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Category: Champions League

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Gheorghe Hagi: ‘I took a lot of risks because of the passion I have for football’

Viitorul Constanta, the club Hagi formed eight years ago, have won the Romanian title and are about to enter the Champions League. So how has he done it?

Gheorghe Hagi has been talking for almost an hour when, not for the first time, he shoots a glance at the adjacent training pitch. Viitorul Constanta’s Under-17 and Under-19 squads are going through their paces under the late-afternoon sun and on several occasions there has been the sense that Hagi, watching from the corner of his eye, is having to restrain himself from darting across to correct certain imperfections. “Look at this,” he says, waving an arm out into the heat. “This is not about money; that’s the last thing for me. This is about work – work and dedication.”

Nobody leaves this smart facility, five kilometres from the beaches of Mamaia and their swarms of Black Sea holidaymakers, without that outlook being seared upon them but the fruits of Hagi’s work are about to go on show to the wider world. Viitorul’s senior team will play their first Champions League fixture on Wednesday when the Cypriot side Apoel visit for a third qualifying round first leg; they earned that right through winning Romania’s Liga I last season despite having one of its smallest budgets, a remarkable feat that outstripped every projection Hagi had made for his club when he founded it in 2009. At that point the professional squad was intended merely as a finishing school for the academy before it. The aim was to give something back to the sport that made him; to help young Romanian players become great, just as he had been. If their path has been accelerated beyond all imagining it is the result of a constant, clear vision that has left Viitorul’s more storied rivals trailing.

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Leigh Griffiths hit by missiles during Celtic’s win over Linfield in Belfast

• Striker targeted during 2-0 win in Champions League qualifier
• Linfield are likely to face a Uefa investigation over incidents

Brendan Rodgers expressed concern for Leigh Griffiths’ safety after the Celtic striker had missiles thrown at him during the 2-0 Champions League qualifying win over Linfield at Windsor Park.

The Scottish champions had refused their ticket allocation for the first leg of the second qualifier in Belfast due to security fears but there were around 300 Celtic fans in the Kop stand, which was set aside for them in a half-full stadium.

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After 30 years, I’m boycotting Aston Villa. Why? John Terry’s past racist language | Steve Bloomfield

In any other workplace Terry would have lost his job after the 2011 abuse of Anton Ferdinand, but not in football. So as long as he is a Villan, I’m not

• Steve Bloomfield is deputy editor of Prospect

I became an Aston Villa fan by chance. My dad, who grew up in north London, is an Arsenal fan, but because we lived in Birmingham he thought I should support a local team.

Villa had just been promoted to the first division, while Birmingham City still languished in the second, so he took me to Villa Park. My first match was a 1-1 draw with Liverpool in September 1988 – we sat on wooden benches at the front of the Trinity Road stand, close enough to the sidelines to hear the yells of the coaching staff and the thuds and grunts of the players. We went several times a year and when I turned 13 I bought a season ticket.

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Celtic forgo tickets for Linfield match in Belfast amid safety fears

• Clubs on course to meet in Champions League qualifier in July
• Celtic will not make away tickets available to their fans

Celtic will not take up their ticket allocation for next month’s possible Champions League qualifier at Linfield.

Uefa confirmed the first-leg tie in Belfast will take place on Friday 14 July should the Northern Irish champions make it past the San Marino club La Fiorita.

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Celtic and Linfield face prospect of Champions League clash on marching day

• Second qualifying round draw throws up potentially problematic fixture
• Celtic could play in Belfast on 12 July – a key date in the marching calendar

The Scottish champions Celtic will play Northern Ireland’s Linfield or La Fiorita of San Marino in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

Celtic, who reached the group stages last season, will begin their competitive season when the tie takes place over two legs on 11 or 12 July and 18 or 19 July.

