Barcelona and their fans now have all the time in the world to celebrate what was a comprehensible 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final. But perhaps, they haven’t thought of who could be next on the historic list of European champions. Could it be Chelsea, AC Milan, the Red Devils, or even, Barca themselves on another occasion?
Well, most football fans would look at the performances, weaknesses and desires of giants across the continent to pick the team likely to be the next Champions League winner. These criteria prior to such a demanding bet are evidently plausible, yet, an ignored formula seems to show that predicting the subsequent season’s winner isn’t wholly about physical eligibility. It is seemingly not entirely about the combination of mental strength, intelligence on the pitch, unity, physical skills, support, financial welfare, and experience either.
In reality, special events in the recent history of the competition have proved that—in order to be able to predict a season’s Champions League winner correctly—one needs to observe two things: the previous season’s champion, and who that particular champion defeated in his semi-final run.
How ridiculous does this sound? Extremely ridiculous and lame, presumably…
However, what matters is whether this doing results in accurate predictions or not. In the next slides, we look at how “coincidences” in the past few years have been controlling enough to make up a bizarre formula that could be reliable for much longer.
It all began when AC Milan welcomed FC Barcelona at the San Siro on 18 April 2006. A strike from Giuly on 57 minutes surprisingly put the hosts behind, and in front of 76,900 home supporters, the Italian titans went down by a goal to nil.
8 days later, it was the Rossoneri’s task to overturn their first leg negative outcome, but somehow, they failed. They did not concede any goal though in that encounter, but a 0-0 draw happened to be insufficient for them to qualify into the final.
That season, Barcelona went on to be champions after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in Paris.
On their way to glory though, Milan faced Manchester United in a thrilling two-legged semifinal encounter—in which the British side had a great opportunity to emerge victorious and reach the final.
Despite a precious 3-2 win at the Old Trafford on 24 April 2007, the Red Devils were dominated in the end subsequent to a humiliating 3-0 loss at the San Siro.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men nevertheless proved to be unstoppable in the following season, as they forced their way into the final. There, they met their bitter rivals Chelsea, and in spite of the good show put on by Ronaldo, the Blues were able to send the game to extra time and penalties.
With Cristiano Ronaldo failing to convert from the spot, it was all down to skipper John Terry—who had done wonders in the Londoners’ defense throughout the game. The captain, on the verge of making history, somehow slipped and shot wide, only to see Manchester United celebrate afterward as a result of another Chelsea miss—this time—by Anelka.
On their road to success, United faced a broken Barcelona side. The Catalans, at that time, were said to be struggling with issues related to divisive attitudes from a few players in the dressing rooms. Regardless, Los Cules managed to resist the forces of Manchester at the Camp Nou in their opening leg fixture; however, it was their return-leg game that confirmed they were not ready for major accomplishments.
A 1-0 defeat at the Old Trafford brutally ended Barca’s hopes of being European champions, but their wounds did not last for too long.
Under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona rose to the top, imposing themselves by all means at European level. They faced Manchester United in the Rome final, but the Premier League masters did not appear to be too strong for them in any way.
Goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi were eventually more than enough for Barca to clinch their second Champions League title of the ongoing century.
Did Chelsea have any chance at all of reaching the Champions League final? Not according to the mysterious formula, especially since they were placed against lucky 2008 semifinal victims Barcelona in the 2009 Last Four.
Well, for some reasons, Referee Ovrebo wasn’t going to let Chelsea upturn everything—and his whistle and decisions affirmed it. With FC Barcelona going on to be champions that season, one could have predicted a final triumph for the Blues in the 2009/2010 Champions League edition.
This did not happen though, but for some followers of the action, it was all for the best…
Barcelona’s controversial qualification and the Ovrebo incident seriously made a good number of spectators upset, and among the angry watchers was a man that certainly knows a lot about emotions in football: Jose Mourinho.
The self-proclaimed Special One—then the manager of Inter Milan—felt his former club Chelsea deserved some justice, and he saw no problem in taking the responsibility for the revenge of the Londoners.
Ironically, his Inter Milan club was drawn against Chelsea in the Round of 16, but having already launched his plan of vengeance against Barcelona, Mourinho did not hesitate to accept acts of favoritism from referees in both legs, merely to edge past Roman Abramovich’s men and continue his quest.
It was after that episode that the Portuguese manager grew even more confident over the success of his mission, and more or less coincidently, Mourinho faced Barca in the semifinals—the same stage where Referee Ovrebo turned into a popular figure.
Again using the official as a helper, the Special One’s Inter Milan crushed Barcelona 3-1 at the San Siro, in a highly controversial match that played a huge role in the Nerazzurri’s qualification into the final. Not touched by the bitter complaints of Barcelona’s players, the former Porto boss could only look to complete the task he had already tackled.
Here is an edited post-match quote from Jose Mourinho, based on a report from the BBC.co.uk website: “It’s a pity (for the Azulgranas to have short memories). A year ago (in the semis), Chelsea were crying and Barca were laughing with the referee (Ovrebo). They laughed because he denied my Chelsea boys their rightful place.”
