Carlo Ancelotti must have been considering it. He must have been thinking that this would not be Vinicius Junior's night.

The hour mark was approaching, the Brazilian boy wonder had barely made an impact on this Champions League final, and on the bench there was semi-final hero Rodrygo, straining for a chance.

Heck, there was Eden Hazard too, and even Isco and Gareth Bale. For old time's sake, did they ever cross Ancelotti's mind.

There had been a first-half flicker from the 21-year-old Vinicius, when he got the better of Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate with a stealthy piece of skill in the penalty area, but Jordan Henderson read the danger and gladly conceded a corner.

But that had really been the first and last time in the first 58 minutes of play that Vinicius caused Liverpool any real consternation. He had a team-low 29 touches of the ball at that point, but then Federico Valverde's low cross from the right presented him with a 30th, a tap-in at the far post. The phantom menace became the match-winner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, needing to initially cover Karim Benzema, appeared to almost forget about Vinicius, but there he was, lurking, and he could not miss.

Billed as a Ballon d'Or shootout between Benzema and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, this final largely ignored that script. If anybody put in a performance worth of such an honour here, it was Madrid's outstanding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made nine saves, the most on record in a Champions League final since 2003-04.

Watched by Ronaldo, the great Brazilian whose health scare before the 1998 World Cup final at this very stadium was followed by France romping to glory, Vinicius stayed on the pitch until stoppage time, when Ancelotti opted for Rodrygo's fresh legs.

Ancelotti, that is, who is now a four-time Champions League winner, the first coach in the history of the competition, in this or its previous guise as the European Cup, to reach that tally.

He has trusted Vinicius all season long, backed a blossoming talent and been richly rewarded by the youngster, and his winner in such a game of high prestige marks another step forward in a career that could see him finish among the all-time greats.

There were plenty of greats inside the Stade de France, many in the stands. Needless to say, the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf, Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro did not have to tolerate any of the nonsense outside the stadium that forced this game to be delayed by 36 minutes, that left reports of children in tears, of pepper-spraying police, media being mistreated, and of panic on the streets of Paris.

The Galacticos were joined in the VIP seats by Rafael Nadal, midway through his crusade for a 14th French Open title.

Madrid now have 14 Champions League and European Cup titles, and Ancelotti, who delivered La Decima in 2014, has delivered two of those after the two he landed with his beloved Milan.

A double of LaLiga and the Champions League is theirs, while Liverpool must settle for their own twin triumphs from the FA Cup and EFL Cup. The quadruple was beyond them, and Liverpool blew themselves out in the first half here.

After knocking out Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and now sinking Liverpool in the trophy match, Madrid reign once more.

Vinicius reigns – the first South American aged 21 or younger to have 10 or more goal involvements in a Champions League campaign since Lionel Messi for Barcelona in the 2008-09 season.

His four goals and six assists in Europe came from a personal all-competitions haul of 22 goals and 16 assists in 52 games for the season. At 21 years and 320 days, Vinícius is the fifth youngest player to score in a Champions League final.

Ancelotti reigns – "I am a record man," he told BT Sport at full-time.

Benzema reigns – it was not his night but could have been.

The Frenchman had a goal ruled out for offside just before half-time, after a three-and-a-half-minute wait for a VAR verdict. Deciphering that moment was as challenging as the task of unravelling the Agatha Christie footballers' wives court saga, and it caused almost as much soapbox frothing on social media.

Come the final whistle, and Madrid's celebrations of their 1-0 victory, that moment was an afterthought.

At full-time, former Liverpool and Madrid striker Michael Owen said of Jurgen Klopp's Reds: "I still think they're the team to beat... the most fearsome team in Europe".

Owen was in Paris, at pitchside even, but must have missed the news. Madrid reign again.

Thibaut Courtois revelled in making the difference as his fine goalkeeping performance guided Real Madrid to a Champions League final victory over Liverpool on Saturday.

