Kingsley Coman leads the march of Europe’s young guns as Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry prove vital in Bayern’s charge to the summit as Kylian Mbappe will rue his nervy night
- The new generation of footballing stars were on show in Champions League final
- This was the first Champions League semis in 15 years without Messi or Ronaldo
- Goalscorer Kinsgley Coman is a talent who is only now showing his true promise
- Alphonso Davies has become a football phenomenon at just 19 years old
- Kylian Mbappe showed some nervy finishing after a golden chance in first half
- Serge Gnabry has made a huge contribution to Bayern returning to the summit
It started with the first Champions League semi-finals in 15 years without the presence of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, and then this, a final featuring a new generation and shining a light on the future of a sport still auditioning for its next superstars.
Covid-19 has robbed us of a Ballon d’Or for 2020, and how needless that cancellation has felt after witnessing the likes of Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe during the past fortnight in Lisbon.
For make no mistake, this would have been only the second year since 2007 that Messi or Ronaldo’s name was not engraved on the golden ball, even if that would have been 32-year-old Robert Lewandowski.
The young stars featuring in the Champions League final give a shining light to the future
This was the first Champions League semis in 15 years without Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo
Indeed, on recent evidence, the odds are against either them ever reclaiming the prize that has long been a battle of their peerless and exemplary excellence.
That is not to detract from the enduring genius of Messi or Ronaldo, but rather, to celebrate the emergence of those young players whose brilliance on the pitch will, without doubt, elevate them to the podium.
The above mentioned quartet, however, have journeyed down very different paths to this point; Mbappe the 21-year-old World Cup winner and second most expensive player ever, Davies the teenager upon whom Bayern took a chance from the MLS, Coman a talent who is only now showing his true promise and likewise Gnabry, finally realising and pushing back the boundaries of his potential at the age of 25.
Even so, they have much more in common – be that speed, skill or a fearless seizing of responsibility, as Coman showed in scoring the winning goal.
Kingsley Coman showed skill and fearlessness in match as he scored the winning goal
In wishing to emulate Messi and Ronaldo, consistency is what they must all strive for
He had, to the moment of his headed finish just before the hour, been the game’s best player. Yes, he was withdrawn 10 minutes later, but his work was done. Now the scorer of the winning goal on the biggest stage of all, this is a platform from which he can find a consistency that has so far eluded him.
In wishing to emulate Messi and Ronaldo, consistency is the one quality for which they all must strive.
At 19, Davies has been a phenomenon this season. Rio Ferdinand called him ‘the Usain Bolt of football’. Let’s not forget Bolt tried to make it as a footballer and failed. Davies, you suspect, would enjoy far more success were he to turn his toe to sprinting.
At 19 years old, Bayern Munich defender Alphonso Davies has been a phenomenon
But there is also much still to learn, as one would expect of a rookie in his first full campaign in Europe.
His first half was noteworthy primarily for a clumsy challenge that earned a booking and being nutmegged by Angel Di Maria.
For the first time, Davies looked like a player plucked from Vancouver Whitecaps just 20 months ago.
At least Davies kept coming back for more, despite his torment. Gnabry, meanwhile, was more like the player we saw on loan at West Brom five years ago, the one who sat in the stands, and he had close to zero influence on an opening 45 minutes in such desperate need of the inspiration he can conjure.
PSG forward Kylian Mbappe’s finishing was nervy in his first ever Champions League final
Mbappe fared a little better, but his finishing was nervy, especially when presented with a chance to open the scoring just before half-time only to pass straight at Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal.
But that trio were not alone in their talents being stifled amid a cagey first period. Gnabry’s frustration told when he was booked for a clip of Neymar’s ankles early in the second half.
Gnabry was to make way along with Coman on 70 minutes and, while this was not his night, we should not forget his contribution in taking Bayern to the summit of Europe.
He was outstanding in the semi-final and was devastating in their run to that point, as supporters of Spurs will testify.
Serge Gnabry has all of the attributes to remain one of the game’s outstanding players
Gnabry has all of the attributes to remain one of the game’s outstanding players. He is quick of mind and body and is at the right club to showcase that talent. What he must now do is make the difference in finals such as this, but his time will come again. He had, arguably, been the star of this mini tournament in Lisbon before last night’s final.
Mbappe was a loser this time and he will rue that missed opportunity in the first half, but of all those on the pitch it is perhaps he you would back to emerge as the world’s best in the coming years.
Yes, this was not a vintage final, but you cannot question the quality of the two teams who contested it and the players within their number.
If Messi and Ronaldo want to rejoin the party at this, the business end of the Champions League, then perhaps they should consider new residence in Munich or Paris, for this season’s finalists are the continent’s best.
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