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Six Things Learned From UCL Final

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Image: BarcelonaBlaugranes.com
Barcelona established themselves as the best club in Europe as they overcame Juventus in the final of the UEFA Champions League final. As the dust settles in Berlin, what does the future hold?

We learned a lot in the biggest game in club football, here are the six most prominent points.

Giorgio Chiellini is pivotal to Juventus

News broke in the week that defender Giorgio Chiellini would miss the final due to a calf injury, and Andrea Barzagli—recovering from an injury himself sustained last month—would step in for the powerful Italian.

In many cases, that particular replacement may have benefited The Old Lady against a team of such lethal stature—a more polished defender may have been preferred over the role of a leader and a big voice at the back.

Massimiliano Allegri's side really felt Chiellini's absence on Saturday night; his exclusion completely due to injury will leave the Italians wondering what could have been if their 6'2" was on the pitch and commanding a more structural approach.
Image: WSJ.com
On two notable occasions, the Catalans unleashed a counter-attack at blistering pace, so much so that there were 5 Barcelona players to 3 Juventus defenders, leading to Neymar's third goal when the Serie A Champions were all but beaten.

Had their hearty centre-back have been on the pitch, the morale may have risen, the back-four would have been more rigid—but that can't be an excuse, instead more of a vision, more of an "if" in uncertainty.
Image: Eurosport
Ivan Rakitić is Barcelona's unsung hero

The star-studded trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar makes others easy to forget—going under the radar most may just be Ivan Rakitić. The Croatian penned a deal to play at the Camp Nou in the same window which they acquired their star Uruguayan, and his impact has been as valuable as most this campaign.

Sweeping into goal as Andres Iniesta dished it to him in the area, that was typified in the final of the biggest club competition in football, providing Blaugrana with an early advantage. There would be more work to do though, and even so, Rakitić served his club astonishingly well, powering forward on the counter and continuously providing another outlet for the ruthless forward play of Luis Enrique's side.

Earlier in the campaign, he went unnoticed. Now it's time to give him the credit he deserves. Next season he can be integral, that's if it isn't the case already.
Image: Vijesti
Álvaro Morata will be in many transfer wish lists this summer

Yet again, when they needed it most, Álvaro Morata came to the saviour of the club who took him in and cultivated a World class talent rejected from Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid. His equaliser ignited hopes for Juventus—as ever the opportunist, he latched on to Ter Stegen's parry from Tevez's shot to make it one goal apiece.

Carlos Tevez himself will hope for better games, but the outlet of his 22-year-old strike partner and unrivalled work ethic sustained the scaffolding for the Old Lady's fight to the finish. Los Blancos themselves can't be blamed for exercising their buy-back clause, but if they don't, or can't, then someone else will certainly try and swoop for the forward.
Image: Voetbal
Scoring in the biggest game in club football was the tip of the iceberg for a season of revelations for the striker. A first season in Serie A can sometimes be frustrated when you consider the strong defences in the Italian top flight; yet he scored eight times in his initial campaign—and haunted his former club in the European scene too.

Juventus themselves have targets, so relinquishing Morata could be worth it to gain some bargaining chips or simple hard cash to lure some of Europe's elite to Turin. Either side of the coin, a lot of inquiries will be directed towards his agent and Juventus' way.
Image: Eurosport
Messi, Neymar and Suarez could become the best front three in history

Like with all big investments in football, there were question marks over the inaugural seasons of Neymar and Luis Suarez. After all, a sizable price tag had accompanied their trip to north-east Spain and they were sharing the spotlight with arguably the greatest player on planet earth.

For the Brazilian, a second season was a place to thrive in, coming up big whenever inducing either his own individual magic or linking up with Messi (and Suarez for that matter)—while Luis Suarez took a while to steady himself after a suspension, before really flying and making the Barcelona front three one of the most feared in world football.
Image: NewsFisher
That "one of" is no longer needed, since the final at the German capital was another indication that they were the most feared front three in the game. Lionel Messi was unable to stretch his tally for all-time Champions League goals past Cristiano Ronaldo on the night, but the Argentine was once again pulling the strings in the dynamic attack of the Catalans and it ended up with his two partners in crime of Suarez and Neymar getting on the scoresheet to secure the triumph.