Madrid had their backs to the wall from the offset at the Stade de France as Liverpool attempted as many shots on target in the first half (five) as they did in their previous two Champions League finals combined (two in 2018 and three in 2019).

That first-half display included two fine Courtois stops against a close-range Mohamed Salah effort and Sadio Mane drive, but the Belgium international saved his best for after the interval.

Courtois expertly denied Salah three times in the second half, the last of which was particularly impressive as he dived to his right to tip away, with Vinicius Junior nudging Madrid ahead at the other end.

The rearguard of Madrid held firm to secure a 1-0 win and record-extending 14th Champions League title as Courtois ended with a record nine saves in the final of the competition, since Opta began recording data in 2003-04.

Courtois has led the way among goalkeepers in the competition this season, making the most saves (59) and boasting the highest save percentage of goalkeepers to make five stops or more (80.56).

The 30-year-old, speaking after the game, reflected on a productive outing on both a personal and team level.

"I said yesterday in my press conference when Madrid plays finals they win it," he told BT Sport.

"And I'm on the good side of history, I saw a lot of tweets coming my way that I will get humbled today and it was the other way round.

"I needed to win a final for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name – I don't think I have enough, especially in England.

"I saw a lot of criticism even after a great season that I was not good enough. I'm really happy and proud at the performance of the team, we stuck to it and when I needed to be there I was there for the team.

"We beat the best clubs in the world, together with us, you see the year City and Liverpool had, unbelievable seasons, they fought till the end in the Premier League.

"Liverpool won two cups, today they were really strong, I think I played a great game and that was the difference – we had one chance and we scored it."

Aside from a dominant personal performance, Courtois believes Madrid have shown they are the best side in Europe.

"So many years, so much work, coming to the club of my life, yesterday I already said that Madrid wins and it is like that," he told Movistar. 

"Many from Liverpool and other people criticising me but we have shown who is the king of Europe.

"I've felt very good this year, I've managed the last few weeks well, and once you make the first stop then you're focused, and I took chances from Mane and Salah.

"Nobody could take away my desire to win a Champions League. For my loved ones who have passed, I was going to win a Champions League."

As for his best save, Courtois added: "Especially Salah's, I looked for it from distance, and I knew where the ball was going. It's crazy, I don't believe it.

"The referee added five minutes without anything happening, but hey, we held on."

UEFA has blamed the delays which plagued the Champions League final on fans trying to use "fake tickets" after Liverpool requested a formal investigation into the disruption.

European football's governing body announced an initial 15-minute delay before Saturday's showpiece at the Stade de France, which Real Madrid went on to win 1-0, citing "security reasons" for the hold-up in fans entering the stadium.

Both sides had already completed their warm-ups by the time kick-off was first delayed and had made their way back to the dressing rooms in Paris.

The two teams returned for a second warm-up at 21:05 local time before the match finally started at 21:36 - 36 minutes later than planned - after a second delay.

British broadcaster BT Sport reported Liverpool fans had complained of heavy-handed policing outside the stadium, suggesting tear gas had been used on supporters.

Liverpool have since released a statement on the matter, requesting an investigation into the events.

"We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced this evening at Stade de France," the statement read.

"This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.

"We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues."

UEFA later blamed the use of fake tickets for the hold-up in supporters' entries, promising to review the situation alongside local authorities.

"In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles," a UEFA statement read.

"This created a build-up of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kick-off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access.

"As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kick-off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.

"UEFA is sympathetic to those affected by these events and will further review these matters urgently, together with the French police and authorities and with the French Football Federation."

 

Vinicius Junior scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in a delayed Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.

Kick-off was pushed back by more than 30 minutes as Liverpool fans struggled to gain entry to the Stade de France, eventually taking their places to see Jurgen Klopp's men control much of the proceedings.

But Madrid got the vital goal in the 59th minute when Vinicius tucked away his fourth of this season's competition – from one of just four Blancos attempts.

