It wasn’t meant to be for Juventus or Gigi Buffon this time around. A heart breaking 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Cardiff means that the Italian icon is still without the Champions League medal he so desperately craves. After suffering a third straight defeat in the final, Buffon must be feeling as if it’s not in his destiny to be crowned Champion of Europe. And who can blame him? He has endured nothing but rotten luck in this stage.
However, as disappointing as last night was, it shouldn’t take away from what the legendary goalkeeper and his teammates have achieved this year.
The talk of a historic treble made Saturday night’s Champions League final more of a necessity than a blessing. So much was made of another treble attempt from the Bianconeri that reaching it was barely celebrated. I wrote previously that Juventus is a club that celebrates trophies and not finals, a statement I stick by. But they are also a club that refuses to be spoiled by success, demanding unrealistic triumph at each opportunity. They aren’t like Real Madrid or Barcelona who deem any season unsuccessful unless they pick up every trophy going. Juve share the winning mentality of their Spanish counterparts, but they refuse to get drawn into the entitlements that those clubs revel in.
For the Bianconeri, the 2016-17 campaign was a success. They bounced back from the departures of Alvaro Morata and Paul Pogba to reach a stage they had gotten to just two years prior. That side also consisted of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez. Their ability to return to the Final so soon after selling half the team that got them there in 2015 is a sign of that winning mentality spoken about earlier. They disposed easily of European giants Barcelona, a stingy FC Porto and every football hipsters new favourite team, AS Monaco, on their way to Cardiff.
Once they got there, they needed a bit of fortune to claim the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, much like Berlin in 2015, lady luck was shining on the opposition.
There aren’t any excuses for how poorly Juve played in the second half, but if Casemiro’s long range effort doesn’t deflect off Sami Khedira then Buffon makes the save and the game is still level after the hour mark. After that, anything is possible. Of course, we know how the story played out with Madrid running riot and finishing with four goals. Yet, as hard as it is, it shouldn’t take away from the fact this young side mixed with experienced leadership were able to finish as the second best team in Europe.
Alex Sandro, Paul Dybala, Miralem Pjanic are all going to get even better, while the likes of Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci still have plenty left in the tank to push for another run similar to this year. Buffon isn’t showing signs of retiring before his current contract ends and there’s much hope amongst the Juve faithful that Daniele Rugani will receive more game time following a promising campaign. Another successful recruiting drive this summer in the transfer market will only help re-energize this group.
Juventus claimed their sixth straight Serie A title, while collecting the Coppa Italia as well. They dismantled any side that came up against them, with the exception of Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane’s players are historically the best group to ever play in the prestigious competition, which means it will take a lot to uproot them from their spot at the top of Europe. Saturday night showed that Juve are better than anyone before them but just not as good as their competitors at the Millenium Stadium.
Improvement is needed and as the deflation of another final defeat eases over the next few days, they’ll get back to work on ensuring next year is their year. For now, #ItsTime to celebrate the achievements of this one.