If battle-hardened teams featuring athletes who thrive in pressure situations, and who have all tasted the agony of defeat and bathed in the euphoria of victory is your cup of tea, then Saturday’s Champions League final is probably for you.
Juventus vs. Real Madrid is legit a proper football match.
All tournament long (and last season’s tourney as well, now that I think about it) I have been on the Juve bandwagon, telling anybody who’ll give me their ear that the Bianconeri are built for this tournament. Whether it’s the grizzled and wise old Leonardo Bonucci or the brilliant and fresh Paulo Dybala, these are athletes who know exactly what it takes to win, and will sacrifice for the cause.
Surely, this will be the year that Italian football makes its glorious return to the pinnacle of the sport?
But then I swing over to their opponents. Everything I just wrote also pertains to Real Madrid, the difference being that they have already achieved greatness. In two of the last three years they have been in this situation before, and have triumphed. It took extra time three years ago, and penalties last year, but they prevailed, demonstrating top level mental strength.
It is doubtful that a narrative depicting one team looking nervous and fragile being picked apart by their opponents will be one we’ll be discussing on Saturday night. Instead, this will be a sports war, two balanced sides going at each other, and a long match beyond 90 minutes is very possible.
The two faces of this encounter also provide their own compelling reasons to pick a side.
Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon might well be the greatest goalkeeper of his generation. Along with his unequalled command of his box, and still the ability as he nears middle age of pulling off the spectacular save, he has a likeability that perhaps is unequalled in the football world. I don’t know if it’s his candor, or maybe his passion, but I do know that I’d love to have a beer with Gigi.
Cristiano Ronaldo still transcends the Real Madrid crest in this all dominating era. CR7 has reinvented himself under Zinedine Zidane, and could play for another five years at centre forward, breaking yet more records that weren’t supposed to be broken. Gone now is the petulance – now he just demands respect no matter where you sit on the greatest of all-time discussion. I’m not sure whether I’d like to have a beer with Cristiano, but certainly a little chat over a coffee would be quite enjoyable, I’m sure.
Choosing sides is just so difficult. Another Real Madrid win and the term “dynasty” would crop up, especially as Real have just finally ended its La Liga hoodoo and recaptured the thrown from Barcelona.
Then, of course, a win for Juventus would not only see Gigi complete his trophy cabinet, but as mentioned Italian football wins back respect from its detractors.
It has been seven long years since Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan won the treble, and if Juventus were to win on Saturday, it would cement what has been an era of unparalleled club dominance to the tune of six straight Serie A titles and a treble.
The choice is yours, but if you just can’t make your mind up, that’s okay, sit back and enjoy football at its finest.