Wish you were here? No,not really ... it’s ruined the mystique of Europe

Cristiano Ronaldo rose like a young god to claim his place in the individual pantheon of the world's greatest team game, then collapsed in tears of relief as the stigma of missing the most dreaded penalty of all was lifted from him by the distraught John Terry.

All around two men frozen in the moment which they will share forever, some of the finest footballers on earth cavorted with glee or subsided into grief.

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Trouble spot: John Terry hides his head after missing his penalty

One of the managers was poised between history and destiny, the other between salvation and termination.

One of the managers was raised high on the twin peaks of history and destiny, the other was dragged back from the brink of salvation to probable termination. And yet, and yet ... it was the wrong match in the wrong place. This was The Big One.

And yet, and yet ... something was missing. Something barely tangible yet none the less precious for that. Something called mystique.

For the vast majority of Chelsea and Manchester United devotees all that mattered was that they were in The Final and all that counted in the end was the Reds won and the Blues lost. And yet, and yet ... deep in those congregations, some fidgeted with a sensation that the occasion was lacking its core reason for being.

From the summit of Ronaldo's header and the high plateau of Frank Lampard's rejoinder we descended through missed chances into the unseemly scuffle which may have ended Didier Drogba's Chelsea career with the ignominy of a red card, then on to the artificial thrill of penalties.

All terribly English and as a match in its own right, though not an epic, it had its moments. And yet, and yet ... this was the game which should have stayed at home. This was a domestic dispute transplanted abroad.

This was English football's risible and rejected 39th game slipping through the back door to Russia. Had either United or Chelsea been duelling with Madrid or Milan, Bayern or Benfica, there would have been magic in the night air abroad.

It was the romance of foreign opposition which lent unique enchantment to the old European Cup. The day UEFA were forced to bow to the demands of their richest and most powerful clubs was the day danger dawned, threatening that the mystery would evaporate.

By its very new name, the Champions League became a contradiction in terms. Entry to the European Cup was a privilege reserved for the champions of each member country.

The Champions League is open to teams finishing as low as fourth. Inevitably, the night would come when two teams from one country would reach the final. Not that we at home paid much attention when it first happened, even though that unhappy accident diluted the Millennium Final in Paris.

So one-sided was Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Valencia that we forgot about everything except the stunning goal scored by Steve McManaman. When it occured a second time, at Old Trafford, the sterile, goalless game which preceded AC Milan's shoot-out win over Juventus brought closer to home the unsatisfactory nature of a one-nation final.

Now, in Moscow, we have seen the ruinous potential of what many are predicting will be a prolonged era of domination by the economic power-houses of English football.

The delirium of the winners and the despair of the losers was real enough but if these parochial scenes keep being repeated the Champions League will lose the vestiges of charm left over from the European Cup. Even for the most chauvinistic of the English, the gloating rights over Johnny Foreigner will wear thin.

The greater glory is in defeating the mightiest of the Continentals in the final itself. Would Liverpool's miraculous comeback in Istanbul have been quite so transfixing had it been achieved against Arsenal instead of Milan?

Would United's last-gasp recovery in the Camp Nou have seemed quite so amazing had they snatched the Cup from Chelsea rather than Bayern Munich? I think not.

Those finals were the rare stuff of dreams. Last night was the familiar material of the Premier League. The nonsensical transporting of tens of thousands of rival English fans to the far side of Europe was only one of the issues.

The erosion of traditon is the greater worry. No wonder UEFA president Michel Platini wants to restrict the moguls and oligarchs from using their wealth to continue purchasing European supremacy for the English.

If it is not stopped, when will we ever again see the like of United v Benifca, Liverpool v Borussia Moenchengladbach, United v Bayern, Liverpool v Milan ... let alone Real Madrid 7, Eintracht Frankfurt 3?

There was sufficient here in Moscow to excite the English speaking world. And yet, and yet ... stripped of the drama of sudden-death this was just another Premier League game.