In every major sporting final there is one individual who lights up the occasion like no other, the one who dominates the headlines and plaudits above all others.
Of course, it would be him. Who else could have outshone the brightest Real Madrid star? As much as the pre-match focus was on Gianluigi Buffon to finally gain what had been missing from his enormous trophy cabinet and Gareth Bale missing out on the final in his home city, Cristiano Ronaldo strode in and emphatically stole the show from the beloved Italian keeper. If you are a fan of Ronaldo or not, it is irrelevant. You cannot deny the Portuguese attackers legendary status.
What a way to do it too. Ronaldo struck decisive blows to Juventus’ title hopes in both halves, stepping it up crucially in the second half as the legs of the Italian side became increasingly wearisome or their history in the competition crept into their consciousness.
Is this not starting to become a trait of the Portuguese hyper-star? He is no stranger to the big occasion. These matches always seems to conclude with him. They seem to bring out the very best of him; to reach playing levels everyone except himself believe are impossible.
In the quarter-final Real Madrid took on Bayern Munich. The famous number seven led the smash and grab job at the Allianz Arena with a brace of more poachers instincts than individual brilliance. The nature of this performance highlights the vast variety in his game that has developed over time in Lisbon, Manchester and Madrid. At the Bernabeu, as Bayern were threatening, Ronaldo was the man to sucker punch their hopes when he stabbed past Manuel Neuer just minutes into extra time. He did it again in the dying moments of the tie, tapping into an empty net from Marcelo’s lay off to put the tie beyond doubt.
Yet again, Atletico Madrid were destroyed by the 32-year-old as he helped himself to a hat trick in the home leg. The tie was then wiled away in the second leg at the Vicente Calderon by the defensive work of another Real stalwart. This man deserves a mention for his actions, controversial as they may be.
Sergio Ramos, the captain and leader of this group of world-beaters, is nothing short of controversial. 22 red cards throughout his career.
Immediately following a beautiful sliding tackle on Juan Cuadrado, the Spaniard resorted to an enormously melodramatic reaction to Cuadrado pushing him in the back. A process of rolling on the floor, clutching his ankle, under the nose of the linesman was enough to convince referee Felix Brych to issue a second yellow card to the somewhat unfortunate yet foolish Juventus winger.
Always a man ready for the big occasion like Ronaldo, yet Ramos has no problem resorting to dirty tactics in order to ensure a result. As much as it pained neutrals to see Buffon’s big moment ruined, it seemed more so to see Ramos resort to theatrics before hoisting aloft a trophy his antics deemed him undeserving of.
Rio Ferdinand was the first to condemn the Real Madrid captain on social media, as being backed up by many. This did little to taint the joy of Ramos, who led the celebrations back in Madrid as those who felt him undeserving of this merit looked on.
As Real continue to reign supreme, it looks increasingly like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and anyone else will have an enormous job stopping this team who are continuing to dominate a tournament they love to win; and in the case of Ramos, by hook or by crook.