1. The importance of Sergio Ramos
Although, as Mou helpfully noted a few weeks back, Sergio Ramos is definitely not a doctor, the decorated Spanish international is damn near everything else Los Blancos need him to be. His leadership, experience, presence and knack for clutch, back-breaking goals in huge matches was on full display yesterday as it was throughout the tournament. Ramos soared in for punishing header that staked Real to a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish. It was slightly reminiscent of his decima saving goal against Atletico this past May. Iker Casillas may be Madrid's captain, but Ramos is its unquestioned heart-and-soul. The center back has now achieved every conceivable honor for club and country and still burns with a fierce, competitive fire that helps forestall the appearance of complacency at the core of Carlo Ancelotti's trophy laden squad. Ramos earned Player of the Tournament honors after yesterday's victory, an amazing, yet deserved feat made all the more incredible in light of the fact that he earned it playing through the pain of a torn thigh muscle. Absolutely amazing. Bravo, Sergio!
2. Big match Gareth?
One of the most surprising aspects of Gareth Bale's tenure at Real Madrid, at least to this writer, has been his ability to score goals in pivotal spots in Cup Finals. I'll admit now, as I did then, I thought he would wilt under the pressure of playing for Real Madrid, particularly in high-stakes situations like the Copa del Rey or Champions League finals. He has not. In fact, his electrifying slalom through Barcelona's heart last spring was a singular moment of brilliance that Madridistas will cherish for years to come. The Welshman was at it again yesterday, an active, influential presence that unsettled San Lorenzo's defense. He scored Real's second on a wobbly shot from a gorgeous little Isco feed. Not the most spectacular of goals, but an immensely important one that essentially killed off the match and garnered Real their 4th trophy of 2014. Bale is still somewhat streaky and brittle, but his stature as a big-time player capable of flourishing under the brightest of bright lights cannot be denied.
3. The continuing growth of Isco
As much as I think Sergio Ramos earned Player of the Tournament honors, that admission almost seems harsh to Isco. The 22-year old magician had a monster tournament, passing Cruz Azul off the pitch before registering another impressive performance in the final. Isco's talent has always been apparent, but he has demonstrated an explosive, exponential growth through Real's 22 match winning streak. The young Spaniard has been dictating the pace of matches with a dazzling array of passes and then breaking them open with a winding, quicksilver dribble capable of absolutely bamboozling any defender in his path. The leap he's made this year has been eye-opening and incredible to behold.
4. Pick a style
It is often said of championship teams in gridiron football: they can beat you in a number of different ways. It's used to convey a sense of said team's versatility and ability to appear multi-dimensional. Yesterday's grind in Marrakech demonstrated that Real Madrid can compete and win comfortably in basically any style or match-tempo. Determined to disrupt Real's flow and perhaps intimidate them, San Lorenzo spent the opening quarter hour dishing out sharp, slicing tackles that skirted the lines of legality. Instead of shrinking from the contact and/or getting frustrated, Real demonstrated a superlative level of patience and resolve, signalling to clubs throughout Europe that they can adapt to overtly physical play and a glacial tempo. Ancelotti's men have proven that they can win wide-open uptempo matches in their sleep, but also bide their time and play patiently on the counter, engage in close-quarter tactical contests, and finally persevere through a cynical slugfest. They simply can play in any whatever context is initiated and that is perhaps their biggest strength heading into 2015.