Real Madrid became the first team in history to defend the Champions League with a ruthless exhibition of winning football.
It’s not that pretty or especially innovative but it’s incredibly effective band a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and two more from Casemiro and Marco Asensio were enough to see off Juventus despite a wondergoal from Mario Mandzukicc which briefly had them level.
It makes them the first back-to-back winners in the competition’s history and extended their own record-setting personal tally to 12.
Here’s what we learned in Cardiff:
Cometh the hour, cometh Ronaldo
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Again. Another final, another two Cristiano Ronaldo goals. The Portuguese’s opener was his seventh in the his last four Champions League games and in doing so made him the first player since Alfredo di Stefano to score in three separate European Cup finals. Like him or loathe him, you simply cannot ignore him. Anonymous for large portions of the game he still scored twice. He is the definition of the man for the big occasion. What better possible quality is there to have?
Super Mario’s moment of magic
If Ronaldo’s opener lit the touchpaper Mandzukic’s equaliser added the fuel to the flames. The Croatian produced a moment of magic the likes of which we have possibly never seen. The touch, the vision, the technique and the temperament. They were all there as he volleyed Juve level with a sensational goal which had the Bianconeri dreaming of victory. Alas it was not to be.
Casemiro the hero
When Real needed a hero the unlikeliest stepped up to the plate. Casemiro doesn’t score many, and this one came in fortuitous fashion by the way of a hideous deflection off Sami Khedira, but it broke open the gates and Madrid never looked back. With so many stars on show alongside him a defensive midfielder is never likely to hit the headlines in this team but the young Brazilian deserves every bit of credit that comes his way. His tireless work sets the stage for the superstars to do what they do. In Cardiff he had his moment in the sun too.
One game too far for Juve
Juve have swept all before them in their run to the last two of this year’s tournament but this was one game too far for the Old Lady. They started like a train and had Real on the backfoot but never looked likely to keep up such a relentless tempo and as their efforts dwindled so did their chances. By the time Ronaldo tapped in Madrid’s third the game was lost. It’s a sad end for what is a great team, but you fear for the likes of Buffon, Chiellini and Barzagli to name but a few this may have been their last chance now gone.
Zidane the history man
He may not have the tactical nous of a Conte or the rallying cries of a Mourinho but Zidane has now done what no man has done before him has done and retained the Champions League. Critics will say that this Real Madrid team, more nuts and bolts than glitz and glamour, don’t deserve such an honour, but the Frenchman won’t care and the scorecards infamously have no pictures. His team may not be the prettiest or the most tactically astute but they win. And what’s more important than that?