The poster of the original Jurassic Park has a tagline that says “Life finds a way” and in any Champions League final, Real Madrid do too.
On Saturday night, Real Madrid defeated Liverpool to be crowned the champions of Europe for a record-extending 14-times. The last time this team lost a European final was in 1980-81 when they fell to, you guessed it, Liverpool. Life does indeed come full circle.
In my waking days, I have never seen Real Madrid lose a Champions League final, with their 1980-81 loss coming way before I was born.
As a Manchester United fan, I am not really too fond of Real Madrid. They always have the tendency to whisk away world class talent – David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo. Remember how they build their Galacticos at our cost.
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While their team was adorned by the galaxy of stars that they acquired and sometimes created, the other teams had to go through the long painful process of finding replacements.
Every time Real Madrid plays in a Champions League final, the rival team has a mountain to climb. Yes, even in the 2021-22 final when everyone said Real Madrid were the underdogs against a marauding Liverpool.
This is Real Madrid, a team built on European domination that turns into this unbeatable beast when the lights are the brightest.
They have played 17 European finals and have won 14 of them, 8 of them coming after I was born. In my lifetime, I have never seen Real Madrid lose the final.
I was pretty young when Real won in 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2001-02 where they defeated Juventus, Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.
Then came a period dominated by other teams like AC Milan and Barcelona to name a few. From 2013-14 to 2021-22, the domination reignited with Real winning 5 finals. That’s 5 times in 9 years. They became the only team to win back-to-back 3 Champions League finals when they won in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. That was unheard of at the time.
Every time they played, I would bet against them and hoped that they would lose but every time they persevered. In 2013-14, I was rooting for Atletico Madrid who led by a Diego Godin header till the 90th minute before a Sergio Ramos header breached their defence and shattered their dreams.
In extra time, Atletico were rattled and conceded 3 more from Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo.
In the 2015-16 final, Real played against Atletico again and I hoped this time, the result would be different but alas, Real did what Real do and defeated their city rivals in penalties after the score was tied 1-1 in regulation time as well as extra time.
In 2016-17, Real faced Serie A champions Juventus in a match that will be forever remembered for that Mario Manzukic overhead kick equalizer after Cristiano Ronaldo had put Real ahead. I was at a friend’s house after a hard day in the office and you couldn’t have imagined the scenes after that goal.
Was there hope? We certainly thought so but as the match wore on, Real scored 3 more goals courtesy of Ronaldo, Casemiro and Asensio. Another European night, another win for Real Madrid.
In 2017-18, Liverpool stood across from Real Madrid in the final and I had a hard time choosing which one to support due to my allegiance for Manchester United.
But ultimately, the desire to see a new team be crowned champions had me swallow my pride and tilt towards a Liverpool win. Disaster struck in the first half as Liverpool’s talisman Mohamed Salah went off injured with a dislocated shoulder after a skirmish with Sergio Ramos.
In the second half it all unraveled for the Merseyside outfit as goalie Loris Karius had a game to forget. Benzema scored the match’s first goal by deflecting a throw by Karius back into the net but Sadio Mane gave millions hope after scoring the equalizer.
After that, it was all Real as Gareth Bale scored a bicycle kick that will be forever frozen in time.
2-1 Real Madrid. Bale scored his second goal of the match in the 83rd minute from 40-yards out that swerved in front of Karius and went through his hands and into the net. 3-1 to Real Madrid and that was all she wrote.
This year, Liverpool had won the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup while losing the Premier League to Manchester City on the last day of the season.
Real had won the Spanish league and were heading into the final with momentum behind them. Even though, this season their trademark dominance was somewhat lacking, Real had seen off the likes of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City in close contests.
Liverpool, on the other hand, had a much easier draw beating Inter, Benfica and Villareal. Would this be the year when I could finally witness Real Madrid fall short in a UCL final?
Turns out I was wrong and Real scraped past Liverpool with a 1-0 win, courtesy of Vinicius Junior. As I looked on in begrudging respect as Real lifted their 14th, I wondered if I’ll ever witness a team who can topple the mighty Los Blancos in a European final in my lifetime.
Right now, Manchester United are miles off the level of Real Madrid and as a Red Devils fan, I have no other choice but to live voraciously off other teams who stand across Real in a Champions League final.
The last time United reached the final was in the 2010-11 season. Real have won 5 titles since then. The gulf in class is apparent and shows no signs of going away any time soon. So with a heavy heart, I have to put my faith on any prospective giant slayer that comes this way.