And on some nights, my god, doesn't football help live life? Everything goes away. Pain goes away. Sufferings go away. Worries go away. And you just beautifully, and willingly, drown yourself in the absolute ocean of joy and magic that football offers up! It shakes you up. Moves you to tears. Makes you cry out in sudden joy. There really is nothing like football. So lap it up Real Madrid, an institution that simply refuses to let go of the Champions League!
It seems to stem from a belief. A belief that runs in the DNA of the football club; so much so that they made shirts celebrating a potential 14th. And more than half an hour after the final whistle had been blown, the players and staff were still on the pitch. Lapping it up of course. Hand in hand, running from one end of the Bernabeu to the other. Not one person from that capacity crowd had left. Everyone perhaps still in shock and David Alaba cognizant of his injury only followed the entourage of celebrating Real Madrid players - running full tilt and sliding in front of either goal.
If you did not see them play 120 minutes of elite football and those six minutes of maddening goal scoring, you would think these are a bunch of men fresh from intense rest, perhaps just gone crazy. And crazy the night was. Crazy is Real Madrid and their Champions League love story. They simply refuse to let go. If Madrid were a lover in real life, it would be toxic. But on a football pitch, it is jaw droppingly stunning. Unbelievably captivating television. Totally unparalleled.
Real Madrid - more than City
And everything you are feeling or have felt, heighten it a million times. Even then, you may fall short of the ecstasy experienced inside the mythical Bernabeu. It was not just the victory of a team. The city won. And well, City lost. Not just any City, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. Pep Guardiola's being a key identifier. He represents all that Madrid hates. He is the Catalanism in that great Barcelona Real Madrid rivalry.
And there was evident display of that Madrid maligned football for much of the night. City displayed immense control for most of the game. Their dominance epitomized by a stumbling Vinicius Jr. Every time the Brazilian stole any march, Walker was on cue to retrieve the ball and re-establish City control.
89 minutes, 40 seconds and whatever time was added on at the end of the first half. That is how long City had painfully rendered the Champions League second leg tie redundant. And then came the magic spell. It was as though Manchester City's legs and arms were tied by a bewitching wicked spell. Not even a minute and Rodrygo went one way, Vinicius Jr. the other. Meanwhile, Bernabeu knew not what to make of it all.
A swift striker's movement and a major centre forward's leap. Before you knew it, we were into extra time. What did you say? Rodrygo twice and no King Karim moment yet? Ruben Dias lunged and ensured the Frenchman would have the final say in taking Madrid to Paris. A roll of the ball from the spot in the 95th minute and the improbable was unfolding before our eyes!
Real Madrid - miracles on repeat
There is something strangely intangible about the Bernabeu. No way can one pinpoint to one single element that is making all of this possible. On the brink on repeat and miracles on repeat. How is it all happening? How much dominance is enough dominance to get a result here? All questions pedigreed and expensively assembled European giants have sought to answer. All questions they have found no answer to.
PSG first. Not just any PSG side either. Leo Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr and more collapsed here after leading by two goals. Then Chelsea led in the quarterfinal. Mason Mount and company ran Real ragged. Only for a no context repeat telecast worthy outside of the boot assist by Luka Modric to undo everything. Like in the semifinal, it was Rodrygo who found a way to hit back of the net.
Lightning does not strike twice at the same place but at the Spanish capital, it struck as many as three times in a month. There has to be a voodoo over this place. The nights of white noise and white light. The innate Madrid-ismo to simply not let go of this great competition. Impudent flicks. Caressed tickles. Regal lofts. Moments of fearlessness, of ringlet-tossing abandon and Madrid are coming for Paris!
Benzema for Real Madrid in Paris
And so is Benzema. Karim Benzema is coming to Paris. To the very stadium where he could have won France that elusive Euro. Remember 2016? Stade de France and the night France did everything but not get the ball across the line. Benzema, at 34, is doing just that with the consistency of sun rise and assurance of rain at the Equator.
All those years of football in his legs, the running around and chasing. Even the extra miles Cristiano Ronaldo did not cover. It would be perfectly acceptable for the Frenchman to be winding down his career somewhere in China or some posh locale of the MLS. Then settle for the comfortable life of ambassadorial roles and real estate investments.
However, Benzema still possesses a hunger unbecoming of a man who was exiled from his national team for six years. Paris was supposed to be forbidden corridor. And yet, here he is. About to enter Paris, on the doorstep of everlasting recognition. On the cusp of the long elusive French Ballon d'Or. Not Paris's golden boy Mbappe, but their discarded man Benzema. From the banlieues chaudes of Lyon to the pinnacle of the game, King Karim has never stopped running, never stop chasing. He is still dreaming.
Real Madrid vs Liverpool in Paris - this means more
And so will Liverpool dream. Remember 1981? Liverpool vs Real Madrid in a European Cup final and the Reds won. It was a historic night for the English team as Bob Paisley would become the first manager to win thrice in Europe's elite club competition.
Real Madrid got their win back in 2018, when Karius had a brain fade which was later told to have more serious implications. It was the final which will be remembered for that famous Ramos and Salah forceful embrace. The Egyptian, having become entangled with the no nonsense Spaniard, would play no more part in the game and very minimally in the FIFA World Cup later that year. The implications were major and since, Egypt have failed to qualify in another World Cup.
It needs reminding that this too is a World Cup year. There are similarities to the game in Kyiv. This Liverpool team, in terms of functionality, is unparalleled in the world. They cannot be beaten. It is perhaps not even football. They do not solve football problems. In that way, it is a fascinating case study of recalibration in mindset.
Maybe even a simple two-worder "Lads, quadruple" much like that Spurs dressing room team talk of Sir Alex. And yet, by the time these two teams reach Paris, the unprecedented quadruple may not be achievable. Even if it is, Real Madrid awaits them. Not just any team in any competition. It must be made note of.
Because for all the greatness and functionality and everything else, five minutes of Modric passing, Benzema hoodwinking and one eyebrow raising renaissance Archduke resembling Italian on the touchline can take the trophy to the whites of Madrid. A por la 14 versus seventh heaven.