Despite Atletico Madrid providing an early scare for Real Madrid in Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final second-leg with two goals inside 16 minutes, Zinedine Zidane’s side put the tie to bed when Karim Benzema produced a moment of magic to set up Isco who scored a decisive away goal, setting Cristiano Ronaldo for future personal glory in the process.
Real will now travel to Cardiff to face Juventus on June 3, with the 3-0 aggregate lead too much for Atletico to overcome.
It puts Los Blancos in with a chance of becoming the first team to retain the Europe’s biggest trophy with the competition in its current format after victory in Milan last season.
Madrid’s recent dominance in the competition, having lifted the trophy in Lisbon in 2014 as well, has sparked debate surrounding just which team is Europe’s super power.
Luis Enrique’s Barcelona recorded their last triumph in 2015 after victories in 2006, 2009 and 2011, but Madrid have returned to prominence after going 13 years without winning the trophy with Barcelona falling at the quarter-final stage in the last two seasons. When Barcelona have not won the Champions League, Madrid have. Only Juventus can buck that trend.
Barcelona are still in the title race and are highly-fancied to win the Copa del Rey. Victory on the domestic front would be reason for joy, having clawed back a considerable number of points to go neck and neck with Real in the race for LaLiga.
But, should Real win their 12th European Cup, that would count for less and may have an impact on whether Lionel Messi signs a new contract with at the Camp Nou. The Argentine is aware that the result of the Champions League final could threaten his position as the best player of the past decade with Cristiano Ronaldo set to equal two of his stratospheric records.
Cristiano Ronaldo has played in more Champions League finals
If Ronaldo’s side win in Cardiff it will be his fourth Champions League winner’s medal, a total that only a select few, including Messi, can boast.
The Portgual capitain lifted the trophy for the first time in 2008 when Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow, with Ronaldo heading United into the lead that night. He has since tasted glory when Real beat city-rivals Atletico on in 2014 and 2016.
The final in Cardiff will be Ronaldo’s fifth, having tasted defeat against Barcelona with Manchester United in 2009. That puts him two finals ahead of Messi.
Should Real beat Juventus, Ronaldo would be a contender for the Ballon d’Or and if he were to win it he would equal Messi’s haul of five. Both players sit above Cruyff, Platini and Van Basten in the all-time winners list, all of whom won three.
However, Messi may seek solace in winning the golden boot this season. That would be his fourth, and would equal the number held by the Portuguese star.