Champions League final: Juventus take on Real Madrid to end a 21-year itch

Between the Serbian defender and Champions League glory stands one man – Ajax goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Jugovic rises on his toes, like a gymnast addressing the vault, and takes a breath.

Van der Sar guesses correctly but Jugovic strikes the ball too well. Juventus players collapse in tears on the turf. The Old Lady are European champions.

It was Juve’s first European Cup triumph in 11 years.

Back then, that was considered a lengthy wait. But now their patience is really being tested. Twenty-one years have passed without a repeat.

Those famous black and white stripes will flood Cardiff this weekend, hoping to finally give a two-decade old itch a ruddy great scratch.

Juventus’s most recent triumph on the continent’s biggest stage belongs to a totally different era, after all.

It pre-dates the Euro, it pre-dates the iPhone, it pre-dates Twitter, Facebook… even Bebo.

And, as if the point needed making further, it pre-dates Emil Audero – the deputy to Gianluigi Buffon, who made his club debut in the final Serie A game of the domestic campaign.

It is surely time for the Bianconeri to have new heroes to replace Alessandro del Piero, Antonio Conte, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Didier Deschamps and Gianluca Vialli.

Against Real Madrid – the favourites on the night, just as Ajax were 21 years ago – Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini can etch their names into folklore.

Juve have spent too long being nearly men in Europe, for all their domination back home.

Since that win in Rome, they have returned to the Champions League final on four separate occasions. Four separate chances. Four separate defeats.

The first came just 12 months after Vialli lifted Ol’ Big Ears, against the Borussia Dortmund of Paul Lambert and Matthias Sammer – a 3-1 loss in Munich which the Germans’ coach Ottmar Hitzfeld described as ‘a big surprise’.

It set a trend. Still, no team has won back-to-back finals – though Real Madrid have a chance to rewrite history on Saturday.

And, still, Juventus haven’t won another final.


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