The English influence isn’t completely absent from the Champions League. No Premier League club made it beyond the last 16, but the 5,000 Borussia Dortmund fans happily sang ‘Here we go’; another song to the tune of ‘The Wild Rover’ and another to a Bananarama hit. No, not 'Robert Di Niro’s waiting', but their cover of 'Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss him goodbye)' as their players re-emerged from the dressing room to dance ecstatically in front of their fans. So did coach Jurgen Klopp, who bowed in reverence towards those supporters who absolutely adore him. He’s revolutionised their side and their club, why wouldn’t they?
A Dortmund-supporting journalist behind claimed the last 10 minutes had been the longest of his life. Unable to show his emotions for he was surrounded by Madrid fans, he’d spent that time punching his hand with his fist. Few teams hold out in the Bernabeu, but Dortmund’s 4-1 first leg lead gave them a sufficient cushion. They could afford their 2-0 loss. Just.
Madrid fans cursed English referee Howard Webb, the man who has officiated in two of their last three semi-final eliminations and never the most popular man in Spain since he didn’t send off Holland’s Nigel de Jong for his kung-fu style kick into the chest of Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final. They were sporting enough to applaud Dortmund off the pitch at the Bernabeu and their own support couldn’t be faulted. It’s a fine stadium, probably the best in the world, but the atmosphere is often underwhelming. Not last night. For the majority of the 90 minutes, the Bernabeu was louder than it had been all season, with cries of ‘Yes We Can!’ - the anthem permeating the night - especially in the first half before their hopes began to dim. The last 10 minutes reignited that hope, but ultimately to no avail. Dortmund will play in their second European Cup final, this time at Wembley, where the price of a burger and a drink will exceed what most Dortmund fans pay for a match ticket each week.
Madrid’s week is only likely to get worse as Barcelona lift the Spanish title at the weekend.
Outside the ground, the fans had hollered for Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo in the packed streets before the game. They really did believe a comeback was possible. It’s curious that Mourinho will leave for Chelsea in the summer, amid his own claims that he’s not loved in Spain, but he is by match-going Madrid fans, especially the younger end, as he’s seen as the embodiment of their self-assured arrogance. And as Madrid are a club owned by its fans that should count for something, but Madrid is also a deeply political institution where no coach will ever have the power they want, where the club brief against their own employees to a media with significant influence, a club where the president is the main man and not the coach, where frequent changes of coach are the norm. Madrid have had 25 in the last 25 years.
Ronaldo’s future is more likely to be at the Bernabeu. They don’t want to sell their best player and don’t need to, while Madrid’s obsession with the decima, their 10th European Cup, will continue. The stalls selling merchandise along the grand Passeo de la Castellana packed away giant posters of the 2002 team, which won the ninth, last night. They’ll be unpacking them again next season.
Before Mourinho, they hadn’t gone beyond the quarter-finals in seven years. Mourinho has led them to the semi-finals in each of his three seasons at the club. He can still win the Copa del Rey for a second time in three years, and will surely win it, as Madrid’s opponents in the final are neighbours Atletico, who have not beaten Madrid since 1999.
Attention switches to tonight’s match in the Camp Nou, where Barcelona’s passage to Wembley is even more improbable after they were demolished 4-0 by Bayern in the first leg. Barca beat Bayern 4-0 at home when the teams last met in 2009, with all the goals coming in the first half. And the Camp Nou was the scene of the Bavarians' greatest ever capitulation against Manchester United in the 1999 final. Could they leave devastated once again tonight?
Luck and Lionel Messi will play a big part. Barca will likely dominate like Madrid did last night. Messi needs to be at his best, something he hasn’t been in recent weeks since he suffered a hamstring injury in Paris in March. He’s eight days fitter than he was in Munich, though, and if any player can inspire the greatest ever “remontada” (comeback) then it’s him and the Barca players, who are full of hope – at least publicly. What else could they say? Privately, they know it’s unrealistic.
The Catalan papers led the line with their Remontada headlines before the last 16 game against AC Milan, but that was after a mere 2-0 first leg reverse. They called that one right but today the tone is different. They’re celebrating Mourinho’s demise and wishing him a cheery ‘adios’. They’ll be glad to see the back of him, though that’s in part because he worked out how to beat Barcelona. There’s Catalan glee at Madrid’s tears, headlines which will be repeated in Madrid tomorrow if Barcelona go out tonight. ‘Barcelona Search for a Miracle’ is a smaller headline in Sport. Can they do it? Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes is one of only three coaches whose team failed to defend a four-goal first-leg advantage. He was in charge of the Borussia Mönchengladbach side that beat Real Madrid 5-1 at home in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup third round, only to lose the return 4-0.
It’s still highly unlikely that Barca will go through against such a good side, but should Messi be at his best, who knows?
By Andy Mitten at the Bernabeu