A Barcelona vs Bayern Munich final would have been an ideal exposition of the best football would have to offer. Lots of freewheeling attacking and horrendous defensive lapses would have made it a final to remember. But in its absence we should be thankful for what we did not get.
A Champions League version of El Clasico pitting Real Madrid vs Barcelona would have been a frenzy of media hyperbole, Twitter wars, Mourinho vs Guardiola, individualism vs system, nationalism vs autonomy, Cristiano Ronaldo vs Messi, Ramos vs Xavi. The world would have been privy to football's version of a bedroom farce for the next month or so. After that build up it would be 90 minutes of mind numbing theatrics - diving, tugging, mugging, rolling around poleaxed, referee baiting,10 men behind the ball, and the odd moment of brilliance. And so we dodged a huge bullet there. The fans of both clubs lick their wounds and have to find their jollies elsewhere.
We were also spared a Chelsea vs Real Madrid showdown which would have renewed speculation of a Mourinho return to his old club. He would have no doubt swaggered to the beat of Chelsea living off his legacy of tenacious defense with so many of his former players instrumental in the recent spate of successes. That would have engaged both English and Spanish tabloids in a wall to wall build up to the final. The match itself would be 90 minutes of 10 men parking the bus on both sides with John Obi Mikel and Pepe trying to outdo each other, "You're a Neanderthal but what am I?"
Chelsea vs Bayern's most potent sideline story is whether Arjen Robben will exact revenge on another one of his former clubs. It's not exactly the same as Banquo's spectre making Macbeth quake in his boots. The match up between both clubs is an imperfect end to this season's Champions League with the underlying feeling being how in blazes did Chelsea manage to come so far. But at least in footballing terms it gets to examine the eternal struggle between attack winning matches or defense avoiding a loss. There is also the perspective of two clubs finished domestically playing all out to win a title that will erase that unhappy outcome. In Chelsea's case winning the final might be the only ticket to getting back to the Champions League.
Bayern have amply demonstrated their explosive nature of its attack and in Gomez, Robben, and Ribery they have a perfect trident while leaving questions at the back. Chelsea have gone a different but no less effective route, capitalizing on their rare chances but also showing the defensive mettle that endears itself to no one but a few purists. The two sides also open up opposing but critical abstractions that are pertinent to the sport and its future away from what transpires on the pitch. Financial profligacy vs financial austerity. Individual wealth vs mixed ownership. Player activists vs sublimation to a system. Buying talent vs nurturing them.
The sport gets a thorough examination when these two meet at the Allianz Arena in less than a month, not some unending parade of sideshow distractions which leave the actual display of the sport on brittle ground.