Premier League runners-up Liverpool were denied by a string of superb saves from Thibaut Courtois either side of that strike, and Carlo Ancelotti's side held on to lift the European Cup for a 14th time – seven more than any other side. 

Liverpool had started in confident mood following the delay and only failed to take the lead inside the opening 20 minutes courtesy of two fine stops from Courtois.

The Real Madrid goalkeeper got down quickly to keep out Mohamed Salah's instinctive effort, before he superbly pawed Sadio Mane's powerful strike onto the post.

Madrid thought they had taken the lead shortly before the interval when Karim Benzema stroked home after some slapstick defending from Liverpool, yet it was ruled out for offside against the France international – the decision confirmed by the VAR after a lengthy review.

They were not to be denied just before the hour mark, however, when Vinicius stole in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold to turn in Federico Valverde's low ball across the penalty area.

Courtois made three vital saves from Salah inside the final 20 minutes – the last of which really caught the eye – to cap a wonderful individual display and ensure Ancelotti's men claimed a record-extending triumph.

Liverpool fans complained of heavy-handed policing outside the Stade de France before the Champions League final, as thousands were delayed in entering the stadium.

Large numbers of supporters were still outside the venue shortly before the scheduled kick-off time of 21:00 CET, as Liverpool prepared to take on Real Madrid.

Kick-off was pushed back by an initial 15 minutes and subsequently to 21:36, with the match only getting under way after an on-pitch performance by pop singer Camila Cabello.

European football's governing body, UEFA, put the delay down to "security reasons".

British broadcaster BT Sport said Liverpool fans had complained of heavy-handed policing outside, claiming tear gas had been used.

BBC Radio Merseyside breakfast show presenter Paul Salt wrote on Twitter at 21:13: "Disgraceful this from @ChampionsLeague been waiting an hour and a half to get in and no sign of being successful.

"Gates closed so no way of gaining entry. We’ve just been peppered sprayed yet no sign of crowd disorder where I am. Crowd building up outside. Joke"

He added, five minutes later: "One gate now open this is ridiculous."

Both sides had already completed their warm-ups by the time kick-off was first delayed and had made their way back to the dressing rooms. They returned to the pitch for a further warm-up shortly after 21:05 CET.

Spanish journalist Guillem Balague said there were scenes of "extraordinary chaos", later adding: "There are plenty of people getting in with no tickets. Shambles and dangerous."

Local police in Paris issued a warning to supporters of both clubs before kick-off, stating: "Do not force entry to the Stade de France."

The Guardian reported a further statement from police, which read: "Supporters attempted to penetrate the stadium. They forced their way through the first filter. The screening at the Stade de France is watertight."

Saturday's Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid was delayed due to crowd congestion outside the Stade de France.

An announcement of a 15-minute initial hold-up was made by UEFA around a quarter of an hour before the scheduled kick-off time of 21:00 CET.

European football's governing body put the delay down to "security reasons", amid reports of many Liverpool supporters still waiting to get into the stadium.

British broadcaster BT Sport said Liverpool fans had complained of heavy-handed policing outside, claiming tear gas had been used.

Both sides had already completed their warm-ups by that point and had made their way back to the dressing rooms. They returned to the pitch for a further warm-up shortly after 21:05 CET.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says he was disappointed with Arsenal's failure to qualify for the Champions League, as he had hoped to face his former club with Barcelona.

Despite enjoying an encouraging campaign under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal missed out on a top-four finish to fierce rivals Tottenham after losing two of their final three games of the Premier League season.

Their late-season collapse meant Arsenal have not finished in the Premier League's top four since Arsene Wenger's Gunners finished second to Leicester City in the 2015-16 campaign.

Aubameyang, meanwhile, departed the Emirates Stadium in January after four years at the club, scoring 13 goals in all competitions for Xavi's Barcelona as the Blaugrana secured second in LaLiga.

That return made the Gabon forward Barca's joint-top goalscorer for the campaign along with Memphis Depay, despite him making just 23 appearances since his arrival at Camp Nou.

