History-making is in Real Madrid’s DNA. They have ripped up the record books, winning a remarkable 12th European Cup with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Juventus, in the process becoming the first side to retain the trophy in the UEFA Champions League era.
1 Madrid always score
Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener marked the 65th successive game in which Madrid have scored. Going forward they look unstoppable. Nothing perhaps sums this up better than their first match of this season’s competition. The Whites trailed Sporting 1-0 in the 89th minute at the Bernabéu, but there still seemed an air of inevitability when Ronaldo equalised with an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner.
Fans and players alike constantly repeat the phrase “el Madrid nunca se rinde” – Madrid never give up – and it was a demonstration of that. They fought until the end, eventually beat Sporting 2-1, and it set them on their way to success. They found the net in every game en route to glory and ultimately it was their goalscoring prowess that did for Juventus.
2 Zidane’s the man
There were doubts surrounding the Frenchman when he took over at Madrid. He was an excellent player, but would that translate into his coaching career? The response has been emphatic. Two UEFA Champions League triumphs in 18 months, a first Liga and European Cup double in 59 years, and a happy dressing room.
He plays front-foot attacking football and has shown his clever side by rotating his squad so they reached the end of the season in peak form. He has shown tactical flexibility, switching between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formations, and it is this kind of nous that has underpinned Madrid’s Undécima and Duodécima (11th and 12th European titles).
3 The best midfield in the world?
Few midfield trios can compete with Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. The best thing about them is the way they complement each other so effortlessly.
Modrić knits plays together so well, linking attack and defence with his impish skill and eye for a pass. Kroos is composure personified and possesses a passing range like few others. Meanwhile, Casemiro protects the back four with his life. He shields them and fills in when the likes of Marcelo and Dani Carvajal push up. Maybe his biggest quality is that he knows his limitations and does not try to do too much.
4 Cometh the hour, cometh the man
After what, by his immeasurably high standards, was a fairly quiet group stage, Ronaldo came to life when his team needed him most at the business end of the campaign. A hat-trick in the quarter-final second leg against Bayern saw off the Germans, while another treble against neighbours Atlético assured Real of their place in Saturday’s showpiece.
It was only fitting then that the 32-year-old Portuguese was the man who broke the deadlock and got the crucial third to help Madrid to victory. The first player to score in three UEFA Champions League finals – and the competition’s all-time leading marksman – was also the man who netted Madrid’s 500th goal in the tournament. Cap well and truly doffed.