On the counter, any team has an advantage, but with the front-three of Barcelona it edges closer and closer to the boundaries of a close certainty. Their fluent movement allowed Iniesta to assist Rakitić for the opener before the Argentine forced Gianluigi Buffon to parry the ball out to Luis Suarez for the second. Goalscorer would then turn provider, rolling it to Neymar in the box in stoppages to give Barcelona their fourth title in a decade.

They passed tests with flying colours—if one player was blocked off defensively then another or two would take the load and rip apart the defence. When teams start finding a solution to that, Barcelona could very well have replacements.
Image: Eurosport
Gianluigi Buffon's chance to lift the Champions League may be gone

Along Juventus' tremendous road to the final of the UEFA Champions League, we witnessed instalments of pure passion from their shot-stopper Gianluigi Buffon. As he took his place in between the sticks in the same stadium where he had won the FIFA World Cup, it was in search for the final piece to complete a star-studded list of honours.

But, as Barcelona's class shone through, those hopes would soon fade leading the Old Lady to look ahead and question if they can mix it up with Europe's best time and time again. It's certainly possible, but it all depends on this critical transfer window which could very well lead to an exodus in Turin.
Image: Sumarium.com
What Massimiliano Allegri's squad did was no fluke—the Serie A Champions revitalised the Italian game and overcame adversity to take their rightful spot at the Olympiastadion. It was almost as if the stars had aligned for this moment, but it wasn't to be.

If the mindset turns to disappointment, seeing this as a "one-off", it could well trigger the exit door for a wealth of their talent. Aforementioned, Alvaro Morata will certainly be a target of clubs across the continent, while Arturo Vidal has been linked to Arsenal and others, Paul Pogba a constant name in the hit-list of Europe's big spenders and Andrea Pirlo potentially off to finish his career in the Big Apple.

No matter what benefits are yielded from the inevitable surge in cash acquired from sales, it will take time to polish a side with the perfect balance of chemistry, talent and heart as this Juventus squad had. If one player leaves, many could follow—Gianluigi Buffon's best hope for a Champions League may not just be over, but evaporated entirely.
Image: TheMalaysianInsder.com

Barcelona have the biggest chance of retaining the Champions League

As confetti showered the celebrations in the German capital, the euphoria from Barcelona was clear for all to see. But, as they completed the treble, what was even more undisputed was the sole fact that they are the best club on the planet.

Blitzing through competition on their homeland and on the ultimate proving ground of club football, it was hardly a miracle, but an inevitability, at least after the mini crisis they found themselves in when Luis Enrique was so close to the door.

But, when his players got their act together, there was little to stop them. They didn't find it easy, and no team ever could—a testament to the beauty of the sport—but the quality on display was truly sublime.
Image: Eurosport

As the conquests go on, however, one question becomes more crucial about the legitimacy of a team's dominance. No team has ever won the Champions League back-to-back, for such a range of reasons—some known, others not—and whether a European king is to suffer from the same curse really defines how good they are.

Real Madrid looked like they would do it, but the wheels came off towards the business-end of the competition. They looked strong, they looked powerful, and so do Barcelona. What makes this side different is the unity, the common goal and of course the front three. Will anyone have the answer?

A better informed judgement of this can be evaluated when next season kicks off, but this team may very well be the best hope of becoming the first to retain the UEFA Champions League.
Image: CanaldeNoticia.com
More: Champions League final match report
Live blog: As it happened
Player ratings: Breaking down all the participants

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TheSportMatrix • We Live For Sport: Six Things Learned From UCL Final
Six Things Learned From UCL Final
Lessons learned from the 2015 UEFA Champions League final.
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TheSportMatrix • We Live For Sport
https://www.thesportmatrix.com/2015/06/uefa-champions-league-final-things-we-learned.html
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