Despite Liverpool losing Mo Salah, Real Madrid would have won Champions League anyway due to a better bench and mastery of the midfield

We expected a spectacular game, and a spectacular game it was. At least in terms of entertainment. The Champions League final was a combination of drama, errors, peaks of divine quality, all mixed together with the same fundamental ingredient that we have been used to for the past three years in Europe’s top club football competition: Real Madrid win finals. Always.

A premise: what would have happened had Mohamed Salah played the entire game and had Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius not had the worst footballing night of his life? Impossible to say, but the feeling is it would have been a lot more challenging for Real Madrid to find a way to unlock the game and then put it to sleep to calmly dominate the final minutes and lift the trophy.

The most balanced phase of the game were undoubtedly the first 30 minutes, in which Salah was on the pitch. The unlucky clash with Sergio Ramos forced the Egyptian off the pitch early on, and Liverpool inevitably suffered psychologically from it, also because unlike Real Madrid’s squad, the Reds don’t have the same options, and Jurgen Klopp could only bring on Adam Lallana, not exactly the same as Gareth Bale.

Then Karius decided to flick the ball onto Karim Benzema’s foot to open up the scoreline and his disastrous half hour. It’s sad to see him desperate at the end of the game, but his errors clearly put Madrid in a position of advantage. Then there was Bale: he came on in the second half and within minutes he had produced a moment of brilliance with a perfect overhead kick to give the lead again to Los Blancos.

This is one of the reasons Madrid won. Zinedine Zidane turned around on the touchline midway through the second half and had tons of quality players to pick from: Marco Asensio, Bale, Mateo Kovacic, Lucas Vasquez. He went for the Welshman. As we mentioned already, not exactly Lallana. And it paid off: Bale scored the wonder goal, Madrid won the trophy.

But the main factor that gave Madrid the win, other than the errors, the injury, their winning mentality and their ease in finals, was their ability to dictate the pace of the game. When Madrid decide it’s time to accelerate and score they do so, when it’s time to suffer and defend – the same. It’s down to Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Their decision-making is brilliant, and makes all the difference.

It did so against Bayern, Juventus, Paris, and so on. For many years now. Add this to players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Bale who can solve a game when they wish to and you have one of the best teams ever.


Karius on a good night and Salah on the pitch for the full game would have made it tougher for Real Madrid. But the outcome would have most probably been the same: Madrid were superior and deserved to win the Champions League.

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