Of all the subplots currently swirling through Madrid like dry leaves around a statue of Jose Mourinho, one of my favorites is that of Howard Webb, your hulking, shaven-headed Official 2010 Champions League Final Referee. Webb is one of the most famous match officials on earth, partly because of all the amateur phrenological societies that have been quickened to life by his cranium, partly because he exudes a sense of being able to snap Javier Mascherano in half. But he's been on a bad streak lately, and not just any bad streak, but a streak so spectacularly bad even USA Today knows about it.
Complaints against Webb really started mounting this season, when he, for instance, wrecked Aston Villa's FA Cup run by denying a clear penalty (No it wasn't. -- Brooks) against Chelsea, eased Bordeaux past Olympiakos in the Champions League by inventing a goal-scoring free kick, and played a decisive role in something like 28 Everton matches. But Webb's troubles really began earlier, at Euro 2008, when, with Poland leading Austria 1-0 in the third minute of stoppage time, he saw Mariusz Lewandowski graze Sebastian Proedl's shirt, blew for the penalty, and canceled any hope he ever had of a tranquil Warsaw vacation. Still, in fairness to Austria, Poland's goal only stood because Webb hadn't noticed it was offside. And a few months later, he was again forced to apologize after a match between Wolves and Birmingham during which he effectively created all the scoring himself. (There were rumors that Real Madrid were lining up a bid for him, but Alex Ferguson refused to let him go.)
So why would UEFA give their biggest match to a scandal-plagued lightning rod with a history of run-ins with one of the managers? Well, England always lands someone in the final, after all. Will he call a good game and redeem himself — shining, that is, more figuratively than his head is bound to do under the stadium lights already — or will he call down the wrath of the 1900 billion fans watching the match? Either way, it should make for entertaining viewing.