Speaking to Sky Sports while attending the Monaco Grand Prix, the 32-year-old admitted he was sad to see his former club miss out on a place in European football's premier competition, but hopes they can impress upon their return to the Europa League. 

"Yeah, [they came] really close. I think they did a lot of improvements," Aubameyang said.

"I'm a bit sad because I wanted to play them in the Champions League. I have a lot of friends over there, but I'm wishing them all the best for next season.

"Obviously, I think it's going to be a good thing for them to get back to the Europa League as well, hopefully they can win it."

Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho were included in Liverpool's starting line-up for Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

Fabinho had not played since the win over Aston Villa on May 10 due to a hamstring injury, while midfield colleague Thiago also damaged a hamstring against Wolves last week.

Manager Jurgen Klopp initially appeared to rule Thiago out of the Stade de France showpiece, but the Spain international – as well as Fabinho – returned to training earlier this week.

The pair were included from the beginning against Madrid, with Klopp making three changes from the 3-1 win against Wolves.

Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah, rested last week with an eye on the Madrid clash, were recalled to the XI along with fit-again Thiago.

Jordan Henderson was named in the side for his 57th appearance of the campaign – the most of any player from Europe’s top five leagues this campaign – while it was also his 50th Champions League appearance, making him the fourth English player to hit that milestone for Liverpool.

There were no surprises in Klopp’s line-up, with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold named in the full-back spots, the latter surpassing Thomas Muller (23 years, 254 days) as the youngest player to start three Champions League finals. Alexander-Arnold featured in this game at the age of 23 years and 233 days.

Saturday's contest marked the third time Liverpool and Madrid had met in a European Cup or Champions League final, making it the most contested trophy match between two sides in the history of the competition.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Diaz, Salah, Mane.

Subs: Kelleher, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Minamino, Jota, Tsimikas, Matip, Elliott.

David Alaba has taken his place in Real Madrid's starting line-up for the first time in over a month for the Champions League final against Liverpool on Saturday.

Alaba had been out of action since being substituted at half-time during Madrid's 4-3 semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with Nacho starting instead when Carlo Ancelotti's men sealed a 6-5 aggregate victory with a stunning comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this month.

The Austria defender's selection in Paris was the only change to the Madrid side that started that second leg, with attacking duo Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema again leading the line.

Those two have assisted one another a combined 18 times in all competitions this season, the most of any pairing in Europe's top five leagues.

Vinicius' inclusion made him just the fifth player to start a Champions League final for Madrid aged 21 or younger, after Raul (1998), Iker Casillas (2000), Nicolas Anelka (2000) and Raphael Varane (2014).

However, Benzema is at the opposite end of his career. He and Alaba were joined by Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to make Madrid the first team to start a final with four players who had previously made 100 or more Champions League appearances.

Benzema had been one of three centurions (also Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos) in Madrid's 2018 final win over Liverpool, in which Gareth Bale's brace as a substitute proved the difference in a 3-1 triumph.

Bale was named on the bench again for this rematch ahead of his imminent departure as a free agent, while fellow winger Eden Hazard was also among the substitutes.

Semi-final hero Rodrygo Goes, who grabbed an improbable stoppage-time double to wipe out City's lead over Los Blancos, hoped to make a similar impact after being named next to the big-money duo on the bench.

Madrid headed into the game aiming to win their 14th European Cup or Champions League title, with their 13 prior wins already a record. Ancelotti was bidding to become the first man to win four Champions Leagues.

Mohamed Salah has revealed how missing out on the Premier League Golden Boot in the 2020-21 season, when Tottenham's Harry Kane pipped him by just one goal, motivated him to enjoy an incredible individual campaign for Liverpool this time around.

Salah finished as the Premier League's joint-highest goalscorer this season, matching Son Heung-min's tally of 23 goals as Liverpool finished just one point short of champions Manchester City.

The forward also edged out team-mate Trent Alexander Arnold by one league assist, laying on 13 goals to emulate Kane's feat of winning both awards in the 2020-21 campaign, as he led Liverpool's fight for silverware. 

