Jonathan Northcroft On Dortmund vs Real Madrid – The Champions League Final At Wembley

Jonathan Northcroft On Dortmund vs Real Madrid – The Champions League Final At Wembley

Callum McFadden speaks to Sunday Times football correspondent Jonathan Northcroft ahead of this weekend’s Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Wembley.

Both Dortmund and Real Madrid are both clubs with unique histories. With that in mind, as a neutral, how much are you looking forward to covering the final at Wembley?

“The backstory of these clubs is the attraction of this final.

“There’s the absolute powerhouse in Real Madrid, they are a kind of ultimate Champions League club, against, a Cinderella story with Dortmund.

“I loved Mats Hummels’ tweet where he basically said: we were the team everybody wanted to play so we made sure we kept playing teams until we got to the final.

“Everybody thought that Dortmund would go out in the group stage, then that changed to they will go out the next round.

“However, that never happened, and I just love the fact that they’re fearless, they’re a young team, more or less, with that experience of Hummels at the back.

“As a club, they’ve got that great story of winning the Champions League in the 90s then having the heartbreak of losing out in another final against Bayern at Wembley 11 years ago.

“They have nothing to lose so it is a really good matchup for that reason.”

From a British media point of view, you’ve got Jadon Sancho playing in the final for Dortmund, on loan from Manchester United, and Jude Bellingham playing for Real Madrid. How much have you enjoyed those two players and their contrasting stories this season?

“First of all, Bellingham just continues to astound me whenever I watch him. He is a world superstar being born in your midst which makes it pleasing that he is a young British player too.

“It is remarkable to think that he was playing in the Championship only a few years ago and you can talk to players who played against him for Derby or Rotherham who tell you how good he was even at the age of 16 years of age.

“I’ve covered the England national side since he got on the team and apart from the ability, the personality is what makes Jude Bellingham.

“I remember him at Euro 2020, where he’s 17 and playing in his first tournament yet he looks like he deserves to be there and is so composed. He plays with a swagger that says he knows that he should be there.

“Then, at the World Cup in 2022, he was incredible again as a teenager before he moved on from Dortmund to go to Real Madrid. Another incredible step in his journey.

“Not only does he move there but he moves there with all their history and asks for the number five shirt — Zidane’s shirt — to embrace the history, embrace comparisons with Di Stefano and talk about his personality.

“The thing he does is he keeps winning games; he keeps scoring those vital goals in stoppage time or whenever to win a game.

“He’s just got the willpower, and bags of personality, to match the talent and the athleticism.

“He is a thrill to watch, every time you get a ticket to watch Jude Bellingham, it’s worthwhile because you are watching greatness in front of you.

“Sancho is a completely different case because he has not had the smooth trajectory Bellingham’s had, but I love his story for that.

“I cover Manchester United closely and since returning to Dortmund he is unrecognisable to the player who played for United, who didn’t look like he was able to become the difference-making player he was meant to be.

“However, returning to the Dortmund shirt has helped him show he is all those things again.

“I love a dribbler and his one-on-one skills are fantastic. He plays a bit higher up the pitch with Dortmund compared to his time at United and when he gets the ball higher up the pitch, he can do more damage there.

“Maybe Jadon just thrives in an environment where he’s not quite under the same pressure, but I’m really pleased for him because no player becomes a poor player overnight and his talent is there for all to see.”

Finally, Jonathan, do you believe that Real Madrid being able to call on their history in this competition, and Carlo Ancelotti’s history in this competition, will help see them over the line? Or do you think there is a chance for Dortmund to upset all of the odds as the underdogs?

“It is hard to see past Real Madrid because they have the presence and the history of being a team that has been there and done it more than anybody else in the Champions League.

“Then, you have Carlo Ancelotti as the tactical brain in charge of the team with his ability to make changes — little tweaks to win again and again. That is why they win so many of these big games late. Ancelotti is so good at that.

“Those factors give them such an upper hand before you get the fact that they have got better players than Dortmund as well. To have the experience of players like Modric and Kroos who have won multiple Champions League between them is another great strength.

“That being said, even with all of that in mind, I am not saying that Dortmund can’t win, but I struggle to think of a scenario where they do at this moment.”