For football players, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Only the World Cup final has more meaning. Tomorrow is the 2021 Champions League final — 20.00 BST (BT Sport 1) / 3pm EDT (CBS) — and for many, if not most of the 49 players traveling, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The same is true for coaches, though for Thomas Tuchel, this is the second final in just as many years, while Pep Guardiola is back for the third time, though the first in a decade since winning it for the second time with Barcelona in 2011. (He also won it once as a player, to go along with his two titles as manager.)
That certainly won’t diminish the experience for them — certainly not Tuchel who lost last year with PSG at this final hurdle — nor should it for their players.
“It’s one of the nicest weeks that you can have in football. You’re one of the only two teams that are still in training. This is very, very special.
“Hopefully the players take their time to also picture it, to connect to where they came from when they were little boys with the ball under their arm in the park or in their first clubs and dreamed about becoming professionals. This is the moment to picture it. [This is] what we do it for. Why do you do it? Why was this dream so big? [This is the moment] to connect you to the little boy in you and feel the joy and at the same time the hunger to fulfil your dream.”
Of course, it’s not just about enjoying the moment. There’s a football game to be won and while Tuchel going 2-for-2 against Guardiola this season (1-0 in FA Cup, 2-1 in the league) gives us the confidence of knowing that we can do it, actually doing it for the third time won’t be at all easy — especially given Chelsea’s continuing woes in front of goal, not to mention our flagging form of having lost three of the last four in all competitions.
And that’s the part where Tuchel’s enjoyment of the moment ends, and the work starts.
“It’s pretty much the question every week and after every match so far. This is the story to put all our energy in to improve. It’s maybe the toughest one because in the end it’s about conversion.
“We create touches in the box in crucial areas, we create chances with it, we have expected goals. We lack the conversion. Making the players know about it and keeping them confident still is not so easy because the strikers are dependent on their success and they need to feel it.
“We’re working on it. It’s a big challenge of course.”
It’s a big challenge with a massive reward.
The Big Ears awaits, as does immortality.
“It feels like I’m in the perfect place at the perfect time. I feel very, very good.
“Hopefully it’s like this but I know we have to deliver. It’s about timing, not only about results sometimes but the chemistry, the moment, the team. Everything feels very, very good now.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: CBS
Here’s to feeling good all the time.