If Jose Mourinho is to become the first manager to win three European Cups with different clubs, he will have to overcome one half of Madrid on Wednesday night and then face the only team who counted him a failure.
Three times, Mourinho took Real Madrid to the semi-finals and three times he fell. The second of those semi-finals, against Bayern Munich, was decided by a penalty shoot-out that finished with Sergio Ramos blazing his kick into the Madrid sky.
Now, it was Ramos’s wildly improbable goals that put them achingly close to their 10th European Cup. Since Zinedine Zidane’s glorious volley against Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park in 2002, Real have dreamt of La Decima. Now they can smell the Brasso.
Pep Guardiola would have yearned for a fitting tribute to his dead friend Tito Vilanova. Instead they were swept aside as brutally as the Barcelona side that Guardiola bequeathed to Vilanova had been by Bayern in last year’s semi-finals.
All the talk had been about putting an end to tiki-taka and seizing Madrid by the throat. However, asking a Guardiola side to pump balls into the box is rather like asking Noel Coward to sing punk rock.
Bayern seemed not to know what they were supposed to do and as Cristiano Ronaldo drove his free-kick for Madrid’s fourth under the feet of Dante – setting a record for the most goals in a Champions League campaign with his 16th – the side that was supposed to be the best in the world could not even set up a competent wall.
The teams entered the arena through an arch proclaiming this to be the final stop on the road to Lisbon. The loudspeakers were blaring out ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” to emphasise the predictions of Bayern’s chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, that Munich would be turned into an inferno for Real Madrid.