Real Madrid is the champion of Europe for a record-extending 14th time after Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat Liverpool 1-0 in Paris on Saturday, but rarely has the Spanish champion taken a more chaotic road to glory.
Madrid only made it to the French capital thanks to stirring fightbacks at the Santiago Bernabeu to see off Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and then Manchester City in the knockout rounds.
More madness ensued at the Stade de France, where kick-off was delayed for over half an hour as security problems outside the ground prevented fans from taking their seats.
Amid the confusion, Madrid had experienced on their side in the form of the most successful coach in the competition’s history.
Ancelotti now stands alone as the only manager to win four Champions League titles, surpassing Bob Paisley’s three European Cups with Liverpool and Zinedine Zidane’s hat trick as Madrid boss between 2016 and 2018.
“I am a record man,” said Ancelotti.
“I’m pleased to have won the Champions League four times, but I am even more thrilled to have come back to Madrid and had such a spectacular season.”
Even once the action got underway there was more controversy as Madrid had a goal ruled out late in the first half for offside against Karim Benzema despite Liverpool’s Fabinho playing the ball into the Real captain’s path.
Other coaches would have raged at the officials, but Ancelotti was charismatically cool on a night he wrote himself into the history books.
Just a year ago, Ancelotti was on the other side of Merseyside at Everton, after his stock suffered from short spells at Bayern Munich and Napoli.
The 62-year-old said on the eve of the game that the change to be back on the biggest stage in world football 12 months later felt like “vertigo.”
Liverpool’s painful finale
Yet he delivered the favor Everton fans craved by denying Liverpool a joyous end to a momentous season.
“Everton weren’t that happy,” added Ancelotti on his return to Madrid, where he also won the Champions League in the debut season of his first spell in 2014. “I think they are a bit happier now.”
Six days ago, Liverpool was dreaming of an unprecedented quadruple. Instead, it has to suffice with a League Cup and FA Cup having come up short by the finest of margins in both the Premier League title race and now in the Champions League final.
The week also did not start well for Madrid.
The Spanish giant was jilted by Kylian Mbappe, who decided to remain at PSG for a further three years.
Mbappe’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu could have had major implications for the future of Vinicius Junior.
The 21-year-old Brazilian, who plays in the same position as Mbappe on the left of the attack, has enjoyed his breakout season under the tutelage of Ancelotti.
He delivered the biggest moment of his career in the 59th minute by turning home Fede Valverde’s cross for the winning goal.
Real’s remarkable run to the European crown was not done yet.
When the sides met in the final four years ago, Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius was the match-winner for all the wrong reasons as his two howlers handed Madrid a 3-1 win.
This time it was Real stopper Thibaut Courtois who was named man of the match for a string of stunning saves to thwart a Liverpool revival.
The pick of the Belgian giant’s saves came when he flew low to his right to turn Mohamed Salah’s drive wide 10 minutes from time.
Sensing his side needed an intervention, Ancelotti’s experience shone through in the closing stages as he used his three allocated stoppages of play late on to see the game out and gain his own personal revenge on Liverpool.
The only Champions League final Ancelotti has lost as a coach came 17 years ago when his AC Milan side blew a 3-0 halftime lead before losing to Liverpool on penalties.
Ancelotti had already made history this season by becoming the first manager to win all the titles in Europe’s top five leagues by adding La Liga to his Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga championships with AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Bayern, respectively .
Now he is the most decorated coach in Champions League history.