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On Soccer: Real Madrid, Hard to Define, Firms Its Stamp on Champions League

This Real Madrid did not need to win another Champions League to have its place in history. It had already won two of the last three editions of the competition, beating its fierce rival, Atlético Madrid, in Lisbon in 2014 and again, on penalties, in Milan last year.

But in sweeping past Juventus, 4-1, on Saturday, thanks to two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and one each from Casemiro and Marco Asensio, the team turned its recent primacy into something more lasting, something approaching hegemony. In time, this will be remembered as Real Madrid’s era.

The nature of the era, though, seems harder to discern. Those teams that live longest in soccer’s communal memory tend to define, or be defined by, something — their legacy endures partly because of what they come to represent. They offer a blueprint that others might, in their own way, follow. They do not simply conquer the game. They change it, too.

Trying to pinpoint the meaning of this Real Madrid team, though, is to grasp at smoke. Recently, the academic Steven G. Mandis published a book called “The Real Madrid Way.” It purported to extrapolate the values that led to the…

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