In the space of six days Real Madrid have been dumped out of three competitions after defeats at the Santiago Bernabéu. We are at the start of March and Madrid’s sole objective is now not ending the league campaign in fifth place, and make sure they are in next season’s Champions League. Obviously, without Cristiano Ronaldo and with the player they brought in to replace him, Mariano (who watched last night’s game from the stands,) things aren’t going to be the same. Florentino thought (as he got tired of pointing out), that with Benzema and Bale, his favourite sons, Madrid would be fine. Now we’ve seen that is not the case. Benzema has at least tried. He’s not a predator, but he’s taken on his new responsibility in the frontline. Bale hasn’t though, he’s spent the past few months exactly as he did the previous five years, either nursing injuries or just not being bothered. Now the season’s over for Madrid.
From bad to worse
Last night was a disaster that was difficult to see coming. We have seen however, how Madrid’s defence crumbles when Sergio Ramos is not available – for instance in last year’s tie against Juve. It was the same story last night. Ajax’s excellent front three played with all the comfort in the world. On 17 minutes, they were already 0-2 up, after a decent start by Madrid which lasted all of six minutes – the time it took for Ziyech to sweep home the opener, to finish off a move which laid bare a lapse by Kroos (another one who seems happy to just toddle along) and an apathetic Casemiro. After that, everything started to fall to pieces, including the injuries to Lucas Vázquez and Vinicius (it was awful to watch him leave the field in tears), and seeing Courtois expectedly get caught off guard for the fourth goal – just when Asensio’s strike had given Madrid a glimmer of hope.
Florentino has spent a while allowing the squad to fall into disrepair, in order to satisfy the whim of remodeling the stadium. Two summers ago, Pepe, James, Morata and Danilo were all allowed to leave... and the players who have been brought in to replace them haven’t lived up to expectation. The chance to sign Mbappé was passed up in favour of keeping Bale. Last summer Cristiano left. What’s happened since could have been foreseen. The end result is the almighty train wreck that we witnessed last night – a humiliating thrashing on top of two home defeats to Barça. Now, the feeling is that Madrid’s whole world has caved in, that investment is need to rebuild the team, and I don’t know whether that is going to be compatible with the proposed Bernabéu revamp – which will cost more than the combined cost of building Atlético and Athletic’s new stadiums.