|Life After Football|
Who else could it be?
It was a dramatic Champions League final in so many ways. There were heroes and some notable villains, but in concentrating on the latter you are doing an injustice to what Gareth Bale did this weekend.
Arms of star players being pulled out of their sockets aside, the Champions League final in Kiev should be remembered for what was possibly the greatest ever goal seen on such a stage. Leaving calamitous, heart-breaking individual errors from a goalkeeper in the background, this final and this weekend should be remembered for how Gareth Bale responded to starting it on the bench. How we changed the momentum of this game, watched by the entire footballing world and beyond, completely on his own.
Time seemed to stop in Kyiv and on TV screens across living rooms, pubs and bars all over the world, as Bale took flight. Once he connected with a fairly pacey and slightly deflected cross from Marcelo, time began to move once again as in a flash the ball had left Bale's adidas-clad feet and gone elsewhere.
Then, there's a fraction of uncertainty. One caused by the sheer speed of everything as you wonder where the ball has ended up. Just wide, just over, side netting? Then there's one caused by sheer disbelief. AS IF, HE HAS JUST DONE THAT?
There's been a lot of backlash since the final whistle blew and Real Madrid picked up their 13th European Cup, their quite frankly ridiculous fourth trophy in five years. Held aloft by their controversial captain, Sergio Ramos, it was a familiar sight of European domination by those in white.
They genuinely feel like they have a divine right to this trophy; a relationship with it that no other club has. And it's through moments like the one courtesy of Gareth Bale after 64 minutes of this latest Champions League final, that such a relationship is built on. It was Zidane in 2002, volleying a ball into the Hampden Park net from such a height it came down with snow on it. It was a last-second equaliser from Sergio Ramos in 2014, tormenting their city rivals who were on the cusp of their greatest ever day.
In 2018, it was a cinematic bicycle kick from Bale. The man of the match who only played half an hour of it, and our final Man of the Weekend of the season.