After arguably one of the most exciting games recent Champions League memory, Juventus and Real Madrid’s second leg was one that will love long in European folklore. As the dust settles and Juventus fans enter the bargaining stage of grief, we can reflect on what we learned from an unforgettable match.
Gareth Bale’ Madrid Career is Over
With so much to talk about in the second half, it’s almost forgotten that Gareth Bale was substituted at half time. More to the point, it’s hard to remember the Welshman doing anything of note in the game at all. With an abysmal pass accuracy of 65% (by far the worst in both sides), he was hauled off by Zinedine Zidane with Madrid trailing 2-0.
Bale has had his critics this season, as he has done every season since becoming a Galactico, and it looks to have taken it’s toll on his confidence. The 28-year-old isn’t shying away from trying things he would do on top form, the difference is almost nothing he tries comes off. Even his usual cut inside and cross or shoot comes to nothing, with the winger inevitably being tackled or losing possession.
By the sound of the Bernarbeu crowd, they have had enough of Bale, who has never been the most marketable player, as are few Brits who venture abroad. With Manchester United being long-term admirers, you have to wonder how much longer Bale’s Spanish career has to trundle along before he too packs it in.
Buffon Almost Does a Zidane
The great Gianluigi Buffon was a glove away from potentially tarnishing what has been an incredible career. The script was written for Buffon to recreate Zidane’s moment of madness from the 2006 World Cup Final, who watched on ironically from the sidelines. Physical aggression, a straight red card and storming off down the tunnel, the parallels drew themselves.
However, Buffon’s reaction was far less aggressive than that of Zidane’s. His actions were less a result of malice, and more of a passionate Italian who has just seen his final chance of a Champions League winners’ medal go up in smoke. Yes, the ‘keeper confronted Michael Oliver and yes, it deserved a red card. Anyone who says otherwise is understandably blinded by sympathy for a legend of the game who was robbed of his place in the semi-final.
Football is a cruel game and as much as we wish the rules could change just to allow Buffon one more shot at the trophy, the very purpose of the referee is to keep his cool and apply the law, especially when the rest of us are absolutely losing it.
That being said, the same outpouring of sympathy has saved Buffon’s legacy. The Italian media are, as you’d expect, steadfast in their defence of the 40-year-old, and another crucial difference to Zidane’s shameful exit in 2006, is that Buffon still has his last ever league game to bid farewell.
Try not to make a mess of that too Gigi.
Football as a Spectacle is Alive and Kicking
Let’s all take a moment, and be thankful that VAR wasn’t an option in Wednesday nights drama. Could you imagine if we had to wait for Michael Oliver to trot over to the side, make the correct decision and for no one to dispute it? Boring.
We wouldn’t have the seismic fallout that the football world is still reeling from. The red card, the denial, the Italian and Spanish press having a go at each other and being kicked out (a personal highlight). As controversial and heart-breaking as it may be, moments like those are why football mean so much to us all.
Not just the euphoric highs, but the lows too, when our team have a goal wrongly disallowed, or a last minute penalty goes against us. That’s the essence of the game, without the anger and disappointment that comes with a controversial loss, we simply wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good times as much.
With 27 goals over 8 games, and some historic comebacks, if anything this week has reaffirmed that the drama of football, in it’s time of need, is alive and kicking.