, who were a mirror of themselves, only lacking Bayern’s famous luck.