It certainly isn’t normal for an Inter Milan manager to refer to Lampard, Drogba and co. as his “Chelsea boys”. Obviously, this was positively understood by the public, who assumed that Jose still highly valued the players of the Chelsea club, as they were once his loved ones.
On an interesting note, it is explicable that Mourinho fought the Catalans on behalf of the Blues, who were ostensibly not powerful enough to take on the Spanish giants. He asserted that his attainment was a gift for the Londoner, and this can push one to believe that Inter’s run and success in the Champions League that season was dedicated to the unsatisfied Chelsea family—a family Mourinho was visibly still part of, at that time.
In all, it was all about satisfying the troubled Chelsea spirit, which eventually got in a better state after Mourinho bravely “punished” Barcelona.
Inter Milan—Chelsea’s Champions League substitutes and defenders that season—ended up their semifinal battle against Barca as the favored side, despite a 1-0 loss at the Camp Nou. They finally triumphed in the final at the Bernabeu through a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich.
Their exploit further substantiated the formula indicating that “whoever beats Barcelona in a competition goes on to win that competition, unless Barca themselves emerge as the champions of that particular contest.”
After being compelled to endure an extremely painful ending in the 2009/2010 season’s Champions League, Barcelona showed their fans that they were yet to ignore their desires. Indeed, just as Coach Pep Guardiola admitted last year that “we owe you one (Champions League trophy)”, the Catalans ended their mission in style by reigning on English soil, thanks to a historic victory over Manchester United.
Barca triumphed 3-1 at the Wembley Stadium; the goals in the match coming from Pedro Rodriguez, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and David Villa. This win completed the Blaugrana’s almost-perfect season, with La Liga title already claimed.
The celebrations can go on and on for Barcelona fans at present, but have they thought of the team that could more or less coincidently end up as the 2012 champion? Let us have a look at the Catalans’ run in the Champions League semifinals in the just-ended season…
A pair of chaotic Clasicos in the semifinals saw Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho question the fair-mindedness of Barcelona and the objectivity of referees and UEFA.
In a match at the Bernabeu that was supposed to be a tight and hot encounter, Barcelona dominated with a 2-0 victory, after defender Pepe and Mourinho himself were red carded and sent to the stands respectively. Thanks to a double from Lionel Messi—which was judged by many to be a double of extremely great quality—Barcelona turned out to be the clear favorites of the tie.
As expected, Barcelona resisted Real at the Camp Nou early in May, but Los Blancos still managed to register a goal. Ultimately, the two-legged fixture was closed with a 3-1 aggregate score line in favor of Barca; but there were heavy complaints from Madrid, who also blamed the return-leg’s referee for making terrible decisions, including the cancellation of a clean goal from Gonzalo Higuain.
In 2010, Inter played for a Chelsea side that claimed to be robbed in 2009, and the Italians went on to be crowned champions. In 2011, Barcelona gave their all after claiming to be robbed in the previous year, and they also went on to be champions. The side now claiming to be robbed in the Champions League’s semifinals is none other than…, Real Madrid.
Furthermore, with all the facts presented in the previous slides, it makes sense to conclude that the 5-year-old hidden Champions League formula is indeed effective:
“Whoever is beaten by the eventual Champions League winner in the semifinals returns the following season to snatch the trophy.”
In Chelsea and Inter’s case, it was supposedly all about former Chelsea leader Mourinho agreeing to carry the load and taking the Blues’ “rightful place” as champions through a vengeance over the apparent enemy: FC Barcelona.
The question now is: Can Real Madrid reach greatness in 2012?
The answer, obviously, is yes. Taking into account their huge capabilities and strong squad, Madrid surely have what it takes to be the next champions of Europe. In the just-ended season, Los Blancos have broken their cupless curse by defeating Barca in the Copa del Rey final, and winger Cristiano Ronaldo has additionally broken old records to become La Liga’s all-time top scorer.
These are not just any attainments… Knowing how hungry and mocked they are, the Castellans definitely will not allow themselves to go through another disappointing season—especially in the Champions League.
Real were close to grabbing the double in the 2010/2011 term, but exactly 10 years after their last European title, Madrid could jump back in the spotlight and rule over all their rivals, in the continent’s biggest stage in club football.
“If we don't win it this year, we will win it next year or in two years’ time. We will be in semifinals and finals; we've changed.”
This is what Mourinho told journalists back in 2010 after Inter defeated Barca at the San Siro. Well, it now seems that his declaration applied to himself as a manager only, rather than the Inter club, which he is no longer part of.
After the Special One won the Champions League with the Nerazzurri, he has led Real to the semis, and he is presently in the position to guide Real to the final next season. This is more a fact than a simple thought.
If one refuses to believe that the secret formula lost its power at the Wembley Stadium on 28 May 2011, then it makes sense to be courageous enough and make the boldest prediction: that Real Madrid WILL win the 2011/2012 UEFA Champions League.
For further emphasis on the formula and more mysterious facts, read the following, which is related to the 2010 final: