At the dawn of the new millennium, incoming Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez embarked on a transfer spree never before seen in the world of football. His entire presidential campaign was built upon the idea that he would somehow convince Luis Figo, the shining jewel in back-to-back champions Barcelona’s crown. And he succeeded.
Figo duly arrived at the Bernabéu to much fanfare. A year later, Zinedine Zidane arrived at the club and, alongside Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, and Iker Casillas, led the club to the 2002 UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 victory over German side Bayer Leverkusen. And Pérez wouldn’t stop there. Following that success, Los Blancos added Brazilian striker Ronaldo to their ranks, fresh off scoring eight goals as the Seleção secured the FIFA World Cup for the fifth time in Japan and South Korea. As if that wasn’t enough, they then brought global superstar David Beckham to the Spanish capital in a €37m deal.
Pérez was making signings left, right, and center as if he had just hit the jackpot at https://www.ignitioncasino.eu/casino/table-games, and it appeared that both he and his team of superstars could not be stopped. But despite the plethora of megamoney signings, the elusive La Decima – a tenth UEFA Champions League crown – remained exactly that, elusive. And his superstars eventually grew old and departed the Bernabéu.
The Second Coming
Pérez’s tenure as president of Real Madrid came to an end in 2006 and he was replaced by Ramón Calderón. However, the Palencia-born business mogul endured a torrid time at the helm of Los Blancos. His reign coincided with a Barcelona team that romped all before them thanks to the arrival of a young Lionel Messi, and in 2009, the club turned to Pérez to save them from their greatest rival’s shadow.
The new president wouldn’t wait around in restoring his club back to the pinnacle of world football. During his first tenure, a big-money signing would be announced year after year. But in 2009, Pérez and Real reeled off one huge name after the other in a matter of weeks, all in the hopes of bringing that elusive La Decima to the Bernabéu.
On July 1st, Los Blancos would bring in 2008 Balon d’Or winner Kaká from AC Milan for a fee of €67m. Five days later, the consensus best player in the world was brought to the Bernabéu when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived from Manchester United for €94m. Four days on from that, a 21-year-old striker by the name of Karim Benzema secured a €35m move from Lyon and then a month down the line, Liverpool’s orchestrator-in-chief Xabi Alonso would seal his move back to Spain for a fee of €34.5m.
It was a spending spree that no one could ever have imagined, but despite the huge transfer outlay, Real Madrid were still miles off the pace of Europe’s elite. They were eliminated in the second round of the Champions League by French champions Lyon – the club Benzema left in order to become a Galactico – and they finished behind Barcelona in the race for the Spanish title. That led Pérez to bring in perhaps the only Galactico in the world of football management, Jose Mourinho.
That Elusive La Decima
The Special One had just led Inter Milan to a historic treble, including defeating Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabéu to secure the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 45 years. He arrived in Madrid with supporters hoping that he could wrestle domestic dominance back from Catalonia, and of course provide that elusive La Decima. He immediately embarked on a crusade against Barcelona and their manager Pep Guardiola.
But for all Mourinho’s antics, he wouldn’t immediately overthrow the reigning kings. His side was thumped 5-1 in the Nou Camp in the first El Clasico of the season and that was a sign of things to come. The pair would then meet four times in the space of a month, in the UEFA Champions League semifinals, the Copa Del Rey final, and in a huge game in La Liga, where the winners would probably be crowned champions.
Mourinho would strike first, securing the Copa Del Rey courtesy of Gareth Bale’s late winner. Barcelona bounced back, knocking their rivals out of the Champions League thanks to Lionel Messi’s brilliance. The La Liga Clasico would end as a draw, meaning that the title would remain at the Nou Camp.
The Portuguese coach would eventually wrestle power away from his club’s biggest rivals. In 2012, Real Madrid lifted La Liga with an impressive 100 points. Manager Pep Guardiola would then leave the Nou Camp, with many feeling that Mourinho’s mind games had taken their toll. But after another semifinal defeat on the continental stage, this time at the hands of Bayern Munich, the writing was on the wall, and Mourinho would follow his adversary out of Spanish football.
That elusive La Decima had still not yet been claimed, and as the 2013/14 season came around, Real had gone 12 years without lifting the illustrious ‘Big Eared’ trophy. Former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti was brought in from Paris Saint-Germain with one task, deliver La Decima. And he did, in dramatic circumstances.
Real Madrid reached their first UEFA Champions League final since 2002 at the end of that season. They would meet city rivals and newly crowned Spanish Champions Atletico Madrid in Lisbon and once Sergio Ramos netted a 94th-minute equalizer, Los Blancos would never look back. Further goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo secured a 4-1 victory after extra time, and La Decima was elusive no more.
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