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David Squires on … Real Madrid winning the Champions League again

Our cartoonist looks back at the final club match of the 2016-17 season as Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and co denied Gigi Buffon and Juventus

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David Squires on … Real Madrid winning the Champions League again

Our cartoonist looks back at the final club match of the 2016-17 season as Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and co denied Gigi Buffon and Juventus

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Real Madrid celebrate at Bernabéu after Champions League win – video

Real Madrid received a heroes’ welcome at the Bernabéu after becoming the first club in the Champions League era to successfully defend the title. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in their 4-1 win over Juventus in Cardiff on Saturday, to give Madrid their third Champions League title in four years and a first Liga and European Cup double since 1958

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Juventus v Real Madrid: Champions League final – in pictures

We bring you the best images from Cardiff after Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Juventus gave the Spanish club their 12th European Cup win and meant they became the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era

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Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric form a winning combination for Real Madrid | Michael Cox

The foundation for the Champions League final win was laid by excellent work down the right flank which overwhelmed the converted wide players featuring on the Juventus left

The key feature of the opening stages of the Champions League final on Saturday was Real Madrid suffering down their right flank. Luka Modric was forced to cover a huge amount of space, and the right-back Dani Carvajal was overloaded and overpowered by Mario Mandzukic. By the end of the night, however, Real ran out comfortable winners – with Modric and Carvajal crucial in their attacking play.

It is rare to see a European final contested between two teams using such flexible systems. Zinedine Zidane’s use of Isco rather than a half‑fit Gareth Bale meant Real set out in a fluid 4-4-2, with Isco popping up on both flanks and drifting around the pitch, essentially given a free role to ensure Real dominated possession.

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Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric form a winning combination for Real Madrid | Michael Cox

The foundation for the Champions League final win was laid by excellent work down the right flank which overwhelmed the converted wide players featuring on the Juventus left

The key feature of the opening stages of the Champions League final on Saturday was Real Madrid suffering down their right flank. Luka Modric was forced to cover a huge amount of space, and the right-back Dani Carvajal was overloaded and overpowered by Mario Mandzukic. By the end of the night, however, Real ran out comfortable winners – with Modric and Carvajal crucial in their attacking play.

It is rare to see a European final contested between two teams using such flexible systems. Zinedine Zidane’s use of Isco rather than a half‑fit Gareth Bale meant Real set out in a fluid 4-4-2, with Isco popping up on both flanks and drifting around the pitch, essentially given a free role to ensure Real dominated possession.

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Zinedine Zidane the manager more successful even than Zinedine Zidane the player

The Real Madrid coach does not say much but when he does people listen and the Champions League triumph underlines how attuned he is to his players

On his 20th Champions League night, Zinedine Zidane left with his second European Cup – as many as Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho or Alex Ferguson. It was way after midnight by the time Sergio Ramos carried it out of Cardiff and Zidane had already departed, slipping away quietly, pausing only to embrace the Juventus manager, Max Allegri, as he went. As the Real Madrid players paraded the trophy around the pitch Zidane had stood aside with his wife, watching them, a fond look on his face. “The key is that they get on bloody brilliantly,” he insisted. Ronaldo said: “He believes in us.”

Zidane had believed himself, too, quietly. Now everyone does. It has all happened so fast, history made swiftly. At the side of the pitch, he was asked if he was the best manager in the world. Once that question might have been laughed at but in Cardiff it was legitimate. It will be asked again, too, even as there are those who resist, clinging to his own line that it is all about the players. “No,” Zidane said here. “Not that, no.”

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Zinedine Zidane the manager more successful even than Zinedine Zidane the player

The Real Madrid coach does not say much but when he does people listen and the Champions League triumph underlines how attuned he is to his players

On his 20th Champions League night, Zinedine Zidane left with his second European Cup – as many as Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho or Alex Ferguson. It was way after midnight by the time Sergio Ramos carried it out of Cardiff and Zidane had already departed, slipping away quietly, pausing only to embrace the Juventus manager, Max Allegri, as he went. As the Real Madrid players paraded the trophy around the pitch Zidane had stood aside with his wife, watching them, a fond look on his face. “The key is that they get on bloody brilliantly,” he insisted. Ronaldo said: “He believes in us.”

Zidane had believed himself, too, quietly. Now everyone does. It has all happened so fast, history made swiftly. At the side of the pitch, he was asked if he was the best manager in the world. Once that question might have been laughed at but in Cardiff it was legitimate. It will be asked again, too, even as there are those who resist, clinging to his own line that it is all about the players. “No,” Zidane said here. “Not that, no.”

