There is one reigning champion in the Champions League: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid, the holders, are gone, conquered by Ajax in the last 16.
You wonder, would their bid for a historic fourth straight title be so premature if they hadn't sold Ronaldo to Juventus last summer? You don't suspect it.
Cristiano Ronaldo was portrayed on Tuesday in Italian newspapers on the iron throne
Ronaldo is the only reigning champion to stay in the Champions League this season
But Ronaldo, he always, survives a fright in the final round that required him to score an enchanting hat trick to overthrow a two-goal deficit against Atletico Madrid.
Ironically, now that he is Ajax, he has to get rid of here in Turin on Tuesday night.
If he had to prove the difference again – he scored during last week's 1-1 draw in Amsterdam – then the colors in the Bernabeu will continue to count the costs of his absence, and not the £ 99.2 million they have collected as compensation for his loss.
For Juventus, spending is worth every penny if Ronaldo wins a first Champions League victory in 23 years. And that is why they bought the Portuguese superstar.
Ronaldo also graces the cover of Tuttosport for the quarterfinals of the Champions League
Ronaldo and his Juve teammates appeared in a light mood during training on Monday
Not to win Serie A. They can do that without him, as they have demonstrated over the past seven seasons.
Gazzetta dello Sport Splashed Ronaldo on his iconic appearance mocked as a character from Game of Thrones for a competition program. But they did that on Tuesday.
There he sits, sword and all, resting under the head, & # 39; Il mio trono no si tocca & # 39 ;. Translation: My throne cannot be touched. His intervention against Atletico was certainly that of a man who was not ready to give up his crown.
Walk into a tabaccheria in a suburb near the Juventus Stadium and a giant statue of Ronaldo will smile back at you. It is not for sale, it is just a cherished property of the owner, just as Ronaldo is now from Turin.
The intensity of the obsession has not yet scaled the heights of Naples and Diego Maradona, but if he is to be the inspiration behind a third European title, the old lady's eternal love awaits their old master.
The team of Massimiliano Allegri enters the second hind leg with an out goal at 1-1
Leonardo Bonucci stretches out and tries to control the ball during Monday's preparations
He would have to slow down at the age of 34, and a rising wage combined with a rising age was a factor in Real's decision to let him go.
But Ronaldo continues to defy nature's expectation. They say that age is just a number, but his number is much larger, proof that his time is at the top.
He has 25 goals out of 37 appearances for Juventus, representing his goal-a-game ratio for Real.
But remember that he has eight of his last eight and you wonder if he actually saved a bit for the business end of the campaign. After all, he does not have to go on tilt to conquer Italy.
That is not the case in Europe, because he will discover against an Ajax side that has the club's best score since the mid-1990s, when they lifted the Champions League in 1995 to Juventus in the final of next year to beat again. the semi-final phase 12 months later.
The Juventus players will be played for the second leg in Turin on Tuesday
In Barcelona-bound Frenkie de Jong and captain Matthijs de Ligt – 21 and 19 respectively – they have two of the most exciting prospects in Europe.
Win and they will be back in the last four of this competition for the first time since that loss to Juventus 22 years ago.
De Jong and De Light, it should be noted, were not yet born when a team including the likes of Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar were beaten 6-2 over two legs.
So this is a new generation. But unfortunately it is one that, given its talents, will be broken up as quickly as it originated. Lifetime and Ajax are no longer compatible.
The same cannot be said of Ronaldo and success. He is the lasting emblem of triumph. Just ask his old friends in Real Madrid.