FC Chelsea’s Champions League triumph: the unlikely winners from Germany

The Champions League victory of Chelsea is above all the triumph of a German quartet. Coach Thomas Tuchel (47), central defender Antonio Rüdiger (28), striker Timo Werner (25) and winning goal scorer Kai Havertz (21) have in common that they have had difficult months behind them.

When the game ended after seven nerve-wracking minutes of stoppage time and Chelsea FC won the Champions League thanks to the 1-0 win over Manchester City, the stadium DJ in Porto put on the song “Freed From Desire” by Gala. Known in fan circles as the rhythm giver for “Will Grigg’s on Fire”, the original version says: “Freed from desire. Mind and senses purified.”

It was about the purification of mind and senses and it almost seemed as if the DJ had turned up this song especially for the German quartet, which at the same time sank into the blue jubilation on the field: coach Thomas Tuchel, central defender Antonio Rüdiger, striker Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who decided the game with his first Champions League goal in the 43rd minute.

For them, after difficult months, this triumph may have finally acted like a purification of their tortured minds and senses. To the sounds of “Freed From Desire” they celebrated the unexpected culmination of their careers together. Seldom have there been so many unlikely Champions League winners to be seen in one place, all of whom come from the same country.

“I’m walking through a movie,” said Tuchel a little later, somewhat incredulous. For him it was the end of a surreal season. Last summer he failed with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League final at Bayern Munich, and was dismissed less than six months later. After a win. The evening before Christmas. Crushing? Actually not possible.

Thomas Tuchel wins his second Champions League final

Tuchel and Rüdiger did not find each other at PSG, but at Chelsea in mid-January. Tuchel took over from the sacked Lampard an unstructured and highly talented team in ninth place, gave them a functioning system within a very short time, led them to fourth place and into the Champions League final. The culmination of this rebirth then followed, of all things, against Pep Guardiola, who was admired by Tuchel, and his Manchester City.

Chelsea played fast and straight forward and defended in a compact 5-4-1 system concentrated against a Guardiola team without strikers and six, but with six attacking midfielders. Rüdiger, whom Tuchel had made a regular player immediately after his arrival, was also instrumental in taming them.

“I was on the ground, but I showed that you shouldn’t underestimate people who are on the ground. Thanks to the coach,” said Rüdiger after the final victory. With an excellent tackle, he saved in the 28th minute when the score was 0-0 from City’s Phil Foden.

Werner and Havertz played a decisive role in the ultimately decisive 1-0 14 minutes later: Werner City’s central defender Ruben Dias pulled out of the chain with a clever run and thus created space for his colleague, City’s keeper Ederson after a terrific Mason Mount pass curved and pushed in confidently. “Luckily I cleaned it up,” said Havertz. “Otherwise I would have been the idiot again.” He was considered a dork often enough in the course of this season, but not quite as often as his storm colleague Werner.

Werner and Havertz moved from the Bundesliga to Chelsea for a lot of money last summer: Werner for 53 million from RB Leipzig, Havertz even for the club’s record transfer fee of 80 million euros from Bayer Leverkusen. Both initially had difficulties in adapting, and both had to take a lot of criticism at first.

Tuchel did not stop Werner’s usury of opportunities, but integrated him much better into the team structure, gave him a permanent position in the center of the storm and formed him there into an important template provider and room creator. All of this summed up the Champions League final in a wonderful way: First Werner missed a possible 1-0 (10th and 14th) from two promising positions, then he enabled Havertz ‘actual lead with his clever run.

“Outstanding. That’s why we came here, that’s why we were bought to experience these moments,” said Werner after the game. However, just a few months ago nobody could count on it – especially not in this constellation.

Kai Havertz: “I don’t give a shit about that”

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