The UEFA Champions League 2017 final in Cardiff between Real Madrid and Juventus brings the year's football fixtures to a close in grand style. In tonight football, there is Ronaldo and no Messi.
The analysis of football tonight will centre around different brands of the game the fast defensive Italian football with swift precise counter attacking and the solid systematic attack of the Spanish.
It must be said that Real have a lost a second or so in their speed of attack and became a calculating force of destruction. This is due to the aging of the Ballon' Dor winner who now plays more with head than feet.
Without the brute force of Athletico Madrid, the cunning nature of FC Barcelona, both protagonists ooze confidence as their capability to dish out the two elements is common knowledge.
This Champions league brings few things to the fore. Zinedine Zidane, like many Spanish managers fast-tracked into greatness, has people talking of him as a great coach already. Winning this will make his fans happy.
Personally, a great manager is not one who is able to stick when thrust into luxury. That is not bad either, as many managers have failed to develop staying power in those positions. To me, it is a sign that one is not a bad manager, than to confirm as a good manager, and there is a huge difference.
The good thing is that many, like Pep Guardiola, develop in that environment to be good managers due to coaching the best players who earn thew most money, by default of course. The managers coaching the worst squads with minimum budgets and bring them to greatness, usually go back to find another situation of a rescue mission perennially. Back to the match tonight.
A lot of experience comes to the party, with Cristiano Ronaldo making his 136th appearance, the only players with more than 50 with two different clubs (52 with Manchester United and 84 with Real Madrid) and Gianlugi Buffon (39) making it his 104th appearance.
Buffon's case is a sad one. He is one of the two centurions (with Zlatan Ibrahimovic) to have not won it. H e has been there many times and sentimentally, he deserves the winners' medal. However, Ronaldo has to put the Ronaldo or Messi argument to bed.
Already, the Portuguese has honuors with his country and record hat-tricks under his belt. Still, there is an army of doubters of who is the greatest. This is not a blatant support for him, but as a team player, he has no equal. Lionel Messi has incredible individual brilliance.
Without making this a poll of who is better, I leave it in your hands and look to Gareth Bale. Consider that the match is in Cardiff and Gareth Bale, born in a hospital a few minutes away from the stadium, may play only part of the match from the bench. It is never rosy even for the best.
Who is your money on, and why?