Champions League Final Is a Strange Match for a Strange Year
(Bloomberg) -- It’s an odd match-up befitting a strange year.
When Paris Saint-Germain takes on Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final Sunday, it’ll be the first time soccer squads from France and Germany square off for the title in the world’s most prestigious club tournament since 1976 (Bayern defeated Saint-Etienne back then).
This year’s modified tournament is the first time ever that the final four teams were all from France or Germany. In the semi-finals PSG beat Leipzig and Bayern won against Lyon.
The oddities don’t end there.
- It was the first semi-finals without a Spanish team since 2007. Munich’s historic feat of putting eight goals past Lionel Messi’s Barcelona may end up being seen as the symbolic end of a vastly successful era at the Catalan club.
- A final four with neither English nor Spanish participation, the two richest leagues by revenue, last happened 24 years ago -- two years before PSG’s Kylian Mbappe was born.
- For the first time in seven years, it will not be Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or Liverpool winning the trophy. Those teams are among the top four for highest squad values based on transfer fees.
- Bayern, a five-time winner, is the only prior champion to have advanced to the semi-finals.
The unexpected ending could be due to the tournament’s modified format. The final stage has been played behind closed doors and the quarter-final and semi-final matchups were limited to single games rather than the normal two match format. National leagues also paused and resumed at different times due to the outbreak, meaning the amount of rest teams had before the tournament’s finale varied more than in a normal year.
Still, money seemed to win out in the end despite the game’s gilded teams bowing out earlier than anticipated. In the semi-finals, PSG defeated upstart RB Leipzig, owned by billionaire Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, while Bayern ousted Olympique Lyonnaise. The two victors had revenues that were more than three times that of their opponents.
PSG was acquired by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011. Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi reportedly spent more than 400 million euros ($474 million) combined to bring just two players, Brazilian superstar Neymar and French attacker Kylian Mbappe, to the club. Bayern counts Audi AG, Allianz SE and Adidas AG among its owners.
Despite the big money PSG has spent on its attack, it’s been Bayern’s offense that has stolen the show with Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry together netting 24 goals. That’s just one fewer goal than the total count for PSG during the tournament.
The Champions League is big money for clubs. UEFA will award more than 2 billion euros for this year’s competition, including the UEFA Super Cup.
The winner of Sunday’s final match will take home more than 82 million euros. That money is more valuable than ever as clubs have no assurance that they’ll be able to welcome fans back to their stadiums when new seasons start over the next month.
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