Champions League: Have Real Madrid done the neutrals a favour by preventing all-English final?

With another all-English Champions League final avoided, we look back to see whether one-country finals rather ruin the Euro showpiece.

When Gabriel Hanot, the editor of French sports newspaper L'Equipe, proposed a European Cup competition in the 1950s, it's fair to say he never envisaged two teams from the same country contesting the final.

But with his idea having spiralled into the modern-day behemoth which is the Champions League, such a prospect is again drawing into view.

Following Real Madrid's breathtaking comeback in the semi-final against Manchester City, the neutrals have at least now been spared what would have been a third all-English Champions League final in four years. 

Man City fans won't see that as a good thing, of course, but what we can do is compare what has happened in such games with those of a dissimilar nature.

There have been three previous all-English finals, while five other 'title matches' have been contested by teams from the same nation - three all-Spanish, one all-Italian and one all-German.

Let's start by recalling them…

2021 - Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0

Last year's showpiece was decided by a goal from Kai Havertz as Chelsea continued to hold the Indian sign over their English rivals.

Having beaten them in both the league and FA Cup in the lead-up to this contest, Chelsea again defended superbly to restrict Man City to a handful of chances. At the other end, they took their opportunity when it was offered.

Pep Guardiola arguably undermined City's chances, going with an unusual set-up which failed to feature a holding midfielder as both Rodri and Fernandinho were surprisingly left out.

The attacking approach failed to pay dividends. Indeed the match featured only 15 shots - the lowest number in the 16 years we found data for.

What they said: "Chelsea defended like demons to snuff out Manchester City but this was a perfectly calibrated triumph, built upon a structured attacking approach, choosing the right moments to transition, and illuminated by the smoothness of Havertz's technique." - David Hytner, Guardian

2019 - Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0

A game that lacked drama, largely due to the fact Liverpool were in front inside two minutes courtesy of a controversial penalty, scored by Mo Salah.

The fact it was being played in Madrid in early June hardly helped either.

Spurs, playing a clearly unfit Harry Kane, rarely threatened, although the stats do show they had 14 shots, three of which were on target.

Liverpool added a second three minutes from time through perennial super-sub Divock Origi to seal victory.

What they said: "They have won the first silverware of Klopp's era with the greatest club trophy of all and the sixth European Cup in this club's glorious history, to at last fulfil the potential of this team and this whole season - even if the performance in this 2-0 win over an even poorer Tottenham Hotspur did not reflect either. It was one of Liverpool's finest recent moments, from one of the worst recent finals." - Miguel Delaney, Independent

2008 - Manchester United beat Chelsea 6-5 on pens (after 1-1 draw)

The best of the all-English finals was the first, one of the reasons being the outcome was in doubt until the final kick.

Manchester United started the brighter with Cristiano Ronaldo heading them in front but Frank Lampard levelled on the stroke of half-time.

Chelsea used that as a platform but despite being the better side after the interval they couldn't find a winner.

Extra time and penalties ensued with Chelsea left to forever regret John Terry's untimely slip when he stepped up in torrential rain at 4-4, knowing if he scored the Blues would be champions. His miscued effort duly hit the post.

A few minutes later, Edwin van der Sar's save from Nicolas Anelka meant the trophy would be heading back to Old Trafford.

What they said: "The penalty shoot-out capped a thrilling game with passages of play of the highest calibre, with United dominating the first half but Chelsea showing huge reserves of character, resilience and ability to dominate after the break." - Phil McNulty, BBC Sport

Other finals featuring teams from the same country

2016 - Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 5-3 on pens (after 1-1 draw)

2014 - Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 4-1 aet (1-1 after 90 mins)

2013 - Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1

2003 - AC Milan beat Juventus 3-2 on pens (after a 0-0 draw)

2000 - Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0

What the stats say

Harry Kane Tottenham Champions League final Jun19

You can debate all day whether one final was 'better' than another but in terms of tangibles, what we can look at are goal and shot tallies.

It's generally regarded that more goals make for better games but a comparison of the all-English finals with others does not make good reading for those seeking that sort of entertainment.

The three all-Premier League finals have produced just five goals at an average of 1.67 per game.

For a comparison, we can look at a lengthy study period - we're going to go back to the 1997/98 season which was the first which saw more than one club per country gain entry. Two years later as many as four per nation were allowed in.

That's 24 finals in total to look at and, using only goals scored in 90 minutes, they average out at 2.63 goals per game.

Look solely at finals between teams from two different countries and that goals-per-game figure rises to 2.76.

What about shots?

Well, the stats comparison also shows fewer shots in those same-nation matches, albeit the contrast is not so profound.

The same-nation matches saw 25.17 shots per game, whereas the others averaged 26.3.

Looking specifically at the all-English finals, those saw just 24.67 shots per game.

In short, the figures suggest Real Madrid have done the neutrals a big favour by preventing Manchester City making it another all-English final.

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