The first-leg semifinal match between Real Madrid and Chelsea earlier this morning, April 28, must have felt odd to many following the European Super League fiasco.
Both Real Madrid and Chelsea have drawn flak as founding members of the ill-fated breakaway league, so it’s a curiosity how the football community reacted to the match.
While Chelsea officials were quick to withdraw from the ESL, Real Madrid, led by its stubborn president and Super League founding chairman Florentino Perez, refused to budge.
UEFA has already announced that the founding club members will face consequences on varying degrees.
The six English clubs that made a quick turnaround will more likely suffer less punishment from UEFA, but those that officially haven’t withdrawn such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will be dealt with harshly.
Until Uefa does mete out its retribution, it’s back to regular programming for now.
Regardless of the first leg result this morning (I wrote this prior to the match), Los Blancos and the Blues players need to remind themselves that it will take a while to win back the hearts and minds of a disillusioned football community.
Both clubs will have to contend with the reality that superlatives are best expressed on the pitch and not on board rooms.
And for all the disappointments of the past few days, the two-leg semifinal encounter between two former European champions still promises football of the highest quality.
Besides, Real Madrid carries the distinction of winning the most Champions League finals with 13 trophies.
And the man at the helm of Los Blancos, Zinedine Zidane, is arguably the best European club manager of all time, being the first one to win the Champions League three times in a row: in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Zidane, though, is unhappy at Uefa’s threat of kicking out Real Madrid, so whether this affects his state of mind as his side deals with formidable Chelsea remains a question.
Revitalized Chelsea, on the other hand, has Thomas Tuchel at the helm, and he practically rescued the English club from a disastrous season when he took over early this year.
Tuchel may not have as many accolades as his French counterpart Zidane, but he is no pushover.
The German manager guided Paris Saint-Germain to its first ever Uefa Champions League final last season, losing by just a lone goal to eventual champions Bayern Munich.
In a sense, Tuchel is hungry for European success.
But Zidane, distractions aside, has nothing left to prove, and one can only wonder whether another Champions League trophy would mean anything to him at all.