The capital preened itself to receive and applaud their footballing heroes, proud of this latest, new conquest. And it was only fair that the public came out to show their appreciation. Real Madrid have transformed a city which back in the 1930s [former Spanish Prime Minister] Manuel Azaña described as a “a poorly-constructed, one-horse town” - and they've put it on the map. During my first years travelling abroad as a tourist, I would inevitably be asked at Immigration and Customs: “Spanish? Real Madrid! Di Stéfano! Gento! Amancio!” The only variation would be the occasional “[Spanish bullfighter] Ah! El Cordobés!” But lately it’s different. Now the response is: “Spanish? Madrid or Barça? Cristiano or Messi?”... The whole world is focusing on Madrid and Barça, Cristiano and Messi with a sense of wonder and awe. And yesterday it was Real Madrid’s turn to bask in the limelight.
Madrid and Barcelona sweep up in Europe
Since winning the seventh European crown in 1998 when the team reclaimed the trophy after a 30-year wait, we haven’t witnessed an enthusiasm for the Champions League on this scale. There is a reason for that. This is Madrid’s second in succession, their third in four years, and the sixth in the ‘in Technicolour’. For many years, Barcelona’s boom years came accompanied with a doctrine which discredited Real Madrid – the first five trophies were won in the ‘black and white’ era, under Franco, in another time... It seemed that Barça had arrived equipped with solution which would maintain their reign for a long time. But those solutions were called Xavi and Iniesta – one is no longer at the club and the other is starting to fade; and of course Messi who, in his own way, has somehow managed to neutralize Cristiano. The way it’s going, they will pull level this year with five Ballon d’Ors each.
A new era appears to be underway
During last night’s festivities, we were left with the sensation that Madrid have recovered that supremacy they have enjoyed in other times. They have a very straightforward leader in Zidane – very much in the mold of Ancelotti and Del Bosque – two of the other coaches to have won the Champions League in the Technicolour era. Cristiano has changed his game without losing effectiveness or brilliance. In defence, there is the giant Sergio Ramos - like Carles Puyol was at Barça. There are some very good players and promising, younger players coming through. And then there is a formula to their game which is very difficult to explain in any way other than by presenting the stark facts: the team has scored in 65 consecutive matches. The vision of everyone at the club now is that the historic shock which Guardiola’s Barça gave madridísmo is now a thing of the past.