Sport

REAL DEAL

Real Madrid have mastered the art of creating a sports dynasty 

Real Madrid have mastered the art of creating a sports dynasty 
Nacho Fernández of Real Madrid, celebrates the 15th UCL Title in Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain. 2 June 2024. (Photo: Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images)

After 15 European titles, Real Madrid are the undisputed champions of Europe and have extended their monopoly in Europe’s premier club competition. 

Real Madrid recently vanquished German side Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final to lift the highly sought-after Uefa Champions League trophy.

The victory over Dortmund stretched Real’s record haul by a further title, putting them on 15 Champions League titles. This return is more than double that of the second-most successful team in Europe’s premier club competition, AC Milan, with seven.

The Spanish side first ascended to the level of European royalty when they won the Champions League (then known as the European Cup) in its first five editions from 1956 to 1960. The line was clearly drawn then.

Though there have been a number of winning teams since that inaugural tournament (a total of 23), none comes close to Madrid’s collection. In fact, in the last 10 years Los Blancos have won six European titles.

Against Dortmund, they displayed their strength as a powerhouse and their Champions League aura, which has seen them win some Champions League games before they even start. In the first stanza Dortmund created a plethora of scoring opportunities.

However, they could not capitalise on any of them. With each passing minute, it seemed increasingly likely that Madrid would tap into their rich history in the competition and punish the German side. Which they did, with two decisive goals in the last 20 minutes.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Real Madrid dispatch holders Man City in Champions League shootout

“We played with courage and bravery but we failed to score. Then we made small mistakes and Real scored. They have been doing it like that for what feels like 100 years,” said Dortmund defender Mats Hummels after the game.

In the history of the Champions League, only three teams have managed to win three or more titles in a row.

Madrid’s quintuple in the early years of the European club contest was followed by Ajax Amsterdam claiming a hattrick between 1971 and 1973, then Bayern Munich winning three on the trot from 1974 to 1976.

Daniel Carvajal of Real Madrid

Daniel Carvajal of Real Madrid, celebrates the 15th UCL Title in Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain. 2 June 2024. (Photo: Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images)

The Spanish giants then added to their staggering tally with their own three-peat, being crowned kings of Europe from 2016 to 2018. Since then, they have triumphed in two of the last five tournaments.

“There’s something special about this club. Maybe it’s the history, maybe it’s the tradition or the class. But there have been so many [finals for the club], that it can’t be just a chance,” Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said in the lead-up to the final.

Other instances of dominance

Madrid’s latest Champions League success places them amongst the teams or athletes that have displayed their superiority across various spheres.

This includes Rafael Nadal’s monopoly at the French Open. The Spaniard boasts a total of 14 titles at the major in the Open era, more than double that of the second-best in the same epoch — Sweden’s Björn Borg, who has six at Roland Garros.

In North America’s National Basketball Association (NBA), two teams can lay claim to having created a dynasty. Namely, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

The two eternal rivals currently share the record for the most national titles, with 17 apiece. Eight of the ones won by the Celtics came on the spin, as they squashed any challengers to their throne between 1959 and 1966.

They would continue picking up the odd title over the next two decades, adding seven more between 1968 and 1986. However, since then the team’s titles have dried up. Their last one came all the way back in 2008.

During the Celtics’ period of dominance (barring the years of the eight-peat, where they hogged the Championship) they shared the throne with the Lakers.

However, in contrast to their Boston rivals, the Los Angeles-based side maintained their relevance as a force into the 2000s, winning five between the turn of the millennium and 2010. They clinched their record-matching 17th title as recently as 2020, after a decade-long wait.

In Formula 1, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are tied on seven World Drivers’ Championships each — the most of any driver. While in golf Jack Nicklaus dominates with the most victories in major tournaments, collecting 18 during his career. Despite building his own dynasty, Tiger Woods lags three titles behind Nicklaus.

In African soccer, no team has won the Caf Champions League title more than Egypt’s Al Ahly. The Red Devils have haunted their continental rivals for a number of decades — claiming 12 titles. The next-best sides on that list, Zamalek and TP Mazembe, are on five each.

Coach of Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti

Coach of Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti celebrates Real Madrid’s win over Bayern Munich at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain. on May 8, 2024. (Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Ancelotti influence

Madrid’s Italian mentor Ancelotti also grabbed a piece of his own history with the victory over Dortmund. No manager has more Champions League titles than the 65-year-old’s five.

He has only lost one final in the competition, when he was manager of AC Milan in 2005. His side were victims of a fairytale comeback from 3-0 down by Liverpool, who then went on to win the final 3-2 on penalties after tying the match at three-all.

“It is very important to keep learning because life changes and football changes, and it’s crucial to keep up-to-date,” said the Italian on how he has managed to remain relevant over the years, despite maintaining his famous poker face.

 

Kylian Mbappe

French superstar Kylian Mbappe has joined Real Madrid to further strengthen their already superb squad. (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

“Relationships with colleagues and exchanging ideas with them is also very important. If I proposed what I used to do 20 years ago as a coach, everyone would take me for a fool because things change, the methods and training change, so you have to keep up with the times.”

With the club confirming the signing of French star striker Kylian Mbappé, they add another chink to their already domineering armour and aura in European soccer. DM

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