No fairy tale for Buffon & Juventus, just the same old sad story




The Bianconeri were quietly confident of ending their 21-year wait for Champions League glory but they ended up losing their seventh of nine finals
Everywhere one looked at full-time at the Millennium Stadium, there were people clad in black and white in floods of tears. This defeat hit hard, primarily because it was supposed to be different this time. Juventus were supposed to win this time. They didn't. They lost. Again. The seventh time in nine European Cup finals. The fifth in a row.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised by Real Madrid's 4-1 victory over the Bianconeri.

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After all, the side with the worst record in European Cup finals had gone up against the side with the best record in European Cup finals.
Furthermore, Real were the defending champions, a side of superstars assembled at a cost of €638.2 million (€215.9m more than Juve).


Mario Mandzukic Juventus Real Madrid


However, Juve had supposedly learned from their surprise appearance in the 2015 final, a 3-1 loss to Barcelona in Berlin.
They had matured, they told us, and strengthened their squad in the interim, last summer's €90m signing of Gonzalo Higuain was viewed as a sign that now they could not only compete with Europe's elite on the field but off it too.
The signs were encouraging. Juve had reached the final undefeated, and having conceded just three goals in 12 games.

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On a demoralising night in Cardiff, they shipped four in 90 minutes. It was probably the most jarring statistic on a shocking night for Juve.
They had started strongly, with Higuain testing Keylor Navas twice in the opening five minutes.
After being rocked by a classic Cristiano Ronaldo counter-punch 20 minutes in - Real's first shot on target - they responded wonderfully.


Casemiro Juventus Real Madrid UCL 03062017


They responded like potential champions, with Mario Mandzukic beating Navas with an improvised overhead kick, after a majestic move in which the ball never touched the ground as it went from Leonardo Bonucci to Alex Sandro to Gonzalo Higuain and then the Croat.
At half-time, all the momentum appeared to be with the Italian champions. Yet, in truth, it completely disappeared during the interval. Juve went from dominant to dire in the space of 15 minutes.
From hounding every Madrid player in possession, Juve were suddenly chasing shadows. Worse, some players - perhaps overcome by fatigue after a double-winning domestic campaign - stopped chasing altogether.
Just like Ronaldo's opener, the crucial second goal - an ambitious long-range strike from Casemiro - was deflected but, in truth, it had been coming.
Juve needed to rise again but they simply fell further off the pace and were ultimately left feeling frustrated, embarrassed and disconsolate.


Higuain Juventus Real Madrid


There will be an inquest - as to what exactly Massimiliano Allegri said to his side at half-time - but only after another all-too-familiar period of dejection and defeatism.
Thanks to what they have done off the field in recent years, Juve are now in a strong economic position and have the resources and leadership to return to the summit of European football.

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However, several members of the second-oldest side ever to play in a Champions League final might never get another chance to lift the trophy, chief among them Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon.
The latter had admitted before the game that some of his team-mates "have at least four or years of football ahead of them. I do not."

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