Real Madrid claim 12th triumph
Gareth Bale's dreams came true as Real Madrid clinched a historic Champions League triumph in his home city of Cardiff.
Having played an important role in the triumphs of 2014 and 2016, the 27-year-old started this year’s showpiece finale on the bench.
Zinedine Zidane favoured in-form Isco for a final that Bale entered as a 77th-minute substitute, making a timely return from a calf injury as Real Madrid overcame Juventus in surprisingly comprehensive fashion.
The 4-1 victory saw the Spanish side become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the title - and doing so on home turf meant a lot to their Welsh star.
“To win at home is a dream come true,’’ Bale said. “It’s been a hard season and I’ve worked hard.
“It didn’t seem like I was going to make it to the final but I’ve worked tirelessly at home and it’s the reward you get for all the hard work you’ve put in.”
Real are winners of European football’s leading club competition for a 12th time and Bale continued: “We’ve made more history. I’m a happy man to win the 12th and we’ll enjoy this moment now.
“What an incredible stadium. The city have done an immaculate job in hosting such a great event and we thank everyone for that.’’
Madrid had looked to be facing an uphill battle after Mario Mandzukic cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opening goal with an exquisite overhead kick.
Juventus edged the first half but Madrid returned from the break rejuvenated, with the Portuguese taking his tally to 600 goals for club and country in-between breakthroughs from Casemiro and Marco Asensio.
The Italians also had substitute Juan Cuadrado dismissed six minutes from time, when the score was 3-1, after two yellow cards.
Ronaldo was handed the man-of-the-match award by Sir Alex Ferguson, his former manager at Manchester United, after a display that made Madrid fans who have previously whistled him look all the more absurd.
“It’s not the moment to speak about that,” he said when asked about such criticism. “I speak already a few times about that.
“The most important (thing) is that I again had an amazing season, me and my team-mates have done the double.
“I think people don’t have words to criticise because the numbers don’t lie, you know?
“I am very happy – an amazing season again. We’ve won trophies and of course it is one of the best moments of my career– I have the opportunity to say this every year but it’s true!”
It was the third Champions League final Ronaldo has scored in, while Zinedine Zidane – a former Juve player – became the first manager to retain the European title since Arrigo Sacchi accomplished the feat with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.
The Frenchman recalled previous criticism when he said: “I don’t want to say I’m very good because before I was scandalously bad as a coach and now I’m supposed to be the best.
“I love football. I have the chance to be with this great club, with this great squad.
“We’re working hard. We worked hard all season, thinking we could achieve things because in the long run everyone’s been very important.
“For me, that’s the success and the key.”