Having already lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup this season, Jurgen Klopp's team could add the Champions League when they face Real Madrid in Saturday's final, with the Egypt winger looking for revenge after sustaining an injury in Liverpool's 2018 defeat to the same opponents.

Speaking to Rio Ferdinand for BT Sport ahead of that contest in Paris, Salah revealed how missing out on topping the Premier League's goalscoring charts last season motivated him to "work like crazy" to outdo his fellow forwards this term.

"When I signed here, I can't say I thought 'I expect myself to go and win three golden boots!'", Salah said. "But in the first season [2017-18] I was fighting with Kane in the beginning, and I thought I had a big chance to win it.

"When I won it from Kane – and Kane was winning it [each of] the two years before – in the summer I went on holiday and said, 'look, why not?' I did it one time, I took it from Kane, a top goalscorer, so give it a try for a second one.

"I won it the second year, and once I won the second one, I said, 'you've got to go for four or five!' I think in my mind, for five years now I've always competed for it. I lost some, [like] last season in the last game to Kane.

"That last year was painful for me, trust me! It pushed me to be who I am now, this year. 

"I believe that last season as a team, it was not really good, but for the golden boot, in the last game, with one goal difference... that's not good.

"It didn't kill my summer, I was so motivated, I was working [like] crazy. I said 'look, next year I'm going to win both things – golden boot and assists. I'm going for both from now'. I was working like crazy and I did it."

Despite Liverpool finishing third last season after enduring an injury-hit campaign, Salah scored 22 league goals, only to see Kane net his 23rd in a final-day 4-2 win over Leicester City.

But the Liverpool star responded to win his third Golden Boot in five seasons this term, drawing level with Kane and Alan Shearer with three such awards. Only Thierry Henry, with four, has won more.

Saturday's Champions League final may have a sense of familiarity to it, but for Liverpool and Real Madrid the desire to continue winning trophies is as strong as ever.

These sides have been involved in five of the past seven finals between them, while Paris is hosting the showpiece event for a sixth time – only London (seven) has done so more.

The French city hosted the first European Cup final back in 1956, with Madrid winning their first of a record 13 trophies after seeing off Reims at the Parc des Princes.

Indeed, come kick-off, no two teams will have faced off more times in a European Cup or Champions League final than Liverpool and Madrid (three).

And yet while it may all feel similar – Liverpool making it to a third Champions League final since 2018, Carlo Ancelotti back on the brink of European glory – it is difficult to remember a similar type of hype surrounding a major club showpiece in recent years.

That has been clear in Paris in the build-up to the match, with the Eiffel Tower and surrounding fan parks a sea of white and red, colours synonymous with this great competition.

France certainly knows how to host a major event, explaining why UEFA switched this year's final to the Stade de France with just three months' notice.

The final had been scheduled for Saint Petersburg, but was shifted to Paris – or Saint-Dennis, more specifically – after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which of course hosted the most recent meeting between these sides; the 2018 final, settled in Madrid's favour by Gareth Bale's heroics and Loris Karius' errors.

Yet the organisers can only do so much. The onus is now on Liverpool and Madrid to put on a show for the 80,000 inside the ground and the millions watching around the world.

For Liverpool, there's a shot at a cup treble after winning the EFL Cup and FA Cup with penalty shoot-out victories over Chelsea (both times) at Wembley.

For Madrid, an opportunity to add their favourite trophy to a LaLiga title sealed with four games to go in a rather serene stroll in Spain's top flight.

Whereas Los Blancos have been given the opportunity to rotate in the weeks leading up to this match, since their incredible comeback against Manchester City, Liverpool have had to play to their maximum right to the final day.

This will be game 63 of a gruelling campaign for the Reds – not since Manchester United in 2016-17 has a side from Europe's top five leagues played more in a season (64).

As Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were eager to point out in Friday's pre-match news conference, though, fatigue will not play a part against Madrid.

