‘The best night of my life’: How celebrations unfolded for Reds fans in Madrid
The Bear and the Madrono Tree statue, which has stood proudly in Madrid’s Puerto del Sol for half a century, has long been a focal point for tourists who believe touching the ornate animal’s foot will bring them luck.
Security fencing introduced to landmarks in the Spanish capital in the run-up to the Champions League final meant that Liverpool fans unable to reach out to the stone and brass centrepiece instead had to rely on the feet of Mo Salah and Divock Origi to bring them the fortune they craved.
In fact, the statue was rendered almost invisible to those who filled the plaza in the moments after Liverpool’s victory was confirmed shortly before 11pm local time, such was the density of people packed together united in delight.
Within a few hours, crushed and discarded red and green cans of Mahou lager formed a crunchy patchwork underfoot, while the hotbox cocktail of sticky, sweet alcohol on the floor mixed with body odour slow-cooked in 33C heat over several hours filled the air.
The songs heard from Anfield terraces rang out, conducted by one of several emotional men raised on the shoulders of strangers.
But as many supporters entered at least a 12th hour of drinking, and with the prospect of an early-morning flight to catch, the victory parade in their home city looming, the crowds thinned.
It was a similar story in the nearby Plaza Mayor, another Liverpool stronghold in the days leading up to the final.
A seemingly limitless supply of canned lager fuelled the non-stop but varied anthems being belted out by thousands of jubilant fans – the reds of their shirts matched by the sunburnt skin creeping out from underneath it.
By 3.30am, police had decided enough was enough. Industrial cleaning teams were called in to provide an almost instant makeover, while those few hundred fans remaining were sent scuttling away into side alleys.
Their destinations were varied, although many made a beeline for home.
Some sought out a club that would, on this exceptional night of the year, waive its “no football shirts” policy.
Others simply did not want their luck to run out.
“This is the best night of my life,” one young Liverpudlian said as he left the plaza.
“Why would I want to go to sleep?”