Winning without trying has been Real Madrid’s pattern this season. But what happens when the team really starts playing properly?
So Madrid is the king of Europe yet once again. Twelve times, two in a row.
Slicing and dicing poor Juventus in the Champions League final should be seen as an impressive feat, but the fact remains that dynamics this year could’ve spared us of the uncertainty of the outcome. We knew that Real don’t play pretty, but we also knew that the team’s brutal effectiveness is unrivaled.
We won’t recap a game you already saw and enjoyed (it was, indeed, a very entertaining final). Many, included myself, expected exactly the game we got. Instead, let’s go a step further. Let’s talk about the future. A future so bleak for other teams that the collective football world should become restless with worry.
Unless sport says otherwise, we’re in for a prolonged Real Madrid domination period both in Champions League and in La Liga. Simply because this year, and I know some will disagree, they have cleaned house in both competitions without reaching their full potential.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) June 5, 2017
“What the…?” you may think. Bear with me, it will eventually make sense. Let’s begin one of the biggest gripes some fans have with Zinedine Zidane’s side: it doesn’t play pretty. But, is this true? A 4-1 score in a Champions League final should do the trick. Yeah, the first two goals took advantage of lucky rebounds to make them impossible for Gianluigi Buffon to stop, but alas, such a scoreline is sexy enough for any Real Madrid fan.
More complaints: Zidane’s crowd-pleasing attitude of starting with the same eleven men that, conveniently enough, are loved by President Florentino Perez. We have ranted quite a lot about the sheer amount of unused precious gems the French coach often has in the bench: Isco Alarcón, Mateo Kovacic or brilliant youngster Marco Asensio have all excelled when the usual Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzemà or perennially injured Gareth Bale haven’t played. It’s only a matter of time that Zidane also realizes it and begins playing with them as starters.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) June 5, 2017
Lest not forget Costa-Rican keeper Keylor Navas, often criticized by both fans and media because, unlike former goalkeepers in the squad (Iker Casillas, anyone?) or worldwide famous goalies such as Thibaut Courtois or David De Gea, he lacks the protection and good press of Spain’s biggest outlets. He doesn’t seem too worried, though: a couple of fantastic saves in key moments of the game ultimately gave Real the edge towards a pleasant second half in Cardiff.
Once you jot down all the little details, the bigger picture appears in front of you: Real Madrid made winning both La Liga and the Champions League some sort of casual affaire, trouncing the opposition week after week in the domestic competition almost effortlessly while Zidane tried handing quality minutes to most of his men, and then showing their particular ‘eye of the tiger’ in UEFA Champions League games, where their brutal accuracy, strong defense, smart midfielders and that attacking beast named Cristiano Ronaldo in their front-line have been more than enough to bag the trophy.
Usually, teams like this one reach their peak around this moment of the year, conscious of the need to be at the top of their game in the final. Real Madrid just shrugged it off as if it was a summer game. They have gotten used to it. Winning, no matter what.
A lucky rebound, a bad call by the ref, a goal scored in the 90th minute or a spanking as the one Juventus suffered. It’s a free-for-all, and fans love it. And they will love it even more once they realize that their squad is deep, rich, very young, talented as few and with a huge margin to improvement. Once the machine begins playing attractive football… it may be game over for the rest of the continent.
Therefore, the question is out in the wild: will anyone in Europe be up to the task of stopping them?