Links make Champions League final almost a family affair
MADRID (Reuters) -- Soccer often sees brothers, friends and arch-enemies on opposing sides but few matches have had as many inter-personal links as Saturday's Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
The venue -- Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium -- is familiar territory to many of the players but especially Netherlands team mates Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
They played in the same Real Madrid team together last season before Robben left for Bayern and Sneijder joined Inter.
"It is wonderful to be back in Madrid and I am looking forward to playing against Wesley, we are good friends," Robben told a news briefing before the match.
Although Robben and Sneijder will be on opposite sides on Saturday, Sneijder will link up with Bayern skipper Mark Van Bommel and Robben for the Dutch at the World Cup next month.
Robben and Sneijder are not alone in returning to Madrid -- or facing players they know well.
Three other Inter players also used to play for Real -- Samuel Eto'o, Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Samuel.
Cambiasso and Samuel, along with fellow Argentina team mates Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito, are all expected to start for Inter against fellow Argentine international Martin Demichelis.
One man who could return to Madrid shortly after the final is Inter coach Jose Mourinho, widely linked with a permanent move to Real as the club's new coach for next season.
Mourinho also has close links with Bayern manager Louis Van Gaal, working as his assistant at Barcelona in the late 1990s before leaving for Benfica, Porto, Chelsea and Inter.
Mourinho was Robben's manager at Chelsea but, while the match sees those two men on opposing sides, it brings other former team mates into opposition.
Inter striker Eto'o and van Bommel were in the Barca team that won the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.
Inter defender Lucio was formerly at Bayern and was also a team mate of the Munich side's goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt in the Bayer Leverkusen team defeated by Real Madrid in the 2002 final.
Lucio scored Leverkusen's goal in their 2-1 defeat in Glasgow eight years ago and his old Bayern team mate Bastian Schweinsteiger is looking forward to renewing acquaintances.
"I sent him a text yesterday and am happy to see him again, He's a great guy," Schweinsteiger told a news conference on Friday.
Eto'o has scored in two previous finals -- for Barcelona in 2006 and last season -- and would become the first man since Alfredo Di Stefano to score in three finals if he finds the net on Saturday.
To complete the links with rivalry and the past, Di Stefano, who scored in five successive finals for Real Madrid from 1956-60, will be among the guests of honor on Saturday.