Real Madrid: Zidane’s solid squad

Sergio Ramos joined Real Madrid in 2005-2006, during Florentino Pérez’s first spell as president. In the winter transfer market of 2007, with Calderón heading up the club, Marcelo was signed, athough he now features rarely. Benzema joined in 09-10, with the return of Florentino. Varane in 11-12. In 12-13 Casemiro came on board, spending time with the reserve team Castilla, then the first team before a loan spell at Porto and finally becoming a fully fledged first team member in 2016 under Zidane. Modric was 12-13; Nacho, Carvajal and Isco were 13-14; Kroos, after Lisbon, was 14-15; Lucas Vázquez was 15-16 and Asensio 16-17. That’s the core of the squad.

Real Madrid: so many moments together

The strength of this Real Madrid side is the continuity of the core of the squad. It’s easy to add up the Champions Leagues they’ve won together, but it’s harder to assess the work put in together as a team, fallings out and makings up, so many trips round Spain and Europe, so many passes, so many moves. As of January 2016, with one short unhappy break, the leader has been Zidane. A flexible, understanding type who has worked with these players, others who lasted a short while and some who were there for the long-term but have now moved on, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale. And he’s rightly earned praise for how he’s managed the squad.

Every single Madrid player trusts his teammates

You could well say this squad isn’t as good as the one from four years ago and you’d be spot on. A number of outstanding players have left, the ones still there are getting older. But there’s something intangible, the rapport and solidarity that bind this group of players together. They’ve been together through victories in finals in Cardiff, Kiev and Milan, just as they were together for disasters such as Cádiz, Leganés and Alcoyano. Regular starters, occasional starters, starters who rarely do so now, bench players who are being constantly monitored. They’re missing Cristiano Ronaldo’s 50 goals a season, everything is more of a struggle, weariness accumulates, but every single player trusts the man next to him.