Down 3-1 to Real Madrid in the 2017 Champions League Final and glancing over to his bench, Massimiliano Allegri may have realised for the first time just how far off his side were from winning the Champions League.
As Gareth Bale, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio trotted on for Los Blancos, the Italian could only look to Mario Lemina and Juan Cuadrado, the latter later seeing red in his brief time on the pitch.
A year later, Cristiano Ronaldo added to his two goals in the Final with his 97th-minute penalty knocking Juventus out at the quarter-final stage.
But times change. Their tormentor is now their team-mate, and with well over €100m spent, Juve may feel they finally have the talent and experience to win their first European Cup in over two decades.
With two Final appearances and seven straight Serie A titles, the wait should not be this long. As evidenced by record-breaking unbeaten and winning runs in recent seasons, they are consistent, hard to beat and have a squad deeper than most.
To win the Champions League those factors are important, sure. But the nature of cup competition places greater emphasis on other factors, such as the draw, luck, swift in-game adjustments, clutch players and their performances. Many of which have not gone in favour of the Bianconeri in recent campaigns.
Still it is also very much true that the team with Cristiano Ronaldo have won the trophy in each of the last three seasons.
Many of the competition’s goal-scoring records belong to him, as do five Champions League winners’ medals won with two different clubs.
Much in the same way Juve are more than just CR7, their potential success does not lay solely on his shoulders.
While Ronaldo was instrumental in Real’s 2017-18 run as the competition’s top scorer, he did not find the net in either semi-final or the Final itself. Instead, they fell back on the contributions of maligned figures Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to see them through.
Similarly, Lionel Messi did not score in the 2015 Final against the Old Lady, but Luis Suarez and Neymar did. Juve will need the perennial stars that surround Ronaldo to step up if he has an off night.
Mario Mandzukic has already shown the innate ability to be a gamechanger when it matters, scoring a stunning bicycle-kick against Barcelona. Few players have Champions League Final and World Cup Final goals on their CV.
Paulo Dybala’s resume is far less accomplished. While Mandzukic dazzled in Cardiff, the Argentine disappointed. Clearly talented, he has had problems with consistency, and has not showed up in big games. He scored only once in eight Champions League appearances last season, and did not score against any top four side in Serie A. Moreover, he was foolishly sent off against Real Madrid.
But even if any of Juve’s forwards are struggling for form, the bench may bring better fortune. Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi are both talented players who with their pace and trickery offer something few else on the pitch do.
Across the board changes in the past few years have been beneficial. The return of Leonardo Bonucci is a positive move overall, though his game is perhaps more error-strewn that fans would like.
Injury prone Claudio Marchisio and Kwadwo Asamoah have been replaced with Blaise Matuidi, Emre Can and Rodrigo Bentancur.
It is not a terribly young squad, but one that can compete now. And that experience helps, not only for the players, but a Coach who is always learning.
He has shown greater ability to adapt and take heed of mistakes, as evidenced by comeback wins against Tottenham and Real Madrid in last year’s competition after unfavourable first legs.
Allegri has the squad to win every trophy on offer. How he uses the tools at his disposal will determine how much they win.