For all the goals and the garlands Gonzalo Higuaín still carries a shadow. There is an argument Lionel Messi would already be safely enthroned as the greatest modern footballer if only Higuaín could finish in the big matches, a wonderful striker who seems destined to fall short at the very, very last. A losing World Cup final, two losing Champions League finals: only in the vertiginously cruel gimlet eye of elite football could this be seen as failure.
At the Allianz Stadium Higuaín seemed to be in the process of handing Tottenham and Harry Kane a lesson in exactly how games at this level are won: not with a flurry of punches but with a knife between the ribs.
He scored, brilliantly, with his first touch, spanking an instant shot past Hugo Lloris with all the yawning elan of a man ambling about the training pitch.
As the home team rippled forward Higuaín added another from the spot after 10 minutes, picking Tottenham off before they had even begun to play.
At which point something else began to happen. The air seemed to thicken, the triumphalism around the Allianz to congeal strangely, as Tottenham drove back at their opponents, like a boxer swinging from the hips on wobbly knees but finding a vengeful range and rhythm.
By the end of a gripping, frankly bonkers opening hour Higuaín had gone from winning this tie on his own, to failing to win it, to possibly losing it, passing up repeatedly the chance of a first-half hat-trick.
First he fired a shot past the post when it looked easier to score. Then came the appalling low comedy of his missed penalty kick on the stroke of half-time. This was a horrendous spot-kick, a Sunday League fat-bloke effort hit down the middle and on to the crossbar while Lloris simply stood there.
Either side of which Tottenham produced a wonderful display of spirit and craft. Mousa Dembélé did not so much seize the Juve midfield by the scruff as march it around in a headlock in its own backyard.
Christian Eriksen played with ice in the head and a touch of magic on the toe of his boots, passing the ball with artistry and scoring with a smart, low free-kick in the second half.
In front of him it was Kane who really turned this game, inflicting in stages his own unusually exhausting presence on the Juventus centre-backs. For the striker this was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate beyond the domestic scene that thrilling style, the ruthlessness of his buffeting, hard-running interpretation of the centre-forward’s role.
And whatever the end result of this tie Kane already has another high-end scalp dangling from his belt. Borussia Dortmund and a flaky Real Madrid had already been traumatised in this campaign. Add to that the grizzled, apparently impenetrable Juventus backline on a night on which Medhi Benatia in particular was jostled into a state of confusion by Kane’s movement and power.
His moment arrived 35 minutes into the match. Kane had already missed a point-blank header, victim of a supreme piece of anticipation by Gianluigi Buffon on his line.
As Spurs continued to swarm all over Juve, by far the better team on the ball, driving the Italian champions back, Kane and Dele Alli combined to cut the 2-0 lead in half and alter completely the gravity of this tie.
Alli carried the ball forward and played a lovely nudged little pass in behind the defence for Kane’s run. As he took the ball round Buffon there was a beautiful little moment of stillness in the middle of the madness.
Suddenly, in a luminous snapshot, there was nothing between Kane and the Juve goal, just the ball ahead of him. He took a step, drew back his left foot and arrowed it into the net with a lovely, cruel precision.
Eriksen’s equaliser on 71 minutes was deserved and by the end it was Kane, not Higuaín, who had imposed his will on the game from the front, a centre-forward who seems to reach fresh heights so often it is tempting to take his understated, high rev brilliance for granted.
Juventus, like Madrid and Dortmund before them, will come to Wembley with just a touch more fear in their hearts now.