Wednesday 27 May ~
The Times will publish a 16-page supplement on the Champions League final tomorrow, while the Guardian and the Express have eight-page previews today. All the papers' star writers have shared with us their thoughts (their hopes, their dreams) about tonight's encounter. You may not have time to read them all, to peruse, absorb and, perhaps, marvel. So we've assembled a précis, a choice selection, an aromatic flavour, a salty tang of the select band of men – for they are all simply men, as passionate, flawed, quixotic and vulnerable as the rest of us – who paint pictures with words. We feel compelled to call it "Behold: My Writing".
Henry Winter Daily Telegraph: "The champions of England and Europe were counting down to their date with destiny, to ascend the pantheon of the sporting Gods... Barcelona boast a wonderful Plan A (attack, attack, attack) but where is their Plan B?... Nemanja Vidic will storm into Barcelona's defence at United's first corner with a venom not seen in Rome since the Visigoths... they love the classics around these parts, and this evening promises a new spring landmark on the banks of the Tiber... Let the games begin..."
Paul Hayward Guardian: "Ronaldo has grown into a gladiator: a thick-thighed, strong chested, barrelling force who can punch holes from all areas... if Ronaldo gallops into the thick of the action, Messi is always running away from human company... [Ronaldo's] whole bearing is constructed to convey the star quality of an immaculate prancing horse... from Messi comes the deep mistrust of language and talking of one who disdains engagement with his audience... study Ronaldo and it is apparent that here is a man built to excel at sport: a 24-year-old whose zest on the training pitch is no convenient biographical myth... he was demonic in his need to feel his body functioning as a beautifully destructive machine..."
John Dillon Daily Express: "The names of the greats poured like ancient nectar of the gods from the mouth of Sir Alex Ferguson here... United versus Barcelona in Rome's Stadio Olimpico has become an idea, a vehicle for the notion that the very best of the beautiful game in all its modern vastness and complexity, could be put on display... place it in the Eternal City, its ancient monuments and its elegant thoroughfares burning in unseasonable heat and the grandeur of the theme is complete... on a night of football stardust in a city that offers an epic backdrop..."
James Lawton Independent: "Lionel Messi, surrounded by carabinieri, checked into the Grand Hotel... his name swept down the pavement cafes... go back 23 years to the time when Messi's latest mentor, Diego Maradona, strode with the demeanour of a fighting cock down the smartest streets of Mexico City... can he make the best efforts of Manchester United seem as futile as those of Lothar Matthaus, the German master-craftsman who was assigned to shadow genius in the Azteca Stadium and found it as elusive as a gust of wind?... what his Portuguese rival to the title of the world's greatest footballer does with an imperious surge and ball-striking which can render feeble so much of what happens around him... it is, no doubt, the most intoxicating possibility of the Roman night..."