Ancelotti knows the way to the Copa del Rey
The last time Madrid won the Copa del Rey, it was with Carlo on the bench. The victory came in 2013-14, in a glorious win over Barcelona at Mestalla.
The Cup has not, to put it lightly, been one of Real Madrid’s favourites over the years. In fact, in the list of winners, it is the only trophy in which they have a clear disadvantage compared to Barça (31-19). But if you talk to Ancelotti he will no doubt tell you that of the eight titles he has won as coach of Real Madrid (among them two Champions League, two European Super Cups, one League and one Club World Cup), one of the best memories is the Copa de Rey won by Barça in the 2014 final.
Mestalla was packed on that spring night of 16 April 2014. Ancelotti had to deal with the problem of Cristiano’s absence, who was left in the stands due to an injury. “Cristiano was missing, but the motivation of the others was at maximum levels and they worked hard,” explained Carletto after the victory, which tasted like glory for the 21,000 Real Madrid fans in the stands.
However, Tata Martino did have his luxury trident, with Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar up top. But Madrid played a fantastic game: goals from Di María and the iconic and unforgettable goal from Bale, with that race, reminiscent of Chariots of Fire, against Bartra on the Mestalla wing that has been immortalised forever in the magic box of Clásico memories.
Then came La Décima
That Cup was the 19th in the history of Los Blancos, and it had an amazing effect on Ancelotti and his men, as shortly after, they knocked out Guardiola’s Bayern in the semi-finals with a memorable 4-0 win at the Allianz Arena. And then came La Décima, with the 4-1 defeat of Atletico Madrid in Lisbon and that goal from Sergio Ramos.
Carlo was calm during the celebrations in Valencia, but it was the second Cup won by Madrid against Barça in three years (Madrid, not under Ancelotti, also won at Mestalla in 2011 with Cristiano’s goal against Guardiola’s side) and made people believe that the club were going to start putting the Copa del Rey on their trophy shelf as an annual act of ritual.
It was all a mirage...
From then on came the dry years: premature eliminations, in several cases, against teams with less quality than Madrid on paper. The worst of them all came in 2015, with Rafa Benítez on the bench, in the form of the embarrassing elimination against Cádiz in the round of 32 due to the illegal lineup involving the suspended Cheryshev.
The executions followed one another. In 2016-17 it was Celta, with Zidane as coach; in 2017-18 it was the turn of the modest Leganés (above all, at the Bernabéu!); in 2018-19 it was Barça (with Solari on the Real Madrid bench); in 2019-20 it was Real Sociedad; Alcoyano in 2020-21 and Marcelino’s Athletic in 2021-22.
On balance, it is safe to say that the Copa del Rey is not Real Madrid’s favourite trophy of the lot.