As the club football season comes to an end and the World Cup looms just around the corner, one football game was left to play: the Champions League final. The biggest game for clubs all over Europe, this year’s finalists, Real Madrid and Liverpool, were both chasing their own part in history. A common theme emerges year in, year out with Real Madrid, which is how they consistently turn up when asked upon and come out, not matter, with the goods. Once again, Zinedine Zidane’s men were crowned the champions of Europe and remain unbeatable in the competition.
Here are five takeaway points from the Champions League final:
The French manager might not have started the Welshman, but he made the right decision in bringing him on for an underperforming Isco just after the hour mark. Three minutes after his inception into the game, Bale comes up with the greatest Champions League goal possibly ever scored. A wonderful crossed in the ball was met by the flying Welshman’s overhead kick that sailed in over the top of Loris Karius and into the top corner. While the German goalkeeper had a dreadful performance, he could do nothing about that spectacular finish.
To round the game off, Bale popped up again, this time from long range. Although it should never have got past Karius’s guard, the Los Blancos forward was in such high confidence he thought he would try his luck from 40-yards out. By doing so, Madrid extended their lead to two goals and ran away with the game. There was no coming back from there for Liverpool.
As Bale mentioned in the post-match interview, he needs to be playing week in, week out, when fit and firing. The Welshman is too good to just be used as an impact sub, however prolific he might find himself in that role.
There might not be many Premier League teams who can break the bank for Bale’s excellence, but one just needs to take that gamble and bring him back. As proven, when fit, he is a sensational game changer.
A tragedy for Mohamed Salah
Unfortunately for Salah, it was not to be his night. After an innocent tussle with Sergio Ramos, the Egyptian ended up in an uncomfortable position and had to be taken off due to a suspected dislocated shoulder. Nothing has been confirmed at this moment in time, but it looks possible that Salah will return and be involved at some point during the World Cup. It would have been devastation for the player, Egypt and football fans in general if Salah was to miss out on the greatest tournament in football.
It was not meant to be Liverpool or Salah’s night, but no one can take away his simply stunning campaign for the Reds. The Egyptian King, as he is commonly known to his fans, ends the season with 44 goals and 16 assists in 52 appearances – averaging a goal every 94 minutes in all competitions. A truly world-class season.
Luka Modrić masterclass
In among all the madness was a player full of composure, calmness and stability. That player was Modrić.The Croatian has been one of the best midfielders in the world throughout the last few years, but his performance on one of the biggest stages of all elevated his status even more. Even with Liverpool’s high press and energetic play, Modrić zipped the ball around with ease and got out of trouble when he – and the team – needed to.
No player on the pitch in Kyiv looked as assured of themselves than Modrić, and that’s some accolade given Cristiano Ronaldo was playing. Modrić’s ability to create space and see the field in front of him unfold before anyone else is quite a sight to behold. It is fair to say that Modrić is truly one of the greatest midfielders of this generation and will go down as a legend of the game. With four Champions Leagues to his name, the Croat has been instrumental in Real Madrid’s unprecedented success.
Zinedine Zidane deserves his plaudits
While there will still be some, oddly, doubting Zidane’s ability to manage a team, three Champions League title successes in three years should, in truth, put those critics to bed.
In yet another masterclass, Zidane opted for the right tactics at the right time when trying to quell Liverpool’s ferocious front three. As the tide changed after Salah’s departure, Madrid moved forward confidently and started putting the Reds under immense pressure.
Two decisions made the game for Zidane’s men: 1) starting Karim Benzema when his position was under threat before the match, and 2) bringing on Bale for Isco with 30 minutes to play in a free role. Both players were on the scoresheet and proved dividends in deciding match for Los Blancos. Zidane needs to become more consistent in La Liga with Madrid, but his mindset and ability to continue to win the Champions League shows what a truly fantastic coach he is. Not many in the world could manage the egos and dressing room at a club like Real Madrid, but Zidane seems to have slotted in superbly.
Ronaldo’s non-stop winning mentality
With his latest winner’s medal to his name, Ronaldo becomes one of only six players to have ever won five Champions League trophies. A truly, remarkable achievement, with potentially more to come. He might split opinion, but one thing nobody can take away from the Portuguese forward is his unnerving ability to continue to strive for the best. To be relentlessly pushing for the maximum out of his body and teammates. He might not have had the greatest performance in the final, but he, yet again, won the Golden Boot award for the European competition with 15 goals. Second place was Salah with 10.
There is no reason why Ronaldo cannot win more Champions League trophies and reach new levels of success. He will be gunning for Paco Gento’s record fo six Champions Leagues. If he can usurp that, then he truly is the most decorated player of all-time.
The debate will continue on and on over who is better between Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, but one thing is for certain: The Portugal international is a born winner. He simply will not stop until he thinks he can no longer achieve anything else.