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A dream fulfilled by proxy

Back in May, on the morning of the Champions League final, Uefa staged one of their "legends" matches, between Bayern Munich All Stars and a World XI, in Munich's old Olympic Stadium, the scene of the 1974 World Cup final.

Pep Guardiola is a modern incarnation of John Cruyff Photograph: Getty
Pep Guardiola is a modern incarnation of John Cruyff Photograph: Getty

It was quite an experience travelling to the game on the team bus (passengers including Zola, Zico, Seedorf, Laudrup, Cafu and so on) while Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told me how he was returning to a stadium he'd last attended as a fanatical seven-year- old Everton fan to see his team draw 0-0 with Bayern in the 1985 Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final.

But for me the most striking moment of that morning came when Pierluigi Collina awarded Bayern All Stars a penalty and 60-year-old Paul Breitner stepped forward to take it. He pointed to Jens Lehmann, in goal at the time, and asked the German to substitute himself so that Breitner could take his spot-kick against Edwin van der Sar, who was sitting on the bench. Van der Sar duly trotted out, took his place on the goal-line – and saved spectacularly to his right.

Afterwards, I asked Breitner what made him do what he had done. He told me breathlessly: "So many memories in this stadium ... but this is where I scored that penalty against Holland in the World Cup final and I just wanted one more goal against a Dutchman here."

His smile wasn't rueful, just happy at all recalled glories. And the strange thing is that for many people, despite Gerd Muller making the Germans champions, 1974 remains the "Johan Cruyff final". The king of total football once told me that "perhaps it was better that we lost" – using the logic that people had fallen in love with Holland's style of playing during the tournament and remained more romantically attached to it because of their heart-rending failure to win.

Cruyff embodied Ajax's three straight European Cup wins from 1971-3; Franz Beckenbauer Bayern's subsequent three from 1974-76. The two men have always been the firmest of friends. I think the long love affair with Cruyff, which took wings in 1974, came to land in Munich this week. When Bayern beat Barcelona in a 1995 Uefa Cup semi-final Beckenbauer, then the main powerbroker at the German club, admitted in his Bild newspaper column that he had tried in vain to sign Cruyff, Barça coach at the time, the previous year.

It was a dream that was never realised but Pep Guardiola is not only Cruyff's closest disciple, he is a modern incarnation of the Dutch legend, having taken Cruyff's ideas and applied a gentle re-calibration based on the demands of the 21st-century game.

Guardiola, who was confirmed as Bayern's new coach on Wednesday, usually alternates between a Cruyff-ish 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 when he chooses his formations, but his concept – his basic philosophy – is shared with the former coach of the Barça Dream Team, in which Guardiola anchored the midfield.

His explanation a few days ago was: "The principle behind Barcelona's style was very simple: play with the ball, do everything with it. Barça's system, even if people say it's very complicated, is as simple as that: we'll get the ball and just let them try to take it off us.

"It was a case of, 'let's pass it between us as much as possible and see if we can score a goal'. That's what my predecessors handed down to me and the message I tried to get across while I was there too.

"So what I'll try to do in the future is what I did when I was a player, what I believed in, and what I've coached for the past five years: attack as well as you possibly can, keep hold of the ball and pass it to a guy wearing the same colour of shirt."

This is what lies in store for Bayern. They are already pretty good – they are brilliantly organised as a club – they just want Guardiola to bring them the "Cup With The Big Ears" ... and, vicariously, a sprinkling of the Johan Cruyff magic dust.

So, Victor Valdes has told Barça he won't renew his contract, which ends in 2014, and that points to him being sold this summer. This is the beauty of football. A couple of weeks ago I'd have strongly advised a punt on the Catalans to win another Liga, Copa and Champions League treble. That's how powerful and intense they have been.

Now their lynchpin goalkeeper will be under the microscope every minute; the fans and media could easily turn on him; and it's a distraction which, added to the horrible news that coach Tito Vilanova is fighting cancer again, might just put a spoke in Barça's wheels.

But there may be ripples elsewhere too. Before signing David de Gea, Sir Alex Ferguson fancied breaking an informal rule and bringing Pepe Reina to Manchester United from Liverpool, the equivalent of Celtic selling Fraser Forster to Rangers.

Through football's osmosis, definitely not tapping up, it emerged Reina was very interested. De Gea hasn't failed outright but he has underwhelmed. So, Reina once more to United and Valdes to Anfield? Or, even more interestingly, Valdes to Old Trafford with De Gea as understudy? Watch this space.

Spotted: Vicente del Bosque at Goodison Park last week. The great man once told me some of his Spain squad "don't even know where the bench is when they are with their clubs".

Nor has he, traditionally, known, or cared, where England is. His travelling there is rarer than sincere contrition on Oprah. Conclusion: Michu has a chance of a first Spain cap sometime soon.

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