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Madrid's inevitability is a superpower no rival can match


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It was a final but there was no finality to Real Madrid's triumph. It hissed like tinnitus, an irritating and incurable sensation to nag the other leading lights of European football. The continent conquered for the 15th time - more than double Europe's second most successful team, AC Milan - and the feeling that Real Madrid's 16th, 17th, and 18th are within view.

The Champions League trophy hoisted, again, and in unconvincing fashion, again, after Saturday's 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.

Dortmund were better than Real Madrid. Julian Ryerson pumped out his chest and Ian Maatsen provided creativity and clout - they put in sterling performances at Wembley. But of course, against the team that picks its moments, the BVB full-backs' contributions to the highlight package will be unflattering: Vinicius Junior briefly scrambling out of Ryerson's pocket to slip the ball between his legs, and Maatsen scuffing a tired pass straight to Jude Bellingham. Dani Carvajal headed Madrid into the lead under a minute after Ryerson was nutmegged. Bellingham slipped Vinicius through after Maatsen's lapse to put the outcome beyond doubt.

Sometimes, it seems what opponents do against Real Madrid is futile.

The Niclas Fullkrug fan club continues to admit members during his late-career rise from Germany's second tier to the peak of European football. He does what's expected from a man of his build - threaten in the air and harass defenders - while also doing what he's not recognized for enough, like impeccably timed runs and stopping the ball dead with neat touches. Fullkrug provided a big chance for Julian Brandt and steered an effort against the post in an opening period where Dortmund outshot Real Madrid 8-2.

Dortmund were equally impressive off the ball. Maatsen won back possession to keep the pressure on Real Madrid before Fullkrug hit the woodwork. The ever-industrious Brandt was clearly undeterred after the German side's first-half superiority yielded no goals, and almost 10 minutes after the break sprinted back from the edge of the 18-yard box to near the halfway line to bash Eduardo Camavinga off the ball.

Other teams would've been rocked. But as much as teams get in the faces of Real Madrid, the serial European champions look back with the menacing toothy grin of a hunter's trap. Soon, often when you least expect it, it will snap. With each opportunity, stirring passage of play, or crunching tackle that Dortmund produced, it seemed likelier that Real Madrid would win.

"For now we are just disappointed, after such a match, after the chances that we had to score. It's extremely disappointing. But in the end, they showed their class," Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel rued after the loss.

Real Madrid often play quite badly in Champions League finals and, indeed, in the competition's earlier rounds - but they find a way. They've now recorded nine consecutive victories when they've reached the biggest annual event in the European club calendar. Real Madrid's invincibility has become inevitable, and that gives them an innate ability to shrug off setbacks and increase in confidence as matches go on. It has the opposite effect on their opponents, steadily leeching their belief as each shot goes astray or is swatted away by Thibaut Courtois.

No other club in Europe has that power. Real Madrid's reputation can inspire the players at the club while weakening everybody else.

"We knew it would be a tough game, and (in) the first half they were very superior, but we got out alive," Carvajal said. "But we knew our moment would come, and it did, and we have the 15th."

Those moments will continue to come. Kylian Mbappe and Endrick are on their way to load more gunpowder into Los Blancos' artillery this summer. The ruthless become more ruthless. Real Madrid's dominance is set to carry on, whether they play well or not.

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