Madrid appears in this Final Four decimated from the insidewithout its four headline (Yabusele), without his five substitute (Poirier) and without its most versatile player and among the two or three heaviest in the squad (Deck), capable of generating the post and acting as both forward and power forward. In return, Chus Mateo has Tavares, Hezonja, Musa… and the old guardwith “oldies”, as Nocioni affectionately tells them. They lifted the fifth game against Partizán and are capable of more, so, at least, their own teammates feel it. “They have a winning heart and fire in their eyes, you can’t feel better than that in the locker room”points out Hezonja, who explains it: “We lost by 18 and there were no reproaches, they kept their heads up and continued to support those of us who had less time. They help us with their experience and intelligence and we must do the dirty work”. “They reassure us”summarizes Tavares.
The old viking guard. We are referring to Sergio Llull (35 years old and 17 seasons in white), Rudy Fernández (38 and 12) and Sergio Rodríguez (36 and 7, who has returned after 6 seasons away). The three have left their mark in the Final Four and vice versa, because this final phase has also marked them a lot. And we can incorporate fabien causeur (35 and 6), even by descent to Adam Hanga (34 and only two in white, although eight seasons between Real, Barça and Baskonia). Llull will face his ninth Final Four since its debut in 2011 at Sant Jordi, the same as Kostas Sloukas (Olympiacos) and one more than El Chacho and Rudy (8), just behind Victor Khryapa’s 12.
The Menorcan has 191 points, just three behind Russian Holden (194), the top scorer in the Final Four since the Euroleague began in 2000, although the absolute leader of this round in the entire history of the European Cup is the Greek Nikos Gallis (231). El Chacho is ninth with 163 goals in three different clubs. Llull has also been the top assister for a year with 62 basket passes ahead of the retired Papaloukas (59), Rodríguez (56) and Sloukas (51). In steals, Rudy adds 21 and can go first (Holden, 24 and Khryapa, 22).
The mark left by the white legends in this format is deep, but the competition has also marked them. “For me, the most important edition was the first one we played,” says El Chacho, “the one we lost in Barcelona (2011), because we gained experience in matches that were totally different from what we were used to”. Llull does not forget disappointments either: “I remember what could have been, some defeat that still stings… (the extra time against Maccabi in 2014, CSKA’s reaction in 2019 or the setback by a point against Efes in 2022). And then, of course, of the two that we won, something that generates addiction and you want to feel again “. “When I arrived it was the priority —recalls Rudy— and celebrating it in Madrid (2015) was very special. Also to repeat in 2018 in Belgrade unexpectedly due to so much injury, the first success that I celebrated with my son”.
For Causeur, for example, it turned out the other way around, arriving and kissing the saint in 2018, in his first year on the team: “I had the caramel at the beginning and the following ones were harder. I remember a lot the one from 2019 against Chacho and CSKA in Vitoria. We won by 14… and they came back. The feeling was to let him escape despite the rival’s merit “.
An accumulated experience that they transmit to others. As? “We don’t make decisions, but we always support each other as a team”Rudy says. “Even if it’s cheering from the bench”points out Llull, who believes that more than advice and explanations “You have to lead by example, like Rudy does”.