It was not just the same team that lifted the trophy for the third time, it was the same player. Sergio Ramos made it a hat-trick of finals and once again he had been decisive.
This time not with a 93rd-minute header or with a converted penalty but with an arm-lock on Liverpool’s best player dragging him to ground and putting him out of the game.
There is always something with Ramos. The good, the bad, or the ugly. This time it was the latter. He also feigned injury after a challenge with Sadio Mane. He knew he was in for the battle of his life against the forward line that had outscored the rest of Europe in the Champions League.
He knew he would have to use all means necessary to come out on top.
Now he can book another session with his own personal tattoo artist, Rodrigo Galvez, so that he can have that fourth Champions League inked on to his body.
‘I think he just about has some space left,’ joked Lucas Vazquez, one of the team-mates closest to him, in the build-up to the game.
Ramos had the name of his new-born son Alejandro tattooed on to his arm before the final. He already has the birthdays of sons Sergio and Marco on his other arm. They were all in Kiev to see him complete an incredible personal hat-trick.
Ramos has written his name into the Real Madrid history books as the club’s greatest ever defender.
He is also the club’s most red-carded player but his achievements far outweigh his misdemeanours.
And last night’s performance will only increase his standing among his own supporters and his public enemy No 1 status among other teams.
It’s not the first time in a final either. Twelve months ago he was the man all Juventus fans loved to hate when he made sure Juan Cuadrado was sent off.
Having wound up the former Chelsea midfielder, the Colombian stood on his hand and Ramos’s reaction was exaggerated enough to ensure the player saw red.
‘People think what we are doing is normal,’ he said in the build-up to this final. ‘It isn’t.’
When he arrived at the club in 2005 for €27 million, Real Madrid had nine European Cups. They now have 13 and he has also won four leagues too.
Some said he was expensive when he arrived aged only 19 but he has probably been their best buy this century in terms of value for money.
And last night he was worth every euro of the salary he persuaded Real Madrid to pay him by flirting shamelessly with Manchester United.
El fútbol te enseña la cara más dulce a veces y la más amarga otras. Ante todo somos compañeros. Pronta recuperación, Salah. El futuro te espera.||Sometimes football shows you it's good side and other times the bad. Above all, we are fellow pros. #GetWellSoon @MoSalah— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) May 27, 2018
What United would have done to have signed him in 2016. ‘I nearly went there but things sorted themselves out,’ he said last year. By which he meant: Real Madrid panicked and gave me what I wanted.
He’s worth the money. Defenders come and go but captains are far harder to find and Ramos is Real Madrid’s skipper in every sense of the word.
He has become a father figure to the younger players and he is the one player who Ronaldo sees as an equal in terms of his standing in football.
His falling out with Jose Mourinho and his lack of affection towards Rafa Benitez contributed to both men losing their jobs. And likewise his communion with Zinedine Zidane has helped him ensconce himself in the Real Madrid dug-out.
Madrid’s victory last night had so much to do with Ramos. The foul on Salah changed the course of the game. His performance at the heart of Real Madrid’s defence was key in making sure for all that Sadio Mane tried Liverpool could not get back into the game.
Ramos had 32 friends and family to see him lift the trophy in Kiev. They had all been flown over on a private jet, paid for by Ramos of course.
The final belonged to Gareth Bale, and to Loris Karius, but it also belonged to Ramos.
He was called a ‘legend’ by one radio journalist in the week leading up to last night’s final: ‘Don’t put the slippers on me yet. I still have a few years in boots out there playing.’
A lot has been said about Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of catching Paco Gento’s six winners’ medals in this competition, but it’s a feat that could well be even more within the reach of the younger Ramos.
He’s Madrid’s captain, leader, legend and last night he became the first skipper to lift the European Cup in three straight seasons in the modern era.Daily Mail