The greatest Champions League final victory of the modern era could only ever have had Cristiano Ronaldo sitting on the throne as its master.
As Real Madrid and Juventus were finalising plans for their Cardiff showdown, it was speculated here that the iconic Ronaldo might be missing a final to call his own – despite all those he has won. Safe to say we may ponder no more.
This truly was the ‘Ronaldo Final’.
What a stage to do it, too. A Ronaldo-inspired Los Blancos became the first team in the Champions League era to win back-to-back finals with a 4-1 success that further cemented their standing as this competition’s epochal outfit.
Billed pre-match as the Portuguese taking on Gianluigi Buffon and his steely enforcers – that other great ‘BBC’ of these times: Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini – Ronaldo laid waste to Juventus’ previously unbreachable back line.
The three goals Juventus had conceded en route to the final had all come via set-pieces, but Ronaldo carved them up from open play in the 20th minute, flipping wide for Dani Carvajal and steering the right-back’s return pass beyond the grasp of Buffon – a fragment of time that could come to crystallise the great goalkeeper’s failure to land the biggest of European kahunas.
— #UCLfinal (@ChampionsLeague) June 3, 2017
The strike was Madrid’s 500th in the Champions League – Ronaldo’s next was the 600th of his career and took him beyond great rival Lionel Messi as top scorer in this season’s competition.
Numbers may well come to define Ronaldo’s career, but this was sheer showmanship. The ability to pick the right moment on an enormous stage and turn the world’s spotlight onto himself.
If he did lack the ‘Ronaldo Final’ – what a time to get one…
For the first time since 2009 – Manchester United the holders, Barcelona becoming THAT team – the showpiece event in club football was played by two sides with genuine claims to being Europe’s premier performers.
And though Ronaldo walks away with this and most of the other headlines, Juventus were spectacular combatants for the most part and Mario Mandzukic’s goal is one that will go down in eternity.
Zinedine Zidane’s great volley at Hampden Park is generally regarded as the Champions League’s best final strike.
It is a debate that could rage until the end of time, maybe it will, but Mandzukic’s overhead kick, following a touch up in the air and with defenders at his back is the kind of effort that dreams are made of. It was utterly deserved at the time with Massimiliano Allegri’s deployment stifling Madrid for the most part.
So it was a shame that the game ran away so much from Juventus.
600 – Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his 600th goal in his professional career (club and country). Amazing. pic.twitter.com/HpKHys1PDW
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 3, 2017
With Ronaldo still basking in his second and Madrid’s third goal, Juan Cuadrado was sent off for a pair of quickfire bookings and Marco Asensio scored late on to give the scoreline a dominant slant that few had seen in the build-up.
It could be a quirk in the future that Asensio’s star began to rise in this moment that Ronaldo’s rose to its highest point.
But, regardless of what is to come, Juventus 1 Real Madrid 4 – forever the ‘Ronaldo Final’.
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