Quite by accident, the Champions League semi-final in which a Spanish team is not involved featured two former Real Madrid ambassadors in the hours leading up to the Laureus Awards ceremony.
Luis Figo and Fabio Capello, both members of the Laureus academy and with links to the two Milan clubs, were present there, despite both having worked for Los Merengues.
Capello, who has coached Lionel Messi in a charity match, was asked to make clear who he felt the best player out of the Argentine and Kylian Mbappe was, and he didn’t hesitate.
“Messi has done what he has done throughout his career and over so many years and he is fantastic. He has been the best for several years,” Capello explained at the Laureus Awards ceremony.
“But at the moment Mbappe is better. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s scores goals.
“Even if he doesn’t have the magic of Messi.”
Italy should be proud to have two Champions League semi-finalists
The conversation then turned to the upcoming Milan derby in the Champions League semi-final.
Capello was on the AC Milan side having been one of the greatest ever coaches, whilst Figo finished his top-level career with Inter.
There is a guarantee that for the first time since 2017 that Italian football will have a representative in the Champions League final, and Figo believes this should be a source of pride.
“Italy should be proud to have two semi-finalists, in addition to the role played by Napoli,” Figo added.
“They are two great teams, I would like Inter to win because it is a club that gave me a lot of joy.”
Capello was more circumspect, looking at the wider benefits AC Milan‘s success could have on Serie A.
“The most important thing is that Calcio is back. After a long time of not seeing them in the final rounds of competitions,” he commented.
“I expect AC Milan to win.”
Despite their Real Madrid connections, both individuals were in agreement on their assessment that Manchester City would return to the Champions League final.
“They are one of the best teams in the world,” Figo argued.
“They have enough experience to know what to do and not lose like last year. Real Madrid are the best team in the history of this competition because of the weight of history and sometimes history helps you in certain moments.
“City are favorites, but Madrid will stay alive until the last second of the competition.”
The former Real Madrid coach, for his part, spoke in quantitative terms.
“City are the best in the world. They have 24 fantastic players; Madrid have 14 or 15 great players. But they also have Ancelotti, who prepares matches very well and knows how to win,” Capello concluded.
Ancelotti was also the subject of some debate amongst the panel. With his continuity verbally announced by the coach himself as well as Florentino Perez, Capello still believes there is a degree of doubt on this matter.
“It will depend on the results against City, surely. At Real Madrid when there are no results, coaches fall. Brazil? Being an international coach is completely different. I say that from my experience with two teams [England and Russia].”