Zinedine Zidane establishes dynasty as Real Madrid make history again

By the end, Juventus’ very essence was disassembled, their soul left strewn across the Cardiff turf. A team which had conceded just three goals in Europe all season conceded four in the Champions League final. But if the champions of Italy were unrecognisable, Real Madrid were not. For the third time in four seasons they are the champions of Europe.
The only novelty in this fresh triumph was that Zinedine Zidane’s side became the first back-to-back winners in the Champions League era. A true dynasty has been forged. The question now is who can stop them embellishing it? This was as bold a statement as any that has been made in a European Cup final. Juventus were supposed to be ready to challenge, finally. Instead they went home humbled.
If the lingering image amid the wave of emotion following the final whistle was that of Gianluigi Buffon with his hand covering his quivering mouth, a giant of the game just about holding back tears, the real story of the match was Real Madrid’s imperious, even dismissive, performance in the second half as they scored three without reply. It was if Madrid wanted to slap down Juventus for having the very temerity to try and take their trophy away from them. And it is their trophy. As the pyrotechnics lit up Cardiff’s national stadium, Madrid lifted a 12th European Cup; Juventus have now lost their past five finals and remain stuck on two.
It was a night for greatness. Greatness in Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring feats, as he scored two more Champions League final goals to win his fourth trophy; greatness in the shape of Zidane, who won his second Champions League in just the 20th European match of his short managerial career, to go with the Liga title this season; and greatness too in defeat, as Mario Mandzukic contributed a spectacular goal which deserves not to get buried under the Madrid deluge which followed.
Mandzukic scores his wonder goal
Mandzukic scores his wonder goalGetty Images
The two sides were evenly matched when Mandzukic’s stunning volleyed goal cancelled out an opener from Ronaldo. But in the second half, the wizardry of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield took the game away from Juventus, with goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo again and late substitute Marco Asensio making this a rout. “It’s a 50-50 chance but in the second half we were clearly superior,” explained Zidane. “We kept the ball, played higher up, pressured; physically we won the game there as well thanks to the determination we showed.” Ronaldo said it was "the best half Real Madrid have played this season."
When Asensio stroked the ball home, it matched the scoreline three years ago in Lisbon when Madrid defeated Atletico Madrid to usher in this grand era of European dominance, but Cardiff was easily the best performance of their three recent triumphs. Juventus simply had no answer to the performance Zidane coaxed out of his men. “Put a bit more aptitude in your play,” he said he told them at half-time. “Play more in the opposition half and when you have the ball, play with it, we know how to play football.” His address helped put the seal on a perfect season. "I am so happy. I feel like dancing, almost," he said. "I feel extremely happy because the truth is it has been a spectacular year; you couldn’t dream of anything better."
The man who has been a manager for less than 18 months now has one league title and two Champions Leagues under his belt. With another one as a player, in 2002, and one as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti in 2014, Zidane can lay claim to four in total, just one short of Alfredo Di Stefano. This was a night to elevate him to super coach status. Touted as Madrid’s answer to Pep Guardiola, he has forged a period of dominance in this competition that even that great Barcelona side could not manage. Three titles in four years is better than any team has performed since Bayern Munich won three in a row in the late 1970s.
It was a triumph which made the sceptics rethink their appraisal of Zidane. While he could have succumbed to sentiment and started Gareth Bale in his home stadium, he got his big decision right and the Wales hero had to make do with a late cameo as Isco started in his place, becoming increasingly influential as the game progressed. By contrast, opposite number Massimiliano Allegri acknowledged an error on his part when he took off Andrea Barzagli on 66 minutes and switched formations to a back four from a back three, bringing on Juan Cuadrado. Juve were already 3-1 down though and the winger later saw red. Instead it was Zidane who had the magic touch, with his own substitute Asensio wrapping things up late on, his precociousness hinting that Madrid’s reign may not end anytime soon.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real MadridGetty Images
A defining image to rival that of Buffon’s sorrow was the wild celebrations when Ronaldo scored his second, as the great individualist was enveloped by all of his team-mates bar Marcelo and Keylor Navas, who were on the other side of the pitch. It was a window into what holds this Real Madrid team together and makes them special - another great triumph of Zidane's. “I can confirm this as key to our success,” said the manager. “Everyone has felt important this year. Amongst themselves they get along together really, really well; the connection that exists between the players is fantastic.”
It was a team triumph, and yet, inescapably, at the heart of everything was Ronaldo. On the eve of the game, Zidane had generously said the club’s all-time record goalscorer was a better player than him, citing his ability to decide matches with goals. And so it proved again. His second in Cardiff was the 600th of a truly astonishing career, which will now surely be crowned with a fifth Ballon d’Or to bring him level with Lionel Messi. Being presented with his man of the match award by former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson merely underlined what a journey he has been on in his career.
It was that kind of night for Madrid, one when legends were reconfirmed and new history forged in a competition which is umbilically linked to the club. “Have we written a new page in history? Yes, absolutely,” said Zidane, after being reminded that Madrid had not only won back-to-back Champions Leagues but also a first Liga and European Cup double in 59 years. “You can say that today is truly a historical day for Real Madrid.” There may be more before this Madrid team, and their manager, are finished.
Zinedine Zidane establishes dynasty as Real Madrid make history again  Zinedine Zidane establishes dynasty as Real Madrid make history again Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 22:46:00 Rating: 5