Nor will the disappointment of missing out on a quadruple last weekend, with City pipping them to the Premier League title by a point.

"They've obviously had a bit more relaxed preparation and wrapped up their league two or three weeks ago," Robertson said.

"They've maybe not played as many games and at a high tempo. We knew how hard our run was going to be on our bodies, but we're in the best possible shape.

"We've come through a lot and yes we've had injuries and problems, but the lads are fully fit. It's important we take the competitive nature of a tough season into the last game."

Intentional or otherwise, however, the tempo of Liverpool's final training run-out at the Stade de France on the eve of the match was far lower than that of Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp was happy for his players to pass the ball around on the sun-soaked surface, which has been freshly laid for this game – a big topic ahead of the contest.

Madrid's players were equally as relaxed – understandable given the experience in their ranks – as they split into two full-size teams for a mini-match.

As they made their way down the tunnel area, there was still a chance for the likes of Marcelo and Toni Kroos to glance around at the vast venue. Maybe even two of the most decorated players in the modern game can still be awestruck every now and then, and it goes to show that, while we are now used to seeing these same players battle it out at the top, the experience is different each time.

The pain of losing hurts no less; the joy of winning all the sweeter as a player or a coach enhances their legacy.

Klopp, for example, is aiming for his second major European title in what is his fourth appearance in a final. Ancelotti, on the other hand, is hunting a record-breaking fourth Champions League crown.

As for the supporters who could be heard chanting late into the night on Friday, an "I was there" moment awaits as two behemoths go at it again.

Familiar it may be, but enjoy it while it lasts. 

Pele expects to enjoy a strong Brazilian flavour to the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but asked on Friday night: "Am I the only one excited?"

The three-time World Cup winner, still considered by many the greatest player in history, pointed to the strong presence of players from the Selecao set to be on show at the Stade de France in Paris.

He noted how Madrid have Vinicius Junior and Casemiro in their ranks, while also suggesting Alisson and Fabinho could have crucial roles for Liverpool in the showpiece match.

Pele could have also mentioned Madrid's Marcelo, Eder Militao and semi-final comeback hero Rodrygo, who scored twice at the death in the second leg against Manchester City to rescue a seemingly lost cause.

Their Brazilian influence is strong, while Liverpool can also point to forward Roberto Firmino in their squad.

Pele wrote on Instagram: "I want to see a great final between @realmadrid and @liverpoolfc tomorrow. My friends @vinijr and @casemiro will have a tough challenge against @alissonbecker and @fabinho. Am I the only one excited about tomorrow's match? I'm sure not!"

The 81-year-old Pele has been battling ill health in recent times, undergoing treatment for colon cancer. He recently said he managed to find "peace" in the company of his wife Marcia and dog Cacau.

"Treatment is difficult, but feeling their love is the best medicine," Pele said.

Rafael Nadal intends to attend the Champions League final between his beloved Real Madrid and Liverpool, despite the ongoing French Open.

Paris' Stade de France plays host to the Champions League showpiece on Saturday, with Madrid aiming for a 14th European Cup as Liverpool look to add to their EFL Cup and FA Cup successes this season.

Meanwhile, across the city in the French capital, Nadal remains in contention at Roland Garros after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Friday.

Madrid great Zinedine Zidane was in attendance as the Spaniard cruised to victory, with the 35-year-old setting up a last-16 clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime.

While Nadal did not get to converse with Zidane, he was aware of the Frenchman's presence as the record 21-time grand slam winner outlined his plans to make the short trip to support Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid.

"I didn't see him, but I knew it was him, I knew he was there because I was listening to the crowd shouting his name all the time," Nadal told reporters when asked about Zidane. 

"So I imagine he was there, but I didn't have the chance to see him after my match or talk with him at all.

"Tomorrow, let's see how I wake up, because, you never know with my body how the surprises are there.

"But if nothing happens, and I expect nothing happens, and if I'm able to have the right practice tomorrow, my intention and my goal is to be there [at the Stade de France]."

