On Saturday night, a 4-1 Real Madrid thumping of Juventus ended another football season. The Madridistas won their 12th Champions League title in Cardiff, becoming the only team to defend the title since the new Champions League format began in 1992.
Zidane’s team was simply spectacular on the night, especially in the second half, as Ronaldo found the net twice to win the European Cup for Madrid. It was a spectacular game, filled with amazing goals, Mario Mandzukic’s goal is perhaps the greatest Champions League Final goal ever scored, tense moments and a red card, albeit quite a frustrating one to watch due to the dive from Sergio Ramos. At least the dive sparked a wave of internet memes but there was nothing graceful about that. With plenty to think about, here are the 5 questions that are haunting me and I am sure they are terrorising you as well.
What in the world happened to Juventus’ defence?
Honestly, what happened? Probably the best defence in Europe this season was absolutely shattered by every Real player. Sure, they had to stop the unstoppable force that is Cristiano Ronaldo, but they already succeeded against Barça’s MSN, they could have easily shut Real out with the same composure that they had done so with Barcelona but instead, they were eaten alive.
It could have been the fact that they played a 3-at-the-back formation, a formation that Allegri had ditched mid-season and opted out for the 4-2-3-1, but still, a defending line holding Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the middle, with Dani Alves and Alex Sandro out on the wings, and the ageless Gianluigi Buffon between the sticks should not be conceding 4 goals when it counts the most.
It was tragically stupendous to see how well Ronaldo penetrated the Italian team’s defence, a defence that was apparently unbeaten, a defence that had only conceded 3 goals prior to the final. It turns out that the unstoppable force managed to barrel its way past the unmovable object, leaving 4 big wounds in the way.
Is there one more chance for Gigi Buffon?
I am sure that every neutral was supporting Juventus simply to see their legendary keeper lift the only trophy that has eluded his grasp. The dream for everyone but Real Madrid fans was to see Buffon lift the trophy that he has already lost twice before but it just wasn’t meant to be. The clearly distraught Buffon seemed defeated every time he had to reach for the ball from the back of the net, especially after Casemiro’s long-range golazo. It was almost as if he knew that he had lost the final the second the ball hit the back of the net.
I was expecting tears from him and myself, but as always, Buffon is the ultimate professional and he is above emotions, albeit the majority of football fans were not during that night. Buffon is 39 years old and has said that he wants to keep playing at least until the World Cup in Russia. That is next year, meaning he has one more season to win Europe’s premier competition. The squad was more than good enough to do it this year so, unless there is another match fixing fiasco that relegates Juve from the Calcio A, they will once again be favourites to reach the final. Can they finally win it? For the sake of my heart, I sure hope they do.
Is Ronaldo a shoe-in for the Balon D’Or?
Yes, without a doubt. For the first time ever, I will not be skeptical of his best player of the year award and say that Messi deserved it over him. Last year, he won it based on his Champions League and Euro title victory, yet I felt that he did nothing in those finals to deserve the Balon D’Or. Scored the winning penalty and, unfortunately, was forced to leave the Euro finals after being injured in the opening 10 minutes. With those accolades, I believed that Pepe deserved it more considering he won both titles yet was a much more pivotal part to Portugal’s success.
But this year, there is not question as to who deserves the golden ball in January. He did score only 25 La Liga goals but he came up big when his team needed him. 5 goals across both legs against Bayern Munich, a hat-trick in the first leg versus Atletico Madrid and a brace in the final to cap off a 12 goal haul in 13 Champions League matches. A tremendous season from one of the best players football has ever seen and what a joy it was to watch him score goals for fun.
Can Zinedine Zidane finally be recognised as an elite manager?
It seems difficult to answer this one yet it also seems so simple. The man has won two successive Champions League trophies, ended Real’s La Liga drought and has only been a manager for a year and a half. The argument that he inherited a squad littered with talent, Gareth Bale, James Rodrigues and Alvaro Morata were all on the bench for the final in Cardiff, will always come up but Rafa Benitez also had this squad yet he didn’t win anything.
Carlo Ancelotti has basically the same team but he could only win the Champions League once, so why isn’t the Frenchman in the discussion when the best managers are being discussed. It seems that after his illustrious player career, he is now hell bent on becoming an even better manager. Whether or not you consider him elite, he has won 2 Champions Leagues, a La Liga, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup in the space of 16 months. That is elite-esque success.
When will Spain’s dominance finally end?
The last team to not come from Spain and win the Champions League title was Bayern Munich in 2013. 4 years might not be a long time, but when you consider that two of the last four finals were all Spanish finals, it becomes increasingly ridiculous that no one has been able to break the iron grip that Spanish teams have over the Champions League. Real Madrid and Barcelona might be unstoppable but there have been a fair share of teams that have the quality and grit to outplay both these teams, yet they always come up short.
It becomes even more ridiculous when you look at the Europa League and realise that before Manchester United triumphed this season, Sevilla won it 3 years in a row. It seems impossible to destroy the dominance of Spanish football in European competitions and I would not be surprised if it continues being this way for the next couple of years as world class talent join the two biggest teams in the history of football. One can only hope and dream for a non-Spanish team to reach the final, much less win the competition.
Written by Juan, follow him on twitter @
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