07/06/2022

IIn all walks of life, there are people whose greatest gift is to be the most confident person in the room. They succeeded and you can never know why. What are they actually doing? Is it more than just looks the part? Real Madrid just won the Champions League for the 14th time.

It just can’t be luck. There must be more behind it. However, in every Champions League knockout match, against Paris Saint-Germain, against Chelsea, against Manchester City, they fired fewer shots than their opponents. On Saturday, Liverpool scored 24 shots, compared to Real Madrid’s four. The only difference between the final and the previous one was that this time there was no point where Liverpool clearly won the match and Karim Benzema did not score.

But Liverpool suffered from that strange condition that all opponents of Madrid seem to suffer from at some point, when they are faced with that unyielding confidence and suddenly lose the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Experienced players turned star-loving teens bumping into their hero doing nothing but staring at their feet and letting out high-pitched screams at random.

Passes are misplaced, crosses are skipped, and dangerous attackers oddly ignored. Defenders and goalkeepers who have been solid throughout the season end up in the penalty area where the ball bounces between them and only a VAR decision can explain why the opening goal was ruled out.

Liverpool could point out that Sadio Mane hit the post, that Thibaut Courtois had two great saves, and that they had chances. But there was never a real feeling that they would equal. A performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in injury time was not so much an exciting call for a final climb as it was a somber anthem for the challenge.

Carlo Ancelotti won the Champions League four times as a coach. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

These two deliverances were a big part of it, the kind of pauses that belittle faith. Courtois hit his goal for the first time, throwing himself at the feet of Mohamed Salah trying to lift the ball over his leg. There was speed, aggressiveness and readability of the game. The second came after Salah gave himself a few chances.

He ran toward a target that seemed to grow from the bone of the first touch, opening his body, and flexing his foot, ready to score the kind of goal that defined his shape before Christmas. And then, out of nowhere, Courtois’ green arm seemed to hit the ball away. The way three of his teammates jumped against the Belgian was indicative of the extent of the exceptional save.

Courtois was probably Madrid’s best player alongside Benzema, and that tells us a lot about the course of the season. He was the last to get there, claiming a cross pass from the left into a crowded box and sending her one last kick. Luka Modric ran straight towards him after the final whistle and quickly overwhelmed him. For the modern elite, goalkeepers can sometimes be the champions in one-off matches, but it is unusual for them to be so pivotal over the course of a season.

But this has not been a normal season for Real Madrid. They survived on their nerves, on their ability to create moments of brilliance when they needed it most. The way Courtois saved them is partly a measure of his distinction but also the fact that this is not Real Madrid who can control the matches. They needed Benzema to convert part of his ridiculous chances, they needed Modric to keep throwing magic passes and they took advantage of Vinicius’ increased risk by running behind the opponent’s two backs.

Maybe if you have enough great players about to shoot, that’s enough. Modric’s out-of-the-boot pass to Benzema to equalize against Chelsea at the Bernabeu is the defining moment of their season as it demands such finesse at such a crucial time. The stars are getting older and Kylian Mbappe, who looked like Real Madrid’s future for so long, isn’t coming any time soon. It has to be redone, but the core of Madrid, this sense of faith, remains as strong as ever.

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And so while most managers have a philosophy when we talk about grand tactics and Pep Guardiola’s dominance juego de posición And the counterpressing to Jurgen Klopp, the first coach to win the Champions League four times, is Carlo Ancelotti, who has a modicum of adaptability and pragmatism. He won only five league titles during his career, and last season ended with Everton losing 5-0 to Manchester City. plans? Who needs them is not Madrid, not yet.