Barca boss in the mood to make magic at Wembley
Published 23:01 26/05/11 By Martin Lipton
Pep Guardiola last night predicted a Champions League Final that will, at last, define the new Wembley as an iconic arena.
The Barcelona coach will return to the corner of north London where he helped Johan Cruyff’s side end their decades of European Cup disappointment against Sampdoria in 1992.
That game remains pivotal in Catalan history, although the Wembley legends were forged with the 1923 “White Horse” Cup Final, the “Matthews Final” of 1953, Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 triumph and Manchester United’s glory under Sir Matt Busby two years later.
Other stadia are equally associated with epic encounters.
The mystique of Hampden came with the game Sir Alex Ferguson remembers watching as a teenager - the 1960 European Cup Final in which Real Madrid destroyed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3.
Likewise, the Maracana will always be the place 200,000 spectators went to witness Brazil lose the 1950 World Cup and Istanbul’s Attaturk Stadium was enshrined by the Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool comeback in 2005.
But four years after opening with an eminently forgettable domestic showpiece between United and Chelsea, there has yet to be a truly compelling, myth-making game at the 90,000-seat new home of English football.
The stand-out event so far was Steve McClaren’s “wally with the brolly” suicide note.
For Guardiola, though, that is about to change.
He is convinced that tomorrow night’s clash of the giants - set to be watched by a sixth of the world’s population - can make the new Wembley’s reputation stand alongside any of the great cathedrals of the game.
“I think we will see a spectacular match - as long as neither of us is scared of losing," said Guardiola.
“The problem with any final is that someone must lose. You must be intuitive and know what they [the other team] will do.
“I think we will see a good final and it will be marvellous, but that is what Wembley needs as well.
“My memories of 1992 are all about winning at Wembley and what it meant. I remember Cruyff telling us, 'We must enjoy this', that everything we had gone through to get to Wembley was worth it.
“He said to us, ‘Do me a favour and stop worrying. Look at the pitch, look at the fans and enjoy this wonderful stadium.’
“That was very easy for him to say, of course.
"In the bus, heading towards the stadium, there was complete silence. Nobody said a word and we could all feel the tension.
“But I was a kid about to play the final, at Wembley! A place that was pure history - the temple of football, with an incredible pitch. And I was there, 21 years old.
“When we won, thanks to Ronald Koeman’s free-kick, when we were all dreading penalties after 1986 [when Terry Venables’ Barca lost a shoot-out 2-0 to Steaua Bucharest], the fact it was at Wembley made it more special.
“The name of Wembley has a long history but that comes from the stadium, not just the place.
"The old stadium had history. This one has to earn it. We had the famous steps to walk up to take the cup and all the rituals.
“Of course, the name is still special and the atmosphere will be special, too.
"Playing an English team in England will be very special.
"Now it just needs a great game - and I think it can be.”