Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane are perfect in cup finals... so far
MADRID, Spain -- Real Madrid can keep a very impressive recent record in cup finals under Zinedine Zidane going when they play Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26. During Zidane's two-and-a-half seasons in charge, Madrid have continued to add to their reputation as a team that shines in the biggest occasions, often doing just enough to ensure they get their hands on the trophy afterwards.
ESPN FC looks back at all seven finals that Zidane has taken Madrid into during his time in the job.
2016 Champions League vs. Atletico Madrid: WIN 1-1 (5-3 on penalties)
Less than six months after replacing Rafa Benitez as coach, Zidane guided Madrid into a second "derbi" final in three years. Blancos captain Sergio Ramos headed his side front (from a marginally offside position) but Atletico hit back: Antoine Griezmann missed a penalty soon after half-time and substitute Yannick Carrasco equalised late on to send the game to extra time.
Both teams had half-chances to score during the added period but it stayed 1-1 and went to penalties, where Atletico right-back Juanfran Torres missed and Madrid galactico Cristiano Ronaldo converted the fifth spot-kick.
"There were some moments that were difficult," said Zidane afterwards. "But I stayed positive although unfortunately we did not get a second goal. So we had to suffer a lot, but that is normal."
2016 UEFA Super Cup vs. Sevilla: WIN 3-2 (after extra time)
Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were among the players missing due to their exertions at that summer's Euro 2016 finals in France, so emerging starlet Marco Asensio marked his first start for the club with a 25-yard swerver right into the top corner midway through the first half.
A fired-up Sevilla turned the game around through Franco Vazquez's volley and Yevhen Konoplyanka's penalty, but Ramos delivered one of his trademark added-time headers to send the game to extra time. Down to 10 men, Sevilla seemed set to hold out for penalties until Madrid right-back Carvajal drove straight through an exhausted defence and fired into the net with literally seconds remaining.
"I don't know if we are deserved winners, but we gave it everything and won another trophy," Zidane said. "I told Sergio to go forward. He always makes the difference, is vital in finals."
2016 Club World Cup vs. Kashima Antlers: WIN 4-2 (after extra time)
It seemed that Madrid were set for an easy victory at the 2016 Club World Cup final when Karim Benzema converted a rebound to put them ahead on just nine minutes. But Kashima Antlers' midfielder Gaku Shibasaki shocked everyone by first equalising on the stroke of half-time, then firing the hosts and rank outsiders in front early in the second half.
Ronaldo equalised with a late penalty but a seemingly jet-lagged Madrid side only arrived at extra time thanks to Kashima's Yasushi Endo slashing wide of an open goal in added time. Ronaldo returned things to normality by completing his hat-trick in extra time.
"We can say that 2016 was a great year for all of us," Zidane said. "The players were great, it is not easy to do what they are doing. You dream you can achieve these things. But we must keep going now."
2017 Champions League vs. Juventus: WIN 4-1
After an even first half in which Ronaldo's crisp, 15-yard strike was evened out by Mario Mandzukic's stunning acrobatic volley, Zidane's side upped the tempo significantly after the break and took full control.
Casemiro's 25-yarder flicked off Sami Khedira and out of Gianluigi Buffon's reach to put Madrid 2-1 up, then Luka Modric drove to the byline and crossed for Ronaldo to finish emphatically at the near post. Substitute Asensio capped the night late on from close range, as Madrid became the first team to retain the Champions League trophy in the modern era.
"Today is a historic day for all madridistas, for the players, for me, for all our family," said Zidane, who also alluded the team having won the La Liga title a few weeks before. "But saying this, you know how it is. Next year will be much more difficult."
2017 UEFA Super Cup vs. Manchester United: WIN 2-1
Casemiro's borderline offside strike put Madrid 1-0 up on Jose Mourinho's Manchester United midway through the first half, with the double Champions League holders' dominance rewarded just after the break through a superb finish by Isco following a one-two with Gareth Bale.
United got one back when Keylor Navas spilled Nemanja Matic's 20-yard shot and Romelu Lukaku knocked home the rebound, although Casemiro and Bale also hit the crossbar as the Europa League winners were second best during the 90 minutes.
"The first half was spectacular for us," Zidane said. "The second we suffered a bit, but that is normal. We have won another important trophy and begun the season well. This is a team with talent and quality, but behind them there are people who work very hard, too."
2017 Spanish Supercopa vs. Barcelona: WIN 5-1 (aggregate)
The first leg at the Camp Nou saw Gerard Pique's own-goal followed by Lionel Messi's controversial penalty. A dramatic substitute appearance saw Ronaldo first cut inside Pique and finding the top corner from 20 yards, then receive a second yellow for simulation and react by pushing referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea. Asensio made it 3-1 on the counter for 10-man Real late on.
Even with Ronaldo suspended, Madrid eased to victory in the return at the Bernabeu thanks to an Asensio screamer on just four minutes and Benzema's close-range finish before half-time, with the aggregate score staying at 5-1.
"People might think this is easy, but it's not," Zidane said. "This team is still hungry, and you see that every time we play. To begin like this is very good. We are all happy, but we know that now a very long season is starting."
2017 Club World Cup vs. Gremio: WIN 1-0
Madrid dominated possession through the first half without really testing Gremio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe, but Ronaldo made the breakthrough eight minutes after half-time with a long-range free-kick straight through the opposition wall.
The Copa Libertadores' holders tried to attack more but were unable to shift Madrid's grip on the game. Ronaldo, Modric and substitute Bale came close to a second, although one goal proved enough.
"Now we must enjoy the moment, return to Madrid and enjoy this," Zidane said. "We are happy as it is not easy to do what these players are doing."
Madrid's record under Zidane is pretty good but it wasn't bad before he took over either, especially in international competitions.
The Bernabeu outfit have won their past 12 deciders across the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup; they were also victorious in the 2002, 2000 and 1998 Champions League finals.
Their last defeat in a European Cup decider was in 1980-81 to, you guessed it: Liverpool.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan