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Juve rule the roost in Italy, but Europe is Real Madrid's patch


Real Madrid are duty-bound to win the European Cup like no other trophy. They contributed to its creation, lifted the first five (with at least one goal by Alfredo Di Stéfano in each final) and lit up the competition with the panache they showed on the way. Real and the European Cup will forever be united by a special bond - they became what they are together. Nothing provokes a sense of duty in Real like a final like this. Initially, because of Spain's emigrants, who then-president Santiago Bernabéu would invoke in his pep talks; now, because of a track record of tournament success revived by La Séptima. That was a key moment. After 32 years without it, Los Blancos reclaimed the cup. And finally felt back in their rightful place.

The Champions League is a cup that Real Madrid feel belongs to them

During that three-decade drought, the Madridista felt like the Sephardic Jew who held on to the key to a house in Toledo, passed down from generation to generation, each one certain that one day they would return and it would slide right into the lock. And it did just that. That house, the European Cup, belonged to Real Madrid, because, led by Bernabéu and Di Stéfano, they had built it, following L’Equipe's blueprint; and it's one thing not to come back for it for 32 years or several centuries, and another for it not to be yours. In this tournament, Real have always fought with the strength of purpose of someone defending something they consider to be their own. Every failure has been that season's overriding black mark.

Predrag Mijatovic scores the winner against Juventus to secure the 1997/98 Champions League and end Real Madrid's 32-year wait.
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Predrag Mijatovic scores the winner against Juventus to secure the 1997/98 Champions League and end Real Madrid's 32-year wait.DIARIO AS

When it comes to the European Cup, Real always play at home...

Up against them are Juventus once again, just like that night when the key opened that rusty old lock. Juve rule the roost in Italy, where their silverware haul outstrips that of all comers; but, in the same time that Real Madrid have amassed 11 continental crowns (that's one more than the number of Copas del Rey in their trophy cabinet), the Bianconeri have won just two. They've lost six finals out of eight; Real have been beaten in only three from 14. There's a difference between the players at each club, but there's an even greater gulf in the conviction that they're fighting for something that belongs to them, for their inalienable right. When it comes to Europe, be it Cardiff, Milan or Lisbon, Real always play at home.