By Andrew Warshaw
August 24 – Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. While the goal-fest so many neutrals were hoping for did not materialise, Bayern Munich showed the importance of togetherness, steel and spirit as they claimed the Champions League title for the sixth time on Sunday and the first for seven years.
Bayern’s unbridled joy at becoming the first team ever to win every game in the competition in a single season was in stark contrast to the desperate disappointment of Paris St Germain who have spent more than $1 billion on players in the nine years under Qatari ownership, but still can’t make it count when it matters most even though they got further than they ever have before.
Bayern’s 1-0 victory behind closed doors in Lisbon may have been played amid an eerie atmosphere, with only a few hundred staff and officials in the stadium at the climax of the one-off ‘mini-tournament’ but that should not devalue their achievement, ironically secured by Paris-born and former PSG graduate Kingsley Coman’s header just before the hour mark.
Perhaps the most remarkable factor of Bayern’s tight but ultimately deserved victory was their transformation this season under the previously little-known Hansi Flick, who was promoted in November from No. 2 when Bayern were fourth in the Bundesliga and proceeded to send them on an unbeaten run culminating in Sunday’s ultimate prize.
“I remember in November the papers wrote that no one fears this Bayern team anymore, that no one respects it and how bad they are,” Flick said after emerging from the victory celebrations. “I think the growth they underwent is sensational. I don’t know when that party will end.”
Flick summed the all-for one mentality when he praised the spirit of the likes of prolific striker Robert Lewandowski, who hit the post in the first half.
“When you think how we worked defensively until the 92nd minute – Lewandowski was chasing after the ball, that was incredible,” Flick said. “It was a complete team performance.”
“We all know where we’ve come from this season,” said a rejuvenated Thomas Müller who did as much as anyone to send Bayern back to the top with their first treble since 2013. “There are no secrets, we just kept moving forward. Obviously we have a lot of quality in the team, but we also have the spirit. The boys are prepared to suffer. ”
The chance to lift Europe’s most prestigious club trophy doesn’t happen very often and while PSG will take heart from having improved on past performances in the competition, the likes of Neymar and Kilian Mbappe were peripheral figures in the second half on Sunday, the gut-wrenching disappointment at the end etched all over their faces.
“We weren’t clinical enough,” said PSG’s German coach Thomas Tuchel who watched most of the game sitting on a cool box, on crutches and unable to move freely after recently fracturing his fifth metatarsal. “We need to once again build another strong, powerful side. That will be the challenge to try and rediscover this spirit.”
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