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Gianluigi Buffon and Juventus endure more regret as prize slips away again | Stuart James

The Italian legend will feel pain once more after losing in his third Champions League final, against Real Madrid, in what may well prove his last chance

Gianluigi Buffon stood with his hands on his hips, staring vacantly into the distance and not moving for what felt like an age. Behind him the Real Madrid supporters were raucously celebrating their third goal and their second in the space of three minutes, flooring Juventus and leaving Buffon looking like a man who knew that the dream was over long before the clock had ticked down.

This was anything but the “perfect finale” Buffon had talked about 24 hours earlier, when the 39-year-old expressed his hope that he would get his hands on the only major trophy to elude him in a distinguished career that has spanned three decades. Buffon has won eight Serie A titles, a World Cup in 2006 and represented Italy 168 times, yet there is no Champions League winners medal in his trophy cabinet and, realistically, probably never will be.

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Real Madrid win Champions League after beating Juventus in final – video

Real Madrid became the first club in the modern era of the Champions League to successfully defend the title with a 4-1 win over Juventus in Saturday’s final. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in Cardiff to give Madrid their first Liga and European Cup double since 1958 and their third Champions League title in the last four years. After the game, Ronaldo, team-mate Gareth Bale and Real manager Zinedine Zidane hailed the historic victory

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Hundreds of Juventus fans injured as false alarm causes mass panic in Turin – video

Juventus fans were gathered in Turin piazza to watch their team play Real Madrid in Champions League final when they mistook firecrackers for an explosion Continue reading…

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Cristiano Ronaldo says ‘I feel like a young boy’ after Real Madrid triumph

• Zinedine Zidane revels in ‘historic day for all Madrid fans’
• Massimiliano Allegri admits Juventus failed to respond mentally

Zinedine Zidane hailed an historic day for Real Madrid as the Spanish champions became the first club to retain the Champions League with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Juventus, on a night when Cristiano Ronaldo wrote his name into the record books with another two goals.

Ronaldo became the first player to score in three Champions League finals and took his tally of career goals to 600 with a man-of-the-match performance against a Juventus side that started brightly but badly lost their way in the second half. Mario Mandzukic equalised for the Italian side with a spectacular overhead kick after Ronaldo had put Madrid ahead but the complexion of the game changed after the interval.

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Cristiano Ronaldo reaps rewards of extra rest to prove decisive for Real Madrid | Sid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane came up with a plan in August to protect his star man for the vital games and Ronaldo delivered with two goals in the Champions League final

Just when you thought it might be all about the man it’s never about, it was about the man it’s always about. In the buildup to this final, Casemiro had insisted that he’s there to “plug holes”, claiming that it is robbing the ball, not scoring goals, that brings him pleasure, and yet he had just reached a higher plane, thumping in the shot that put Real Madrid back into the lead and looked set to bring the night in Cardiff to a close. Three minutes later, though, another man stepped centre-stage. Him, again. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.

Never write him off, never say it’s over. Don’t even laugh when he says he wants to play beyond 40; listen instead. He decides when it ends. This season, more than any other season, well past 30, he has decided how it ends too. In Cardiff, it ended in a way it has not for 59 years: with Real Madrid champions of Spain and Europe. Although Marco Asensio added a late fourth, Ronaldo’s second was the moment Madrid knew they were the first team to defend the Champions League.

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Juventus 1-4 Real Madrid: how they rated in the Champions League final

Marcelo and Kroos shone for the winners and while Mandzukic’s goal will live long in the memory it was two-goal Cristiano Ronaldo who again stole the show

6 Gianluigi Buffon Unlucky with deflections for two of the goals and had similarly scant chance for the others. Champions League success remains elusive.

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Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo see off Juventus to win Champions League

Real Madrid have won the Champions League final, beating Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff to claim a record-extending 12th triumph. The victory also made Real the first team to successfully defend the trophy since Milan won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first and the crucial third goal, while Juventus had Juan Cuadrado sent off.

Zinedine Zidane’s side clinched La Liga on the final Sunday, meaning they have now won the domestic league and European Cup double for the first time since 1961.

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