Neil Humphreys: Zizou's Real Mad-rid
Crazy and reckless tactics surely can't work in final, can they?
Elite football has gone mad. The Champions League semi-finalists are all stark raving bonkers.
Defending has gone the way of the dodo. All-out attack is everywhere. Anarchy reigns.
Headless chickens roam the pitch. Lunatics run the dugout and goals are given away like goodie bags at a family fun day.
And nobody does it better, or madder, than the Mad Hatter of Madrid, perhaps the luckiest manager in the Champions League.
Somehow, Zinedine Zidane has reached his third consecutive Champions League final as a coach.
Somehow, Real Madrid overcame Bayern Munich by playing an irreverent style of football that wasn't just reckless. It was Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, zipping around in a stolen car with his tongue flapping out.
The Joker just wanted to watch the world burn. So does Zidane.
Traditional orthodoxies are not for the Frenchman. He wants to confuse, disorientate and dazzle, all at the same time, anything that captures attention.
Even now, at 45, the Real coach isn't particularly interested in respectability. He's an anarchist in a sharp suit, an inscrutable enigma almost entirely devoted to the preservation of his enigmatic status.
The sheer gall of his audacious tactics took the breath away yesterday. Real's victory was practically criminal. Zidane got away with murder.
Almost any other coach would've played safe. With an away victory in the bag, Zidane had earned the right to coast into the final.
He was aware that the German side would attack from the whistle. So he could've dropped in an extra midfielder, picked Casemiro to play anchorman and left Cristiano Ronaldo to plough a lone furrow up front.
Of course, Zidane did none of those things, as if the very thought of applying a little conventional wisdom somehow offended his radical beliefs.
Instead, he picked Mateo Kovacic and essentially allowed Bayern to dominate midfield. At left-back, he instructed Marcelo to once again attack at every opportunity.
At right-back, Zidane expected the same of Lucas Vazquez, who isn't even a right-back, but a winger. And he pretty much played like one.
Marcelo and Vazquez left enough unoccupied space to turn Jose Mourinho's melting brain into Swiss cheese. But Zizou doesn't think like other coaches.
Rather than back track, Real were encouraged to push forward more often, a startling move that felt like a tactical suicide attempt.
Those who adhere to the mystical principles of karma must surely believe that Zidane was rewarded for his defiance because Real should've lost.
Bayern battered their opponents. Across the two legs, Bayern conjured 33 shots at goal. Real managed just 16. In the second leg, Bayern trumped Real in shots on target, the possession percentages and every pertinent statistic that signifies the superior team - except the only one that matters.
Bayern also had two, clear penalty shouts. Real's back four did their level best to throw the game away and then there was Sven Ulreich's howler.
But Zidane's remarkable good fortune was surely epitomised by the remarkable sight of Keylor Navas and Robert Lewandowski practically swopping places.
For long periods in his career, Navas has looked like a clownish competition winner who's won a chance to play for Real for a day and no one at the Bernabeu has had the heart to replace him with a proper goalkeeper.
While Lewandowski has long told anyone who'll listen that he's the world's greatest striker in waiting, if only he had the service.
Well, yesterday, he had the service. But the Bayern forward performed like a skittish punter in a charity exhibition. At the same time, Navas did an astonishing job of proving that he's not keeping the gloves warm until David de Gea arrives.
How much of all this can really be attributed to Zidane's barefaced recklessness?
Luck is such an abstract term, the hackneyed fallback position for the lazy pundit, but Real were undeniably fortunate to prevail in Europe - twice.
Against both Juventus and now Bayern, the Spanish side triumphed with a brash line-up, a careless attitude to defending and an overwhelming sense of madcap adventure.
Zidane continues to ignore all notes of caution, sending out sides that are clearly built in his own, impulsive image.
Common sense suggests he can't repeat the trick in the final, but in the current crazy climate of endless, zigzagging attacks, anything's possible.
It's daft to analyse, but delightful to watch. The art of defending might have gone out the window. But Zidane's devotion to the art of entertainment remains absolute.
- Catch Neil Humphreys as he gives his satirical take on the English Premier League and football every Saturday, from 10am to 12 noon, on Money FM 89.3.