Real Madrid come full circle with second great European dynasty – Sport

LONDON: Real Madrid added another chapter to their already astonishing love affair with European football’s elite club trophy by claiming a 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on Saturday as they were crowned for the 15th time.

The story of the season they finished at Wembley was about two generations of players who met, bonded as a group and connected on the pitch like a well-oiled machine to establish the second great dynasty Real spent half a century looking for.

It all started at the dawn of the competition when, during the Alfredo Di Stefano years, the Madrid side won the first five editions of the European Cup from 1956 and another in 1966.

The current crop of youngsters and seasoned veterans have mat­ched that with a sixth title in 11 seasons, although Dani Carv­ajal, who scored the opener, is the only surviving starter from the side that won ‘The 10th’ a decade ago.

Vinicius Jr, hero of their 14th title triumph in Paris two years ago, on Saturday became the first Brazilian to score in two Champions League finals and is the symbol of Real’s young guns who keep proving they can prolong the club’s success.

“Why not think about ‘The Seventh’? We don’t reset, we always want more and more and more,” Carvajal said.

The defender, who matched Real great Paco Gento’s record six European Cup titles along with Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and defender Nacho, was a long-time reserve who stepped up this season and ended it by lifting the trophy as team captain.

“I have never lost a final. I hope the streak continues,” he said. “To get our 15th and my sixth is a wonderful thing. As we keep winning … we end up making it harder for any other team to come close to what this club have accomplished over the history. It is something remarkable.”

In March, Carlo Ancelotti gave a three-minute insight on managing suffering and happiness inside a changing room to explain the complexity of handling the personalities at a club constantly under pressure and held to such high standards.

He has expertly managed to keep Real’s momentum going after Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Karim Benzema and Casemiro had all long gone and with Modric, 38, becoming a rotational player in a young squad brimming with talent.

Next year Ancelotti will face another challenge by having to replace Kroos, who has just had a retirement send-off from the fans at the Bernabeu and will stop playing after the Euros.

The Germany midfielder said farewell after delivering the corner for Carvajal to score with a glancing header on Saturday.

“I’ll miss this,” said Kroos. “Of course I wanted to say goodbye with this Champions League victory. The title means an unbelievable amount to me.”

But Ancelotti, who as a manager holds the record of most Champions League finals played (six) and won (five), did not seem too worried about the challenge.

“We will have to adapt ourselves to the players we have and try to maximise their qualities like we have always done,” he told a press conference.

“This season we’ve had a lot of problems, we’ve lost quality players. We have solved this with collective sacrifice.

“We didn’t always play at our best, but we never gave up.

“We lose a very important player for us in Kroos, but we will replace him, in a different way. We will think about how.”

MBAPPE THE NEXT PRIZE

Real’s win comes just a year after Manchester City lifted the trophy for the first time, a victory many believed would herald a new era of dominance for Pep Guardiola’s team in Europe. Instead, it was Ancelotti who underlined his case to be considered the finest coach of his generation for his continued supremacy in the Champions League.

Their dominance will take some breaking with French superstar Kylian Mbappe widely expec­ted to join from Paris St Germain during the off-season and Brazil’s rising starlet Endrick on his way.

Not that Real president Flore­ntino Perez would confirm Mbappe’s arrival.

“You can ask me as many times as you want, but I am only going to talk about the players that are on Real Madrid’s team,” he said. “And above all today, when we just won a European Cup. These are the players who deserve all the praise. The future? We will have to talk about that at some other point.”

Ancelotti, though, is already thinking about the future.

“In this club there is constant demand. It is never satisfied,” he said. “We will come back with the same eagerness and with the same excitement and anticipation as before.”

DORTMUND FACE TOUGH CHALLENGES

Dortmund, meanwhile, face an uncertain future.

Backed by a passionate travelling support, the winners in 1997 had come close to giving stalwarts Marco Reus and Mats Hummels a chance of redemption, 11 years after they were part of the team that lost at the same venue to domestic rivals Bayern Munich.

The deep run means coach Edin Terzic, who narrowly escaped the sack twice after poor showings in the league this season, will be backed to continue, with club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke a strong advocate.

Reus was playing his final game for the club and along with Hummels’ likely exit, Dortmund are losing a wealth of experience and class in key positions.

But Terzic tried to stay positive for the Dortmund fans.

“Thank you for your belief, don’t let the doubt take over,” he said. “We’re going to bounce back, we’re going to learn from this.”

Striker Niclas Fuellkrug was also optimistic for the future.

“We can go on very confident,” he said. “We played against the biggest team — a lot of the biggest teams in Europe this Champions League season.”

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2024

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