When AC Milan lifted the European Cup in 1990, it was the 13th time in the 35 editions that the holders had retained the trophy. It did not happen again until Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 in Cardiff in 3 June 2017.
Milan's victory came two years before the UEFA Champions League began and it was in the 25th season under that branding that Madrid achieved that successful title defence. Having had to wait from 2002 to 2014 to move from nine to ten trophy wins, it was now 12 European crowns for the Spanish giants, five more than Milan.
Madrid were in fact slightly eclipsed in the group stage, where they ended their group unbeaten but second behind Borussia Dortmund, who struck a record 21 goals. In fact high goalscoring was a theme of the competition: the eventual tally of 380 from the group stage onwards meant it was the first UEFA Champions League to average more than three a game.
Leicester City, fresh from a remarkable Premier League win, topped their group on debut and showed it was no fluke by taking out Sevilla 3-2 on aggregate in the round of 16. They were the only English team to survive that stage as Manchester City fell to Monaco on away goals despite a 5-3 first-leg win and Arsenal went out, once again, against Bayern München.
Leicester and Monaco were not the only teams to overturn first-leg deficits in the round of 16 as Dortmund did so against Benfica and Barcelona achieved that feat in record-breaking style. They lost 4-0 at Paris Saint-Germain, a defeat from which no team had previously recovered in a UEFA Champions League knockout tie. With one minute left of the second leg it was 3-1 to Barcelona, still needing three more goals, but Neymar scored twice then made one for Sergi Roberto for a stunning turnaround.
Barcelona were unable to repeat the trick against Juventus following a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg loss. Also in that round Atlético Madrid edged out Leicester, Monaco outscored Dortmund 6-3 in a meeting of perhaps the competition's two most exciting teams and Madrid needed extra time and a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to get past Bayern.
For the fourth year running, the two Madrid sides met, this time in the semis rather than the final as in 2014 and 2016. Ronaldo was again the star with all three in a 3-0 first-leg win that ensured Atlético's 2-1 success in the return was in vain. Monaco, meanwhile, came to the end of the line against Juventus, though Kylian Mbappé did manage to score only the third goal past the Italian champions in the competition all season. It was teenager Mbappé's sixth of the tournament, all in the knockout phase.
Many saw the Cardiff final, the first to be played in Wales, as a showdown between Ronaldo and, aiming to at last win the competition, Gianluigi Buffon. If so, it was Ronaldo's victory as he scored twice to finish as top scorer for the fifth year running; his two goals took him to 12, one ahead of Lionel Messi, who had built a commanding lead in the group stage. Ronaldo's first made him the only man to score in three UEFA Champions League finals; earlier in the tournament he had brought up the competition's first century of goals.
Mario Mandžukić had brilliantly equalised but in the second half Casemiro's goal was swiftly followed by another from Ronaldo and at the end Marco Asensio ensured Madrid were the first team to score four in 90 minutes of a final since Milan in 1994.
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