The Blancos finally clinched a 10th European title after coming so close to handing their rivals a first continental crown.
With three minutes to play, they were done for. Half an hour later, they’d scored four. The Decima dream is finally a reality for Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid looked set to write one final fantastic chapter in an amazing story by winning the Champions League final in Lisbon, but their city rivals dug as deep as they have in a long, long time to earn a flattering but fantastic 4-1 victory.
Diego Simeone’s men had gained the lead thanks to a moment of madness from Iker Casillas. The Madrid captain made the irrational decision to race out into no-man’s land as Diego Godin tussled with Sami Khedira after Juanfran returned Raphael Varane’s clearance.
But as the ball looped over the prone Spain goalkeeper and beyond the goal-line, the look on Casillas’ face said it all. He knew he had handed Atleti a potentially crucial lead.
Just as they have set up a compact unit all season, the Rojiblancos saw off most Madrid attacks thereafter. At first, Carlo Ancelotti’s men were one-dimensional and lacking in artistry. On came Isco and Marcelo to spice things up, but they still needed a little something extra.
As time ran down, it appeared as though Real had come to terms with the fact that they would go down as the side which failed to bring home La Decima and handed their neighbours a first continental title in one swift motion. But they had one final ace up their sleeves.
In the end, it was the least likely of scenarios which threw Casillas and Madrid a lifeline. For once, Atleti fell asleep from a set-piece as Luka Modric swung in a corner in the third minute of injury time and Sergio Ramos made them pay, slamming home a powerful header which left Thibaut Courtois with no chance.
When the full-time whistle sounded, Casillas made a beeline for Sergio Ramos. He hugged and kissed his centre-back, thanking him for pulling his skipper out of a tight spot.
Thereafter, the Blancos played like a team re-energised, a group who finally believed that this was their night. While a tired Atleti foundered, Madrid rose to the moment.
First, Gareth Bale – who had wasted three great opportunities in normal time – finally found the net, heading home a more difficult chance after a magnificent run from the excellent Angel di Maria.
Marcelo grabbed another as the Atletico defence went missing, and Cristiano Ronaldo finished off the night with a goal from the penalty spot after Godin made a rash challenge on the Portuguese star.
Winning has come at a cost. It has taken them 12 years, more than a billion euros and two world-record signings to get back on the top step of the podium. But nobody connected to Real Madrid will say that it has not been worth the wait as they finally crawl into bed in the early hours of Sunday morning.
They wanted to do it at the Bernabeu in 2010, but fell a long way short of the mark. The three years that followed brought three semi-final failures. This year felt a little bit different. They beat the best to get to the final, pummelling Bayern Munich in the last four, and while they weren’t at 100 per cent on Saturday, they were worthy of their moment of glory.
It could have been so different, and Iker Casillas will be buying Sergio Ramos a few beers of thanks, but he’ll have to join the queue. Half of Madrid will want to do exactly the same.
“The goal is not for me, it is for the people of Madrid,” the defender told reporters after the match. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for years.”
They will be drinking to ‘La Decima’ for some time to come. History is theirs.