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There are quite a few that come to mind when thinking about footballs greatest ever team. Early 70s Ajax, ’88-’94 AC Milan, 90s Manchester United, Barcelona ’08-’12… but there are not many clubs that can put forward multiple onto that list. Real Madrid have had numerous eras of success defined by every trophy you could possibly strive for, but it seems that in recent years those goal posts have moved. Throughout their history the Spanish giants have collected quite a few trophies - 14 European Cups, 35 La Liga titles, 19 Copa Del Rey’s and many… many more. This long tale of triumph wasn’t one painted by a single team or manager, but instead has become a lifestyle cultivated by the need to win everything, every year. Yet with that being said it becomes quite curious when looking back at their more recent history, one that does not breathe the same “type” of success the Galácticos have witnessed in the past. 

Rewind the clocks 50 years and Real Madrid were a league winning staple. The 70s and 80s saw 5 each, the 90s saw only 3, although came off the back of winning 5 in a row from 86-90, and the 2000s saw 4. Since 2010 however, things began to change. The itching need for European glory began to rise as domestic success was no longer enough. Fans dreamt of the days that saw their beloved Galácticos win 5 European cups in a row, but were then reminded of the pain of having to wait 20 years from ’66-’98 to taste such riches again… and they were not prepared to wait that long once more. That very pain turned into hunger. A hunger that was only going to be satisfied against Europes best - the focus shifted and with it, so did the results. The very eras defined by domestic achievement were once a necessity but now seem to be overlooked, posing the question… Have Real Madrid become a glorified cup team? Probably not but lets continue…

Before diving into why the white side of Madrid might be falling into the overrated category, we first gotta recognize game. Not only have they fielded some of the absolute best elevens we’ve seen this century, but their trophy cabinet in itself is enough of an argument for most football fans… We’re not most football fans lets continue… Yes yes, we know three Champions League wins back-to-back-to-back is an insane feat, the likes of which we won’t see for decades, but what else is in that cabinet? In the 2010s Real Madrid only won 2 La Liga titles. That doesn’t sound like its true but it is. All that success on the European front resulted in a lack of emphasis or desire back in Spain. In 2009 Real Madrid held a strong 31-19 lead over Barcelona for most league titles won, but that lead would fall to 33-26 by 2019. Their El Clasico rivals found an abundance of league prosperity through the use of a certain Argentine, but would also be able to concurrently win two Champions League titles of their own, proving it can be done. And yes the Catalans don’t have 3 in a row to go on about, not many do, but it would be ignorant to ignore the level of supremacy demonstrated from Messi and co. throughout this time period. There’s no doubting Real Madrid as the head of the European table but at what cost did that title come?

It's safe to say they had the time to focus elsewhere. As mentioned, the 12 title lead was significant in Spain, meaning they could focus their attention on the trophy that was alluding them for years. But their big seat at that European table was getting increasingly hunted; with the likes of AC Milan and Liverpool adding to their own tally. After signing Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 it was the new beginning of a journey they had been on since 2002 - the chase for La Decima. The hunted were now officially hunting once again, and with one of the world’s best in CR7, it was now or never. We all now how it ends with Madrid finally getting their hands on the ultimate prize and the new era of Galácticos beginning, but while all the focus was on their monthly performances abroad, their Spanish rivals began to take control of league affairs. Why does this matter? 

Well simply put, the best win everything… or at least everything of importance. It’s what’s etched teams like Manchester United, Barcelona, and Inter Milan into modern football history, the ability to win the treble… or at the very least the double. In this ten year span that saw Real Madrid win four Champions League titles in five years they only won the double on one occasion. That obviously doesn’t mean they won’t go down in that same history books, but it makes you wonder if they truly dominated on all fronts, or if they were a more of a well constructed cup team ready for any big game in their way. 

We’ve seen teams win the Champions League that were not the best in Europe. That’s the point of a cup competition; where miracles don’t come few and far between, and where one game can make all the difference. Just ask Chelsea or Liverpool who have both famously won as underdogs. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the words Real Madrid and underdog belong in the same sentence, especially in the 2010s and thats not whats happening here. However with that being said, theres an argument that Barcelona’s 7 La Liga titles and 2 Champions League titles match up against the 2 and 4 of Madrid pretty well. I guess the question remains, whats harder to win? A 38 week season with extreme levels of consistency, or a cup competition against the best from around Europe?

Either way, the decade was one of dominance for Real Madrid theres no question about that. Over that 10 year span the Galácticos gave numerous teams nightmares that will last a lifetime, some more than others (*cough cough* Atlético). There’s no disputing the medals won, the records broken, and the memories made… in Europe…. now its time to re-conquer Spain.



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