In time, the details will fade. Real Madrid will not remember, not precisely, how it moved from mere greatness to genuine legend. The specifics of how it etched its name in history and took its place alongside the very best club teams soccer has produced will not matter.
All that will count is that — like the Ajax Amsterdam of Johan Cruyff, the Bayern Munich of Franz Beckenbauer and the primus inter pares, the Real Madrid of Alfredo Di Stéfano — this Real Madrid vintage has done what only those select few have ever managed, and won the European Cup for three years in a row.
After a victory on penalties against Atlético Madrid in 2016 and a 4-1 demolition of Juventus in 2017, Zinedine Zidane’s team beat Liverpool, 3-1, here on Saturday night. Three for three, four in five years, and 13 in total, almost twice as many as A.C. Milan, its closest challenger: That is all that will concern Real Madrid, a club that, more than any other, weighs its status only in silver and gold, and measures itself in victories, in trophies, in glory.
The manner of how they come about is always secondary. The story that Real Madrid tells itself of this game, of this run, will change as the years go by; its collective memory will pick out the parts to cherish and discard those that do not fit the burnished narrative.
It will accentuate the second of its three goals, a gravity-defying, breathtaking overhead kick from Gareth Bale, an immortal sort of goal, one that will be mentioned whenever an argument about the best strike seen in a final bubbles up. His coach, Zidane, had held the crown until now, with a volley in the 2002 Champions League final. Bale’s was not quite as clean, not quite as pure, but if anything it was more spectacular, more dreamlike, the sort of thing that does not happen before disbelieving eyes.
It will not pore over, in the years to come, the first and third goals, however, the ones that both decided and defined this final. Liverpool, by contrast, may never forget them. It does not feel an exaggeration to suggest that Loris Karius, the club’s German goalkeeper, will never fully recover from them.
Defeated, Liverpool does not have the luxury, like Real Madrid, of picking and choosing its memories. Three will stay with the team, the fans and the club for some time; two will haunt Karius for longer still.
Both led to Real Madrid goals: After rolling the ball onto Karim Benzema’s foot and then watching, horror-struck, as it trickled over the line, he might have thought he had escaped that first one, once Sadio Mané equalized a few minutes later. There would be no reprieve from the second, though, with Karius wafting a rather hopeful long-range shot from Bale through, giving Real Madrid a 3-1 lead, draining what hope Liverpool had of an unlikely revival.
Karius looked stricken as the game ticked through its final minutes, as Cristiano Ronaldo hared around, desperately searching for the goal that would allow him his moment in the spotlight. At the end, Karius sank to the floor, face down, and stayed there for what seemed like an age, barely moving, unable even to lift his head.
His Liverpool teammates, immersed in their own agony, did not seek him out immediately to offer solace; the first players to him, admirably, were Nacho Fernández and Marco Asensio, two Real Madrid substitutes. Only when Karius was on his feet again did the familiar arms embrace him, did the voices of his friends offer forlorn words of reassurance in his ear.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Rory Smith