Luck or leadership? Bale-out or Bale-in? Dark arts or dastardly from Sergio Ramos – five things we learned from an epic Champions League final 

1) Mo Salah and Ramos

Regardless of what you think about the controversial play that sent Mo Salah straight to the locker room and Liverpool straight to the mat, there’s only one truth to it: it was a game-changer. Losing their best player and Ballon d’Or contender at the half-hour mark was a devastating blow for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

No-one knows what would have happened with Salah on the pitch, but that belongs to the ‘What if…?’ segments in the minds of Liverpool fans. However, a backlash against Sergio Ramos won’t stop over the next few weeks: grabbing Salah’s arm in a strange, judo-esque hold and falling to the ground on top of him resulted in a painful dislocation for the Egyptian and hundreds of thousands of comments from football fans in the world…with even the European Judo Union joining the fray.

2) Gareth and vindication

Gareth Frank Bale always had his price tag weight on his shoulders. $117 million and five seasons later, his highlights finally include the biggest game on the planet. Always getting slammed by media and fans alike for both his unfortunate injuries and performances, the truth is that he has won four Champions League trophies with Real. Such an impressive resumé would have been impossible to achieve elsewhere.

Bale has survived quite a few coaches, falling short of expectations, the complete roster of injuries a player can endure and not getting the unconditional love of his crowd. And the Welshman marched on like a soldier into becoming the key player for Real against Liverpool, with the little extra help of goalkeeper Loris Karius. His 2-1 was spectacular, a true beauty, even better than Cristiano’s against Juventus. The brace was completed thanks to the keeper’s collaboration after a long-range strike. This summer, Bale’s name will once again be on every single list of transfers…while he keeps collecting silverware.

3) Cristiano and narcissism

Only such a self-referential piece of narcissism like Cristiano Ronaldo would be able to rain on Real’s parade. Which means, by the way, raining on his (partially) own parade. But I digress: his words right after the ref’s whistle have been scrutinized and analyzed, but noboby has been able to grasp what the 33-year-old was thinking when he began ranting to the TV flash interviewer.

“It’s been very nice playing for Real” and “the Champions League should be rebranded as the CR7 Champions League” are only two of the flat-out inexplicable statements by a man who went unnoticed during the season’s biggest game, who seemed mad after watching Gareth Bale scoring a brace and hogging the spotlight, and who has never ever understood that football is an 11-man sport. Madrid’s president, Florentino Perez, was understandingly angry after his tantrum. As it always happens with Cristiano, this will be resolved in two ways: leaving this summer or staying after a huge pay rise.

4) Zidane and Godess Fortuna

I won’t ever, ever, stress this as much as I should: Zinedine Zidane is a lucky, lucky chap. Seriously. We’re not putting into question his ability to get as much performance out of his players, or his amazing psychological mind-games and motivation regarding his team. He’s just plain out lucky, the coin always showing heads when a championship is on the line.

It happened in earlier rounds against Juventus (that lucky penalty) and against Bayern (those lucky ref calls), and it happened once again in the Champions League final: that lucky injury to the opposite team’s star (with no bookings for Ramos), that lucky Benzemà goal, that lucky and horrid performance by goalkeeper Karius… We’re talking about the only guy capable of getting 18 holes-in-one on a golf course.

Or… maybe it isn’t luck and we’re all just plain wrong.

5) Real Madrid and legacy

Lucky or not, deserved or not, the fact is that Real got hold of their third Champions League in a row, the fourth in five years. Nobody will remember how they conquered them in five, ten or twenty years down the road. They will only remember the shiny trophy and the name engraved on it.

Like it or not, it’s an outlandish achievement. Out of this world. In my opinion, nobody will ever top what they have done. Ever. And that deserves respect and sheer sportsmanship. Congratulations, Madridistas!

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