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Real Madrid: The undisputed Kings of Europe

As the full-time whistle blew in Paris to mark the end of the Champions League final, the sea of white erupted in joy as the club from Madrid celebrated yet another Champions League victory.

Last updated: 02.06.2022
Real Madrid Champions League 2021-22

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As the full-time whistle blew in Paris to mark the end of the Champions League final, the sea of white erupted in joy as the club from Madrid celebrated yet another Champions League victory. While most of the Madrid players are used to Champions League success, you could see that this campaign was special, by the joy on the face of veterans like Modric and Kroos. Indeed, it was. A fairy tale campaign which got its dream ending in Paris.

Going a year back to summer of 2021, things did not look the same for Real Madrid. After a 2nd successful spell by winning La Liga and leading the team to a Champions League semi final in an injury-plagued season, Zinedine Zidane was set to part ways with Madrid again. Club captain Sergio Ramos was not given a contract renewal and his center-back partner Raphael Varane was granted his wish of leaving Madrid for a new challenge.


In came Carlo Ancelotti, a serial winner and a manager who knew the expectations at Real Madrid, but there were doubts after his recent stints. Also, with Madrid’s depleted defence, there were concerns about going all the way in the big competitions.

David Alaba was signed on a free transfer from Bayern, and has he been exceptionally good! With Militao, who was about to have his first big season, Alaba formed a partnership at the heart of Madrid’s defence and fairly succeeded.

Doubts prevailed whether Real Madrid can compete against the likes of Manchester City, PSG and Liverpool. Madrid suffered a lot going forward in the previous season and that was one of the first things Carlo addressed going into the season. A much more attacking mindset and bringing the best out of Vinicius, who had his best season at Madrid.

While Madrid started the La Liga season as favorites, they did not start as favorites in the UCL and the loss to Sheriff in group stage did little to answer those claims. However, the club from Madrid are the most successful club in this competition for a reason.

Madrid were cruising in La Liga but in Champions League they needed a last matchday win against Inter Milan to top the group which eventually did. When the Round of 16 draw was made, it felt like something special was written in the stars. After first drawing Benfica, the draw had to be done again and this time Madrid got Paris Saint-Germain. Going up against the super team of Mbappe, Neymar and Messi while facing some of the ex-Madrid players, the battle was set to be special and indeed it was.

Going into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, PSG held a 1-0 lead and the atmosphere pre-game with the fans buzzing and the ultras outside the stadium, it was going to be a long night at the Bernabeu. An Mbappe goal in first half extended PSG’s lead and it felt like Madrid were heading out of the competition on their home turf. But Madrid was nowhere to go. A mistake from Donnaruma which Benzema capitalized on, got the crowd roaring and just like that, Madrid were leading the tie in no time. The Frenchman did what only a few could believe of and single-handedly brought Madrid back into the game.

Little did we know that this was just the start of something special. The Madrid tifo that day read, we are the Kings of Europe and they proved it on the pitch why they should not be counted out even when the odds are against them.

Next up, the battle was against the then champions of Europe, Chelsea. As was the case since the PSG game, no one rated Madrid to overcome the Blues. There were opinions that the game against PSG was a lucky win and Chelsea would never do the same mistakes. The pundits were proven wrong again as Madrid came out 3-1 winners from the first leg.

At the Bernabeu, the unthinkable happened, Chelsea came back and were on the verge of victory but as it was the case against PSG, no one knows how but Madrid came back again. This time it was a sumptuous trivela from Luka Modric which was finished by Rodrygo with his first touch.

As the game went into extra-time there was going to be only one winner as Chelsea looked shadows of their own self. A Benzema header sealed the win, and Madrid again produced the Bernabeu magic to stay alive in the competition.

It was after this Chelsea game, that fans started to sense this campaign could be something special. A 15 minute comeback against PSG, down and out against Chelsea until they produced a moment of brilliance, Madrid started to look a different outfit all of a sudden. However, the challenge kept on getting tougher. Next up was Manchester City. A well-oiled side under Pep Guardiola seeking to win their first ever Champions League.

The first leg turned out to be one of the best matches of the season as City ran out 4-3 winners in a game where goals just kept on coming. Madrid just kept coming back into the game and the amount of chances City missed, did not help the home side. At the full-time whistle, there was something to witness which does not happen every time. Despite losing, there was confidence on the faces of Madrid players.

They believed this 1-goal deficit could be wiped at the Bernabeu. As for City, their side knew that the game could have been over on that night itself. It was perhaps as they knew that it was a mistake keeping the game alive and going into Bernabeu.

The stage was set for yet another magical night at the Bernabeu. This time the challenge was tougher due to the chances City created. After a quiet first half came the dagger for Madrid, a Mahrez goal late in the second half where everyone lost hope and felt it is over. But Madrid had other plans.

With seemingly everything lost, Rodrygo got one back and suddenly there was confidence amongst the Madrid players. The Bernabeu rose again for one last hurrah as they looked to do the improbable in the minutes that remained. As the dust was settling on the first goal, Rodrygo scored again to set the stadium crazy. The City players were in absolute shock about how they had let this slip.  

Once the match went to extra time there was going to be only one winner with the shift in momentum and it came. A Panenka in the first leg and a coolly slotted penalty in the second, Karim Benzema was taking Madrid to yet another European final.

It was the belief, which was seen on the faces of Madrid players, which has been the template for them even against Chelsea and PSG. Real Madrid believes that they can overcome any challenge and it is with that mentality which they fight until the last minute.

There is something magical about Champions League nights at Bernabeu and as Madrid legend Juanito said, ’90 minutes at Santiago Bernabeu is a very long time’. The phrase could not have been truer this season as Madrid did the improbable in every single game to rise from the dead and snatch the game away. As Peter Drury rightly said, ‘Bernabeu Bedlam’. That was the story of Real Madrid on their path to Paris.

Real Madrid was going to play the big game again. No one expected Madrid to reach the finals at the start of the season and game after game they got something extraordinary out of their hats to prevail. Real Madrid and Champions League are synonymous, the club just does not give up and the Champions League nights brings the best out of them.

One final hurdle, another English team. After the challenges of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City it was time for Liverpool to try and stop Madrid in this crazy Champions League campaign. Revenge on the mind for Reds, while the Blancos looked to do what they do best, win yet another Champions League final.  And they did it. Real Madrid were crowned the Champions of Europe for a breath-taking 14th time.

Real had come back from the dead so many times en route to the final but for once in the final they did not need to. Come the final in Paris, there was no magic. Just a plan. It was Madrid putting  their experience in these big games  to use and see out a win which would crown them champions.

The game was not easy, they suffered. Courtois produced a performance like never before to keep Liverpool at bay and Madrid grabbed their chance when it came, through Vinicius. The player criticized for not scoring much in the previous seasons was on the mark to give Real Madrid their 14th UCL title.

There were setbacks for Madrid throughout the season, there were doubts but none of it could hinder the implacable self-belief and the winning mentality that carried Los Blancos to their 5th European crown in last 8 years and this time with all the odds against them. As Alvaro Arbeloa once said, when everyone thinks Real Madrid are dead and buried they go on to win the Champions League.

A campaign for the history defeating the favourites in PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to prove that ultimate victory in this competition is Real Madrid’s irrevocable destiny that it is driven by unstoppable force, one that defies logic and not by a strict footballing philosophy.

No one thought Real Madrid would win, no one wanted them to win but stopping them in this competition is not easy. Madrid are back to reclaiming their throne, back to their European glory. For Real Madrid are ‘Los Reyes de Europa’ – The Kings of Europe.

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