|An everyday footballer scene|
These were dark days indeed, when misfits and scallywags like St Etienne, Dynamo Tbilisi and Feyenoord could be seen strutting about European football like they owned the damn place.
Your Kievs and Magdeburgs, your Colognes (or worse still your Kölns) and Gothenburgs (or Göteborgs) even your bloody Dundee Uniteds, strolled this odd planet playing football and keeping up with the Joneses, Schmidts and Bertillons. God love us, even dear old East Midlands rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest strutted their stuff against such luminaries as Dynamo Berlin, AEK Athens, Slovan Bratislava and other souls so lost these days, they might as well not even exist.
Thankfully all of that has been stamped out now and we can bask in Bayern v Real every single season, Chelsea v Barcelona every single season and pretend to be happy for FC Gloria Estefzvan when they qualify by mistake and then get absolutely murdered by European stalwarts Porto, Real and Juve. Poor old FC Gloria getting a good seeing to, but at least the prize money will be enough to help them dominate their domestic league back in Bulvakia and they will be back for more of the same next year.
But wait, deep down we're liking Mr Infantino's work, aren't t we? The music that makes your hair stand on end. The marvellous flash redecorating that goes on overnight in all the stadiums to rid the place of all that unnecessary local advertising: Bert Fink's Fish and Chips and Lower Sodbury Hillman Imp Spare Parts. Mastercard that little lot out of the way, we're coming through with the blue paint brushes and the illuminated football stickers.
Still, to City fans, brought up on a solid Euro buffet of jokes and disaster, of timid trips to Lokeren and the snow covered wastes of central Poland (yes, Groclin Dyskobolia, I am talking about you), the odd soft shoe shuffle with Real and Napoli, with Dortmund and Ajax, seems like Christmas has arrived and won't go away. It smells new, like a fresh pair of Danish espadrilles. It shines and it beckons us with its high hemline and heavy eye-shadow. Then it batters us over the head with its all-in travel packages, executive level seating and jumbo-priced Eurosnacks. Before you know it you're 3-2 down to Madrid and there's a twitchy copper looking at your forehead like he wants to practise tapping out some Flamenco on it.
Backed by the flags of Bredbury and Denton, you are beguiled by the foreign accents and the waft of strangely becoming pipe smoke. You take in the view through your giddy Estreladam beer spectacles and breathe in the elixir of the Champions League, the biggest ever thing to happen to you and your club, the all-inclusive place that makes you a little queasy at first, a little unsure whether to let yourself go completely and like it. Once you're in you're in, though, no questions asked.You'd better buy the travel package, the executive peanuts and belt up for the ride.
|Maier: big gloves|
This week, my beloved Manchester City face these aristocrats of European football, these giants that have bestrode the continental game unchecked for 40-odd years.
Manchester City versus Bayern Munich.
On the same pitch.
SEPP MAIER, goalkeeper, joker, bandy-legged wearer of the biggest gloves ever seen in world football. The man was a legend between the sticks, with his toothy grin and his adhesive hands. We had never seen goalkeepers wearing gloves like him before. They were huge paddles and made him look like an alien with oar-ends sticking out of his nice Addidas top. Bayern wore the three stripes like princes. Nobody wore Adidas in English football. They looked like otherworldly knights come to dethrone us all whilst wearing top quality Teutonic sportswear.
PAUL BREITNER: Amazingly talented full back, who - but for the most ridiculous bush of hair sat atop his great communist/maoist bonce - would surely have been remembered as one of the very best. Smote long range winners like they were going out of fashion, quoted Mao in his spare time and fled to Madrid, where the white shirts of Real clashed terribly with his fuzzy barnet.
HANS GEORG SCWARZENBECK: The man with the extraordinary hooter never got the recognition he deserved, as the calm rock alongside Beckenbauer in the heart of the Bayern defence, stayig behind when Kaiser Franz went on one of his regular sorties. Schwarzenbeck played many years at Bayern and in the national team, winning the World Cup in 1974. Then it all went to his head and he opened a tobacconists instead.
FRANZ BECKENBAUER: Kaiser Franz, the ultimate template for the mobile, forward-moving centre half-cum-sweeper. Beckenbauer was quite unlike anything most people had seen at that stage of the 70s. His craft, like Bobby Moore, was to stay on his feet and steal the ball away. No need to tackle and slide, when timing will do it all for you. What made Beckenbauer different was his ability to then move upfield and not lose possession. A truly majestic sight going forward, he was one of the best footballers Germany has ever produced.Reinvented himself several times as a successful manager, administrator and UEFA Football Person.
|Schwarzenbeck: unfeasibly long sideburns take attention from nose|
GERD MULLER: Centre of gravity so low that even a Jack Russell could not have destabilised him. Muller's tree trunk thighs and eye for goal made him an unmovable object and an unreasonable force. 487 goals in 555 games. For West Germany, as they were then, more goals (68) than games (62), an unbelievable feat. Rightly nicknamed Der Bomber, Muller was so addicted to goals that retirement from football brought real problems for him and only the kindness of the club enabled him to fight off alcoholism and make a comeback to the football industry. Will always be the yardstick alongside which all modern scoring records are compared.
ULI HOENESS: Hoeness has the words Bayern Munich inscribed in his bone marrow. The attacking midfielder or left sided striker played in all three of Bayern's European Cup triumphs and was in the victorious 72 and 74 West Germany side that carried off the European Championship in Brussels and the World Cup in Munich, of all places. Hoeness will perhaps be better remembered for missing the
|Hoeness scores against Atlético Madrid in the 1974 final|
FRANZ ROTH: One of the less celebrated members of the team but not in Munich, where his contribution to the cause is well remembered. Scored against Leeds in 75 and St Etienne in 76, as well as a goal against Rangers in the 67 Cup Winners Cup Final. A man for the big occasion.
KARL-HEINZ RUMMENIGGE: A name to strike fear into defenders and proof readers alike, it is often thought that Rummenigge was around later than this era, but he was present in both the 75 and 76 finals and became a Bayern legend over a 310 game career for die Roten.Another who could not resist the temptation to ascend those lushly carpeted steps up into the boardroom for a good argument over how football should be run in the modern age.