Bring on battle between Bayern Munich and Liverpool: Neil Humphreys
Bayern Munich and Liverpool promise a rivalry for the ages
From Liverpool to Bayern Munich, from Juergen Klopp to Hansi Flick, the Champions League baton was passed appropriately.
From one German manager to another, the transition in European power has been smooth, consistent and perhaps even necessary.
The previous Champions League holders and the new winners are both overseeing the kind of football we need right now.
For a couple of seasons now, elite football has been perilously close to disappearing up its own backside.
Chin-stroking managers appeared to shrink under the weight of their own intellect, reinventing a wheel that was otherwise rolling along just fine.
At Manchester City, Pep Guardiola second-guessed himself out of Europe.
In the English Premier League, Jose Mourinho has been second-guessing himself for years now, at both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, looking for defensive formations that are no longer valid.
At Arsenal, Unai Emery tried to give the impression that he was operating at a higher cerebral plane. The rest of us just didn't get him. His tactical thinking was too elaborate for the great unwashed.
It really wasn't. Mikel Arteta replaced Emery and won the FA Cup.
A similar, but far greater, achievement played out in Munich.
Bayern's former coach Niko Kovac failed to address his side's defensive frailties. A more fluid approach was favoured, which made room for the mercurial Philippe Coutinho but not Thomas Mueller (who proved formidable in the Champions League's knockout stages).
Bayern lost their way, their identity even. Bayern didn't look like Bayern any more. Like Emery at Arsenal, Kovac was gone before Christmas.
In retrospect, what happened next feels like a protest against the cerebral, overwrought muddlers. Flick simplified.
He brought Muller back into the fold, filled his midfield with experience and retained youthful speed on the flanks.
And that was it. Nothing else changed for the rest of the season. Whatever the occasion or opponents, Flick largely persevered with his 4-2-3-1 formation with drilled efficiency.
With familiar personnel and similar tactics, Flick won 33 of his 36 games and collected a Treble. Yesterday's Champions League triumph was a testament to one man's belief in discipline and consistency.
There's always a tendency to emphasise machine-like German production over artistic improvisation, when both can apply.
Bayern's winner against Paris Saint-Germain resulted from a delightful cross from Joshua Kimmich, a natural playmaker masquerading as a right-back, for the excellent Kingsley Coman to head home.
The move was spontaneous and improvised, with Bayern free to operate within clearly prescribed and familiar limits. It isn't restrictive. It's liberating football.
Bayern's dependable structure frees players to take risks going forward, knowing that others will quickly cover. It's no coincidence that the German side collectively ran farther than PSG.
In the final, Bayern never panicked. Even when Manuel Neuer's unflappable legs saved his side a couple of times, his teammates never doubted themselves. Their faith in Flick's formula was absolute. Sound familiar?
Even though Bayern's formation, personnel and high defensive line were obvious to all before kick off, PSG's expensive side still failed to defeat a predictable tactical approach. Sound familiar?
It should. These scenarios have played out for more than a year now in the EPL. Liverpool's 4-3-3, Klopp's gegenpressing and their overlapping fullbacks can be recited as easily as the lyrics of You'll Never Walk Alone.
But they usually won anyway, just like Bayern. Their dominance of their respective leagues this season feels like a victory for visceral, instinctive football played with the heart, rather than the head.
Yes, of course the two must work in tandem. But, at times last season, City's footballers looked like their heads must have hurt after team talks.
Hopefully, Bayern and Liverpool's remarkable progress with managers relying on the tried and tested - that is the best players available in their positions doing what they do better than anyone else - may tear away the Emperor's New Clothes for good.
A handful of coaches are tactical geniuses. But the most successful coaches have proved to be those that hit upon a winning template and possessed the confidence to mostly stick with it, whatever the circumstances.
Like Klopp, Flick's finest achievement was to convince his players that they were greater than the sum of their parts. The onus was always on the opposition to find a way to beat them, rather than the other way around.
And next season, they must find a way to beat each other. That's the truly tantalising prospect to remember here.
Flick has nurtured immovable objects to rival Klopp's unstoppable forces. When they meet, it'll be like looking in a mirror.