Real Madrid duo Marcelo and Thibaut Courtois have hailed Carlo Ancelotti's impact on the side on the eve of their Champions League final clash with Liverpool, with the former saying he is "lucky" to have worked with the Italian.

Ancelotti has made a stunning impact since returning to the club he led to the 2014 Champions League title, winning LaLiga by a 13-point margin and leading Los Blancos to the showpiece event in Paris against all odds.

Madrid have become the first team to reach the competition's final after losing a game in each of the last 16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals, while Ancelotti could win the trophy for a fourth time as head coach.

That would make the Italian the most successful boss in the competition's history outright, and he has won three of his previous four Champions League finals – though his one such defeat came against Liverpool as Milan boss in 2005.

Speaking alongside Ancelotti at Madrid's pre-match press conference in Paris, both players hailed the Italian's abilities to communicate with Los Blancos' star-studded squad, with Marcelo saying he felt fortunate to have worked under the 62-year-old.

"I've known him for eight years, I've been lucky enough to train with him," the Brazilian said of his head coach.

"He understands football very well and knows how to manage the locker room. It's normal that we all want to play. 

"This season we haven't had almost any problems, the coach leaves us alone, tells us the truth. That gives confidence to work."

Madrid goalkeeper Courtois, who is yet to win European football's biggest prize and was a runner-up to Los Blancos when on loan at Atletico Madrid in 2014, echoed the left-back's praise of Ancelotti, crediting him and his staff with fostering an excellent team spirit at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"The good dynamics of the team is due to the coaching staff, we train very well and we know that they make decisions," he said.

"But they manage it very well, everyone has played. That's why we are where we are."

Including Marcelo, Madrid have four different players in their squad to have made 100 or more Champions League appearances (Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Marcelo, and David Alaba). 

They could become the first team to name a starting XI in the competition's final featuring four or more players with a century of Champions League appearances, having fielded three in their 2018 final win over Jurgen Klopp's team (Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Sergio Ramos).

Meanwhile, Marcelo, who is out of contract at the end of this season, says any decision on whether he will extend his 15-year stay with Madrid will be made after the final.

While the 34-year-old was unwilling to give any hints as to where his future may lie, he referred to the Spanish giants as "the club of his life", and says the team has given him "everything" in his career.

"Everyone knows my passion and my love for the club of my life, which is Madrid," Marcelo added. 

"[Former club] Fluminense was in its time, it gave me everything at the beginning. Madrid has given me everything too. 

"I won't say what I think now. I don't want a statue, my story is made in Madrid, and I will continue to do so. After the final, we'll see what we do."

Karim Benzema is continuing to grow as a leader on and off the pitch after inspiring Real Madrid to the Champions League final, according to head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The France international leads the scoring charts in this season's competition with 15 goals, which is just two behind Cristiano Ronaldo's all-time record in a single campaign.

That includes back-to-back hat-tricks in the knockout-stage wins over Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, and three goals across both legs against Manchester City in the semis.

Benzema is enjoying his best campaign yet in front of goal and will look to round off 2021-22 in style when Madrid face Liverpool in Saturday's final at Stade de France in Paris.

Asked what improvements he has seen in Benzema this season, Ancelotti said: "He has more personality and leadership now on and off the pitch.

"What has not changed is his quality, which is still top, and also his humility."

At 34 years and 160 days, Benzema is out to become the second-oldest player to score in the Champions League final after Paolo Maldini (36y 333d) for Milan – also against Liverpool in 2005.

The 34-year-old has happy memories of playing against the Reds, having opened the scoring in Madrid's 3-1 victory when the sides met in the 2018 final in Kyiv.

Marcelo, who was also on the pitch that day and is seeking an incredible 25th trophy with Los Blancos this weekend, has also been impressed by Benzema's leadership qualities.

"He has shown that [leadership], though it's not just been this season," Marcelo said at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"His character and presence has helped the team a lot. He doesn't even need to talk for that. He plays great football for us."

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