Real Madrid, Ajax, Bayern Munich. Only three teams have won the European Cup or Champions League three times in a row. Only one of them has done it twice.
Bob Paisley's Liverpool, Helenio Herrera's Inter, Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan – great teams have tried and failed to win more than two on the bounce. Bayern were the last to do it, 42 years ago. Zinedine Zidane managed it in 28 months.
Whatever their limitations, however poor their domestic campaign has been, there can no longer be any doubt: Zidane's team will go down in history as Champions League legends. They are, as Sergio Ramos said even before kick-off, "vintage". Fortune favours the great.
There was so much doubt about their credentials this time, so much belief in Jurgen Klopp's undaunted, free-flowing Liverpool, one of the only other clubs to come close to Madrid's European record. It seemed that way from kick-off in Kiev, too: the Reds were brilliantly organised, pressing astutely, throwing Madrid off their swagger.
After those scares against Juventus and Bayern Munich, Zidane's side looked like they would at last be exposed. We should all know better.
Misfortune struck Liverpool 30 minutes in. Mohamed Salah, heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and his Ballon d'Or, was forced off in tears with a shoulder injury, having tumbled to ground with Sergio Ramos, the man made for lifting trophies in this white shirt.
It left Liverpool looking uncertain, wary, and Madrid sensed it. The passing became crisper, the chances appeared, Karim Benzema denied a goal by the offside flag. Even the loss of Dani Carvajal ironically gave them a boost, with the full-back having looked every bit a player to have missed five of the last six games before he limped his disconsolate way down the tunnel.
Then Lady Luck returned. Loris Karius, whose improved form in 2018 has been a great success story of Liverpool's season, collected a simple loose ball and threw it straight against Benzema's foot. It was an error that seemed to perplex even the Madrid players, who were slow to catch up to celebrate with their team-mate, the much-maligned forward who produced arguably his best performance of 2017-18.
There was still room for another defensive lapse, a failure to clear a set-piece that gifted Sadio Mane an equaliser, a reminder of that fragility that almost let Juventus back into the quarter-final. Madrid survived that tie thanks largely to the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo; this time, it was Gareth Bale.
Just 122 seconds after coming off the bench, he scored the best goal this showpiece has ever seen. It was jaw-dropping, exquisite brilliance. That's the other side of this era-defining team: they make their own luck, too. When Karius flapped in another Bale effort to put the trophy out of Liverpool's reach, it felt like destiny was rewarding the Wales star for even attempting such a bicycle kick.
Zidane has now won nine trophies since taking over in January 2016. He has his shortcomings, as he admitted this week – "I'm not the best coach, and I will always say that. I am not the best coach tactically" – but, when the success looks like this, tactics be damned.
They survived throwing away a 3-0 lead against Juve, being dominated by Bayern, being unsettled by Liverpool. Special goals and slices of luck carried them all the way to glory again. The undisputed kings of Europe, it seems, have a divine right to rule.
|Henry taking positives from opening Monaco defeat|
|A-League Review: Mariners held as Bolt considers move|
|Dominant Svitolina ends Kvitova hoodoo in Singapore|
|Pereira warns Juventus to expect ´pumped up´ Manchester United|
|D´Antoni backs NBA to ´sort out´ Lakers-Rockets brawl|
|Mixed feelings for champion Marquez after Dovizioso crash|
|Bolt offered contract by Central Coast Mariners|
|Anthony accuses Rondo of spitting after Lakers-Rockets brawl|
|Martial insists he has good relationship with Mourinho|
|Bautista to replace Lorenzo at Phillip Island|
|Emery wanted Lacazette at Paris Saint-Germain|
|Wallabies centre Hodge suffers fractured ankle|
|Koepka claims top ranking with CJ Cup win|
|Dramatic Dovizioso crash gifts Marquez MotoGP title in Japan|
|LeBron´s home debut ends in defeat, Walker makes NBA history|
|Rondo, Ingram and Paul exchange punches in Lakers-Rockets clash|
|Dodgers to face Red Sox in World Series after beating Brewers|
|Valverde doesn´t care about extending Barca contract|
|Qualifying speed a ´positive surprise´ for Ferrari´s Vettel|
|I was in a different headspace – Hamilton revels in Austin pole|
|Barcelona can cope without Messi – Pique|
|Allegri: Juventus abandoned Genoa clash|
|Sale: Hospital visit was because of belly button ring|
|Valverde accepts Barcelona will miss Messi|
|No Messi or Ronaldo in El Clasico for first time since 2007|
|Barcelona have not won a Clasico without Messi since his debut|
|Ramos calls for Real Madrid unity after latest loss piles pressure on Lopetegui|
|Hamilton has title in sights after storming to Austin pole|
|Inter, El Clasico and more - the games Messi will miss with broken arm|
|End of Messi-Ronaldo duel good for LaLiga - Simeone|
|Messi out of Clasico with fractured arm|
|Awesome Ashton marks Sale bow with hat-trick|
|Klopp hopes for positive Henderson prognosis amid Liverpool injury issues|
|Benitez ´convinced´ Newcastle can survive despite seventh defeat|
|Barcelona 4 Sevilla 2: Messi injured but champions go top|
|Kovac relieved by Bayern´s timely victory|
|Strasbourg 2 Monaco 1: Sy howler and Grandsir red card cost Henry in first match|
|Leicester City defender Chilwell signs new six-year contract|
|PSG´s Tuchel hopes Verratti and Di Maria can face Napoli|
|Liverpool star Salah had no fear during scoring drought|
|Alonso´s 2019 plans not damaged by McLaren´s IndyCar decision|
|Edinburgh outclass troubled Toulon, Wasps and Bath play out thrilling draw|
|Barca concern as Messi substituted with worrying arm injury|
|Howe: South coast derby draw a fair result|
|Our heads were in Manchester – Allegri left fuming at Juventus´ loss of focus|
|Derby County 2 Sheffield United 1: Marriott blunts Blades with 77th-minute winner|
|We have so many problems – Jokanovic alarmed by Fulham defensive woes|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Liverpool 1: Salah snaps winless streak|
|Pellegrini ruing injuries after Yarmolenko hurts ankle|
|Villarreal 1 Atletico Madrid 1: Simeone´s side denied LaLiga top spot|
|Gracia: Not easy to dominate Wolves like that|
|Isner´s Finals hopes hindered by Stockholm defeat|
|Dyche incredulous at refereeing decisions in Man City thrashing|
|Juventus 1 Genoa 1: Champions´ winning run ends despite record Ronaldo goal|
|´Fantastic´ Lamela urged to find consistency by Pochettino|
|You don´t want to lose any players - Young speaks out on Wade NFL speculation|
|Championship Review: Smith gets off to a winning start, Leeds beaten|
|Guardiola hails extraordinary Fernandinho after Burnley drubbing|
|Pochettino lauds Lloris as one of world´s best after West Ham heroics|
|Paris Saint-Germain 5 Amiens 0: Ten wins in a row for PSG as Neymar rests|
|Cristiano Ronaldo nets record 400th league goal|
|Marcelo backing beleaguered Lopetegui despite Madrid slump|
|Garcia dazzles to hit the front at shortened Valderrama Masters|
|Cardiff City 4 Fulham 2: Paterson gets Bluebirds off the mark|
|Newcastle United 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 1: Benitez´s men bottom after dismal defeat|
|West Ham 0 Tottenham 1: In-form Lamela settles London derby|
|Manchester City 5 Burnley 0: De Bruyne returns in comfortable win|
|Wolves 0 Watford 2: Capoue and Pereyra turn form book on its head|
|Bournemouth 0 Southampton 0: Howe´s side stifled by Saints|
|Prove you´re crazy about Inter - Spalletti rallies players ahead of Milan derby|