Neil Humphreys: The Real legend that Madrid were missing
Ronaldo proves he is a bigger loss than Zidane in Europe
Within minutes of returning to Real Madrid, coach Zinedine Zidane heard the one name he didn't want to hear.
The question was as daft as it was obvious.
Would he bring back Cristiano Ronaldo?
Zidane fudged an answer about Ronaldo not being his immediate priority, but the imbalance of power was unmistakable.
Ronaldo remains the more valuable name around the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid let the wrong legend leave.
In truth, Zidane was the only Madrid legend immediately available as the club struggle with their trophyless crisis, but he's not the one that effectively brought home the Champions League in the previous three seasons.
Ronaldo did. He is the Champions League.
But only Juventus appear to recognise his incalculable importance to a club's continental crusade.
Ronaldo was born a great footballer, but made himself an even greater one for the knockout stages by reshaping his body and style of play to defy the ageing process.
Real didn't fully appreciate his extraordinary transformation, preferring instead to focus on a high-maintenance, 34-year-old striker who was more trouble than he was worth.
So they cashed out.
Real failed to see what was obvious to the Italians.
Ronaldo's self-interests matched those of Juventus. Their greedy ambitions dovetailed.
Their reputation depended not on knocking over domestic dummies, but on progressing through the knockout stages.
La Liga became their obsession. Their failure to reign in Spain became a stick for the Catalans to beat them with.
Zidane said as much in his press conference.
He doesn't think about the three Champions Leagues won.
He thinks about the La Liga campaigns lost.
But Juventus and Ronaldo are both obsessed with the Champions League.
For the privileged Italians, Serie A is a one-horse canter, with or without their icon.
Their current 18-point advantage over Napoli is only likely to increase before the anti-climactic procession ends.
But few care outside of Turin and Juventus know it.
To win the hearts and minds of global fans and advertisers, they need the Champions League trophy, the true gateway to glory (and the most lucrative branding exercise).
They need Ronaldo.
Ironically, as Real look inward in a bid to recapture the Spanish crown, Juventus are looking beyond their borders to capture eyeballs elsewhere, relying on a Real "has been" to lead the charge.
And it's working.
Real won't play a competitive game of note for almost six months.
Juventus could be thinking about the Champions League final in just over six weeks.
If only we could identify what the Italians have that the Spaniards do not.
Juventus aren't a one-man team, but they were a team that served one man against Atletico Madrid.
Massimiliano Allegri's instructions were clear from kickoff.
Drag the ball wide, whip crosses towards the six-yard line and let the tanned god of flight do the rest.
Ronaldo's two headed goals epitomised his recalibrated game - quick, precise and efficient.
He conserved energy, attacked the ball with a short run-up and delivered goals to order.
He's no longer blessed with the boundless stamina of youth.
His brilliance must come in short bursts, with the knockout stages giving him a chance to play his greatest hits.
Another must-win second-leg, another hat-trick.
Ronaldo did exactly the same for Real against VfL Wolfsburg in the 2016 quarter-final, overcoming the same deficit with another hat-trick, and yet, the Spanish side were not quite on the same wavelength as their striker.
HAND IN GLOVE
But Ronaldo and Juve fit, hand in glove, because they instinctively understand the importance of the knockout stages to their respective brands.
The group stages are like humdrum Serie A fixtures.
They only appeal to local diehards.
But the world comes calling in the knockout stages and Ronaldo rises to the occasion.
He lives for it.
He has scored 18 goals in his last 14 knockout appearances and has been directly involved in 76 goals in 77 knockout matches (62 goals, 14 assists. Lionel Messi has 40 goals).
His addiction to Europe's most prestigious competition gives Ronaldo the peerless ability to be greater than the sum of the parts around him - that is carrying a declining Real side to three Champions Leagues.
Across a long, domestic season, he can look his age.
In one-off games, however, he can stall his body clock long enough to feed his insatiable appetite for European pre-eminence, an ambition shared with his current employers.
And Juventus' gain is Real's loss where it really matters - in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
JUVENTUS: Szczesny, Cancelo, Bonucci,
Chiellini, Spinazzola (Dybala 67), Can, Pjanic, Matuidi, Bernardeschi, Mandzukic (Kean 80), Ronaldo
ATLETICO MADRID: Oblak, Juanfran
(Vitolo 77), Godin, Gimenez, Arias, Koke, Saul, Rodri, Lemar (Correa 57) , Morata, Griezmann.