Real Madrid has just accomplished a task no team has ever done in the history of club football: Winning not only two but three consecutive Champions League trophies. Their historical feat and general dominance in Europe has football fans across the world wondering – Is this class the greatest football team of all time?
A new dynasty was born when Cristiano Ronaldo moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of 80 million Pounds. Real Madrid was already one of the most, if not the most illustrious and successful clubs historically, with 31 La Liga titles, 17 Copa Del Rey’s, and 9 Champions Leagues under their belt. The club has been host to legends of the football game, with a tied record of 6 BallonD’or winners: Alfredo Di Stefano, Raymond Kopa, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid’s current club President Florentino Perez during his first tenure (2000-2006) adopted what is known as a ‘galactico’ policy, where the club aimed to recruit expensive, world-class players each year. During his second and current term starting in 2009, the policy was continued and epitomized by blockbuster purchases such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and James Rodriguez, hence forming the scaffolding of the modern Real Madrid we see today. The strength of their team lies in sheer phenomenal individual quality with one of the deepest squads the game has ever seen - this is what money gets you.
With such memorable teams, can this current one even be considered to rank among the greatest? Especially after the recent unconvincing and mediocre La Liga season, where Real Madrid fell 17 points short to their rivals Barcelona. The current Real era spanning 9 seasons have won just 2 La Liga titles. Furthermore, Real was often sloppy, and vulnerable, seeming to lack a game plan. By no means did opposition teams get the impression that Real was completely unbeatable. They lacked that innate aura and presence which the legendary teams of history carried. So what makes the current Florentino Perez-Cristiano Ronaldo era Real Madrid so significant in football history? The answer lies in their success at the highest level of European football – The UEFA Champions League.
Accomplishments under the Cristiano Ronaldo Era (2009-):
La Liga Titles: 2 (2011-12, 2016-17)
Copa Del Rey Titles: 2 (2010-11, 2013-14)
UEFA Champions League: 4 (2013-14, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18)
FIFA Club World Cup: 3 (2014, 2016, 2017)
European Golden Shoe: 3 (2010-11, 2013-14, 2014-15) Cristiano Ronaldo
Ballon D’Or: 4 (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) Cristiano Ronaldo
History’s Legendary Lineups
How does this Real Madrid match up to four historically legendary teams?
Real Madrid 1955-1960
Perhaps the greatest side of the yesteryears of football, definitely the most successful. This team is most famous for winning the European cup five times in a row after its conception in 1955. Alfredo Di Stefano, the greatest footballer of that generation, is the spearhead of the team, who is supported by two of the greatest wingers of the game Kopa and Gento.
Manchester United 1963-1968 ‘The Holy Trinity’
What’s remarkable about this heroic team is that it was built less than a decade after the horrific Munich air tragedy in 1958, which caused the loss of most of the Manchester United team. Sir Matt Busby, the coach who built the team, is regarded as being one of the greatest coaches of all time, and together with the ‘holy trinity’ of attacking players Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, and George Best, famously won the European Cup in 1968. Having three ‘European Player of the Year’s in one team is a feat only rivalled by the Real Madrid galacticos. The Holy Trinity was so iconic that a statue of them can be found outside Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford.
This team dominated the mid 90’s, winning the Champions League in 1996 and reaching the finals a further two times. Built around a typical tight Italian defence, the team holds Juventus’ all time top goal scorer Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero. The team was a truly international one, with midfield powerhouses such as Edgar Davids and Didier Deschamps. Zinedine Zidane, the manager who recently won a treble of Champions Leagues for Real Madrid, provided the touch of attacking genius to an all-around solid lineup.
The last decade has seen the greatest Barcelona team, possibly the greatest footballing force of all club history. The team embraces breathtaking possession-based attacking football based on movement and great technique, leaving ample space for flair players to express themselves. Winning 4 Champions League’s, the team saw the emergence and domination of 5 times BallonD’or winner Lionel Messi, an extremely strong argument for the most brilliant football player of all time. The team later signed Neymar and Luis Suarez, whom together with Messi form the greatest attacking trio since the Holy Trinity.
This Real Madrid side’s achievement is undoubtedly remarkable, but do they really have the conviction to be considered among the greatest 11’s? Each of the legendary clubs had a unique special character behind their style of playing, they struck fear in their opponents and you always knew that they’d find a way to victory. However, end of the day, trophies talk, and any team who wins three European Cups in a row deserves their name engraved in history. Yes, they delivered when it mattered, yes they have the quality, and yes they have the stats to back them up, but are you more likely to remember the number of trophies won by a team or the brilliant style of football they created?
By: Arya Krishnan