As I watched Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 last night, it got me thinking “has there been a better team in the last three decades?”. To score 4 goals in one game, against a team that had only conceded three in the competition all season is an incredible feat, almost as incredible as winning the world’s most prestigious club competition three times in four years.
Juventus started the better side, quickly forcing a save from Costa Rican ‘keeper Keylor Navas early on, but that all came to nothing when Cristiano Ronaldo claimed his first of the night, sweeping a low finish into the bottom corner, via a small deflection off of Bonucci’s right foot.
Juve responded well, however, where left-back Alex Sandro volleyed a great cross-field pass across the penalty area to Gonzalo Higuain, who chested it and dinked it to Mario Mandzukic, what happened next will go down in history. The Croat chested it up and produced a stunning overhead kick from the edge of the box, which looped over Navas and into the net. Claims that the ‘keeper could have done better, to me, are untrue if he had used his left hand the ball would already be over the line, he had to try and tip it over the bar, but to no avail, impossible to save.
Juve then dominated the rest of the first half, but when Casemiro’s deflected shot curled into the bottom corner you got the feeling that it was over. They quickly doubled their lead, with CR7 grabbing his second of the night, tapping in at the near post after some brilliant movement. Marco Asensio finally got Real’s fourth of the night, curling in yet another one-touch finish into the bottom corner.
However, just before this, Juventus had been unfairly reduced to ten men, when Sergio Ramos went down very theatrically after Juan Cuadrado accidentally clipped the back of the Spaniard’s heel when collecting the ball for a throw-in. It was just one of those accidental things, which just requires a “sorry mate” and a handshake to solve the situation. Instead, Sergio Ramos went down like he’d been shot and unfairly earned the Colombian a second yellow card.
Juventus just edged the first half in terms of quality of play, however Real Madrid completely dominated the second half, and were deserved winners in the end.
You have to feel for Juventus, especially Gigi Buffon, who, at 39 and a half years of age, you have to feel will never finally add that final, champion’s league shaped, place to the jigsaw that is his trophy cabinet.
Juve set out to play the final in the way that they have played every game in te champion’s league this season. Erect the black and white wall at the back, putting your wingbacks next to their 3 centre backs, and putting Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira deep, just in front of the back line. They then put 23-year-old Paulo Dybala in attacking midfield, preparing to run forward using his great speed, and start a counter-attack, using the height of Mario Mandzukic, the venom in front of goal of Gonzalo Higuain and the pace and dribbling of himself.
It worked brilliantly for the first 20 minutes, however, when Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring it sent them into disarray, but luckily for them, a goal came quickly, so they could just revert to piling everyone up at the back. It again worked until the 60th minute, where they were hugely unlucky to concede to Casemiro’s drive from distance, which deflected wickedly off of Sami Khedira’s foot. Juve then knew that even if they scored right away, they wouldn’t have the game time to lock up at the back again, and they would have to attack Los Blancos, and when they tried this, Cristiano Ronaldo struck once more, and the game was won for Real Madrid.
The win means that they are the first team in 27 years to win the title two years in a row, the first since AC Milan did it in 1990, and the first since the competition shake-up in 1992. It also, surely, secures Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth Ballon d’Or award in 5 years. The Portuguese captain has scored 42 goals in all competitions this season, won the Champion’s League and won La Liga. Is he the best of all time? Is prime Ronaldo better than prime Messi?
Barcelona’s team of between 2008-2014ish may have been more enjoyable to watch, with their signature “tiki-taka” football in full flow, but they never did what Real Madrid have done, and they have never won the Champion’s league twice in a row.
But how long does this Madrid side have left? Ronaldo’s age doesn’t look like it catching up with him as of yet, but at 32-years-old it must be only a matter of time before he starts to lose his pace and athleticism. Sergio Ramos is 31, Pepe is 34, Luca Modric is 31 and Karim Benzema is 29, and with their transfer ban over this summer and January, they will need their youngsters to pull through. Their reliance on players like Marco Asensio, Rafa Varane and Casemiro will increase dramatically over the next couple of years so they will need to work as hard as possible on developing and nurturing their young talent.
So, how long do you think this Real Madrid side will last? What do you think they can achieve? Will Gigi Buffon ever win the Champions League? Please leave your opinion in the comments down below.
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