Real Madrid achieved the impossible when they won 3 back to back Champions League titles. What are the reasons which led to their success?
May 28, 2020, 8:28 a.m.
The month of May is here and if not for a certain virus, football fans from all over the world would have been gearing up for the Champions League semi-finals right now. Since we, unfortunately, will not have that pleasure this year, let us walk down the memory lane and look back at one of the most intriguing and analysis worthy recent stories of the prestigious competition. As the title might have suggested, I am talking about the back to back to back title-winning run of Zidane’s Real Madrid of course.
Much has been said and discussed about this historic achievement but the gravity of what the whites from Madrid achieved is such that logic as we know it, cannot explain every aspect of it. Nevertheless, let us try to get as close as we can by listing some of the glaring and some more subtle reasons which led to Los Blancos’ European glory.
It is no wonder that the greatest Champions League player of all time was the protagonist of the best Champions League side of all time. The importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to the 3peat winning Madrid side can be explained by the fact that he scored a whopping 46% of their goals during the three campaigns while being the tournament’s leading goalscorer on all three occasions. Most of the goals that he scored came in the knockout games when his side needed him the most.
Apart from his otherworldly goalscoring statistics, Cristiano’s rock-solid mentality and stature affected the team in a way that cannot be conveyed in numbers. Whenever Madrid were on the backfoot, they as well as their opposition knew that it is not over until Cristiano Ronaldo says it is over. This never give up attitude was best seen in the 15/16 quarterfinals against Wolfsburg when Cristiano single-handedly overcame a two-goal deficit to take Madrid into the semifinals.
Cristiano Ronaldo rewrote history books every time he stepped on the pitch, hence it shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone that he was a prominent force behind Madrid’s success.
Zinedine Zidane is not the world’s best tactician nor does he have one philosophy in which he excels, what he does have though, is the respect of the players. This respect that he commands is what made him the only manager ever to win 3 Champions League titles in succession. Another man would falter when he was asked to ‘manage’ and ‘improve’ the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Luka Modric but not Zidane considering that he himself is arguably the greatest midfielder to play the sport.
Real Madrid during the 3peat had a squad envied by all the clubs in the world. Zidane had more than twenty world-class players to choose his playing XI from and no one could have utilized this luxury better than him. His squad rotations and using every player to the best of their abilities is what separated Zidane from the rest. He played the young players in the comparatively less important La Liga games which kept his core fresh for Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The importance of Zidane in Real Madrid was such that they completely fell apart once Zidane decided to leave Real Madrid and he had to come back to steer their ship back on track.
Now that we have got the individuals out of the way, in the next article in this series we will take a lot at some of the more tactical and synergistic reasons behind the unprecedented feat.