The night began with a double guard of honour, and ended with Marcelo and Joaquín, two immensely likeable players, bowing in admiration at each other. Joaquín, who made his 600th appearance in Spain’s top flight, may also be in action at the Bernabéu next season, as he’s been given another year. For Marcelo, it was farewell. We may yet see him in Paris, holding the European Cup aloft, but Friday night was his Bernabéu swan song. It would have been nice to see him on the pitch for longer, but Carlo Ancelotti wanted to ensure Ferland Mendy is in tip-top nick for the final, and that comes first. It was lovely to see him at least get that late run-out, though. Like Joaquín, he’s a lad who plays the game with a smile on his face.
It was a game between two teams with domestic silverware to celebrate. A happy occasion, but a dull match. It’s tough to wage war having already won it, so it’s no surprise that neither Madrid nor Real Betis particularly put their backs into it. There were no squabbles or heavy challenges; rather, it felt like a preseason friendly, not least because of the heat. Betis at least had something at stake: keeping hold of fifth place, which gives them seven million. That’s certainly not to be sniffed at. Though it’s nothing alongside the figures being talked about when it comes to Kylian Mbappé, for Betis it covers two players’ salaries. A draw was the ending to the season that Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini deserved.
As he had indicated pre-match, Ancelotti fielded his likely XI in Paris, minus David Alaba. Éder Militao looked in better form than in previous games. Rodrygo Goes, however, went back to doing little; a shame. That said, no-one did all that much, save for Vinícius Júnior, who as ever produced persistent forward forays, carrying the ball to the byline time and time again. Karim Benzema got himself into shooting positions, but couldn’t find the net. Madrid’s substitutions allowed them to inject energy into the team in the shape of Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga, and to say goodbye both to Marcelo and Isco, whose career has faded in recent years. There was no sign of Gareth Bale, of course. He wasn’t there, nor was he expected to be.